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A Conversation with Former Secretaries of State: Kissinger, Shultz, Christopher, Albright

Speakers: George P. Shultz, Warren Christopher, former U.S. secretary of state, Clinton Administration, Henry A. Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state, Nixon Administration, and Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, Clinton Administration
Moderator: Walter S. Isaacson, editorial director, Time Inc.
Introductory Speaker: Peter G. Peterson, Council on Foreign Relations
April 24, 2001
Council on Foreign Relations


Pete G. Peterson: It is a real honor to introduce this program and to welcome our new members who are here tonight and our very special guests. The last thirty years in American foreign policy have been years of great progress and accomplishment. Thanks in large part to the leadership of these Secretaries of State and their colleagues, the United States won the Cold War, preserved the Atlantic community, extended freedom and democracy to Central and Eastern Europe, and provided an economic and security environment in which free ideas and free markets brought new hope and new choices to hundreds of millions, and even billions, of people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It is not a perfect record, but perfect records do not exist in human affairs. But we Americans, while always conscious of the immense challenges that remain, can be very grateful for the leadership and courage of those who have helped us come so far, overcome so many dangers, and build what is, in many ways, the most prosperous and free era in the history of the world.

As you know, this is a special meeting to welcome new members to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan, independent organization dedicated to promoting a full and frank debate on all aspects of American foreign policy, hospitable to all points of view, but beholden to none. It is a unique institution in American life, and one I am genuinely proud to be part of, and I hope you are too. Election to membership in the Council represents recognition by your colleagues and your peers that you have something important to contribute to that debate, so I welcome, this evening, our new members as I welcome our speakers, and hope you will derive from this and other events and projects in which you participate some of the intellectual excitement and valuable insights that I have found here again and again over the thirty years that I have been a member. The hundred and five new members the Board of Directors elected to membership is symbolic of the Board’s commitment to a truly national organization—about one-third in New York, one-third in Washington, and one-third in the rest of the country. I ask our members to welcome the new members who can be identified by the red dot on their name tags. I am not sure I even understand or even appreciate the symbolism of the color red in these perilous financial times, but those with the red dots are new members and I hope you will give them a special welcome.

While we are very fortunate tonight to have Walter Isaacson, the Editorial Director of Time, Inc., to moderate this program, I would like to say a sentence or two about each of our special guests because they are both personal friends and friends of this institution. Beginning in San Francisco, a special welcome to George Shultz, one of my oldest friends, a friend for nearly fifty years, from our days at the University of Chicago, where I was presumably at least educated. George had more to do than anyone in the world with my joining the Nixon administration. George, I don’t know if it was for better or for worse as far as the country was concerned, but I know that I benefited enormously from it and will be always grateful to you, George, for that experience.

Warren Christopher is in San Francisco. Warren, you were a great partner of mine as vice chairman of this institution, and you were immensely helpful in numerous occasions in making your wisdom to bear on some very special challenges this institution faced. Madeleine Albright is here, of course. Madeleine, I don’t recall a single instance during your service as Secretary of State when you did not respond warmly and positively to any of our requests in which your distinguished presence would make a difference, and I thank you, Madeleine, for that. Henry Kissinger, an old friend and colleague, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was also the author of more first-rate and unique humor than any public official I have ever known, including perhaps his famous line that power is the greatest aphrodisiac. And as I look tonight at our guests and our moderator, there is a lot of aphrodisiac in tonight’s program.

Thank you all. Welcome all. I am happy to introduce Walter Isaacson who will moderate the program. Thank you, Walter.

Walter S. Isaacson: Thanks, Pete. As John Kennedy would have said, not since Henry Stimson dined here alone have we had such a distinguished crowd, and we look forward to it. For those of you wondering who the person is who isn’t a Secretary of State on your screen there, somebody who maybe should have been a Secretary of State, he is Peter Tarnoff, our former [the Council’s] president, who is going to help us with the audience in San Francisco and help moderate there. We also have a global audience, since this is on and, the two websites. That means, if you haven’t figured it out, that this is on-the-record, since it’s hard to keep an audience of a billion people sworn to secrecy. We are going to spend forty-five minutes having a discussion among the four panel members and then forty-five minutes of questions from the audience.

With the exception of Secretary Christopher, I think that Secretaries of State are not really known for being taciturn, and by the bylaws of the Council as well as an obscure article of the Constitution, moderators at these events are not allowed to interrupt Secretaries of State when they are in the middle of a brilliant thought, so I will try to urge everybody to attempt, since we want to end by 8 p.m., to be pithy, and perhaps, as at the Oscars, we’ll give a DVD to whomever gives the shortest answer on China. Along these lines, especially since Pete has given a warm personal introduction to our four people, I will dispense with very formal introductions of our four panelists who are well known to all of you.

Henry Kissinger was a study group leader here at the Council and then went on to his more exalted jobs as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State. I am not sure I am much more qualified to say anything more about him, which he probably thinks is no doubt proven by the book I wrote about him, so I will stop there. He does have his own book that comes out in two or three months?

Henry A. Kissinger: Early June.

Isaacson: Early June. Okay. That should rectify things. Secretary Shultz was Treasury Secretary under Dr. Kissinger, I mean President Nixon, and then, from 1982 to 1989, was Secretary of State during the Reagan administration. His memoirs, Turmoil and Triumph, were published, I think, in 1993. Warren Christopher was Lyndon Johnson’s Deputy Attorney General and Jimmy Carter’s Deputy Secretary of State before becoming, in 1993, Secretary of State during the first Clinton term. You’ll notice that, as an author, I always try to plug people’s books. Chris’ is entitled Chances of a Lifetime, and it is a real delight. It just came out, and it is in book stores now. Madeleine Albright was our UN ambassador and then succeeded Warren Christopher as Secretary of State for the second Clinton term. As for her book, she’s just beginning to write it, so we look forward to it.

In preparation for this, we had a conference call to discuss the procedures. I hope our discussion tonight will be as fun and lively as that conference call. In it, Secretary Kissinger and Secretary Albright got into a couple of very interesting exchanges in which they disagreed, but then kept stressing that we had to say over and over again tonight how important it was to note that all four of our panelists tended to agree on the basic fundamentals of American foreign policy. They have shown great support for one another over the years and great comity. I agreed to make that point at the outset, perhaps being a journalist, in the hope that we wouldn’t keep making it over and over again and we could actually get to some of the more interesting distinctions that are to be made.

With that in mind, perhaps we should start with China. Secretary Albright, do you think we can have normal relations with China if they don’t improve their record on human rights?

Madeleine Albright: I have said many times when I was Secretary that it is impossible for us to have a totally normal relationship with China if they do not improve their record on human rights. It is a point that I made to them personally in every meeting that I had, and made a great point of saying it publicly when I went to the Human Rights Commission. I did a totally insane thing, which was to leave President Clinton in India to fly to Geneva in order to deliver that statement myself, and then fly back again to rejoin him because I do think it is essential that we keep stressing it. I also think it is very important to understand that the relationship with China is one that has many different levels to it, and that engaging with China on trade relations and other ways of dealing with them is also important. My little bumper sticker was engage but not endorse.

Isaacson: But we can’t have totally normal relations while they have this human rights record, which is sort of what you said. Let me turn it to Secretary Kissinger and say, do you think that our relations with China on the areas of trade and security should be, as Secretary Albright says, contingent upon, or conditional upon, or linked to human rights issues?

Kissinger: First of all, let me say that I don’t know what normal relations are. I don’t know how you would judge whether one has normal relations when the relation that is appropriate is to our national interest in a given situation. We will always be concerned about human rights, and it will affect, in many tangible and intangible ways, our attitudes, but I think that the relationship with a billion and a half people that has been central to the culture, history, and economy of Asia is a crucial element of American foreign policy. It isn’t just trade and security. We have to have some basic idea of our long-term relationship with China, how that relates to our relationship with Japan, India and other Asian countries, and indeed to other countries. If we don’t do that, we do not have relations with China as a favor to China. That’s not an award we bestow upon China or vice versa. My view would be that meaningful discussion is what is in our national interest in relation to China, and how do we fulfill it.

Isaacson: So you do not think it’s meaningful to lecture them about human rights?

Kissinger: I think it is meaningful to make clear to them that we have a concern with human rights and then there is an area in which we have discretionary capabilities in which it would be effective. I, personally, do not believe that public lectures are the best way to proceed on this, but obviously people have other views. We can’t all be right.

Isaacson: Before they start actually physically fighting, Secretary Christopher, maybe we can turn to you and then Secretary Shultz if you have comments on this question or about how the spy plane was handled.

George P. Shultz: I think there are all sorts of ways to think about the human rights issue that we have been discussing. There are things to occasionally lecture the Chinese about, and no doubt expect them to lecture us. There are things to really move in on strong. When they arrest an American citizen crossing the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen for no reason that we can figure out, we have to insist in a very operational way on talking to that man, understanding what’s the reason for his arrest, and challenging it. You have that kind of thing. Then it seems to me more broadly that we have to find ways in which we can say to the Chinese that the way you are handling certain situations is not necessarily in your interest, and find a way of talking about the subject where we can find some common ground with them. Handling this subject with the Soviet Union, for example, we argued, I think with some success, that with the coming information age, their society, a closed and compartmentalized society, it was not in their interest, and if they didn’t change, they would be falling behind. Therefore, their practices toward their citizens, in their own interests, had to change. I think if we can find ways of doing that with China, it would be helpful.

Isaacson: Let me turn more specifically to the China spy plane, and Secretary Christopher, if you could answer what we have been talking about in the context of how that was handled by the Bush administration.

Warren Christopher: After a somewhat rocky start, I think it was handled well by the Bush administration. It seemed to me that turning the matter over primarily to Secretary Powell for execution was a good decision, and I think we can be very fortunate that our servicemen and women are home. Whenever I think about this incident, my mind goes back to the Pueblo incident in which 82 Americans were held, not for eleven days, but for eleven months. It was a very, very bad incident, and in many ways analogous to this because it was a surveillance ship, not a surveillance plane. Now, this episode is not over. The ongoing discussions will have to focus on our continued surveillance and getting our airplane back. So far so good. I give my compliments to the administration for handling it in the way they did.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright?

Albright: I agree with Secretary Christopher about it being handled well. What I am concerned about is that—and without undoing what I said before about human rights because I do consider them an essential part of our relationship—we have to be very careful at this point when there is the beginning of a succession process in China not to give the hardliners more fodder and not to designate China as a new enemy. I believe that what we did with permanent trading relations with China was very important, and so it requires that favorite diplomatic word, a more nuanced policy. I think it would be a tragedy if now we turn China into our prime enemy.

Isaacson: I assume you would agree, Secretary Kissinger. What are you advising the Bush administration in terms of how to handle this as it goes forward, this spy plane issue?

Kissinger: First of all, I am not an adviser to the Bush administration. I think on this spy plane issue, it is now on the road to solution, and they will work out something to get the plane back. It would be in the Chinese interest to return it as quickly as possible. It would simply be an irritant if it is not returned. I agree with what Madeleine has said. I am uneasy about the tendency in much of our debate to treat China as our next enemy and slide it into the spot vacated by the Soviet Union. It is a totally different phenomenon. The Chinese Communist Party makes no universal claims, and, in fact, its major problem is maintaining its legitimacy in the changing situation. They are not occupying foreign countries. Except on the issue of Taiwan, which has historic roots, they are not threatening militarily in any specific place. When China challenges us, we should resist, but we should not gear our policy to make opposition to China an inherent congenital characteristic of our foreign policy. Were the Bush administration to ask my opinion, that is what I would say to them.

Isaacson: Secretary Shultz, let me ask you. Do you think that we should be in favor, as a country, of China getting the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008?

Shultz: Let’s see how this unfolds. If they were holding our 24 servicemen, I certainly wouldn’t want to see that take place. But in general, yes, I think it would be a good thing for them to have the Olympic Games.

Isaacson: Secretary Christopher?

Christopher: I think I will be taciturn on that and agree with George. I think it’s quite important for the United States not to demonize China or to be too romantic about it. Looking back over the other nations that have held the Olympics over the years, and if China continues to act over the next year or so in a way that would qualify them, I think it might be a positive thing for them to have the world’s spotlight on them for the period of time of the Olympic Games.

Isaacson: Let me move to North Korea. Secretary Albright, do you think the Bush administration should have continued the approach to the North Korean process that had begun?

Albright: Yes, without question. I think the reason we undertook the policy that we did was that the status quo was impossible. We were concerned generally about what they were doing in terms of their missile development, and concerned about their role in and their export of missile technology. Secondly, Kim Dae Jung, who I think is one of the truly remarkable people of our time and someone who really puts his money where his mouth is, many times in his life actually, is someone who began this, needed our support, and continues to need our support with the sunshine policy. I guess I have the distinction of being the only one of us or any American cabinet official, to be in Pyongyang and to actually talk to Kim Jong Il, who is not the nut case that he has been portrayed to be, and someone who is at least worth talking to. The Bush administration was concerned about whether whatever agreement would be made would be verifiable, which is obvious. We would never have made an agreement that was not verifiable and the only way to find out whether there was something there was to proceed. I do think that there is the question generally about the threat that North Korea poses. If it is one of the reasons that we want NMD, then I believe it is essential that we figure out what North Korea is about, and we don’t lose anything by talking to them.

Isaacson: Secretary Shultz, could you help explain why, if you can, the Bush administration decided not to continue the policy of trying to open up the Korean peninsula?

Shultz: I don’t speak for the Bush administration. Like Henry, I am not his adviser. But my understanding is that they want to see the sunshine policy continue. Everybody wants to see a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula, but there is a sense of unease that I have felt, and perhaps they feel, about the process that has gone through with North Korea. I liken it to my experience when I was Labor Secretary and worrying about labor relations problems and union-management relations. There was a period of time when management saw lots of bad practices in their plants and they got frustrated, and they evaluated how much each one of them was costing. Then they said to the union, here is a sort of cafeteria line, pick up what you want, agree to eliminate the bad practice, and we’ll pay you for that. There were successes, but then it began to dawn on people that you’re teaching a very bad lesson, namely that a bad practice is a good thing because you can sell it. I think we have to be very careful that we don’t get North Korea into that position where they do things or create things that we don’t like, then we pay them not to do them. We encourage that not only with North Korea, but elsewhere. I fear that in the Middle East, for example, that there has been a pattern of Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians creating violence and then somehow it’s important to give them something to stop the violence. I see this pattern in various places and I think it is an uneasy pattern.

Isaacson: We’ll get back to the Middle East.

Kissinger: Let me give what I believe is the basic view underlying the hesitation to proceed with North Korea. For years the North Koreans have been trying to make themselves the interlocutor on Korean matters with the United States, and they have wanted to establish, as the North Vietnamese did, the idea that they are the legitimate representative of Korea, and the South Koreans are sort of an American appendage. When they can elicit a visit by a very high-ranking American to Pyongyang, that’s a big step in that direction, leaving aside the issue that was actually being discussed. I would actually argue that if one is interested in the sunshine policy, if one can teach Pyongyang that the road to Washington is through Seoul, rather than the road to Seoul is through Washington, that will be considerable progress. Since our contacts, there has not been much progress on the sunshine policy, and I would think that both the Europeans and others ought to think very carefully about the idea of helping the North Koreans out of their difficulties unless there is some progress on North-South relations. In addition, I share fully George Shultz’s point. What the North Koreans offer us is to stop increasing weapons arsenals that they shouldn’t have created in the first place, and ask us to give them equivalent technology. With all respect, I feel that the Bush administration made the right decision even though their policy was better than their explanations of it.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright?

Albright: Maybe Secretary Christopher would like to say something.

Christopher: We’re only three months into the new administration, but I see a concernful pattern of retreat and retrenchment of which I regard North Korea as simply being one part of the policy or possible policy. Let’s take the Middle East for a moment. Every president since President Truman and every Secretary since Secretary Acheson has found the Middle East to be an area of vital national interest and engaged it very heavily. They have done that, not because Presidents and Secretaries of State are bleeding hearts or because they are do-gooding, but it is because we have very strong interests there and Israel’s interests and resources there. I see what’s happening there. The administration is pulling back from that and there are two very current examples. One, the suggestion that this is a good time to pull our troops out of the Sinai between Egypt and Israel, saving a pittance of money, and the other is not appointing another Middle East coordinator. I see this as part of a concernful pattern of retreat and retrenchment. As I say, these are early days, and it may be that when we look at it six months or twelve months out we’ll feel better about it, but I do think the United States has to be aggressively engaged on the world scene to protect our interests.

Shultz: The understanding is that the Bush administration is engaged and has had quite a lot of contact with the Prime Minister, Mr. Arafat, the King of Jordan, the President of Egypt and so on. Right now, what they have inherited is a violent scene, and again, if you say that Israel or the United States should give something to Arafat to stop the violence, you are only encouraging the violence, so the first step is to do the things that are necessary to get things under a more stable situation and then perhaps something more can be done.

Christopher: George, there are two roles for the Americans in the Middle East. One is to stop the fighting, and the other is to seek peace. I understand that this may not be a propitious time to seek peace, but it is certainly a time to stop the fighting, and I don’t think it can be done on the telephone. I think that there has to be the presence of high-ranking American officials in the region on a rather sequential basis in order to probe for opportunities to stop the fighting there. So I say, I hope I’m wrong about this, but I know there was an announcement that we are now going to step back and let the parties see if they can settle it themselves. I don’t think the United States can, over time, afford to do that.

Isaacson: Let me turn to Secretary Kissinger on this point. Do you think it was a mistake of the Clinton administration to be too engaged in a search for finality on that issue and that this is a healthy respite now?

Kissinger: I have written on that subject, and I made that point.

Isaacson: I find that quoting you to yourself is often the best.

Kissinger: It certainly gets the juices flowing. I believe that the urgency with which finality was attempted at Camp David was one of the reasons why it broke down. In fairness I have to point out that about two years ago I also argued, as many did, that the step-by-step approach had reached its limit and that a more comprehensive solution should be sought. I think it was an understandable desire, but to link together the territorial settlement, the holy places, the return of refugees, and final agreement proved beyond the capacity of the parties and certainly beyond the capacity of Arafat, maybe of any Palestinian leader, to deliver. I think that a new approach should have a more limited objective and try to settle those things that can be settled now and leave such issues as the return of refugees and the ultimate disposition of the holy places to certain practical arrangements for the final disposition later on if there ever is a final disposition of them.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright?

Albright: In looking back at it, it’s now easy to say that there shouldn’t have been a finality to it, but I think that what is essential for people to understand is that this was not something that was created by Bill Clinton thinking, okay, I’ve got to sell and solve this issue for my legacy. What happened was that Prime Minister Barak was the prime mover behind this. I think he is a genuinely bold and courageous leader who had been elected on a peace platform and thought that he should push it to a logical solution. I believe that the Oslo process, the incremental aspect of it, had really run out of steam. It had been designed for Prime Minister Rabin, who was somebody whose personality and approach lent itself to being a lubricant in those kinds of discussions. Bibi Netanyahu had the opposite personality, and I think that what happened was that it became impossible to move in those incremental steps, and Barak made the suggestions. I also think that ultimately when there is a solution, and someday there will be, it will be on the basis of the ideas that were laid out at Camp David because they are logical and they are knit together. We all know from our lives that there are two ways to solve problems. You either do them piece by piece or you take the whole package. Now we are going to move piece by piece, but I agree with Chris that whether you believe it is finality or piece by piece, it cannot be done by long distance. When I became Secretary, the question was whether I would go to the Middle East. I had watched Secretary Christopher go a number of times. I went back and I looked at James Baker’s book. He said he was never going to get involved in the Middle East. He obviously did. Every Secretary has said keep this away, but ultimately you get involved. I think the question is when and also whether you have a high-level person that does some of the negotiating for you. I believe that Dennis Ross fulfilled that role very well for us, and I think they made a mistake by withdrawing from the field at the moment.

Shultz: Everybody remembers these things to a certain extent by cartoon. There was one that I treasure in the Jerusalem Post as I was finishing a rather fruitless Middle East peace mission. The cartoon had me sort of on the ground, and there was a Palestinian with a club beating on me, an Israeli with a club beating on me, and a Jordanian with a club beating on me. The caption of the cartoon was, “Well at least they agree on something.”

Isaacson: Let’s move on to a couple of other issues because we have about ten more minutes of this part of the discussion. Should we be withdrawing American troops from the Balkans now? Would you like to start Secretary Kissinger?

Kissinger: No, I am not in favor of withdrawing American troops from the Balkans. I was not in favor of some of the aspects at the beginning of the Kosovo operation, but once we were involved, I think it is wrong to withdraw our troops.

Isaacson: What about bringing Milosevic to justice in The Hague? Is that a necessary component of policy?

Kissinger: I think at this point, some judgment on Milosevic would be helpful. It would be more helpful if it were done in Serbia, in Yugoslavia, and not in The Hague. I don’t think that is the central thing although it is an important aspect. There has to be a political solution at some point because as it is now NATO will have to be there indefinitely in Kosovo, or Kosovo has to be made independent in some fashion.

Isaacson: Which is worse?

Kissinger: If it is made independent, it will lead to tremendous pressure on Macedonia, Montenegro, and striving for a greater Albania. On the other hand, if we stay, all of us stay there, I don’t make any difference between American presence and NATO presence, then sooner or later there will be casualties.

Isaacson: Do you agree that you left them with that choice of either an independent Kosovo that’s a tragedy or a permanent occupation which is a tragedy?

Albright: I actually think we left them with a pretty good situation, which was that, in fact, the Kosovars had a sense that they could run their own lives, and I believe that there need to be elections there as soon as possible during this year. I also think that our forces need to stay there. Everybody misunderstands that we have very few—I mean the Europeans have the lion’s share of forces there, and we need to be there. I was very pleased with Secretary Powell’s trip, this last one, where he underlined that. I also think that this business about how long we are going to be there—37,000 of our forces have been in Korea and we had forces in Europe throughout the Cold War—this is a small number of forces relatively speaking, and I obviously believe, and I continue to believe, that some kind of peaceful solution within the Balkans is important to US national interests because it is the last piece of a Europe whole and free, which the first president Bush was very much in favor of and carried out the unification of Germany, and I think it is important. It is a small price to pay for having some kind of sense of stability in the Balkans, so I do think we should stay there until the job is done.

Kissinger: We have to define what the job is.

Isaacson: How would the job be done?

Albright: I think that what ultimately the hope here would be is that we would not have a bunch of micro states, but that there would be an increasing integration, primarily economic, of the countries in the Balkans. We tried to do that. We began with some actions through the stability pact, in a variety of ways, so that the Balkan countries are working together more. They should be looking more toward Brussels than Belgrade, and I think that if there is a certain amount of peace that comes, and I think that the relationships between Kostunica and the others are improving, and we need to give it time. The elections in Kosovo are very important. I think we did the right thing to try to stop what’s happening vis-a-vis the Kosovars in Macedonia, but there will always be this group of extremists like the Basques and certain groups that just make trouble. But the moderates of Albania elected Rugova, and we need to give more and more support to them. And in answer to Milosevic, I am very glad, obviously, that he was arrested. I think that the Serb trial should go forward, but ultimately there has to be some resolution with The Hague. International justice in some way has to be served.

Isaacson: Turning back to San Francisco, speaking of The Hague and international justice, I was wondering if both of you would comment on whether you felt the Bush administration should proceed with the International Criminal Court.

Shultz: I don’t think so. As far as I can see, the Clinton administration didn’t want to proceed either because, while there is a certain broad appeal to the idea, there are all sorts of potential traps in it for the United States.

Christopher: I think we ought to continue the negotiations to see if there is some way we can protect American national interests, but there are real American national interests in connection with the criminal court. I think the peacekeeping missions that our American servicemen and women are on do need to be taken into account when we judge whether or not the international court will have jurisdiction to proceed against Americans abroad, especially American servicemen and women. I think it’s an important goal, but I don’t think we’ve found the right calculus, the right nuance, to bring the United States into membership at the present time. This is, of course, a subject that Secretary Albright has worked on at great length and has, I think, quite a passion to try to see it achieved, as do I.

Shultz: Let me make a suggestion to you, and particularly in your legal capacity. Instead of trying to have an international court that exists in kind of perpetuity, why not institutionalize in the Security Council the notion that from time to time there are going to be courts, as the one in The Hague right now, and that those are put together for a specific purpose, so you don’t have all the kind of unforeseen consequences that the present proposal seems to hold?

Christopher: I think that’s a very interesting and valuable suggestion. You know that common law has grown up through a series of experiences, and we’re having experiences now with a court for Yugoslavia. We obviously experienced Nuremburg. We have a court in connection with Rwanda. We’re learning a lot from those various experiences, and I think there’s value to try to synthesize and crystallize those experiences, and see how we can move into the future from them.

Isaacson: Secretary Kissinger?

Kissinger: I’d like to support the suggestion of George Shultz. I think if there were a committee of the Security Council that periodically reported to the Security Council about the need for a tribunal on a specific case, then the Security Council could create a court and lay down the rules for procedure. Under the statute of the International Criminal Court, any state who is a member can bring a charge and the prosecutor is required to investigate it. If we were worried about the special prosecutor in the United States, I’d hate to think about a special prosecutor if every participant in every region of conflict can bring a charge that then has to be investigated. I think we are not ready for that sort of system, but a system in which there is a more regular capacity to create a specific court is something which should be looked at.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright?

Albright: Let me say that when we started the war crimes tribunal, when Secretary Christopher was the Secretary and I was the UN ambassador, there were a lot of questions as to whether it would work at all. People just thought it was a crazy idea. It turns out, I think, to be working pretty well. A lot of precedent is being built up. The International Criminal Court issue became very complicated because the United States does have a special role with more troops in different places, and while we definitely saw the problems in it, we thought that it would be very useful to be a signatory because of the role of not being a non-party state didn’t allow us to have protection. While we thought that it wasn’t perfect, more work needed to be done, and we believed that it was better to do from inside than outside. That leads me to a general problem that I see with the Bush administration, which is that they are anti-international treaty. I don’t understand how we can go unilateral on climate control and things like the International Criminal Court. Generally, we are moving into an era when there is more global interaction and the idea that there be a variety of international regimes that we are a part of, that we can fix to make better, strikes me as the wave of the future rather than unilateral withdrawal from treaty.

Isaacson: That seems like the broad theme that ties us together, and I’d like to go around to discuss it because if there is one adjective that is now being applied to the Bush administration, it is not isolationist or conservative, it is unilateralist and having a treaty allergy, as you have said. That’s Kyoto, the ABM Treaty, missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and many other things. Is this a fair criticism? Let’s start with Secretary Kissinger and then move to San Francisco.

Kissinger: If the United States is convinced that something is wrong, it cannot adhere to it just because it is international. I’d be opposed to the International Criminal Court as it now stands on its merits, and not because it’s international, but because of the role of the prosecutor—

—analyze the American national interest and not simply believe that general principles are alone dominant. It has to establish a period in which it makes that point. I am convinced that there will be negotiations with Russia on the ABM Treaty. I have never had any discussion on that, but they’ll have some discussion on the environment. If a new administration wants to establish the fact that it has a new approach, it must be permitted a hiatus in which it makes its point, and then after that one can judge whether that point was well made. These are experienced people. I don’t think they believe that they can act unilaterally, but when they disagree with something strongly, they have to make their point as an introduction into a possible negotiation.

Isaacson: Before we go to San Francisco, let me have Secretary Albright respond.

Albright: Let me say that, as I study American foreign policy and we have a lot of elements of it here, we have all prided ourselves on a certain amount of continuity, and the fact that you don’t create a new foreign policy every time that there is an election. I think that it is perfectly possible, reasonable, and necessary to do reviews. We all did it when we came in at different times, but they can be done within the system, not be going outside of it and saying, we’re putting down a marker and now the rest of you salute. I would hope that the policy would be something different than just the opposite of what we did.

Isaacson: Secretary Shultz?

Shultz: I agree with what Secretary Kissinger said a few minutes ago, and it seems to me that the Bush administration is absolutely right in trying to look at US national interests with respect to these various international undertakings. Some of them, the ABM Treaty, are long in existence. I think that was negotiated by Secretary Kissinger. At least as I see it, we should have an ability to defend ourselves if we can find a way to do it. If the ABM Treaty now stands in our way, then we should be ready to do something about that. The Kyoto Treaty was not submitted to the Senate. Why not? Because there’s no support. It was not ratified by more than one country. Why not? Because it’s flawed. It does not call upon China and India, the two biggest potential contributors, to do anything, so maybe it doesn’t get anywhere. What’s called for the United States to do is out of the question. It can’t be done. In saying, let’s set this aside and try to find a way of proceeding that has a chance of getting somewhere, I don’t see what’s so bad about that. It looks to me like a good thing.

Isaacson: Secretary Christopher, did you want to weigh in there?

Christopher: Just briefly, Walter. It is still, as I say, early days in the administration. The President has assembled a very experienced team in the foreign policy area. They are internationalists. I’m concerned about the trend toward retreat and retrenchment in the Middle East, Korea, Bosnia, and the Balkans. There are too many signs in the wind not to be completely complacent about it. I hope that when we look back on this period we’ll see increasing engagement on their part. There is no doubt in my mind that we have to have more international engagement. Take the problem of terrorism, which may be the most serious single problem we face around the world. That cannot be addressed by a single nation. It will have to be addressed internationally because the terrorists start from one country, do their evil deeds in another country, and flee to a third or fourth country. I think we need to have more international involvement, and I hope that the United States, over time, as this new administration takes hold, will recognize what I think is a realistic fact of life.

Shultz: You did use the word retreat. No administration likes that word very much. As a marine, I even remember when we had to change our sense of direction in North Korea, and we said we were advancing to the rear. We hadn’t retreated.

Isaacson: Let me ask one final broad question, and it is appropriate to ask it to San Francisco and Silicon Valley over the new teleconferencing system in the Peterson room. I would like to ask to what extent technology has changed the way foreign policy is conducted. I also remember being in Bratislava in 1989, when the kids were coming into the hotels to watch CNN and what was happening in Berlin. I remember being with Gerry Levin in Kashgar, about the most isolated city in the world, across the Gobi Desert from Beijing, when the kids in the back of a coffee shop who actually owned a computer, and they were on the Internet and when they called up CNN or Time, it would say “access denied.” And then one of them pushed me aside and called it up, and they both popped up. They said to me, “Oh, yes, we know how to go through proxy servers in Hong Kong that the censors don’t know how to block.” It seems to me that the inability of authoritarian regimes to control the flow of information changes the nature of how democracy progresses and in foreign policy. I know both of you have studied it in San Francisco, so why don’t we start there.

Christopher: Walter, I think the Internet is probably the most powerful single new force in the field of foreign policy. Zhu Rongji basically had to change his position with respect to the bombing or the explosion in the schools because the Internet was putting out information that was inconsistent with the Chinese public line. I was talking to a woman from the Philippines the other day. She told me she had been involved in the Marcos overthrow, that is, going to the streets there, and once again involved in the demonstrations that overthrew Estrada. She told me it was night and day how much more rapidly a coup can be mounted, or demonstrations can be organized. She said that the demonstrations against Estrada were organized through hand-held devices, Blackberries, and so forth. I think that any Secretary of State has to take into account that things are likely to develop more rapidly around the world than ever before. It is commonplace to say you have to answer in the same news cycle. Television has done that to us. But the Internet has done something much more profound, and that is to create an ability in a country to change directions almost overnight. If I could say one thing to my successors it is to take into account that fundamental change, I think, in the way information is passed around the world, especially in countries that have dictatorial regimes.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright, you are heading a foundation that may study this issue. Why don’t we end with you on this and then go to our audience.

Albright: I think that clearly information is power and the ability for people to access it changes the entire dynamic. We also have to realize, though, that it can have a negative impact, which we’ve just seen in Quebec, or we saw in Seattle, where those who organized some of the international aspects, in fact, set up these demonstrations by Internet. It has had a huge effect. I think for the most part it is positive, and it is an integral part. It leads me also to go back to the point on North Korea. I have no rose-colored glasses about Kim Jong Il, but he does have a computer. He himself has access. I think it will be very interesting to see whether if there is an opening toward North Korea that, in fact, that power that we’re seeing in other places can be made to have an impact there also. I’ve spent my whole life studying the role of information in changing societies. There is no doubt in my mind that the Internet and all the interconnections are vital to twenty-first century foreign policy.

Kissinger: I noticed that you left me out of the technology discussion, and it shows good judgment, but I want to make one point. One of the problems of our period is this -- we have huge amounts of information. I am happy that Kim Jong Il has a computer, but the problem is how to translate information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom and how to bridge those gaps. That is the big challenge in thinking about foreign policy. We have more information available than any previous generation and we have it more easily available, but we have it available so easily that we don’t have to train our minds to translate it into operational knowledge. That, I think, is a problem.

Isaacson: It’s a good point. Let me now turn to the audience. If you’ll state your name, your affiliation, and try to have a microphone.

Question: My name is Jimmy FlorCruz. I am the press fellow at the Council. I used to be with Time Magazine, covering China for many years. My question is: The United States and China are very different countries with two very proud peoples, different systems. Aren’t they bound to clash therefore? Isn’t their relationship bound to be bumpy anyway? If the Soviet threat was the glue that put the two countries together in 1972, through the Cold War, and allowed them to transcend their differences, what is the glue now?

Isaacson: Secretary Kissinger?

Kissinger: Our relationship is bound to be bumpy because we do have different cultures and different ways of looking at it. I do not think we are bound to clash because I don’t know where our interests necessarily clash. On Taiwan, there is a historic challenge. But when one looks around the periphery of China, I don’t see that it is the same challenge that existed at the time of the Soviet Union. Secondly, military expansion is no longer the key to national progress. When a country has a hundred million unemployed and has to advance the interior of its own country, for it to risk a military clash with the United States, or to challenge the United States from its present base, seems to me extraordinarily improbable. We are going to have political disagreements, and we are certainly going to have human rights disagreements, but I think the art of policy on both sides would be to manage it in such a way that we do not clash and I see no inherent necessity for it.

Isaacson: We’ll take one question here, and then I might turn it over to Peter in San Francisco.

Question: Raghida Dergham of Al-Hayat. I would like to ask this question of the four members of the distinguished panel. We did not get to speak about the Gulf and the politics toward the Middle East. There is recognition that the sanctions regime against Iraq is practically collapsed, and there is a review going on in Washington now on the policy toward Iraq. The Council on Foreign Relations and others have come up with the task for recommending that there should be a total review of policy toward the region, not only focused on Iraq, but also toward the Gulf states. Some have said that the policy had been too much emphasized on the military aspect and not on the socio-political aspect. What should be done now?

Shultz: I think the administration is trying to look at this on a regional basis. The Iraq problem is a real problem, and I can’t say that I have any particular answer other than to maintain the consciousness in the neighbors as well as ourselves that Saddam Hussein is bad news, and that everybody keep recognizing that fact and doing whatever we can to keep him contained and under control. If that means occasional specific bombings, so be it. If there are credible internal challenges that can be mounted, we should encourage them. I don’t have a judgment about whether there are such. As far as the other states in the region are concerned, certainly one would like to see development take place there further, more open, more democratic societies, but I think you have to go very slowly on that, and they are going to set their own pace. Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian issues, and I think Israeli, Syrian, Iranian issues are very prominent, and personally, I think that the policy that Israel now seems to have to say, for example, when they are hit from southern Lebanon, that, yes, that comes from southern Lebanon, but it is really under Syrian control, so you somehow better remind Syria that you understand that, and are ready to do something about it. There is a certain reality to that. I don’t have any blueprint to pose here, but it does seem to me that you walk down these various paths very cautiously and carefully, but nevertheless, with a certain decisiveness.

Isaacson: Peter, do you want to do a question from San Francisco or CNN?

Peter Tarnoff: Yes, Walter, we have several people who want to ask a question. I would like to say for their benefit that I will designate you, and please identify yourself and give your affiliation. If there is any problem with the New York end in hearing the question, please indicate it to me.

Question: My name is Perla Ni. I’m the co-founder of My question is: The Bush administration recently, under pressure from the Chinese government, selectively halted the sale of certain military equipment to Taiwan. What do you think of that decision in light of the current circumstances between China and the United States?

Shultz: I think that’s a very provocative way to put the matter. It looks to me like they made a pretty judicious selection of what arms to sell and what not to sell. The Aegis cruiser, which is the one you’re probably thinking of, would take a long time to deliver, and one will have to see. As I understand, the way they put it was a lot of what Taiwan needs is a reflection of what China does, and the more threatening China is, the more Taiwan needs. When you deploy missiles across the straight, you are inviting defense against those missiles, so perhaps if you stop doing that, maybe that can change things. They are inviting that. It seems to me a rather intelligent thing and not done under pressure from somebody or another.

Christopher: I just wanted to support George’s position on this. What’s being missed in this story is that we intend to offer Taiwan, whether they’ll take it or not we don’t know, are four destroyers, eight submarines, and twelve surveillance aircraft, so this isn’t as if we weren’t doing what seems to be practical and plausible. And probably, George, agreeing with you, what Taiwan can absorb at the present time.

Isaacson: Peter, why don’t you go ahead with another question?

Tarnoff: I think what I should do now, Walter, is to refer to the questions that were submitted by CNN viewers. As you all know, there’s a CNN feed, and one thing that our friends at CNN did was to canvass their viewers, and they have submitted quite a few questions. I’ll select one or two that were not covered in the previous discussion. Most of the subjects that were submitted by CNN were covered earlier. The first question from a CNN viewer comes from someone in Albany, New York, and it is on Cuba. The question is: What is the contemporary rationale for keeping the US embargo on Cuba after history has shown that it fails to achieve the initial goal of getting rid of Castro? In fact, the embargo has solidified his political grip by giving him a tool, particularly useful after the Cold War, with which to demonize the United States. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to let market forces to do away with the now outdated figure of Castro and at the same time foster economic growth and well-being?

Isaacson: Peter, let me turn to Secretary Albright on that because earlier this afternoon she and I had a very interesting and candid discussion. I want to see if she’ll be as candid here.

Albright: Let me say that one of the disappointments that we had during the Clinton administration was that it was not possible to, in some way, change our relationship with Cuba. I think that we had thought that it would be possible to move in a different direction. Frankly, what happened was that there was a shoot-down of an unarmed plane that had American citizens on it. Secretary Christopher was in charge, and I was our UN Ambassador, and at a certain point, President of the Security Council. We had to bring the case to the Security Council. As a result of that, an embargo that had been an executive action was then put into law. The short answer to that question is that it is the law.

Isaacson: Would you want to keep the embargo if you could wave a wand and decide?

Albright: I think that we have seen what was seen in other communist countries that have allowed a certain amount of penetration and openness and the ability to have contacts, but I think the Cuban situation is a sui generis situation. I ultimately think that the solution to it will be the actuarial tables and biology rather than the ability to change the law.

Isaacson: Secretary Kissinger, would you lift the embargo?

Kissinger: I think Presidents have come to the conclusion that the benefit of lifting the embargo is outweighed by the domestic costs.

Isaacson: Let’s leave aside the domestic politics.

Kissinger: But that’s what the President has to consider.

Isaacson: But when you were Secretary of State, you often felt—

Kissinger: When I was Secretary of State, we actually attempted a negotiation with Castro, and we offered him the opportunity to normalize relations and lift the embargo. He sent troops to Angola, which ended this particular enterprise.

Isaacson: I assume that he does not want the embargo lifted.

Kissinger: It’s hard to lift the embargo if he continues to challenge vital interests of the United States. My view was, in principal, that I would have been willing to do it with some modifications of some human rights practices, visits of families, release of prisoners of dual nationality. At that time, his answer was to send 30,000 troops to Angola. He had the opportunity to get it lifted in 1974.

Isaacson: Secretaries Christopher and Shultz, do you want to weigh in on that, or should we move on to the next question if we might?

Shultz: I’ll weigh in since I’ve given statements publicly quite a few times. I think we shouldn’t negotiate with Castro. We should simply lift the embargo. Get rid of it because what the questioner said is fundamentally right. The embargo just gives him an ability to play Daniel in our lions’ den. He’s a discredited, no-good SOB, and we should lift the embargo, and if people want to make investments, that’s up to them. Certainly we will not offer any aid or anything of that kind. Let the situation evolve. The key is not what happens when Castro is there. I think Madeleine is absolutely right. The question is what happens when he’s gone. I think if there were no embargo, and there were more contacts, the chances of something sensible happening would be better. I don’t expect any President or political person to take that position.

Question: Raymond Tanter, the University of Michigan. Perhaps there’s a way of retaining the ABM Treaty at the same time as having National Missile Defense. One of our colleagues in the Reagan administration who worked for Secretary Shultz, Ambassador Kampelman, has come up with this idea of taking Agreed Statement D of the ABM Treaty, and interpreting this agreed statement in such a fashion as to permit other technologies. What is your view of taking Agreed Statement D as a means of both retaining the ABM Treaty and having National Missile Defense?

Kissinger: I have to confess that I don’t remember a great deal, and I frankly would have to read it to make sure. It was not the intention when the ABM Treaty was signed that you’d build a loophole through which you could drive alternative ABM systems. I’d have to look at that. An attempt was made to prevent the building of ABM systems, and we did try to close every loophole, and therefore I think the ABM Treaty is not relevant to the current situation when there are more than two superpowers, when missile technology is spreading, and when warheads are spreading. I just do not see how a president or a national leader can say, I will adopt total vulnerability as our national policy. I do believe that either renegotiation of the ABM Treaty or a negotiation that sets some limits on missile defense, which can be achieved, would be desired.

Isaacson: Secretary Albright?

Albright: I think it’s useful to look at how to amend the ABM Treaty. It’s been amended before, and I think that we should look at it. I think we all are concerned about a missile threat, and nobody is denying that there is a danger, but I think that throwing out the ABM Treaty is a mistake. There have been suggestions about deep unilateral cuts. The problem with that is that we, in the course of that, do not commit anybody else. I think it’s laudable, but the bottom line is that unilateral cuts, no matter how deep or shallow, do not serve the purpose of having some kind of arms control agreement that is then mutually enforceable.

Kissinger: They also don’t solve the problem of vulnerability. You can go down to 1,500 warheads, but still more existed through the greater part of the nuclear period.

Question: Richard Gardner, Columbia University. It’s interesting that Russia has not been the subject of a question, and yet Russia is an area of significant disagreement between the two political parties, as evidenced by the campaign. My question is: Looking at the last eight years, what was done right by the United States? What went wrong, and what lessons would you draw about policy for the future?

Isaacson: Do we want to start in San Francisco with the answer?

Shultz: I think we made a mistake in our approach to Russia. We seem to base our policy on the idea that somehow, through our good offices and through the provision of money via the IMF and some of our own, that we could induce the Russians to become a market-based, democratic country. That failed. I think it failed predictably. In a way, they made fools out of us. They shipped money out of Russia a lot faster than we shipped it in, so it seems to me what we should be doing with Russia is to recognize that they are going to write their own history. Let’s try to describe to ourselves accurately what is the nature of that country right now, and it is nothing like what President Clinton described in his New Year’s Time Magazine essay. It is an increasingly authoritarian country. It’s a sick society. It is the only major country with a falling age of death, very low birth rate, rampant alcoholism, a poor health system, but has, nevertheless, lots of very dangerous weaponry and a lot of talented people. We have to deal with them energetically, but realistically.

Isaacson: Secretary Christopher?

Christopher: I think that as we look back over this period, we’ll see that Russia has made great strides in the last eight years. They certainly are not where we want them to be, but they have held relatively free elections, and their economy is much more open than it was before. Was everything done perfectly? Of course not. You can make a list of ten things that were done wrong, and ten things that were perhaps done right, or certainly ten things where Russia has made great progress, and ten things where they’re way behind. One area that I would like to emphasize and is important for the future, and that is the nuclear area. They still have thousands of warheads capable of being pointed at us almost instantaneously, and I think that the Nunn-Lugar bill, attempting to do something about greater safety for their nuclear forces and trying to disarm their nuclear forces, has been a very positive aspect of our relationship. It just hasn’t gone far enough. When I read about the administration considering whether or not to pull back on that or to change that in some way, it concerns me. I think the question we ought to be asking is: Isn’t there something more that we can do to disarm the nuclear warheads in Russia? Isn’t there something more that we can do to provide for greater nuclear safety under the circumstances in Russia? I think that really ought to be the key focus of our policy. I’ll just say one more thing. We really don’t know the new president. Mr. Putin is quite a blank slate for us. His attitudes toward democracy, his attitudes toward a free market will be a crucial thing for the new administration to try to understand and probe.

Isaacson: We’ll take one question here and then I’ll toss it back to Peter.

Question: I’m David Malpass with Bear Stearns. I wanted to ask the Secretaries about the role of the international financial institutions, so the IMF and the World Bank. Are they important in US foreign policy? Are they constructive? How should the United States participate in them?

Shultz: I have expressed a clear view about that. My feeling is that the IMF has done more harm than good. The fact that it is a large bundle of money that can be used for almost any purpose by a consortium of heads of government creates a kind of honey pot and leads them to do unwise things, as I mentioned with Russia. I think the IMF’s performance in Indonesia, while you have to blame the Indonesians for the terrible problems they’re in, the IMF contributed considerably to that. In my mind, the IMF should have its charter redrawn, so that there is a clear statement about what it is supposed to do and what it is not supposed to do. I also think that it has too much money and that should be cut down.

Christopher: We have a split verdict on that out here. George and I have disagreed on that before in a very good-humored kind of way. I think the IMF has been very useful in many places in Asia, particularly in Korea over time. I think the IMF has performed very well, for example, in some Latin American countries where they have made a crucial difference. I think they made an important difference in Mexico to keep Mexico from going down the tubes. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect instrument, but I do think it’s a valuable instrument to preserve for our international future.

Isaacson: Peter?

Tarnoff: One thing we’re feeling out here is that there are areas that have not been covered, and I’d like to ask your indulgence to do two things. First of all, Secretary Shultz has asked to say something brief about our own hemisphere because that is obviously very important. Then I’d like to solicit here a question on Africa. There were several CNN questions on Africa, but if there is one in the audience or one in New York, I think we’d like to hear an Africa question. Secretary Shultz?

Shultz: You mentioned in your introduction the fact that there’s been a lot of continuity in American foreign policy, and I think that our hemisphere is a good example of that. The meeting in Quebec with the agreement there was sort of the next step. Even if you go back only

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