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American Leadership And Global Governance In An Age Of Nonpolarity

Speakers: Nicholas Burns, Professor Of Practice Of Diplomacy And International Politics, John F. Kennedy School Of Government Harvard University; Former Undersecretary Of State For Political Affairs, David F. Gordon, Head Of Research And Director, Global Macro Analysis, Eurasia Group; Former Director, State Department Office Of Policy Planning, and Ellen Laipson, President And Chief Executive Officer, Henry L. Stimson Center
Introductory Speaker: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow And Director, Program On International Institutions And Global Governance, Council On Foreign Relations
May 7, 2009, New York, NY
Council on Foreign Relations

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This session was part of the CFR Symposium on the United States and the Future of Global Governance, which was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.

RICHARD N. HAASS: Well, good evening. I'm Richard Haass, and I'm president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And I want to thank everybody here for coming to our -- not simply our first, but our first annual conference on Global Governance. This is a statement of not simply prediction, but confidence.

And this is part of the Council's larger program on International Institutions and Global Governance, or, for those of you who feel acronyms and abbreviations shorten your lives, the IIGG. Next year Stewart will have tee-shirts, or hats or something like that, to go along with that.

It's become something of an axiom to say that the challenges of this century -- ranging from terrorism and piracy to proliferation and pandemics, cannot be met by any country alone. And, obviously, that's true. Yet, we are constantly reminded, at the same time, that these collective efforts are, shall we say, uneven. In some areas, institutions exist but they need to be strengthened or reformed; in other areas, institutions simply don't exist, and there's little or no agreement, much less consensus, on what form they should take.

Still, we are seeing lots of multilateralism -- the IMF is extending loans to governments to weather the global economic storm, and the World Health Organization is coordinating measures to fight swine flu. But, the question isn't simply one of the -- of formal, standing global institutions. I mean, multilateralism can take many forms. For example, there's regional organizations -- from the EU, to the OAS, to the African Union.

And the entire question of, "what's the division of labor between the regional level and the global level," is, I think, one of the big and underexplored topics in the field.

And then there's groups of countries that often coalesce on particular topics or challenges -- for example, the PSI, the Proliferation Security Initiative to counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And then there's coalitions that come together for specific tasks, such as a coalition deploying our naval forces to combat piracy off of the Somalia coast.

Now, in 2001 I got into a little bit of trouble -- in a setting not unlike this one, at a different institution -- when, in the answer to a question, I came up with a phrase that I thought was pretty clever at the time, called "a la carte multilateralism." I thought it was clever until a day later The New York Times ran a front-page story making some fun of it. And several people in the White House didn't seem to think it was as clever as I did.

But, I thought then, and I think now, that it is a useful approach to today's world, because while virtually every major global challenge requires international or institutional arrangements, no single set of arrangements is suitable for every challenge. It is going to have to be anything but a one-size- or one-approach-fits-all.

And that's really the work of the program here on International Institutions and Global Governance. It's a fairly new program here at the Council on Foreign Relations, and it really only began in full last fall. And it's actually now, arguably, our largest, on-going, single research effort.

People always ask, "What are you working on at the Council on Foreign Relations?" And, yes, it's a smorgasbord -- to continue the food metaphors, of intellectual efforts, but the largest single effort is this one: looking at the issue of institutions and governance. And the idea is to assess the institutions that exist, and to assess them against the backdrop of the challenges that exist; and to identify, essentially, what reforms are needed, what new institutions are needed, and so forth.

Essentially, an intellectual bias, or assumption, of the program is that a lot of what we have has not kept pace with the world, and that, essentially, a lot of the institutions we have were -- often were spawned in 1945, or the years thereafter; and that it would be counterintuitive if institutions that were created in one geopolitical era, more than a half a century ago, were exactly adequate and appropriate for the challenges of a very different time.

And, again, to the -- the bias is that. And the effort is to, essentially, do an audit of these institutions, and to basically ask ourselves, where do they need to be adapted, where do they need to be supplemented, and so forth -- be it at the global level, the regional level, formal, informal, what have you.

Stewart Patrick -- Stewart's initials are S.P., which -- (inaudible) -- was also the same initials of the Policy Planning staff at State Department, which is why I hired him there and brought him here. Stewart is our moderator tonight -- not simply for tonight's session, but he is the person who is steering this project, steering project S.P. It all works.

And actually another 15 Council scholars contribute to this -- through their books, their articles, special reports, what have you. And today and tomorrow we're going to see the work of several of these fellows, including Laurie Garrett, who recently had the cover story this week in Newsweek, writing about the world's response to the swine flu outbreak; Charles Ferguson, who works the Nuclear account, along with Paul Lettow, the same; Michael Levi, who works the question about climate change and energy security: Matt Waxman, who also works legal issues with John Bellinger; Steve Dunaway on the economic side, along with Sebastian Mallaby.

You can find a lot of this on our website, cfr.org. If it's not in your bookmark, it should be. And there's a page on the site that is specifically dedicated or devoted to this. For example, you'll find on the IIGG site our newest special report on the Law of the Sea. You'll also see analysis on the swine flu, and so forth.

Soon, coming to a site near you, will be the Global Governance Monitor. And what this is a new multi-media tool that will constantly track and evaluate the status and the quality of international cooperation in various areas. We're going to begin with the area of proliferation, I believe, and then we're going to go to finance, and so forth. And gradually we're going to, one by one, pick up various areas of international cooperation in these functional realms.

And then we will update it, as necessary; and after six months, a year, essentially, you'll have a fairly comprehensive guide to the state of global governance. And the idea, again, is to have it as an on-line resource for people here, but also much more broadly, for students, experts around -- not simply this country, but around the world.

Work on this scale takes resources, and we wouldn't be here with the Robina Foundation and its late founder James Binger, who was a Council member, a dedicated internationalist, who passed away several years ago. And Jim Binger's will created the Robina Foundation, which named the Council as one of four institutions that would be its principal beneficiaries, and Robina is dedicated to investing in what it describes as "transformative projects" that promise to make the world better.

And the Council is extraordinarily grateful to them, to the Foundation's governing board -- particularly its president, Gordon Aamoth; where's Gordon; Gordon's sitting here -- who's here today, for placing its faith in the Council to carry out Jim Binger's legacy. Hope you enjoy this conference.

Tonight's session, as well as all of tomorrow's sessions, will be on the record. Anything you say can, and will be used against you. Breakfast tomorrow, I am told, begins at 8:45 a.m. That seems rather slothful. (Laughter.) That was not cleared by the president, or it would have begun much earlier. And we will get going at 9:15 a.m., also known as "mid-morning."

Again, this is the first annual of these, so let me say one other thing. This is a young program. It's an ambitious program. We don't claim to have it all right. If you are -- if you see things that you think could be better, let us know, whether it's things we're doing, or not doing. What we do promise is that next year's program and next year's conference will be even better than this year's, which, though, by the looks of it, and by the -- what's set out looks pretty good.

Turn off your cell phones if you haven't. Your BlackBerrys, put them on "silent," or better yet, shut them off for the duration of this, particularly those people sitting in the front row who would otherwise be embarrassed by the fact that their BlackBerries are making all this noise.

Let me turn it over to our Council senior fellow and our program director for this Global Governance project, Stewart Patrick.

(Applause.)

STEWART M. PATRICK: Thank you, Richard, for that introduction. I'm delighted to kick off this panel on "American Leadership and Global Governance in an Age of Nonpolarity." Before introducing our panelists, I wanted to just elaborate briefly on some of Richard's remarks, to put this in the context of what we're going to be talking about tomorrow.

The mandate of our program, as Richard indicated, is to identify the political and institutional requirements of effective international cooperation in the 21st century. And the Council got involved in this project because it was clear to us, every time we opened up a newspaper, that the many global institutions that exist today simply haven't kept pace with tremendous challenges in the international system.

Since the end of the Cold War -- I don't know if it's a 20-years crisis, but it certainly has been a turbulent period, we have seen a tremendous rise in power, particularly in a shift in power to emerging economies, particularly in Asia. We've seen the rise of new transnational actors that are both malevolent and benign -- or, in some cases, benevolent. And we've seen a new agenda, an entirely new global and transnational agenda.

What we haven't seen during this time is any act of creation that's akin to the flurry of institutions -- (inaudible) -- that happened at the end of the Second World War, and there may be some good reasons for that, that we can get into in the discussion. But, as a result, we're left with a creaky institutional infrastructure that isn't capable, or doesn't reflect current power realities, and isn't capable of actually addressing many of the challenges, ranging from financial instability, to nuclear proliferation, to climate change, or to pandemic disease.

Tomorrow, the five thematic panels that we have outlined and we've set up, are going to be addressing the specific architectural changes and different types of frameworks -- that could be informal, as well as formal, that might be brought to bear to deal with those issues. But, this evening what I want to do is to take a step back and to look at the changing strategic landscape that confronts the Obama administration, and all of us.

How are on-going shifts in the global distribution of power and interests affecting prospects for international cooperation? And how can the United States help bring these old institutions -- that we've inherited from the past, how can we actually bring them into the 21st century, or create new frameworks of cooperation to replace them?

To help answer this question, we are absolutely delighted to have three of the foremost experts that we could find on U.S. foreign policy and on international cooperation.

Nick Burns is professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University; and from 2005 to 2008 he was the under secretary of State for Political Affairs.

Ellen Laipson is president and C.E.O. of the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, which is an outstanding think-tank, and, from my perspective, particularly congenial since it served as the temporary host for about eight months for this IIGG program as we were getting up and running pending the opening of the office of the Council in Washington. So, we're just absolutely delighted. She also lives two blocks away and her daughter babysits our kids, so we can't say anything bad about her.

(Laughter.)

Finally, David Gordon, also an old friend, is head of research at the Eurasia Group. He served from 2007 until this January as the State Department's director of Policy Planning, and, like Ellen, has spent time -- significant time in a senior position at the National Intelligence Council.

I wanted, if I could -- you know, we'd like to make this a conversation, so please feel free to break in, even if I haven't posed the question to you -- but I wanted to engage our panel for, in a conversation for about 35 minutes, and then we'll open it up to you. And, again, as Richard indicated, all of this is on the record, so we may move markets -- just be aware of that.

(Laughter.)

Let's start with the big strategic picture, beginning with Nick. As I mentioned, since the end of the Cold War there's been this massive shift in power and influence -- to the BRICs, to other developing countries, and yet many of the institutions we have still reflect the dominance of the Western countries, including the United States.

Just a couple questions here, do you accept the premise that the bedrock of -- bedrock institutions of world order need to be brought into line with this changing world? And, is this something you've tried to do with the -- in the Bush administration, and are there ways to, sort of -- to offer some advice to the Obama administration about how they might go about doing this?

R. NICHOLAS BURNS: Sir, thank you.

And, first of all, before I answer your question, let me jus say it's a pleasure to be here -- back at the Council. I'm a Council member, now based in Boston, but I try to attend as many meetings as I can. And it's great to see a lot of familiar faces, including Bob Belfer, who's been such a great friend to the Kennedy School and to the Belfer Center, which is where I "fit" at the Kennedy School, so I'll thank Bob for being here.

Lots of good friends from the U.S. government -- I want to just point out John Bellinger, who is a very, very close friend and partner at the State Department. John's going to speak tomorrow. And I just wanted to say, since I'm not going to be able to be here for that, John was one of the people pushing very, very hard for the United States to maintain and meet its international legal commitments on issues like torture and Guantanamo in the second term. I know that because I was there. And I just wanted to -- I wanted to say you (all want to ) listen very carefully tomorrow, and talk to him about that, because he's got interesting point of view.

So, a pleasure to be here.

PATRICK: Thank you.

BURNS: I'd just make a couple of points to start off. And I'm very happy to be with David and Ellen, both. All of us have worked together in the U.S. government -- David and I, just most recently, for Secretary Rice.

I think, first of all, I'm not sure I agree with the title of the panel, and I feel compelled to say that. I'm not sure we're living in a nonpolar world. In fact, I'm quite sure we're not. And I'm quite sure that, as far as I can see over the horizon -- which is maybe 20 to 25 years into the future, I think we'll still be living in a U.S.-dominated world, where the U.S. is a superpower in that world, for better or for worse -- from my perspective, for the better.

I think American leadership is good for the world and it's necessary for the world -- just based on my experience serving in a variety of administrations, Democratic and Republican in Washington. And the measure of American power, military, economic, political -- Joe Nye, my colleague at Harvard, of course, has talked a lot about soft power -- the United States is leading in each of those, even in economic power, despite what has happened in this city, in this country since September. And so it's interesting to talk about a nonpolar world -- we did in my class this year. I don't think we're there. I don't think it's desirable.

And that leads to a second point: I do think that most people are looking for American leadership on this issue of global governance, and of how we structure the world so it can be what we want it to be -- more peaceful, more stable, more just. And, in that respect, I think that President Obama has a rare and unique opportunity to lead on this issue, of how we look at the international institutions that have been so important to us and see how we can modernize them.

What I see in the international reaction to President Obama is a thirst for American leadership, and for positive American leadership -- what some people around the world might say is a return to positive American leadership. And I think, in what he's been able to do -- it's only been 110 days, or whatever, but he's been able at least to lay out the architecture for an American foreign policy that would have us be more engaged in most of the principal international institutions.

He's certainly sent that signal here, with the appointment of Susan Rice to be U.N. ambassador. She is close to him. She's a member of the Cabinet. A lot of you know Susan -- uniquely energetic, talented, intelligent. She's the right person for that job.

PATRICK: Can I just pick -- (inaudible) -- and then we'll -- I want to invite the other panelists too.

One of the assumptions behind, it seemed to me, the Bush administration's eventual orientation towards China, for instance, was this notion that we could make China a responsible stakeholder in the international system. And, in a sense -- by bringing it into international institutions, socialized China, in a sense, to this Western liberal order that is not dead yet.

One of the dilemmas about trying to do that, of course, is that new stakeholders will not simply want to take the rules as they are given, but, in a sense, to tweak them a little bit. And that raises -- given that there's a normative component, you know, a values component, as well as a national interest component, to a lot of the institutions we have, it can make it a little bit tricky.

I wonder if you or any of the other panelists want to address that?

BURNS: I'd be happy to. I just want to say one more thing --

PATRICK: Sure.

BURNS: -- and it leads to just this point. I think what President Obama is going to find is that, while the United States will remain the dominant power, our relative power is receding. And that one of the biggest stories of our time -- there's no question about it, is the rise of China, India and Brazil as global powers; and I would say, probably, Mexico, South Africa,. Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, as regional powers.

So, how does he react to that? One way he could do it is on this issue of international governance. And it's to essentially say what's obvious: the great majority of problems we face cannot be resolved by the United States acting alone in the world, and certainly not by the United States isolating itself from the world. So, we need to rely on others, rebuild international institutions to attack climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation.

You're going to have a panel tomorrow on the NPT regime, which has just about broken apart as a result of what's happened over the last decade. And so it might be an opportunity for President Obama to say, let's all reinvest in these institutions and then give to China, India, Brazil some of the leadership roles.

So, for instance, I probably -- I'm not a financial person, I see no reason to go back to G-8. I can't understand that you could have a rational global economic conversation without India, Brazil, Mexico, China in the room.

The Security Council is another example --

PATRICK: Sure.

BURNS: -- the Security Council, basically -- which is the most legitimate and credible political institution probably in international governance, the Security Council is Chiang Kai-shek's China; it's Stalin's Russia; it's de Gaulle's France; Churchill's Britain; and FDR and Truman's United States. It was created in that summer, and in the autumn of 1945.

What if Obama were to say, we ought to enlarge the Council. We ought to bring Japan onto the Council -- the second largest contributor to the U.N. system. We have to have India in the Council, the soon-to-be largest country in the world. There's not a single African country in the Council. There's not a single Latin country --

PATRICK: Let me -- let me --

BURNS: -- (so, this is ?) an opportunity for him --

PATRICK: -- yeah, let me pick up maybe on this Council issue, and there are many -- there are many issues that I want to get to, I want to get to the G-20 as well.

Can I ask Ellen just about Security Council reform, in this regard. We obviously want to make the Security Council more effective, but would an enlarged Security Council be in the U.S. national interest? Would you advise President Obama to actually engage this agenda, or run screaming in the other direction?

You know, there has been something called the "Open-ended Working Group on U.N. Security Council Enlargement," and that's the short title -- (laughter) -- in 1993; and, you know, they did bring it into the U.N. General Assembly recently. But, you know, we saw in the big run-up to 2005, and the high-level event, there were a number of issues on the table about, you know, adding the G-4, or maybe getting up to, you know, the mid-20s, or at least 21 members.

Do you think that -- Ellen, do you think that it would be advisable for the Obama administration to do this? Can we afford not to? How do you see the balance there?

ELLEN LAIPSON: Well, I do -- ironically, I actually think that maybe Security Council reform is one of those old ideas whose time may be coming, finally. I feel like there is some slight shift in the firmament there.

But, it's never going to matter as much to the United States as it matters to other countries. So, it is a philosophical choice, in a way. The United States can embrace Security Council reform because it's the fair thing to do, it's the right thing to do for other countries. It's not likely to profoundly affect how the United States relates to the United Nations system as a whole, and it doesn't directly hurt us, in some ways.

Let me just say a word about what -- this process that you've described. There are five issues that U.N. member-states are now gathering in more serious deliberations right now -- not a decisionmaking process yet, but the beginning of the airing of views, and the five issues with related to Security Council reform are: categories of membership, the veto, regional representation, the size of the Council, and how the Council relates to the General Assembly. I was afraid I wasn't going to remember the list so I thought I'd bring some notes here. And it does seem that consensus is emerging on a couple of issues.

With the United States, again, I would say, you know, "passive," "moderately positive," but not the driver and not the demandeur. The demand is coming from other countries. And in the past, there's been a flurry of interest about Security Council reform. And then it stalls out -- because Japan and India can't agree, because Italy has an idea that Germany doesn't (like it ?) -- it's always stalled out at the middle-power level because there's no accommodation that can satisfy everybody. And the U.S. observes this, says mildly positive things, but it's never, it's never our issue, it's never an issue that we bring to closure.

But, I do think some consensus is crystallizing around a few issues. One, is that the Council would need to be anywhere from the low 20s to the high 20s, in terms of size. So, you would add from size to 15 members. Doubling the Council seems to me to be a lot to bite off, but adding five, six, seven is something that I think some American officials could live with.

The veto is an interesting one. And here I'd just like to mention Tom Pickering's idea that -- maybe others have embraced this, is to modify the veto. The countries that don't like the fact that the original five -- as Nick described them, that opposed the veto, they also understand that it's not going to be easy to abolish it. So, instead of abolishing it, what about asking the holders of the veto to voluntarily agree to modify the use of the veto?

And so one idea would be, on extreme issues, like genocide, a single country cannot veto. You would need three vetoes to actually stop a Security Council resolution. So that you couldn't have -- China, for example, object to some gross violation of human rights as a matter of principle that only they care about. You would need at least three of the permanent members to exercise their veto at the same time. So, that's a significant reform and modification of the use of the veto.

So, I think these ideas are starting to reach a little bit more maturity. And I would not rule out the Security Council reform. It can happen, and I think the United States should be positive about it.

PATRICK: David?

DAVID F. GORDON: Yes, Stewart.

I think that expanding the Council, reforming the Council is very much in the U.S. interest. I think that the fact that the Council really represents, as Nick pointed out, the world of the mid-to-late 1940s, undermines the credibility of the Council within the broader institution, and is a vulnerability for the United States.

The problem very much is how you get from here to there; what role the United States plays; and how to manage these trade-offs. And there's a very challenging issue between increasing the size of the Council -- and the criteria for that, and sustaining the effectiveness of the Council.

And so I think that an expanded Council, a reformed Council is very much in the U.S. interest. I think that there are -- it may be a ripe moment for this, but one shouldn't underestimate the challenges in finally getting to a consensus decision. Because no matter what size you choose, or particular countries you choose to fill in a certain size, that will automatically generate a lot of opposition. And that's been the story over many decades when efforts to reform the Council have all come to naught.

PATRICK: You know, what I'm hearing is a general agreement -- (inaudible) -- (well, maybe I'm not ?), but the sense that the glide path that we're on is -- and is there a sense that it's ultimately unsustainable, or that it's just simply not in U.S. interest (interests ?)? Do we start -- are we starting to see problems in the fact that the Security Council isn't representative?

BURNS: I don't think it's sustainable for the United States (is the ?) larger question -- (inaudible) --

PATRICK: Yes, okay.

GORDON (?): To continue to think that we can essentially dominate the international landscape -- the way we certainly did during the unipolar moments that we had -- (inaudible) -- the Cold War, say, 9/11. We need other countries to resolve nearly every issue on our top agenda. We just can't exist alone anymore.

So, it's a reflection of reality. It's also smart politics. I think one of the problems we had, and I served in the Bush administration with a lot of people in this room, is that for a lot of reasons we were not seen, as a country -- and there was some of this in the Clinton administration too -- of contributing to the global good.

And that certainly was the case on climate change. And I used to go around -- John, and others, we'd go around to see all of our counterparts overseas. The head of our list was terrorism the last couple of years, and people would invariably say to me in Asian capitals, Middle Eastern capitals, especially European capitals, "Well, the head of our list is climate change. And where are you on that? It's a global issue."

So, I think that it's a reflection -- it's smart politics for us, but also a reflection that we have to govern and lead in a more consensual way.

PATRICK: One of the few institutions that we've seen recently, where there's actually been some movement on this -- and it's not so much a formal institution, but is the G-20. And I know, David, you have been tracking this, and you're also an economist so you have -- probably have some sense of the, sort of, what's been, what's been achieved so far.

But, many people regard the G-20 now -- they have this assumption that, well, it will now become the de facto, sort of, global steering group. And perhaps not just for the global economy, but also for perhaps increasingly political issues, in the same way that the G-7 and G-8 have.

Other people say, it's too big, it's too unwieldy; let's -- and also there's something, sort of, in a sense, special -- maybe not with the G-8, with Russia in it, but with the G-7, that this a likeminded group of countries, we want to keep that.

How do you see -- what do you see (is) the significance of the G-20, and do you -- how do you see it evolving?

GORDON: Well, I think the upgrading of the G-20 is one of the important outcomes of the global financial crisis. And, indeed, I think one of the positive elements in this has been, I think, an impetus towards financial multilateralism after a period that -- in which growing financial multipolarity was actually undermining multilateralism. And the discussion in the IMF, not all that long ago, was "What's the real function of this institution?"

So, I do think that the financial crisis -- partially by, again, underscoring the centrality of the United States, and putting a lye to the concept of economic and financial decoupling that, all of you recall, a year or eight months ago was all the rage -- I think has created more of a basis for financial multilateralism.

The G-20 has made some not-inconsiderable achievements. I would cite two: One, is the enhancement of the resource base of the International Monetary Fund, and a commitment, over time, to rethink voting rights within the Fund -- both very important. Second, is the enhancement of the Financial Stability Forum, the monitoring group for financial crises.

But, at the same time, I think the more ambitious ideas that leaders have brought to the G-20 haven't come to pass -- be they President Obama's idea of more of a coordinated effort at global stimulus, or Prime Minister Brown's notion of really trying to have a substantial trade deliverable having to do with the conclusion of the Doha Round, or even President Sarkozy's notion of a greater multilateral regulatory regime. None of those have come to pass, and I think that still suggests that, you know, there's a lot of uncertainty about this.

In looking at the pathway out of the financial crisis, I'm still very much of the view that the main decisions and the main issues are going to remain basically national-level governmental decisions. I mean, what the world is looking to President Obama for is an effective plan for resuscitating the U.S. financial system. That is issue number one. It's much more important than (an added role ?) in the G-20.

So, I do think that we have to have modest assumptions of what the G-20 can do. I do believe, though, that the G-20 should basically replace the G-7, G-8 as an economic financial forum. It's much more representative. It's hard to come up with the perfect grouping, but I think the G-20 is probably as close as you're going to get.

I don't believe that it should become any kind of a global steering committee. I actually am more of a proponent for the notion of a more variable geometry, depending on the issue and the context.

BURNS: I was just going to add to David's comment. I think the last thing we should do on foreign policy is to go back to the G-7. It's a vanished world.

PATRICK: Right.

BURNS: It comes from a vanished world. And when we have to get things done in the world, we need China on Darfur, on Burma, on Iran. We need Brazil on Haiti and Venezuela. We need India on all those -- most of those issues. So, the G-7 just is not the right vehicle for (hard-level ?) policy now. It may have been in the 1970s, but it isn't now.

PATRICK: (David, ?) before I get to that, I want to just comment on that, and just sort of a -- I mean, at least at first glance, absurdity of the G-7 and the U.N. Security Council -- (inaudible) -- When you think of the three main giants in Asia, it's just astounding to realize that two out of three are not members of the G-7 or members of the U.N. Security Council -- or permanent members, excuse me.

Go ahead, Ellen.

LAIPSON: I want to just pick up on two themes that have been percolating here. One is the emphasis on the word "institutions," and the other is your opening comment about distribution of power. And I'd like us to just examine both of those a little bit.

I think what interesting about the G-20 is that it doesn't have to be an institution. The Proliferation Security Initiative was not intended to be an institution. So, I think when we talk about global governance we don't want to equate governance and institutions.

Governance is also processes, and it can -- your variable geometry point, I wanted to just kind of echo that a little bit by saying, I think if you focus on institutions, and architecture, and, you know, contracts, and permanent structures, et cetera, you're a little bit missing what the age of globalization requires. And I think the age of globalization requires a little more flexibility, a little more variability.

Now, I realize this is at odds with the demand for rule of law -- you know, who's accountable; you know, how do you ensure that there is some predictability, reliability, et cetera. So, I know this is not a one-dimensional issue. But, I do think we -- in your, in the broad contours of your program, you may not want to not emphasize exclusively institutions, but also processes that are not limited to institutions.

And then, just on the distribution of power question, I thought it was -- needs a little bit disaggregating. The U.S. is certainly the outlier, and will remain the outlier, on military power. You know, different aspects of national power -- I think we just need to acknowledge this in the definitions, where the United States is getting closer to others is on economic power, and on other forms of political influence, political power. But, you still have the United States as exceptional in some respects.

The paradox, when you think of the U.N. system, is that here we are the greatest military power and yet we contribute the least to peacekeeping. So, I hope we'll eventually get to that issue on the -- in this discussion.

PATRICK: This is great. I wanted to take the discussion in this area, sort of, multilaterism -- and I'll get you in just a second, David -- and, sort of, thinking about (it), I actually think that there may be more continuity than one might have suspected, or I anticipate that there will be, between aspects of Bush foreign -- Bush administration foreign policy and Obama administration foreign policy, in this regard.

Obviously, the Bush administration came in enormous criticism, particularly in the first term, for alleged unilateralism, opting out, acting alone, et cetera. But, the thing that struck me more was, sort of, a preference for a more flexible form multilateral cooperation.

And, Ellen, you mentioned Proliferation Security Initiative, but that is really what Richard was talking about. And I guess one of the -- one of the questions in the back of my mind is whether it's "a la carte multilateralism," like our "Dear Leader," refers to it, or "the mission determines the coalition" --

BURNS: I thought he was the "Great Leader."

PATRICK: The "Great Leader." (Laughter.)

Or, you know, Don Rumsfeld referred to it as, "the mission determines the coalition." And there is an element that's very intuitively attractive to that, because it suggests that one will get likeminded, flexible arrangements that aren't hamstrung by, you know, an enormous secretariat or, in PSI's case, you don't have to wait to have the Security Council endorse some sort of a enforcement action, et cetera.

And the question I have is whether, on variable geometry, in a way, is -- what's the relationship between these informal mechanisms, on the one hand, and the, sort of, standing treaty bodies? Do you have any thoughts on that?

GORDON: Stewart, can I just come in for (one minute, first ?) on this question of unipolarity, nonpolarity and multilateralism?

PATRICK: Sure.

GORDON: And I do agree very much with Nick that -- and people have heard me talk about the theme of the resilience of American power, but at the same time, I think it's also the case that the world does have more nonpolar characteristics to it. So, it's a balance, and I think that you highlighted that in your comments. But, I think, in terms of thinking about multilateralism, I think the odds of getting to effective multilateral outcomes are much weaker to the degree that nonpolarity takes hold.

So, I actually think that there's a trade-off, that you're much more likely to get the effective multilateral institutions with American leadership. Without American leadership you're much less likely to get there. That's why I very much agree with Nick, that we're at a leadership moment for the United States.

I think that the United States has taken a very, very large reputational hit in the global financial crisis, and that the expectation of the world that the United States will lead the world out of this crisis is, in fact, an opportunity. It reflects the continuity of American power that we're looked to to lead the way out.

If we fail to do so -- if we fail to do so, it will create a world that is more (nonpolar ?). That world will be much more difficult to establish multipolar -- I'm sorry, multilateral arrangements -- (inaudible) --

BURNS: Can I just vigorously agree.

PATRICK: Okay.

(Laughter.)

BURNS: I think that's a very profoundly important --

PATRICK: If you must. (Laughs.)

BURNS: -- I'm a -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk, laughter.)

BURNS: -- he's a friend, and -- (inaudible) -- also brought Red Sox fans -- (inaudible) --

PATRICK: All right. We're behind enemy lines --

(Cross talk.)

BURNS: (Laughs.)

PATRICK: So, you live in a happier world than you used to.

BURNS (?): (Laughs.)

GORDON (?): Yes.

BURNS: I think it's a very important point, and I think it ties into your question. We don't have to choose between a la carte, and multilateralism, and "the mission determines the coalition" and NATO. We have to have both.

I'm a traditionalist in one respect. Our alliances have been good for us. NATO's been good for us, and the OAS has been good for us, and as has the U.S.-E.U. relationship. And for those people, particularly in the first term of the Bush administration, who said, you know, we don't need them anymore, well, we sure do need them. We need them now in Afghanistan. We need them on a multiplicity of issues.

So, what I would do -- to answer your question --

PATRICK: -- (inaudible) -- (Yeah, this is serious. ?)

BURNS: -- I think President Obama has a great opportunity to go out and modernize NATO. If we bring Cuba into the -- back into the OAS after 50 years, make the OAS a more vibrant institution for the Americans.

We have a great opportunity with the African Union on peacekeeping. It is a very impressive organization. It needs some help, in terms of equipment; it needs some help in terms of Security Council support, but it's promising.

And then, last, in Asia, I think most people believe that in Asia there is an architectural challenge. But, the Asians -- and by their definition, they say this, need probably more overlapping, permanent institution(ally ?), of a type that have been so good for governance in Europe.

PATRICK: Is it a problem that we're not -- I mean, a problem in Asia -- the fact that the U.S. is not in the East Asian Summit, for instance. I'm sure that was a debate during the time that you were -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk)

BURNS: It is a problem --

PATRICK: -- (inaudible) --

BURNS: Yeah, it's a problem. And, you know, frankly, we weren't always present at ASEAN --

PATRICK: Right.

BURNS: -- in the annual meetings. We let China --

PATRICK: Why -- why --

BURNS: -- dictate too much of the agenda. And, we're a Pacific country, we ought to be involved in the creation of any new Asian institutions.

But, I think you have your permanent institutions, which you honor, and build-up and support. And, as Ellen says, you may have -- in the variable geometry world you may want to create some more (loosely-structured ?) institutions on particular issues, like proliferation, that maybe work better for that issue. You can have it both ways, I think.

PATRICK: David, I wanted to, if I could shift to some of the domestic constraints. I know you've spent some time on the Hill, and Nick and Ellen, you may want to jump in here as well, I'm interested in -- you know, Nick has spoken about the opportunity, this tremendous opportunity that the Obama administration has, in a sense, to reinvigorate American leadership in a number of different frameworks -- what's the, in the background of my mind I think, well, the United States has always been, and particularly members of Congress, have frequently been ambivalent about the degree of U.S. engagement in multilateral cooperation in the United States for a number of different reasons, particularly in a legal framework there's always been much, in a sense, much more enthusiastic about being a maker of rules than necessarily a "taker" of rules. And just even a few years ago, one remembers John Kerry getting pilloried for the notion of a "global test," et cetera, and always fractious relationships with the U.N., frequently.

Do you, do you foresee an end, in a sense, to -- a gradual end to American exceptionalism? Are these trends likely to persist on both sides of the aisle?

GORDON: I'm concerned about the Congress. I worked for Lee Hamilton back in the '90s. Lee was a great leader on international issues, but he represented a very rural and, sort of, inward-looking district in Indiana. And it was actually a great discipline for the staff, because we had to write all these letters back to constituents on why we were doing this, and why were doing that. And it forced discipline upon us.

Lee's partner on the Republican side, back in those days, was Ben Gilman, who represented the Liberal New York constituency. It was easy for Ben to be an internationalist. It was not easy for Lee to be an internationalist. But, he was, and remains a very strong one.

But, I do think that, as I look at both political parties -- there have been a lot of new entrants into the Congress in both parties, frankly; the new entrants tend to be more from the, sort of, "wings" of the party on the Left, on the Democratic side; on the Right, on the Republican side. And both of those wings are much more skeptical, frankly, of international engagement, specifically, and multilateralism -- I mean, international engagement more broadly, and multilateralism, specifically.

So, I think that we do have a continuing challenge on the Hill, and it's made much more difficult by the just profoundly partisan nature of politics. That makes it very, very difficult for leaders to work across the floor. And it's been particularly true in the House. I think we saw good examples of bipartisan leadership in the Senate Foreign Relations committee --

BURNS: Senator Lugar.

GORDON: -- Senator Lugar. You know, when Biden was there, that was very good collaboration. But, I think that generation is a fading generation. And I don't see the younger, new leaders of a multilateral-oriented center in the U.S. Congress, and it worries me.

PATRICK: Can I just piggyback on that and say that this isn't purely a problem of Conservatives, particularly when one looks at the trade field --

GORDON: What? No, no, I said --

PATRICK: -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk)

GORDON: -- on the Left.

PATRICK: -- (inaudible) -- I was going to just reinforce that, that -- what you said, that this is something that is -- where, folks on both sides of the aisle, for different reasons, can be, in a sense, inward-looking on some of these issues.

I do have a question for Ellen about -- we've been mostly talking about inter-state relations. In other words, multilateralism or global governance, in a sense, -- (inaudible) -- as what sovereign nations are doing when they get together. And that's, by and large, the animating view that we have in this program.

But, it's also true that, increasingly, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and others are getting involved as, not only as stakeholders, but in some cases as -- in decisionmaking fora, in terms of implementing decisions that are made in often multi-stakeholder fora.

What do you make about this -- about this trend? And is it -- what are some of the challenges of trying to bring in, in a sense, non-state actors into global governance, because it's inclusive, which is good, but there are also, it would seem to me, some dilemmas in that regard?

LAIPSON: Well, I think it's a multi-layered challenge, in a way. First and foremost, you know, these are institutions that were created by sovereign states. They believe deeply in state sovereignty as the, kind of, "the unit of governance," if you will, that the votes reside in sovereign states.

Secondly, you want to look at different kinds of non-state actors. It seems to me that NGOs, international NGOs, et cetera -- that have their presence here in New York, and care a lot about the U.N., you want to distinguish between those that are, kind of, advocates, advocacy groups that essentially play the role that interest groups would play in the United States, whether they're ethnic lobbies or interest groups around a particular sector of the economy.

So some of the international NGO role I see as constituting virtually, you know, "interest group politics," if you will, that they can go and speak on behalf of a particular interest but not at the level of, kind of, wanting -- expecting to be represented at the decisionmaking level.

But, there is a demand that has not yet been satisfied, I would say -- to let NGOs in as spokesmen for the citizens of the world, okay. There's a belief that there's a legitimacy to civil society that is different than what happens from foreign ministries.

And I don't know quite how to reconcile this because there is a problem with accountability -- who elected NGOs? You know, if you take some of the basic rules of how representatives are chosen or determined in the U.N. system, NGOs can just present themselves and say, "We represent two million people who care about climate change." And what is the process for validating or verifying who they are, and whether there's a policy agenda that is not as inclusive as it needs to be?

So, I think this is a dilemma. I don't think we have an answer yet. They want to be -- the want more transparency in the U.N. system. They want their voices to be heard in various ways.

And I'm taken a little bit with the argument that they represent a different kind of global legitimacy; that they do represent, you know, people who are sharing the planet and who care about outcomes, and want to offer their input. But, whether they could get close to having observer status, or even having some kind of a vote, or whether -- or whether country delegations might, over time, include not just diplomats but representatives of civil society of countries.

I mean, I know the United States has done this with great effect in negotiations over the years, that I believe in the early environmental negotiations we had industry and citizens groups as part of an official delegation, the way we have citizens groups represented in our UNGA delegation each fall here in New York.

So, I think there are creative ways to be more responsive to the demand from international civil society. But, in the end, when it comes to voting and decisionmaking, there's still a formal structure that I don't see changing any time soon.

PATRICK: Thank you very much.

If I could, I think that the time has come to open this up to the audience. I would invite members and their guests to raise questions. When you're recognized, please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Please stand, state your name and affiliation, and please limit yourself to one question so that we can get everybody.

Please, the gentleman in the back. Thank you very much. And if you have a particular person you'd like to address your question to, please do so.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador Burns. I'm Stanley Arkin (sp).

The notion -- I really enjoyed very much all of your senses of goodwill, and hopefulness, but when you deal with a country like Mexico -- which you specifically mentioned, which can't control its own territory, how can they be an effective counterparty in effectuating a better governance?

It's a failed nation.

BURNS: I wouldn't say that Mexico's a failed nation. It's a nation under tremendous stress, with a major problem on its northern border with the United States. There's no question about that. Also, immigration.

But I was talking at a different level. I wasn't really looking at Mexico, on the domestic problems of Mexico. What is Mexico's ability to project some kind of power in the world?

As a practicing diplomat for a number of years, I thought countries in our hemisphere listen to the Mexicans. They will consult with the Mexicans about whether or not, for instance, they might want to contribute peacekeeping troops to Haiti, or how they're going to vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

There's -- influence comes in a variety of ways. And I think Mexico actually has quite a lot of influence in the hemisphere, and on economic issues, interestingly enough, a member of the G-20 does have an international role to play.

So it's true that a number of countries in the G-20, for instance, have significant domestic problems. India has 750 million people living below the poverty line, by U.S. measurement. But yet still India is a major actor in the world; maybe one of the two or three most important, globally, in every respect.

So I wouldn't say that because some of these countries have substantial problems they can't operate internationally and can't operate as partners of the United States.

But thank you for your question.

PATRICK: Thank --

John Bellinger.

QUESTIONER: John Bellinger, Arnold & Porter and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Nick Burns, thank you for your kind remarks. No good deed goes unpunished, so -- (laughter) -- so I've got to come back with a question.

One of the global institutions -- and others, if you may have a view on this. I just know Nick has a view. One of the institutions that's clearly in need of reform is the Human Rights Council.

We had a big debate inside our administration. Kofi Annan tried to reform it. It actually seems to have gotten worse, rather than better. We had a great debate inside.

I think you and I generally, because we're in favor of engagement -- and you made that point -- favored joining the Council. Not that we were terribly optimistic about the chances for success; we just thought it was better to be in than out.

It has gotten worse. The Obama administration has now made a different decision.

But what is your view on how the U.S. can, in fact, be successful in the Human Rights Council? Is this going to work, or do we need further reform?

And I guess I would ask in particular, since many of the problems in the Human Rights Council have been the problems vis-a-vis Israel, and the United States will in fact feel, by our very nature, that we will have to stick up for some of the really pointed and unfair criticism of Israel, that will then put us back in a mix where we're really not going to want to be.

Canada's been having to do that for a while, and it's -- may not be helpful for the United States. So how --

Here's an institution that needs to be reformed. What do we do?

BURNS: Well, thank you. We did have a big debate in the Bush administration about this. I think it's no secret. There were people like John Bolton who were arguing essentially for us to withdraw from some of these institutions because we couldn't get our way.

And there were people like me, and I certainly opposed John on this and on a lot of other things, felt that we can't always get our way. That's just the reality of these international institutions. We shouldn't expect to.

But since the U.N.'s an investment that's worth it for the United States, we have an intrinsic interest in trying to make it work as well as it possibly can, understanding that it won't be perfect.

So on the question of the Human Rights Council, I felt very strongly -- and I lost this argument in the State Department, in the U.S. government -- that we ought to be there.

One of the things that makes us special is that we do have a commitment to human rights, and we have a political reach on human rights. If we're not there, then countries that are even major human rights violators take over the central space in the arena.

And other countries that aren't as aggressive as we are or as powerful as we are; democratic countries can't fill that space against Syria, against Iran -- major human rights violators judging Israel, which is a -- hypocrisy, obviously, and a contradiction in terms.

So my choice would always be to have us in the arena.

QUESTIONER: Do you think that we can put a little steel in the backbone of the Europeans and others who have --

Given the voting, given the way that the vote, the (bloc/block) of voting that happens in an organization like the Human Rights Council, there are -- if that (bloc/block) voting persists, there are limits to what the United States can accomplish. And there is the danger that one simply --

The Obama administration has made the calculated gamble --

BURNS: They're going to work --

QUESTIONER: -- by working with inside, we can change it for the better and we can improve it. The opponents would say this is just -- you're just legitimating this organization.

Do you think that with active, real, sustained diplomacy one can change this dynamic, which -- as it relates to Israel, or is that -- maybe that's something that happens outside of the framework of this particular organization that has to do with a Middle East peace deal, et cetera.

BURNS: I don't think we can do away with the anti-Israel dynamic. Unfortunately, it exists, and we should fight against it. I'm not sure we can do away with it.

But I'm confident that if we play a bigger role and if we speak up, and if we also fix our own problems -- I think President Obama's made the right decisions on Guantánamo and the right decision on torture.

We have to correct some of the mistakes that we made in the past; then I think we will have again the moral authority and the power to at least have a strong voice in the debate, which Israel needs, which we need.

There are people here, like Ambassador Gardner, who've got a lot of experience and can speak to this as well.

I don't discredit the Europeans. I think Europe has stood up for human rights. I think Europe is like-minded with us.

And so there was probably too much Europe-bashing going on as well over the last five or six years. We need to see Europe as a national partner on these issues.

GORDON (?): The argument for going into the Human Rights Council has to be that we need to make our voice heard, rather than our being there is going to facilitate change of the institution.

So I do think we can -- I think there are very strong arguments, and I supported the position of being there at the table, but not from the perspective that being there will enable us to change the institution.

It's that we need to be there to put forward our views on human rights in a forceful manner, in a context in which most of the world is there and is listening. But I do think that it's not likely to be the case that being there increases our ability to change that institution.

There are real trade-offs here, and that's one of the trade-offs. I think that these things can't be seen as having all of the arguments on side of the debate or the other. And I do think that it's a very powerful argument for participation, but that probably the notion that participation will lead to change in the institution is not one of those arguments.

PATRICK: Thank you.

Ellen, did you have --

LAIPSON: Yeah, I wanted to come in on the connect-the-dots to the question of China as the responsible stakeholder (and/in) rising China, rising Asian powers.

And I do think that we have to accept that there is great ambivalence and there is controversy in the U.N. community about what are the boundary lines of getting involved in domestic issues.

Now, responsibility to protect has gone -- in cases of mass atrocities, there's now a new doctrine.

But in human rights in general, I think you have this undertow of countries that are not fully democratic, that just don't buy it, and so they use the Council to -- as a means of resistance.

And that's where China becomes interesting; China's role at the U.N. becomes very interesting. Because China realizes that it can't delay taking on a little more leadership responsibility in some parts, whether it's peacekeeping, et cetera.

But I think they will feel very conflicted, or be more on the side of Libya and North Korea when it comes to human rights than on the side of Europe.

So where China will want its own multilateralism to be a little bit a la carte or selective, that I think they may -- and that -- but they will not necessarily look at things like the Human Rights Council the same way we do.

PATRICK: (Off mike.)

GORDON: Yeah, I think there's a parallel argument here on the financial side, that -- the whole discussion about the future role of the IMF has a big component of changing the voting rights, giving much more of a role to the new financial powers. I support that. We have to go that road.

There's also the issue of a lot of people are calling for an enhanced role of IMF surveillance.

Now, those two things do not go together.

LAIPSON: Right.

GORDON: They rub directly against each other. We are going to have to go to an IMF in which the new financial players play a much more significant role.

But part of going there is going to be at the cost of greater surveillance, because China, the Gulf countries, the other large holders simply do not believe in that, and they will not support it.

PATRICK: Let's move on. I've got Fred Tipson and Steve Schlesinger, and then this lady down here in blue.

QUESTIONER: Thanks. Fred Tipson with the U.N. Development Program in Washington.

Let me test your views on multilateralism with a hypothetical which may not be such a hypothetical. And that's an outbreak in Pakistan that begins to look more and more like a civil war, loose nukes becoming a significant problem to the point where the Indians feel they need to invade.

What is your view as to how the United States should respond, and what sort of multilateral mandate should it try to organize, and by what process would be appropriate?

And -- any panelist with the courage to respond.

BURNS: I was the State Department spokesman back in the '90s and I learned a very important lesson: never answer a hypothetical question, because you can only get into trouble. (Laughter.)

But I could -- (inaudible) -- this is a very interesting question, and you pose a catastrophic hypothetical situation. Literally catastrophic, probably.

I'm not sure there's much that any existing multilateral institution could do in that situation. I think it'd really be up to us; China, which has a lot of influence on Pakistan; perhaps Russia; and certainly India, as you say -- to make the right decisions.

After the Mumbai attack, one of the things that Condi Rice did exceptionally well is she raced out to Delhi and Islamabad and literally stood between them and encouraged Manmohan Singh to make the very courageous decision that he subsequently made --

I'm not going to respond to this. The stakes are too high for two nuclear powers, for the Indian government to respond militarily against Pakistan. So you began to see a disintegration of the Pakistani state.

And if we felt that Islamists were about to take over, I really think it's -- the great powers -- China, the United States, India, Russia -- would be centrally involved in trying to cope with that; I'd have to think for a long time to kind of sketch out what we'd have to do. (Chuckles.)

But it's -- I don't think there is a multilateral (answer ?) here. I think this is where traditional great powers --

PATRICK: Or there may be a concert of power, a truly mini-lateral arrangement.

Steve Schlesinger.

QUESTIONER: Stephen Schlesinger from the Century Foundation.

Speaking of multilateral organizations, NATO is contemplating the possibility of admitting Ukraine and Georgia as a next step in its gradual expansion throughout Europe.

I'd like to get your thoughts on how this would affect multilateralism, whether you favor it, and what do you think the likely outcome would be.

BURNS: There's a fault line in NATO right now. I worked at NATO for a couple of years, '01 to '05, and I've tried to follow the institution since then.

I'm worried about the institution, because not only is it in its most perilous moment -- the ground engagement in Afghanistan is not succeeding -- but we do have this fault line between the East and West within the membership itself.

And in general I think that most of the West European countries, led by Germany and France, take the position that we should not rile the Russians, provoke the Russians, and therefore there's got to be a limit to enlargement.

I think ,to a country, the East European countries essentially say we remember with bitter memories what it was like to be forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, the Baltic States or members of the Warsaw Pact. We must keep the door open for democratic countries in Europe that wish to be free of Russian influence.

And so that -- the question doesn't have to be answered now. It won't even be answered in President Obama's first term, because Ukraine hasn't made a decision to join NATO, and Georgia's not ready. Georgia doesn't meet the conditions that NATO has spelled out for the last 15 years.

But my view is we Americans must keep that door open, because we're the ones that have the influence with Russia.

We don't -- fight the battle now with the Russians, but I think we should draw that line in the sand -- my own view -- with the Russians and say we're not excluding the possibility, and you shouldn't either. And this is not a matter of war or peace; it's a matter of the way a modern, 21st century Europe should work.

Now, you get a lot of disagreement with what I just said, but that's what I think.

PATRICK: Ellen.

LAIPSON: I find the debate -- there's sort of two debates over NATO enlargement, I think. One is using the kind of East-West paradigm that this is all about Russia and it's about democratic states working together.

The other is NATO reinventing itself as a global security provider. And there was kind of optimism that Afghanistan was going to be the -- out-of-area is no longer a useful, relevant phrase. NATO can go anywhere it's needed.

And that you've got these -- and that the criteria for getting into NATO now is will you send troops? We never had to fight the Soviets, but now the question is, will you send troops and will you contribute? Will you get your defense spending up to the right level, et cetera.

So -- didn't Albania get in? (Cross talk.) Albania got in because it was volunteering to send its troops to Afghanistan.

So we do have a little bit of confusion here about identity and mission, I think. And NATO, I think, has -- is trying to do both of these things: keep this kind of core identity of what was NATO's original purpose, but now apply it to 21st century scenarios in which the criteria seem to be a little bit different --

GORDON: I'd say we also have a very strong debate that we need to have in this country about what's the exposure that the United States, as part of a collective defense organization, is willing to accept in terms of the frontiers of --

BURNS: I think that the Afghanistan issue and how President Obama played it is quite telling here.

Because I think in practice, what essentially the Obama administration did was accept the reality that our NATO coalition partners were not going to play the kind of role in a military sense that was envisioned earlier, that Secretary Gates spent nearly two years just begging and pleading the NATO partners, and that that was not a good pathway to go on.

And so the NATO meeting was in some ways based on President Obama thanking the partners for a contribution that they didn't make and the partners congratulating the United States for a new policy that everybody could agree with, except they didn't. (Laughter.)

And it was -- no, I think it was the right thing to have done. I think that Obama played that exactly right. But it speaks to the fact that NATO, that there is not a consensus within NATO in practice --

BURNS: Right.

GORDON: -- about the global mission -- (cross talk) -- and common threat perceptions and the stakes that each of the members has in these sorts of contingencies.

BURNS: But I can't let the Europeans off the hook in -- (word inaudible) -- respect.

I was ambassador to NATO when we made the decision at the table in March of 2003 to go into Afghanistan. It was not a peacekeeping mission, chapter six.

MR. : What?

BURNS: It was a combat mission. And it was understood that every country would contribute to the combat mission.

The reality is that 10 countries have contributed: Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Britain.

Who has not contributed? Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium. They're sitting the war out, in the north and west, while the -- ten countries take the casualties and take the brunt of the Taliban offensive. It's not right.

And at some point, I think maybe tactically on his first big foreign trip, the president probably made the right tactical decision not to make an issue. But at some point we've got to make an issue of this ,or else the alliance doesn't mean much.

(Cross talk.)

PATRICK: Could we move --

GORDON: This is an example, to my mind, of non-polarity. It's not an example of multiple --

MR. : Well, we have non-polarity. I wonder why that title came up -- (Laughter.)

GORDON: But this is -- the main -- and the main danger of a non-polar world is no one steps up to the plate to address these large, global problems.

LAIPSON: Right.

GORDON: The only chance of getting effective multilateral instruments, I believe, is in the context of credible American leadership.

PATRICK: (Inaudible.)

QUESTIONER: Alice Young, chair of the Asia Practice at Kaye Scholer law firm and involved in a number of not-for-profits, including the Aspen Institute and Asia Foundation.

This segues into the big-picture question, which is you've talked a lot about institutions and how we can perhaps jigger the process somewhat, expand the membership, change it to make it more useful, relevant.

What I would be interested in hearing, and it's kind of a theme of the conference, is which institutions do you feel, with the changing landscape globally, are really broken, where they're not fixable any more, they're obsolete?

And which -- or, what do you envision as institutions that are now required that we don't have? We've talked about the U.N., IMF, NATO, whatnot, Human Rights Council.

But is there a gap where we really need some new thinking and new institutions, and what might those be?

LAIPSON: That's hard.

BURNS: That's a very thoughtful question, which is part of the mission of the overall program.

There are, just in terms of obsolete institutions -- while I wrack my brain to think of some of them -- there are a lot of --

You know, institutions are hard to get rid of, domestically and internationally. And as a friend of mine recently said, there are a lot of sort of twitching corpses out there. (Laughter.) Somehow they sort of keep on going, and --

Unfortunately, some of the institutions that keep on going have a constituency, and not just the constituency of bureaucrats that show up for work every day, but a constituency of countries that either we don't agree with or that have a slightly different view on the world.

So the relative obsolescence, for instance, of -- or utility of, for instance, ECOSOC, within the U.N. context. You would get a very different answer from a card-carrying member of the NAM as you would from the United States.

But I don't -- do you have specific -- is there one you'd like to target, clay --(inaudible) -- shoot?

GORDON: No, I agree with the general notion that the G-7, G-8 probably isn't a very useful thing any longer. It won't disappear, but I think that sort of fading away would not be a bad outcome.

I'm quite worried about the WTO, under its current arrangements of consensus rules.

I think that that worked when there were a small group of countries that could come together and go into a room and bang out an agreement. I think that the --

I think the institution of the WTO is a necessary institution. I think the rules and the governance of the WTO are just profoundly in contradiction to the wide range of new members and interests that are represented.

Finally, I do think that there is a role for a lean institution on looking at financial stability issues, and that's precisely what has happened in this upgrading of the FSF into the FSB, which will create a lean organizational capability. That's a good thing.

There's a lot of room in architecture for temporary institutions. I actually think that the major economies' (meeting ?) concept for climate change and related issues was a good one.

We, the United States, weren't credible there because we hadn't stepped up to the plate domestically. But basically, I think the Obama administration has correctly carried on a very similar version to that, as an appropriate mechanism for trying to reach consensus among leading actors on what's going to be a very, very tough set of issues.

LAIPSON: (Inaudible.)

BURNS: I think you -- excuse me. I'm sorry; go ahead. Please.

LAIPSON: I was going to name two. One is the U.N. environment program, for example, seems a little bit small-bore for the scale of the problems.

And so there is the beginning of a conversation about whether there should be a world -- environmental organization comparable to WTO, or whether you need to lift the stature of environmental issues and create kind of a new leadership structure.

Similarly, there are some of the other specialized agencies of the U.N. system that perform so admirably for acute moments of crisis, but don't have a sustainable business model for enduring problems.

I think of refugees and migration issues, where we're reasonably good when there's a humanitarian crisis, but it's this voluntary pledge process that doesn't really allow these U.N. organizations to sustain the good work that they're capable of doing.

So I think there's a business model problem with the U.N. Secretariat for general and some of the specialized agencies.

I do think the U.N. headquarters is obsolete, in some ways. The way they don't have a robust enough information sharing, horizontal coordination and consultation.

I think a nice scrub of the internal business practices of the secretariat is warranted.

BURNS: Could I just answer very quickly the positive side of your question -- you know, what might we look in terms of creating?

PATRICK: Yeah.

BURNS: I think of two candidates to help and encourage the growth of the African Union as a peacekeeping organization, to help the United Nations manage all those civil conflicts that require international military intervention, to keep the peace and to tend to refugees and to keep warring factions apart.

We in the U.S. government had a very positive experience with the African Union, particularly over planning the Darfur mission. It wasn't the African Union's fault that that mission couldn't succeed; it was really China's fault and Sudan's fault.

The second would be -- I know you're practicing -- you said in Asia, where -- you have a Asia practice. I do think we're going to need a security institution in Asia --

GORDON: East Asia.

BURNS: -- that would help to manage the rise of China, to put it bluntly and generally.

But if you think of what India, the United States, China, Japan, Australia, some of the Southeast Asian countries should be doing in building confidence with each other, sharing responsibility for security, to manage and to engage China -- not to try to contain it -- to bring it into a system, there's no such institution in Asia that does that.

And I think if you're looking forward to a eventual peace and perhaps even unification of the Korean Peninsula, and you're looking forward to -- as Robert Kaplan's been talking about in the really interesting articles he's been writing, both in Foreign Policy and the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean as the center of global opportunity, but also conflict in the 21st century -- we need to build an institution with China inside it and us alongside China, to manage that, I think, pretty effectively.

So it's a great question.

PATRICK: I've got a number of people on my list, and we may not get to all of them, and I apologize for that.

Richard Gardner's next. (Exchange off mike.) I'm sorry. Not Garwin (sp). Sorry, I -- (laughter).

QUESTIONER: Richard Gardner, Columbia University.

With -- you are such four experienced and wise multilateralists, I have to test you with a very specific question. (Scattered laughter.)

Would you advise President Obama to go to the Senate and ask that we join the International Criminal Court?

BURNS: Well, can I just say we have the best expert right here, in John Bellinger. (Cross talk) -- should stand up and --

JOHN BELLINGER: You have to wait until tomorrow. (Laughter.) (Off mike.)

BURNS (?): I vote yes. I think we should.

LAIPSON: Yes. (Off mike.)

PATRICK: David, do you have any thoughts?

(Laughter.)

GORDON: Yeah. I still -- I think it's a tough one. I think the way that the ICC in particular has responded to the Sudan issue really shows up some of the internal tensions and real contradictions within the ICC.

So I'm not -- this is -- I don't want to -- (inaudible) -- I don't want to say no, but I'm not prepared at this point to say yes.

BURNS: Yeah. I would say yes, given, I think, the safeguards on prosecutorial -- (word inaudible) -- abuse.

The narrow definition of the crimes that would fall under the purview of the Court, notwithstanding the outlying question of the issue of aggression, and the reasonably responsible track record that the Court and the prosecutor have developed over the last 10 years --

But I'm not sure that this would --

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

GORDON (?): I don't think so.

BURNS: I believe -- my sense is that the Obama administration -- and I don't know this; an interesting question is the degree to which -- I don't -- they're not -- this is not on the front burner, I don't think. And I would think that the president will be very, very wary of getting out ahead of a much more -- (cross talk) -- of a much stronger comfort level with the U.S. military.

So I don't know that he could get it through the Senate, regardless of Democratic control. But I --

(Cross talk.)

GORDON: I would be very surprised --

BURNS: I think we would put a couple of treaties before --

(Cross talk.)

LAIPSON: Yeah. Is that law of the sea?

PATRICK: Yeah, go ahead.

LAIPSON: Law of the sea?

BURNS: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and probably more. It's a higher priority right now.

PATRICK: Let's go with Cory Shockey (ph).

QUESTIONER: Cory Shockey (ph) from the Hoover Institution.

Landscape designers have a debate about sidewalks that I think actually might be helpful as we think our way through the question of global governance. (Laughter.)

And there are two schools of thought. One is that you put sidewalks where it's logical for people to walk, right? On the -- (inaudible).

The second is you wait and see where people walk, because a lot of times it turns out to be different than what landscape designers believe ought to be rational for people to do.

And it seems to me that a lot of institutions that have adapted successfully have adapted not by the top-down, here's what we need to do and here's how we do it, but by exception, by --

Nick, I think, (was ?) the terrific work that NATO did about Kosovo being an exception to everything, never going to be a precedent for anything --

BURNS: Right. Right.

QUESTIONER: -- when everybody knew it was going to be the precedent that defined the nature of change. But if you had had to get a philosophical agreement among the NATO allies, you'd never have gotten it.

BURNS: Right.

QUESTIONER: David, it looks to me like the G-20, coming out of the financial crisis, is another one-off example that's going to become the permanent institutional change because it makes sense, given where people walk.

And so I would generalize the question to ask whether you think we can get to global governance by watching where people walk, and then investing American leadership in fostering places that it makes for us to go.

GORDON: Well, I --

BURNS: That's a terrific question.

GORDON: I think it is -- it's a very good question. Cory Shockey (ph) was my deputy when I was director of policy planning, so she's --

BURNS: She's just giving us a hard time. (Laughter.)

PATRICK: Exactly.

GORDON: It's a great question.

I do believe it's the case that institutions arise in response to real issues, problems and crises.

I remember when back in the fall when we were talking about the G-20, and I talked to Bob Hormatz, who reminded me that when they set up the G-7 -- or the G-4, G-5, back then -- it was not intended to be any kind of a permanent institution. And so he said, be careful what you set up because it will take on a life of its own.

We went through these convoluted arguments about should it be the -- what countries should be in and what countries should be out of this thing.

And we came to the conclusion that the only way we could move forward is by using some existing constellation, and the G-20 was the closest thing out there that made sense. And that's how we got to the G-20.

But I do think that it's -- that element was why I believe in variable geometry, that what's right for one circumstance is not going to be right for others. I think Ellen made the point very powerfully that we're now in a world where it's flexibility that counts.

I think there's still a view, particularly in Europe, that gives far too prominent a role to the U.N. and U.N.-based institutions in thinking about a multilateral architecture. I don't think that's the way we should be thinking about these things.

So I do think that effective institutions do come out of real efforts to grapple with ongoing problems and crises.

BURNS: Yeah. Cory's metaphor of the sidewalk provides new meaning to the concept of path dependence -- (laughter ) -- in a couple of circumstances.

This notion of -- I agree with David --

PATRICK: (Inaudible.)

BURNS: Yes --

PATRICK: Do you want to say something?

LAIPSON: Well, the other concept I was going to offer you as an alternative to the sidewalks the positive deviant. If you --

If, in a world of sort of average performers, you see something that creates momentum and creates excitement, that this is more successful than we expected, how do you learn from that? How do you learn from that and see if you can then apply it to the next case?

And I think in the U.N. system there are these small success stories in discrete areas that -- and there is learning going on in the U.N. system.

When Stewart and I were talking before this session about we're going to talk about bottom-up reform, not just top-down reform. And so I do think that there is -- but ---

Not all of it makes the threshold of this kind of strategic conversation, but there is that kind of learning and adaptation going on.

BURNS: Can I just contribute one thought? This is a great question.

In normal times, you might have the luxury of waiting to see which perennials come up and where the weeds come up.

LAIPSON: Yeah.

BURNS: But we're in an extraordinary time. And I like -- this is comparable, I think to 1945 to '49; it's comparable to 1919, when major international institutions and countries had broken down.

And an economic system has broken down. So while I'm certainly ready to be divinely inspired or inspired as we go along to see where the demand is, that sometimes you do need top-down global leadership.

Fortunately, we had Will Clayton, George Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt, who designed institutions from the top down that made sense for that crisis, that filled a necessary void.

I think we're in one of those times now, with the global economic crisis, with nonproliferation, with terrorism and peacekeeping.

So I guess I'd say I wouldn't just want to wait to put those sidewalks down; I'd put a few down right now for stability in the short term.

PATRICK: The last question will go to the woman next to Dan Sharp, right there.

QUESTIONER: Christina Gardner (sp) at Strategy International and a consultant to the OECD, which is an institution that was not mentioned at all.

And I'm just wondering whether you think it's a twitching corpse -- (laughter) -- or do you think that, as Secretary-General Angel Gurria, a Mexican -- so Mexico and Turkey are in there and there is enlargement going on there, maybe for getting Brazil, perhaps Russia -- not China yet, but -- on board -- whether you think they could be a potential sort of steering committee or something for the G-20, or what do you think the relevance of that institution is right now?

BURNS: Can I just say that I spent two days as a beneficiary of the hospitality of Angel Gurria last week at a two-day conference on the future of the G-20.

And I hope it is not a moribund, twitching corpse, because it was a very congenial place to spend a couple of days. (Laughter.)

GORDON: I don't believe it's a moribund, twitching corpse. I do think we have a challenge, though, and I'll say exactly what it is:

That the OECD was supposed to be the club of prominent, advanced, democratic countries. That was great, in terms of rule sharing, rule making and norm making when the predominance of economic influence was in those kinds of countries.

My own view is that the main role of the OECD should be as the institutional place for rule and norm making vis-a-vis the international economy. I think we should accept the trade-off of lowering the barrier about democracy because of the importance of that economic and governance rule- and norm making.

How far down we go, that's a good question. I don't think we should let everybody in. But I do think that the main contribution of the OECD, and it's a very, very important one, is in legitimizing the rules and norms of an open, global economy.

And we'd have to deal with countries that are not fully democratic, in order to be able to do that.

PATRICK: Well, I think that Nick and Ellen and David have gotten us off to just a tremendous start. This has been thought provoking, and it's provided a lot of context for some of the strategic challenges that the United States and its other partner countries face in trying to come up with new global governance arrangements across a wide range of issue areas.

So please join me in thanking our speakers.

(Applause.)

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