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A nation must think before it acts.
America’s current security threats—the insurgency in Iraq, Islamic terrorism, and Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons—seem strange and unprecedented. Parallels can be drawn, however, between the security threats of 2005 and those of fifty years ago. The U.S. foreign policy developed to confront the communist threat offers lessons as we develop strategies to combat today’s threat. Two contemporary perspectives on strategic issues—one conservative/realist, one neoconservative/idealist—apply lessons of the Cold War to today’s U.S. foreign policy, but each has serious flaws. A third, neorealist perspective, suggests that by leveraging the divisions already present in the Muslim world, the United States can win the global contest against Islamic terrorism. However, this would require a transformation in American strategy that will not be easily achieved.