Obama's First 100 Days and the Politics of Transformation

Last June I urged then-candidate Barack Obama to use his presidency to transform the country for the 21st century world, not simply to repair the damage to our economy, foreign policy, and defenses done by the Bush administration. By that standard, his first three months have been a remarkable success.

Using stimulus investments, President Obama is repairing an aging infrastructure, investing in education, stimulating new technologies and inventions, and starting us toward the post-carbon economy. Instead of trying to prop up a failing 20th century economy, he is investing in the new model.

Likewise, by his early foreign travel, meetings with traditional allies, openings to former cast-off nations, willingness to listen not dictate, and commitment to the global agenda of the new century, including climate remediation, arms reduction, and poverty, he has restored our standing in the world and, by his very image, transformed the world's idea of America. We will need new alliances in this century and he has launched the effort to create them.

The transformation of our military is hindered by two ongoing, inherited wars. Even as new strategies for those wars are adopted and commitments wound down, President Obama will have the opportunity to accelerate a new agenda started by Secretary Gates. That agenda is to size, shape, and equip our forces for the low-intensity conflicts of the 21st century, not the nation-state wars of the 20th.

Mr. Emanuel is right: crises are too important to waste and the Obama administration is using the many crises it inherited not to go backward but to launch into the new century--finally.