Principles in the Paradox: United States Foreign Policy

2. The leadership in the world should be both proactive and reactive. When we are too proactive we get ourselves involved where we shouldn't and end up not being able to build coalitions of countries and regional alliances when we need them. And when we are only reactive, we aren't leading and just managing the status quo and people have no sense where we are going.

3. Though we are a constitutional democracy and we all believe in the power of those principles, our goal in the world shouldn't be to force those principles on others. We should seek to encourage democracy, not establish democracies. As we have learned recently, unless a country wants a democracy from the bottom up, top down imposition of any good government won't be accepted.

4. Regarding use of our military, the question we should constantly ask is just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. If we look over the span of the last 50 years, most uses of the military have not ended with good long-term results. We have lost precious resources of blood and budgets, and it is tough to argue our country or the world is better off because of many military actions. Sometimes war or military action is unfortunately the answer, but most often it is not. And when we do use the military for foreign policy ends we need to have a very clear enemy and a very clear exit or end strategy.

5. Our foreign policy needs to embrace some permanent moral values and long-term global strategy in the world, but tactically we need to understand it is best we act regionally and in a temporary way. The successes of foreign policy for the United States come from talking globally and long term, and acting in temporary ways with limited engagements and building moving alliances on a regional basis. We must understand that many of our enemies of the past became our friends along the way, and many of our friends have become our enemies. We can stick to broad moral values, but we need to understand that the practice of this in the world changes and we need to adapt without losing our core values.

To me we are at a moment in the world where conservative and progressive principles can align and we can be a world-wide leader protecting our country and moving the world and ourselves ahead into the future. But first we need to build principles in the midst of life's paradox. Those are my five above, what are yours?

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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