Fast forward just over fifteen decades and our thanks still go out to President Lincoln and the 37th U.S. Congress for working together to pass such far-sighted and impactful legislation -- in a time of war -- to do what was right for the nation. Perhaps we still have a much to learn from that bygone era.
It would be politically incorrect in the United States to proclaim that the domestic order kept by the Chinese Communist Party would serve U.S. interests. It would also be ideologically unacceptable in China to announce that the current international order sustained by American primacy should be welcomed. Paradoxically, the stark reality is that the two orders have been reinforcing each other now for the past 42 years, since Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. Today, it is in China's best interest to see a vibrant U.S. economy stimulated by technological innovations, and a benign, careful use of U.S. power in the global system. In turn, an orderly yet changing China, under a strong, reform-minded leadership, will make greater contributions to the global order in favor of the United States.
America has gone through withdrawal phases before, usually after a great war: World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Some were longish, like the retreat between 1919 and the late 1930s. Some were brief, as after 1945, 1954 and 1975 (when the Vietnam War ended). In each case, war weariness translated into "Come home, America," as George McGovern famously proclaimed during the 1972 presidential campaign. In each case, the rebound eventually followed because the world wouldn't quite accommodate itself to America's reflexes. Fresh and old threats demanded American attention because others proved unable to fashion and secure a new balance of power.