VIN WEBER: If everybody can take their seats. The nice thing about Council events is that everyone is so well behaved; they know we start right on time. And we quit right on time, and as I've told people, we're definitely quitting right on time today because my car is parked in the lot that closes at 8:00. (Laughter.)
Welcome, everybody, to the Council on Foreign Relations. I'm Vin Weber. I know many people in the audience, but to those of you that I haven't met before, nice to see you, and welcome to the Council.
It's a tremendous pleasure for me tonight to moderate this session. We're not going to have opening remarks. We'll go right to questions.
There are a few rules, as those of you that attend these events know, and I should make the point that all cell phones, BlackBerrys and other wireless devices should be turned off. I turned mine off. Our guests turned theirs off; please turn yours off.
And tonight all remarks are on the record. Please keep that in mind. If you've been following the way that YouTube and things have affected this campaign, you don't want to say anything ever that you don't want to be repeated all across the planet. (Laughs.) But tonight we are on the record.
Our guests tonight are Derek Chollet from the Center for a New American Century (sic) and Jim Goldgeier -- New American Security; I apologize -- and Jim Goldgeier who splits time betweenGeorge Washington University and the Council on Foreign Relations -- to discuss their book, which you all see in the back and which I read several months ago.
I told Jim half-jokingly, I read the book. When it first came out, he sent me a copy of the galleys, so it's a little bit back there for me. But I'm currently reading Doug Feith's book and I'm going to really try not to mix the two up in questioning them tonight. (Laughter.)
Anyway, we're going to have about 25 minutes or so of discussion with the authors and then we'll open it up to questions and answers from the audience and try to finish promptly by 7:30.
Jim, I'd like to put the first question to you, if I could, and then Derek, I'd like to hear your response. I enjoyed the book a lot. It struck me, though, and I'm going to try not, as a Republican, to be partisan on behalf of President Bush. But it did strike me that an awful lot of the things that we're looking at today as problems were also problems throughout the period in which you were writing.
And I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit. I think -- I was particularly struck by -- I guess I didn't remember until I read it in the book the frustrations that the Clinton administration had with the United Nations over Somalia and things like that and with NATO over --
And I think that the American people almost have today a sense that, well, everything was fine before and it will be fine again. (Chuckles.) And I'm struck with the fact that there may be some ongoing problems that the country hasn't yet come to grips with in the way the world's changed.
I was wondering if you could reflect on that a little bit.
JAMES GOLDGEIER: Sure. Thanks very much.
Well, first I'd just like to say thanks to Vin for agreeing to do this. He's been very supportive of this project, and we're really grateful to you for being here. And also just to say thanks to the Council, which has also been very supportive, and we're really excited to be able to do this tonight, and really looking forward to being over at the Center for New American Security in a couple of week, to be over there with all of Derek's colleagues over there.
You know, one of the things that -- one of the reasons why we wrote the book is because there is such a conventional wisdom now that everything changed with 9/11. And people really have forgotten what came before then. And obviously 9/11 was such a steering event. Certainly, for the families of the victims, of course, it did change everything.
But when you look at the broad sweep of American foreign policy, we find that you really have to go back to the mirror-image date, 11/9. November 9th, 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall, which unleashed a whole set of processes in the world and a set of problems that the first -- the administration of George H.W. Bush started dealing with and then the Clinton administration started dealing with.
I mean, all the things that we talk about today, whether it's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or failed states and civil wars; terrorism, which did not begin on 9/11. It was already there before, and huge debates about how to deal with it. As we talk about in the book, George Tenet, head of the CIA, was writing in an internal memorandum in 1998, we are at war.
So the interesting things for us was how much continuity. Certainly for us, a huge part of the story is Iraq, which might seem odd. A book from 11/9 to 9/11; most people think of Iraq as a problem that arose after 2002 or 2003; 2005, depending on your perspective.
But as we talk about, from that invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990 and the struggles of the George H.W. Bush administration to deal with Iraq, the sanctions regime during the Clinton period, and into then the George W. Bush administration, dealing with Iraq has been front and center for American foreign policy for the past almost 20 years now. So on that, as you mentioned, I'll let Derek talk about the United Nations, but this --
It's part of why, as we go forward thinking about that 20 -- what's now been going on for almost 20 years is important because it does help put you in the mindset that everything's not just going to suddenly change back to -- either back or to something new, regardless of whether it's Senator Obama or Senator McCain.
WEBER: Are these institutions, the U.N. and NATO, is there any hope that they will be more efficacious than they've been in the past, with a new president?
DEREK CHOLLET: Sure, there's hope. But I think we have to be realistic about the possibility of both institutions. Just to build on Jim's point and to go to something you know well about -- a lot about, Vin, is that issues like democracy promotion, again -- something I think many Americans associate mostly with George W. Bush, the freedom agenda -- not new.
Democracy promotion was the central organizing principle that Bill Clinton tried to rally his foreign policy around in the early '90s. Of course, TonyLake gave a speech across the street in October of '93 -- September of '93 -- about democratic enlargement. And so the challenge of how we should go about promoting democracy is not new -- it's something that both parties have embraced.
Also, the struggle of making our international institutions work is something that I think -- the challenge is not something that's a post-9/11 problem. I think 9/11 and its aftermath highlighted some of the problems that we'd been having through the '90s, many of which were cloaked by other events.
But I think moving forward that certainly -- and Senator McCain and Senator Obama have both talked about their hopes for greater internationalism, greater multilateralism and how to try to make institutions work better or, in some cases, build new ones.
But I think what we also -- what we try to do in this book is not just talk about foreign policy, but talk about the politics of foreign policy. And it struck us that when looking back over this period and sort of widening the frame -- not just from 9/11 to the present, but really from 11/9 to 9/11 and then, obviously, to the present -- that the political debates that both conservatives and liberals are having about America's role in the world and about questions of multilateralism and the use of force and whether or not to promote democracy, the roots of all these debates that are really playing out under the white-hot lights of the presidential campaign now, the roots go back to these key years in the early and mid-'90s.
And so one of the things we try to examine in the book is the impact of the end of the Cold War on modern liberalism and conservatism in terms of how both sort of sides of the political debate saw themselves.
For Democrats, of course, it was seen as a huge opportunity, the end of the Cold War. It was a time in which many of Clinton's foreign policy advisers in the '92 campaign hoped that we could reunify the Democratic Party, that what they could actually do -- this is going to surprise some people -- is bring neoconservatives who had left the Party in the '70s over bitter debates about America's role in the world and, particularly, the approach to Communism -- with Communism gone, they could bring neoconservatives back into the Party.
WEBER: Although the definition of neoconservative was a little different than --
CHOLLET: That's -- than it is today.
CHOLLET: But although many of the same characters were the ones being wooed at the time.
WEBER: Right. Right.
CHOLLET: And I think on the other side, conservatives, sort of an opposite -- the end of the Cold War had an opposite impact. The glue that had held conservatism together throughout the Cold War was anti-Communism. And I think conservatives struggled clearly in the early '90s with their identity, and I think some of that we saw play out in the '92 campaign and the struggles that George H. W. Bush had.
And I would argue, sort of looking forward to where we are today, that in many ways the debates we're seeing on the conservative side, as they contemplate the post-George W. Bush years, are debates that they really started to have after 11/9. And, you know, some of it is the classic sort of realism versus the neoconservatism, but I think there's also sort of maybe greater traction to the sort of neoisolationism that maybe Pat Buchanan represented in the early '90s.
So what we try to do in the book is, throughout, not just tell a story of foreign policy, but tell a story about how these debates in foreign policy intersected with the politics of the moment and then, hopefully, shed some light on the politics of today.
WEBER: To stay on democracy for just a minute -- I'm going to keep my National Endowment for Democracy hat on for just a couple of minutes -- I was struck by the fact that, as you point out, that the Clinton team in the campaign of 1992 clearly believed that democracy promotion was a positive political issue for them, maybe not a huge populist issue, but clearly a net positive.
You don't hear almost anyone in either Party today -- well, we now are down to, I guess, two candidates, but we don't hear either of them, and we didn't hear anybody in the nominating process really talking about democracy in affirmative terms. And that's probably because it's gotten a bad name.
Less than a third of the people, according to the Pew research I've seen, say that they think democracy promotion should be a part ofU.S. foreign policy. Is that a permanent fixture, or are we going to see a change in that?
GOLDGEIER: Well, I think -- I mean, it's got to come back. It's hard to imagine American foreign policy without a strong values component. It just doesn't make sense, given the history of American foreign policy, that we would, even with the concern, the disgruntlement about where we are, the anger about where we are in Iraq and the equation of democracy promotion with that --
WEBER: Armed intervention.
GOLDGEIER: I mean with that enterprise.
But it really is -- it was really one of the striking things, as we did the research and looked into it, partly we were able --Tony Lake's unclassified papers are in the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, and so there are a huge number of documents there from the 1992 campaign. And it's just incredibly striking how important that was in the campaign.
And this notion that for the Democrats, if they wanted to carry the mantle of Truman and Kennedy and reclaim that liberalism, that that meant democracy promotion. That's one of the things that's interesting to us, looking forward.
It's very difficult to imagine a Democratic president shedding that. I mean, it --we wouldn't make sense in the context of the Democratic Party. And given the position of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, it's hard to imagine a Republican president shedding that.
So the population may not be so eager to hear a lot about democracy promotion, but it's hard to imagine that you're going to have this pure -- it just doesn't make sense in the context of American foreign policy.
WEBER: You talk about Madeleine Albright's role in promoting democracy, informing the community of democracies and things like that, she liked -- one of the jokes she'd tell when she speaks is at the secretary of States meeting that this president held when he invited all the former secretary of States in -- the only time, she points out -- (chuckles) -- she likes to say that she went up to him after and said, Mr. President, the only thing I would criticize you for is that you act as if you invented democracy when, in truth, I invented democracy -- (laughter) -- to sort of make the point that you make.
I'd like to move on to a little different topic, if we could. One of the things that also struck me in going through the book is we thought, during the '90s, that -- well, first of all, we have this word called "globalization," which the Democrats seem to embrace. And as we discussed the other day, the Republicans sort of equated it with New Age, Renaissance-weekend things. (Laughs.) They didn't like the word, but --
But the thought at that time, and I think it was predominantly the Democrats, but with Republicans as well was the economics was increasingly going to dominate foreign policy discussion in a way that it never, never had in the past.
And I'm wondering if we're -- what we're seeing in this campaign in which we see a sort of a retreat, a little bit, from trade liberalization, is a reflection of that fact. Maybe not in the way that we thought it was going to happen. Or do we still see that phenomenon of globalization that was so positively discussed in the '90s as changing fundamentally the ways we talk about foreign policy, giving economics a much heavier role?
CHOLLET: Well, that to me is a perfect example of the -- where we try in the book to show the connection between foreign policy debate and the politics. Of course, Bill Clinton famous talked a lot about globalization. He championed it. He struggled very much with how to talk about it; he was frustrated with the fact that it always seemed amorphous and something that people really couldn't grab on to.
But I think in retrospect, in particular, I was impressed going back and reading all of his speeches and all the writings about what he was doing that he really actually got it, when it came to globalization. I think that's something now many folks, many common citizens just kind of take for granted, given the proliferation of information technology and whatnot.
But he also struggled very much and the Clinton administration struggled with the politics of globalization, right? The Clintonadministration elevated trade to a place where it had never been before in American foreign policy -- seen as more of a strategic issue, not just as a tool of foreign policy, but something that was integral to it.
But of course, as we all know, on his signature trade efforts throughout the '90s, was basically only able to do so with Republican support. Very few Democrats ever supported him on NAFTA or GATT agreements and he did so with a majority of the Republican Party.
What was interesting, though, is -- with Republicans supporting him on the trade issue, they had almost sort of an allergy to the larger discussion of globalization, right?. I mean, there was --
WEBER: They didn't like the word.
CHOLLET: They didn't like the word. It was sort of seen as Davos-like.
WEBER: That's right.
CHOLLET: And it was this -- of course, there's sort of an anecdote -- or not an anecdote, but sort of the rumor that we asked Gerson about -- he would neither confirm nor deny -- but that early Bush, the current President Bush wouldn't even use the word globalization.
WEBER: They called it "globaloney."
CHOLLET: The globaloney, right. And so it was, and in many ways, conservative intellectuals, I think it's safe to say, themselves didn't see globalization and the discussion of how not just the global economy was changing, but how non-state actors were coming into play and whatnot. How it wasn't just seen as part of a serious discussion of foreign policy.
If you go back and read journals like Commentary or even the writings of opinion journals like The Weekly Standard during the mid- to late '90s, globalization really wasn't much discussed. Sure, they'd be supportive on trade, but --
We were sort of impressed with Clinton's almost evangelizing about globalization. But again, it ended sort of tragically in his administration where he still was never able to find what he believed was sort of the right words to capture it. And therefore, I think there was a sense that we'd still left -- we were kind of confused by the whole thing.
WEBER: One thing that you said and it rang true with me, you pointed out that Mickey Kantor, I think, said that Clinton's understanding of global trade was enhanced by the fact he'd been the governor of a farm state he understood exports.
My congressional district was agricultural too, and I always said, you know, however isolationist farm folks may be in every other respect, they get trade because they've been in the number one export industry in America.
WEBER: I thought that was -- I thought that was interesting -- an interesting insight.
Why don't we -- unless -- did you want to comment on the economic side of this?
GOLDGEIER: Well, I would just comment on your last point, because one of the things that was really so striking to us, when you look at Bill Clinton, is the degree of confidence that he entered the presidency with on economic issues, compared to national security issues. He was so unsure of himself those first couple of years on national security issues.
And I hear you raising Kantor, because I just -- when we talked to Mickey Kantor about it, that's one of the things that he was talking with us about was just how -- even though Clinton just -- he knew the economic stuff, he felt the economic stuff, he understood it intellectually and he just was able to run with it. And then, of course, as we documented, people may have blocked it out of their minds.
But that 1993, 1994 period was not a happy one on national security issues. And really -- really took until the Dayton Accords of the fall of 1995. That plugs Derek's -- one of Derek's other books. But it really took that to really give Clinton the kind of confidence on more foreign policy/national security issues than he came in with on economics.
CHOLLET: But that said, one of the things that we were struck by is that whereas maybe internally the administration, the Clinton administration's case gained a lot of confidence by the mid-'90s, particularly on, say, the use of force.
The missteps in '93 and '94, and, you know, the problems with Haiti, of Bosnia and Somalia and Rwanda, sort of set in stone a view of Clinton on foreign policy -- and I would argue, Democrats on foreign policy in the political debate here that I think many conservatives -- it was almost as though they kind of hit the -- you know, they just turned off the tape recorder in '94 and they didn't really come to grips with any of what Clinton was really trying to do.
GOLDGEIER: That's right.
CHOLLET: And of course what's interesting is a lot of those conservatives who have become the most notorious in the last few years -- those who now are called the neocons, who were writing in the wilderness; no one was listening to them in the mid-'90s -- many of their writings were about the direction of conservatism and the fact that conservatives had lost their way, and that they were actually embracing sort of more isolationist perspectives and not being willing to embrace the strong American role in the world.
And they were saying, well, yeah, Clinton and Albright and others are right to talk about Americaas the indispensable nation, because we are. And this was -- but it was interesting, the articles were about other conservatives as much as they were about theClintonadministration.
So I think even though on the one hand it's an example of Democrats -- and I think many Democrats today in the foreign policy debate look back to those, particularly the late Clinton years, as examples of how to do it.
Within the political debate, opponents of Clinton and, I think, particularly, frankly, those who came into office in 2001, believed that Clinton's record on foreign policy was basically an unblemished one of complete failure and weakness and ad hockism and whatnot. And then I think, you know, one could argue maybe accurately or more accurately reflects the '93, '94 period, but does not reflect the Bill Clinton that left office.
WEBER: My own thought about that, I think it probably had a lot to do with the fact that a governor doesn't have a lot of foreign policy experience. But also, it may be even more so that the campaign that he'd come through had no foreign policy discussion at all.
WEBER: Well, and I just -- not to name-drop a lot, but one of the last things I did in Congress was hosted a -- all the former living presidents agreed to fund raisers for the Republican committee, and I hosted the one, organized the one that Nixon spoke at. He did a great job on foreign policy.
They asked him if he had any advice for George Bush -- this was in 1992 -- and he said, I don't usually like to give advice, but -- his one piece of advice was, he says, he's being advised by all of his people never to raise the issue of foreign policy. He said, I think it's the biggest mistake that he's made.
I don't know if it was the biggest mistake for George Bush; it was clearly a big mistake for the country.
CHOLLET: Well, in fact, we have an anecdote in the book that, it's December of 1993 and Dick Cheney had been spending the year out of government, after retiring as Defense secretary, at AEI and also doing a lot of politics. Many people believed at the time that he was the former Bush administration official that was most likely to mount a successful run for president in '96. He traveled all over the country for the '94 campaign cycle.
He gave a speech at AEI's 50th anniversary dinner at a hotel downtown. Black -- 2,000, you know, conservative luminaries, black tie. And the speech, you know, went through the -- almost the ritualistic beating of the Clintonadministration and, you know, by the end of '93 it was after missteps in Bosnia, Haiti, Black Hawk Down; there was plenty to work with.
But he had --
WEBER: I'm glad you said that, not me.
CHOLLET: But the most interesting message was the message he had to his fellow conservatives in which he basically said a version of what you were told, which he said, we're complicit in all of this because we were the ones who let the '92 campaign be fought on domestic policy. We're the ones who are running away from foreign policy, and we -- now more than ever, we need a foreign policy president.
Well, it was interesting; Dick Cheney took that message on the road in '94 politically. Went to 47 states and sunk like a stone. In early 1995, he goes to Houston, he says, I'm going to run Halliburton and I'm leaving politics forever. And to us that sort of encapsulates where conservatism was in the '94, '95 period.
WEBER: In Houston. (Laughter.)
GOLDGEIER: Then the Contract with America --
CHOLLET: That's right. Contract with America.
WEBER: Well, why don't we, unless you have another comment, let's throw it open to the audience for questions. We've got a good half an hour yet, maybe even a little bit more.
Couple of rules: first of all, wait for the microphone. When you get the microphone, please speak directly into the microphone. We'd ask you to stand up and state both your name and your affiliation into the microphone.
And we'll just sort of go around that way and begin. Right there. Okay.
QUESTIONER: Charlie Stevenson, SAIS. Can we de-politicize American foreign policy? If so, how do we do it, and if not, how do we have to change the way we do foreign policy?
GOLDGEIER: Well, no -- I don't even think, why should we even want to de-politicize foreign policy? I mean, it's -- you know, it's a -- this country is a democratic country, so it's going to be political.
You know, people have this, I would say, misplaced nostalgia for what they feel is sort of the non-political nature of the Cold War, if only because there was this notion that there was a bipartisan consensus around the doctrine of containment. But there were plenty of political battles fought even during the Cold War, and. You know, the natural state of American foreign policy is a political one.
It doesn't mean it has to be gutter politics, but, you know, hopefully the two parties feel that they stand for something important in foreign policy and I would hope this fall that we would have a serious political debate about what the best way forward is for American foreign policy.
So I -- you know, here -- you know, we're at the Council on Foreign Relations and, you know, we try very hard -- and we tried very hard in this book not to be partisan in the writing of this book, you know, to really tell it as we saw it and criticize both sides where they thought they needed to be criticized and praised either side where we thought they should be praised.
But I don't think in a democratic country we can get away from politicization of foreign policy.
CHOLLET: Just one footnote on that is that I actually -- look, I'm a Democrat, I've worked for Democratic presidential candidates. But I take a lot of hope in both candidates we have right now in that I think both are examples of politicians who have really made their way by appealing -- trying to have very wide appeal, not being purposely too divisive.
So I mean, look, I think there's a -- I think politics is politics. You know, it's never going to go away, and I think that's a good thing. I think actually that sort of vibrant debate is what makes our foreign policy more effective than others.
But I do take hope in sort of some of the edge of that debate that's characterized, certainly, the years since 9/11, but I think our book shows, you know -- and it also -- it stretches pretty far back. Some of that edge can get taken off.
WEBER: To rephrase the question a little bit, I agree with you that you can't take politics out of any aspect of government policy. But is it an accurate or a romantic, backward-looking thing to say that we used to have, at least in recent times, a little -- a greater consensus on certain issues and there may be less consensus now among the body politick on things like when's the appropriate use of force, free trade, promotion of democracy. Or is that just looking at it from today and not seeing that we had all those arguments in the past?
GOLDGEIER: I think we did have those arguments. Vietnam was pretty political. I mean, the Reagan years, Central Americawas very political.
WEBER: Yeah. Yeah.
GOLDGEIER: I mean, the -- it could be interesting one you raise is trade because certainly there was, at the presidential level after World War II through where we are today, a support at the presidential level for free trade. And you had, certainly had a lot of politics within the Congress over trade issues.
And I think it'll be very interesting going forward, especially as we saw in this campaign, there are a lot of people who think, oh, what was said on the Democratic side about trade during the primaries, that's just for the primaries. But I think that's going to be hard to move away from.
And if it's McCain, you know, and he's dealing with a Congress that's, you know, even more majority Democratic, then, you know, those issues aren't going to be so easy for someone, you know, even if he's championing free trade right now.
WEBER: Try to get another question? Right there.
QUESTIONER: Thanks. Fred Tipson, the U.N. Development Program here inWashington.
I want to ask you what we can learn about -- from the '90s aboutU.S. attitudes toward the United Nations and multilateralism. Both candidates talk about being better multilateralists. It seems to me the '90s was something of a period where there was a lot of enthusiasm for increased involvement for the U.N., and then a progressive disillusionment with its -- the potential for the U.N., particularly on the security side.
But how do you see -- what should we take away from that period in terms of being realistic about what multilateral institutions can accomplish?
CHOLLET: It's a great question. I mean, I think one of the things in the book we do try to come to grips with is this question of sort of how to make the U.N. work.
I mean, in many ways, this era begins, you know, eight months after the fall of the Berlin Wall when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, and there's huge hopes for the United Nations. I mean, George H. W. Bush -- obviously a former U.N. ambassador -- it was -- one of his favorite stops during his career was at the U.N.
And he believed and his top advisers believed the U.N. can finally work; you know, this is actually the way it was intended to be -- you know, the U.S. and the Soviet Union standing side by side to declare certain things out of bounds and to stand together to try to reverse that.
And so that was the new world order, right? It wasn't really new. It was basically making, you know, the old order finally work. So I think there was a huge amount of enthusiasm and hope at the time. And that, I think -- the first Gulf War, in many ways, illustrated that. But the way the war ended, actually, I think, very much illustrated the challenges that were to come in years ahead, and frankly the challenges still today.
Of course, we all remember, you know, Saddam gets kicked out ofKuwait. He stays in power. Then we have a massive humanitarian crisis in the middle of Iraq, in the north and the south. So what happens? No-fly zones get set up; U.S. troops on the ground, U.N. mandate in northern Iraq. Saddam Hussein does not have control over his sovereign territory.
The Gulf War, in many ways, was your kind of quintessential U.N. moment, right? It was a sovereign state invading another sovereign state, gobbling it up. So it was kind of your classic problem in international politics.
What happened in northern Iraq in the spring of 1991 was your new kind of problem, right? Many say that that was your first example of, you know, the responsibility to protect actually coming into play, where the international community, through the U.N., took away sovereignty from Saddam Hussein, I think correctly, to help save millions of Kurds.
And the problems with that, as, you know, how we sort of ended that in a satisfying way, which we were unable to, the fact we were entangled with Iraq through -- that was one manifestation of entanglement with Iraq that exists, you know, still today.
The challenge with trying to hold consensus in the international community about that kind of mission, and also the use of the U.S. military in a U.N. mission for the sorts of things we saw more of in the '90s; you know, more about humanitarian efforts, feeding folks, protecting refugees was illustrative of what was to come.
So I think that -- I mean, that kind of encapsulates the future. I think we have a little bit of, you know, the struggle between conservatives and liberals when it comes to the U.N. and the politics of the U.N. dues this year and what-not. And I think what I take away -- I actually worked for Holbrooke when he was the U.N. ambassador late in the '90s, so he was part of the wooing of Chairman Helms that Holbrooke successfully pulled off.
The lesson I take away from that, which we talk about a little bit in the book, is, you know, the U.N. is an imperfect institution. It's flawed but indispensable, but you have to fix it to save it. And it takes a lot of hard work, and you have to keep your expectations in check. And a lot of it is politics. You know, a lot of it is working the Hill and, you know, trying to break down some of these taboos. But you can get more out of it if you work it.
WEBER: We'll take one more question on this side, maybe, and then we'll go over and take some on this side.
QUESTIONER: Howard Wiarda from the CSIS. I should tell you I'm just finishing up a new edition of my foreign policy textbook and am just about to write the conclusion. So I'd like to ask --
WEBER: Well, spell their names right.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, right. (Laughs.) Only in an obscure footnote, since I know them well.
I'd like to ask both of the authors if they accept at this stage, having completed this large book, the broken government thesis and whether, with all due respect to Vin and others, with Congress at low ratings of 15 (percent) or 16 percent or so at this stage --
WEBER: It was twice that when I was there. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: I'm sure. And yours was even higher -- we should somehow abolish the system, as the students told us in 1968, and start all over again.
CHOLLET: Well --
WEBER: Remember, you could end up in the book.
CHOLLET: Yeah, right. That's not going to happen. You know, I think that -- I'm more optimistic than that. And the reason is that, you know, especially early in the period that we were looking at, in '93 and '94 and, you know, in large part on the Republican side of Congress, you remember the famous scene, you know, folks in Congress who proudly -- you know, they don't own a passport, haven't traveled overseas; you know, the real sense that we don't need to engage the world anymore and we won the Cold War; we don't need to worry about the outside world.
And while I still think we need to be concerned about that sentiment in this country, I think most people recognize that foreign policy is important certainly in this campaign, more important than it was in the '92, '96 or 2000 campaigns. And, you know, I have some concern, just sticking with the Congress, some concern about fewer and fewer really distinguished statesman types -- you know, the Dick Lugars are in numbers smaller and smaller than they had been previously.
But, I mean, you know, you're not going to be able to -- since you're not going to be able to start from scratch, I guess I don't even, in my mind, don't even go there. I think the one thing I would say in addition is what we saw in the '90s was some elevation of economic issues in foreign policy and elevation of the role of the Treasury Department in American foreign policy.
And, you know, Bob Rubin, for example, played a major and significant role, you know, equal with or, you know, even at times greater than colleagues from the more traditional national security side. And I think that's something, to a large extent, that was lost in this decade.
And I think that's something that I think would be very important in the next administration to bring back. It's been a little bit more recently with Secretary Paulson, but I think we could do more to take a lesson from the '90s on the elevation of economics and the Treasury Department in particular in the conduct of American foreign policy.
GOLDGEIER: One just quick thing to add is I think -- we talk a lot about what 9/11 didn't change. I think what 9/11 did change, without a doubt, is it made everyone recognize that our government was still basically designed to fight the Cold War in every respect and that it needed fundamental change in order to be more relevant to today's challenges. I mean, I know there are people in this room who have thought a lot about it and been on the front lines in trying to make those fixes.
I think there's a recognition in town that it's still imperfect and there's still a long ways to go, and also that some of the changes that have been made maybe didn't work so well. But I do think that, moving forward, I think either McCain or Obama, you know, both will sort of continue this effort and maybe reassess some of the things that were made in the heat of the moment after 9/11 the decisions that were made.
WEBER: Let's take some questions over here. I'll start -- just sort of work your way back.
QUESTIONER: Joe Duffy, Laureate Education. I ask you to comment on a contrarian observation. The Cold War morphed over half a century from resistance to communist aggression to -- or Russian aggression -- to a war against socialism, welfare state contract, social contract.
And part of the celebration that took place -- I mean, the Cold War, to some extent, ended with detente. So we had this enormous celebration at the beginning of the '90s essentially, I think, in response to the humiliation we had suffered in Vietnam and the hostage crisis. And then I sort of came into the Clintonadministration and sort of watched all that happen.
We're now confronted with an interesting question, it seems to me. Assuming the current economic situation has to be dealt with with a little more regulation and a little more sense of the role of government, and the Cold War is not there to, in a sense, rationalize this, aren't we in for another -- aren't the domestic questions much more critical as we look ahead to the next presidency? Or is that --
CHOLLET: Two thoughts on that. First, your comment about sort of the Cold War providing the framework, obviously we agree with that. And I think one of the larger stories we try to tell in the book is the struggle to define what containment -- the next containment, right? I mean, everyone in this building -- this building didn't exist at the time -- the people who work in this building now and all over town tried to be the next George Kennan, right, and come up with the phrase that would define the world.
And I think Bill Clinton and his administration tried to do that. They gave a lot of speeches about, you know, what the new world was going to be like and what we should call it. None of us remember the speeches or the phrases. And in many ways that was the narrative that had been set by his opponents as sort of an explanation of whyClinton, I think, was a failure, right, among conservatives, that it was ad hoc; there was no sort of strategic sense to it. There was no guiding purpose.
And I think the administration that came into office in 2001 very much believed that, and they thought one of the problems with the '90s and the reason why we were sort of we were sort of -- (inaudible) -- during those years is because we didn't have doctrine. We didn't have a clear-eyed view of the world. And I think that's why there was almost a rush after 9/11 to embrace the War on Terror as a frame.
And, I mean, within the foreign policy debate now, of course, that's a frame that's very much under assault among thinkers. You know,U.S. military leaders will be the first ones to say that's not the way to think about it. But I think that -- the sort of lesson -- the struggle to find the frame and then finding the frame after 9/11 and then realizing actually maybe that's not the way to look at it is important to remember today.
And just very quickly on the domestic stuff. I think, you know, part of the Clintonefforts on sort of raising the consciousness about the importance of the economy on foreign policy was -- and part of his discussion of globalization was breaking down the boundaries between foreign and domestic.
One of the interesting things Clinton tried to do, which maybe the new president, Republican or Democrat, tries to do, is he tried to talk with other world leaders, in his case progressive world leaders, about the common problems they all faced about, you know, unemployment, immigration patterns, climate change, and this was the so-called third way summit that he would have. He had about six or seven during the last few years in office.
When I look back on these in the context of today, they're sort of quite surprising and inspiring; I mean, leaders getting together trying to figure out how to solve these problems that aren't really foreign policy problems but aren't also only domestic policy problems; they're related to both.
It seems to me, I mean, my hope would be the next president would embrace something like that. Hopefully the taint, if it's President McCain, the taint of Clintonism isn't too strong.
WEBER: We'll take some more over here.
QUESTIONER: Bill Hawley.
I had a question that's based -- triggered by a comment made by a German official several years ago who spoke here in Washington and pointed out that the real significance of 11/9 is that it ended the period of the Cold War where the Europeans and our other traditional allies had to look to the United States for their security. And it basically liberated them from having to be dependent onU.S. policy direction and so forth.
Now, with, of course, one of the controversial aspects of the current administration being the degree to which we are seen as, quote, "going alone," to kind of oversimplify things, I'm wondering whether, during the period that you're writing about, you could already see, in a sense, the Europeans wanting to go alone and that the roots of the difficulties that we face today with our traditional allies actually go back to the November 9 event and this liberation of our former dependent allies into a much more independent-minded group.
GOLDGEIER: Yeah, you know, whenever I meet with Europeans, I always try to lessen their expectations a little bit about what they'll find after January 2009 and that everything will be all better again. You know, there are some real structural constraints out there on the U.S.-European relationship, and you already had -- I mean, hyper-power is a phrase that started to be thrown around in the late 1990s. So there's no question that you already had significant tensions, although it's also the case that Bill Clinton was awarded the Charlemagne prize and was very popular in Europe.
But 11/9, it does change this. I mean, without the Soviet threat, you know, you start to see different interests, and the United States does have global interests, andEuropehas tended to have interests focused more regionally. Of course, Europefocused so much since 11/9 on its own internal unification, enlargement, the development of a stronger European Union, the development of the currency.
So I think a lot of this is very natural. But I -- you know, as we go forward, the thing that I come back to when I look at the U.S.-European relationship is -- and there are lots of problems out there that, you know, I think we can't solve unless we have good U.S.-European cooperation, but I think especially when we think about, you know, the really big challenge and one of the really big challenges of the next 20 or 30 years when we think about traditional geopolitics and economics is the rise of Asia.
I mean, we really need to have more U.S.-European discussion of what that means for both Americaand Europe. I think that's really been sorely lacking. And, you know, we've traditionally thought a lot more about Asiageopolitically, but Europe now, especially with the trading relationship with China, is really starting to focus a lot more on that. But the fundamental premise I certainly agree with, and we develop it quite a bit in the book.
QUESTIONER: Sherm Katz (sp) at the Peterson Institute. Thanks very much for the presentation.
I want to ask a question that may be a little bit outside the scope of what you wrote, but certainly the title and the promotion of the book encourages one to think that, at least in part, although it's a book about America between these dates, that, starting with the end of the Soviet empire and ending with the events coming out of Islamic fundamentalist forces, that you might, in the book, make some arguments or try to draw some threads that connect, in some sense, these two events.
And this is expanding a little on Bill Hawley's question. That is, you're starting with the end of the Soviet empire. And does this, in your view, release forces or have implications which in some way lead us to, bring us to, the events of 9/11?
CHOLLET: Well, I mean, one can make an argument -- and actually, I think it's a convincing one -- that, I mean, certainly in the case of Afghanistan and the fact that, you know, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early '89 and then our potential abandonment of Afghanistan for at least the first three-quarters of the '90s, that had a direct impact on the events that then transpired on 9/11.
But I think, in sort of a larger way, yeah, there's no doubt that the collapse of communism and the dissolution of the Soviet empire created a lot of problems. I mean, first of all, in many ways it opened up problems that had been sort of kept under wraps maybe by the iron fist of communism, but also it created problems in the sense that we all of a sudden had not just one Soviet Union but many independent states; in the early '90s, four of them with nuclear weapons. We, of course, had, you know, countries likeYugoslavia breaking apart violently that led to a lot of bloodshed and also several years of very difficult decisions for American foreign policy.
So, yeah, I mean, I think there's no doubt that there's a connection. And, look, I think we're still dealing with the implications of the collapse of communism, obviously. I mean, you know, now to pimp one of Jim's books, right? NATO enlargement is still something that we talk about all the time, right? I mean, it's still an issue -- I mean, there's a lot of continuity, obviously, between what this administration has done on NATO enlargement and what theClinton administration started on NATO enlargement.
And so the completion of the goal that George H.W. Bush first articulated, right, to create a Europewhole and free, that is still a work in progress. And it's still -- particularly given Russia's place in the world and its transformation over the past few years, it's still a task fraught with challenges.
WEBER: In the back.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Hi, I'm John Glenn from the German Marshall Fund.
I want to thank you both for your discussion. I think that one of the things I've enjoyed in your discussion of democracy promotion is the way of looking back at the '90s to what we thought may be new, but we see the antecedent.
Can I ask you to do that about the issue explicitly of terrorism? Now, what's on my mind a little bit is thinking about the post-9/11 period with the U.S.-European relationship. And you would sometimes hear Europeans say, "Well, the problem is you're new to terrorism. You know, we Europeans have had this long history." And those of us who were engaged in the feud would say, "Well, that seems like an oversimplification." I'm thinking about the bombing of the Cole, let alone the bombing in Oklahoma City.
Now, of course, I'm not asking you to distinguish 9/11 from those things. We know how different it was. But if you could, in some ways, look back on terrorism -- that debate in the '90s on both sides, as you so nicely did on democracy promotion, that'd be really interesting, I think.
GOLDGEIER: Well, you know, one of the things that I think really interested us so much as we did the research for the book, especially as you move on in the '90s, was the disconnect between the amount of attention that was being paid to the issue of terrorism at the highest levels of the U.S. government and the American population's, you know, awareness of these issues.
Now, it's true that public opinion polling during that period -- you know, Americans were very concerned about terrorism, because you had had, you know, a series of events. Bill Clinton comes in and one of the first things is the first bombing of the World Trade Center. You have the attempted assassination on George H.W. Bush's life, which leads to Clintonand, of course, the use of force inIraq in that summer of 1993. You have the Atlanta Olympics. You have Oklahoma City.
You know, and you look at -- you know, and we spent a lot of time talking to Clinton administration officials about, you know, what they had done, what they could have done to galvanize American population behind, you know, the need for American leadership to deal with this set of issues.
One response was, "Well, you know, look at the speeches. We gave a lot of speeches on this issue." And it's true they gave a lot of speeches on this issue. But that doesn't mean that they were being heard. That doesn't mean that they were leading an effort on Capitol Hill with respect to the issues.
And we have a nice quote from Lee Hamilton in the book in which he talks about what it means for presidents to really be engaged in an issue. You know, if you're on the Hill, you know, because they're up there all the time trying to engage you on the issues. You know, yeah, they were giving speeches, but that wasn't happening, you know, at least from his vantage point, as we point out in the book.
But, you know, you have -- in August of 1998, you have the bombings of the embassies in Africa, and you also have the Monica Lewinsky issue out in the open. And there's a great line in the Clinton memoir where he talks about being on vacation in Martha's Vineyard later that month, alternating between planning to strike on the camps in Afghanistan and the factory in Sudan, alternating between that and begging for forgiveness from his family. You know, and, of course, those last years of the Clinton administration were caught up in a set of issues that would have been better if we hadn't been caught up in those and more focused on some other things.
But, you know, we also point out in the book -- we have a -- you know, there's this big debate that Derek mentioned, commentary before -- hesitate to mention it again in the same hour conversation, but in January 2000 they do a big compendium of essays called "America Power: For What?" and who's who; all the people you know, the leading lights on the conservative side. And none of them mentioned terrorism as an issue. None of them mentioned globalization either, except for Frank Fukuyama. And the only person who mentioned terrorism in that collection of essays was Joe Nye, who was --
WEBER: The token Democrat.
GOLDGEIER: -- the token Democrat in that collection of essays. So, you know, there was a lot more, as we try to discuss in the book, certainly much more that could have been done.
WEBER: Toward the back there.
QUESTIONER: That's funny, the Joe Nye comment. My question is a little bit like that, which is that at the beginning of the conversation, we talked a little bit about the fact that there is continuity -- oh, I'm sorry; Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group -- continuity between what we had in this period that we're talking about and a lot of the problems and challenges that we're experiencing today. And I think the cover graphic is pretty evocative of that, right?
So I'm wondering, a simple question, which is, looking back on this period, who are the heroes in terms of U.S. foreign policy? Who are the visionaries, whether or not they're listened to, and why, in your view?
GOLDGEIER: Wow, that's a good one.
CHOLLET: Well, besides Vin Weber -- (laughter) --
WEBER: Right, right.
CHOLLET: This is our first -- you know, the book just was released yesterday. This is our first event. So it's always questions like that where, at the end of the month, I'll have come up with a great answer, you know, after I've had some time to think about it.
GOLDGEIER: Well, I mean --
CHOLLET: I hesitate to do this, but who do you leave off the list?
GOLDGEIER: Right. You know, I mean, you know, one of the things we look at is just, you know, sort of the different kinds of visions that we have at the beginning, right? I mean, you have Fukuyama's "End of History." You have Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations." You have Kaplan's "Coming Anarchy."
You know, I think there are probably those who would tend more toward, you know, the Huntington or the Kaplan than they would for theFukuyama. But, you know, these are all phrases that have become part of the lexicon. But they all had problems of their own. And the biggest problems with them were what do they mean from the standpoint of policy prescriptions.
You know, I mean, for example, if "Clash of Civilizations" is the right way to envision foreign policy, what do you do in that context? You gird yourself for a battle among civilizations. So, you know, and even with "The End of History," liberal capitalism has won, do you just step back and watch the show, or is there somebody getting back to democracy promotion that was raised, or do you do something more proactive? So you certainly had a number of visions out there.
I mean, you know, as Derek was saying, I mean, there is no -- from this period after 11/9, there's no George F. Kennan as we had during the Cold War, you know, the major, you know, figure conceptualized.
WEBER: What about Hart and Rudman?
WEBER: Hart and Rudman. I mean, maybe not at the Kennan level, but there were people that were saying smart things and pointing to a particular direction.
CHOLLET: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of smart things being written. It's just there was no sort of -- and it may be just a function of the era we live and, you know, the fact that there's almost -- there's too much information out there. But I think there's no one who's sort of clearly identified with Kennan in that way.
I mean, I think it's hard to say sort of who we think are heroes personally. I mean, I think two of the people who I think were very interesting to me -- I'll just speak personally in terms of shaping the era -- one is a household name; one is not so much, although in this room he probably is.
Bill Clinton, I think, actually got it when it came to globalization. I think he had, obviously, huge flaws, but I think that he -- if you look back even from the '90s, you know, when he started his campaign in '91, I mean, he's someone who did understand that the world was changing in a fundamental way. And I think he, maybe early on, much to his regret, overemphasized the economic dimension of this to the detriment of the security dimension and got into trouble for that. And I think in many ways the history of his presidency is still paying the price.
But I think, you know, it's an impressive body of work when you go back and read all of the speeches that he -- you know, his rhetoric on these issues, and actually not just the prepared speeches that we can credit speechwriters for, but, you know, his off-the-cuff remarks that he would give at all these kind of Clinton-like conferences and what-not.
And the person who I think, you know, deserves a lot of credit for shaping conservative thinking, although he did so for many years very much in the wilderness and basically ignored, is Bob Kagan. And I think, you know, Kagan, you know, a friend of ours -- these years, you know, he started out in the mid '90s and he was writing these pieces that few people were reading in magazines like "Commentary" and elsewhere, who was really -- his mission was to really try to get conservatism on the track that he believed it needed to be on, which was something that embraced America's role in the world but believed in ideas and ideals, that was willing to use force and intervene in places for more humanitarian purposes. So I think, I mean, he's someone whose writings and whose ideas have certainly shaped history as it moved forward in conservatism.
GOLDGEIER: We mentioned Bob Rubin already before, but Bob Rubin certainly, I think, comes out pretty well in this.
WEBER: Yeah. We have time for only one last question in the back. And I would remind everybody this entire session has been on the record. Last question.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Luc Lyon (sp), European Commission.
I'd like to come back to the intriguing question of democracy promotion, if I may. I would like you to clarify a bit the concept between democracy promotion as a policy objective, as an objective that you pursue through your foreign policy, and however you call it, coalition of democracies, concept of democracies, club of democracies, which is basically a method whereby you engage only democratic actors in order to achieve your objectives, which is basically a way to say that NATO -- sorry -- U.N. is not workable or not reformable.
And bearing that -- having that in mind, what is the future of democracy promotion in the next administration? And what will be the weight of that in the set of objectives that will be the objectives of the future foreign policy?
GOLDGEIER: I would add two things to that, and also, you know, it gives me a chance to thank the commission for their own role in supporting our efforts. But, you know, first of all, I think, just on the issue of democracy promotion, speaking as a political scientist, you know, one of the failings of political science is really that it hasn't done enough to really inform us more about how one goes about helping to build democracy in other places.
The economists have written a lot about building markets. And certainly if you paid attention to the Washington consensus in the '90s, they don't always get it right. But there's really a lot more in-depth knowledge than we have on the political science side. And I also think that this is an issue in which the U.S. and Europeans really could have a lot more conversation, and the Europeans, you know, doing so much to help support and promote democracy in the former communist part of Europe. There's a lot there that -- you know, a lot's been written on that, and a lot that we can learn from.
The community of democracies or league of democracies or alliance of democracies, I mean, this is a really interesting issue, because you certainly have had John McCain put this out there, you know, as something that he sees as important to him. But it's also something, when you look at the Obama campaign, I mean, it's something that TonyLake is very strongly involved in and active in promoting.
And so it may not have been -- it may not be mentioned as much on the Democratic side, probably for good political reasons, but certainly the advisers to Obama see this very seriously. Do they see it on both sides in terms of -- I mean, a lot of people are very concerned about this league, certainly in other parts of the world, and certainly in Europe, as something that would undermine the United Nations.
I think, getting back to what Derek was talking about before, I don't think -- you know, neither McCain nor Obama can afford not to be working with the United Nations and help, you know, try to strengthen the United Nations. But I think it does come from this deep-rooted sense that, you know, on a lot of important issues, fellow democracies are our closest partners, and why shouldn't we develop some kind of mechanism to work with them?
WEBER: But the notion of league of democracies, whether it's a good idea or not a good idea, is not really about the promotion of democracy.
GOLDGEIER: Right, right.
WEBER: It's about the promotion of other national interests, which we assume we could promote multilaterally better, in league with other democratic nations. That's very different than the notion of how you promote democracy.
WEBER: Okay. I'm glad we're all agreed on that.
GOLDGEIER: You did the Ned (sp) well. That's good. (Chuckles.)
WEBER: All right. Well, thank you. That concludes this evening's program. Thank you all very much. And the authors will stay around for a while. Books are available in the back.
Thank you on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Applause.)
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