This is a much more hopeful and positive period in history than we have seen certainly in our lifetimes. I tell my kids this: that they couldn’t be luckier to be living in this world at this time. . . .As Beauchamp says, the numbers largely support this view:
We are in an era where, as the president has often said, if you didn’t know who you were going to be, or whether you were going to be male or female; white, black, Asian, Native American, Latino, [or] something else; if you didn’t know if you were going to be straight or gay — if you didn’t know anything about who you were going to be and you had to pick a time in which to be born. . . .
You would pick this time. Because the odds of success for any individual are much higher in the aggregate than they’ve ever been.
More people are free of poverty than ever before, conflict between states is less than ever before, technology is providing extraordinary opportunities for advancement, and health and agriculture and well-being. Compare the era we’re living in today to the losses we suffered in World War II or even in the Vietnam War, or compare the economic challenges we face now to the Great Depression.
The number of people living at $1.25 per day or less declined by roughly 1.1 billion people between 1990 and 2015. The number of war deaths per 100,000 people worldwide has increased in the past three years, owing largely to the war in Syria, but is still far lower than it was even 20 years ago. Average global life expectancy worldwide was 48 in 1950; it was 71.4 in 2015.Since Obama and Rice believe that the world is generally trending in the right direction, their approach to foreign policy has been deeply conservative. Their main goal is to keep the boat from being rocked. They believe that things like the global free trade regime should be protected, because they are doing their job, and that we should not let little things like the terrorist bombings or the civil wars in Libya and Syria distract us from the broader mission of insuring peace and prosperity in the world. Beauchamp:
Contrast this with the Bush administration. After 9/11, the administration concluded the world wasn’t actually trending in a better direction. Jihadism threatened civilization itself, and a radical new approach was necessary to address the threat.This can come across as callous, since the civil war in Syria is causing a lot of misery, and terrorists have many people terrified. But to Obama and Rice the main point is to make sure that our responses to those things don't just make things worse.
That means the Bush administration was willing try out more high-risk policies, like invading Iraq and attempting to transform it into a democracy at gunpoint. The Obama administration, because it thinks things are generally going well, can afford to be a bit more conservative. They don’t need to try to create utopias, because they think we’re on the road to one.