By the time you read this column, the American public and punditocracy alike will have moved on from President Barack Obama’s West Point speech—after all, five days is an eternity in today’s media landscape. But a question I was asked by Sirius XM’s Ari Rabin-Havt in commenting on Obama’s address has stuck in my mind. What would it take, Rabin-Havt asked, for Obama’s West Point speech to be remembered like the Marshall Plan speech?
He was referring to George Marshall’s 1947 commencement address at Harvard, which laid out the need for major economic assistance to postwar Europe. The outlines of Marshall’s speech were put into legislation the following year and named for the general-turned-statesman.
Comparing Obama’s proposals for a 21st century U.S. foreign policy framework to the Marshall Plan is likely to set eyes rolling—after all, the two periods have nothing in common. And in the intervening 67 years, the Marshall Plan has become the gold standard for strategic foresight and foreign policy success.