Presented by the Council on Foreign Relations and Florida International University
Will the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement benefit U.S. workers? What can be done to improve the situation in Venezuela? What are the economic, security, and humanitarian concerns that U.S. immigration policies should take into account?
Watch an in-depth, nonpartisan conversation on critical foreign policy challenges facing the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Former government officials from Republican and Democratic administrations will discuss issues central to our national interest and answer questions about U.S. policy and America’s role in the world.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
ROSENBERG: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Mark Rosenberg. I have the privilege of being the president of FIU. Welcome, to our students. Welcome, to our alums. Welcome, to members of our boards. Welcome, to other guests from our community. We’re thrilled that you’re here. We’re thrilled to be hosting this Council on Foreign Relations discussion on what’s happening now, particularly with a focus on the election, and 2020, and United States foreign policy.
Speaking of elections, you know, this is a big year. And we’re proud that our FIU happens to be an early voting site. So if you haven’t voted yet, and you’re registered—minor detail—you can vote right here. And we’re really proud of that, because for our eleven thousand employees and fifty-seven thousand students, we want to make sure that you’re all fully participating as you should.
I can’t think of a more important time to come together for a kind of discussion we’re going to be having today. We live in times of political discord. We live in times of tremendous uncertainty. We live in times when engagement does really matter. Engagement matters. And what better partners to have in this conversation than the Council. I’ve been privileged to be a member since 2005. I can tell you that the Council is always finding ways to be relevant. And I want to thank Richard Haass for his great leadership and for his thoughtfulness as it relates to maintaining a credible conversation nationally and globally about how foreign policy can and should be conducted by the United States of America. So I’m thrilled to be able to welcome you. For those of you who may be here for the first time, we as a public university take great pride in the educations that we provide to our students. We’re moving from being student-centered to being learner-centered, as the changes in the global economy provide opportunities for individuals to get educations not just for bachelor’s, or master’s, or doctoral degrees, but to get educations that prepare them for the rapid changes that are occurring globally and with our workforce.
So welcome to our FIU. And please join me in welcoming today’s moderator Deborah Amos, who’s an international correspondent for NPR. Deborah Amos happens to be a Gator. And us Panthers, we’re proud of our partnership with the University of Florida. So welcome, Deborah. We’re thankful that you’re here. Please, would you run our program? (Applause.)
AMOS: And I am just as happy to be here, as a former Gator. It’s a little far south, but nevertheless, it is still Florida. And thank you, President Rosenberg.
I want to welcome you to this program, Election 2020. It’s a U.S. foreign policy forum. It’s sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Florida International University. This is one of four, the last one, of public nonpartisan forums that the Council is co-hosting with universities across the country. The idea is to come to pivotal states and to highlight foreign policy issues that will matter after the 2020 election. Today our goal here is to raise awareness of international issues that affect our daily lives and to help you make informed decisions before you vote—which is coming, for Florida. Today’s goal is to raise those issues.
Please read the CFR website. There is lots for you, as you get ready to think about foreign policy in this election. I want to thank Florida International University for hosting the event, the Carnegie Corporation of New York for its generous support. And I want to briefly say that unfortunately Jeh Johnson, former secretary of homeland security, has had a family emergency and he was unable to make it today. So I will introduce the rest of the panel.
We start with Jose Fernandez. He is partner and co-chair Latin American Practice Group, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. He’s a former assistant secretary of state for economic energy and business affairs. Welcome. Richard Haass, president Council on Foreign Relations, special—former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and author of The World: A Brief Introduction, which is coming out in May of 2020. And Kori Schake, resident scholar and director of foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute. And former deputy director of policy planning, 2007-2008.
I want to remind everybody that today’s discussion is on the record and it is also livestreamed. We have a short discussion among us. We will not get to every issue that is out there. But you all have a chance, when we go to question and answers, to bring up the things that concern you. So I’m going to start with the things that concern me. (Laughter.)
HAASS: It’s the advantage of being a moderator.
AMOS: Exactly. Exactly. You get to be the boss, in the only time of my life.
I want to talk to all of you about the emergence of the coronavirus. This is a black swan event—unexpected, unpredictable. It often says that an epidemic reveals the nature of a society. And we shall see. Is this an issue that the next administration will have to deal with? And is it an issue that will play a role in the presidential election? I’m going to start with Richard. As this goes one, we’re going to do one question one answer, but I think this is such a salient issue that we’ll all talk about it.
HAASS: What we’re going through with the coronavirus—and I’ll answer that—just say first of all thank you all for being here, my colleagues. Thank you all for your interest. We want you to vote, but we in particular want you to be an informed voter, and that’s what’s behind this and indeed everything all of us do in our lives on these issues.
The coronavirus is really the textbook, iconic, international issue. It proves that the oceans that surround this country are not moats; we can’t pull up the drawbridge. What began in Wuhan, China, did not stay in Wuhan, China. Now it has spread to probably a majority of the countries in the world, and it will continue to spread.
And Deb asked its impact. Well, this is not a one-off event. There will be other global health challenges down the road. You know, how many of us heard of coronavirus—in six months it could be a different strain of this virus; in six years it could be a different virus altogether. You’ve got to assume, though, it’s going to happen.
And again, when these things break out, they get on the conveyor belt of globalization, and they don’t stay where they begin. If there is one word to eliminate from your vocabulary it’s the word local. Nothing stays local for long.
And the next time someone tells you foreign policy doesn’t matter, you can talk about 9/11—it mattered an awful lot. What happened in Afghanistan mattered a great deal. It matters here. It matters with climate change. There is nothing foreign anymore about foreign policy.
I think this will have real implications on the economy. Kori and I were talking about it. I think we’re just weeks away from this reaching the level of high disruption. Groups like this I do not think are going to be able to convene all that much longer. There will probably be temporary pause in what we consider to be normal life.
And the economic impact will be considerable. It won’t just be the market will have a bear day; it will be a—this year’s numbers will be fundamentally different in virtually every country. Supply chains have been basically disrupted.
I think the implications for the—our own politics will be two things. One will be the society. The voters will judge how well those in authority have dealt with this challenge. And second of all, I think we have to assume that the political event, the November election, will play out against some type of a—clearly an altered backdrop in terms of disrupted lives, lower and slower economies.
We don’t know the full dimensions of this. We don’t know the exact timing, but it’s hard to believe it’s going to be business as usual for much of this year.
SCHAKE: So I agree with everything Richard just said. I guess I will add on to it by talking about the importance of international institutions, and the importance of a United States engaged in the world. The World Health Organization is the early warning network for these kinds of pandemics and many other things, and one of the secrets of how the United States has shaped and administered a very beneficial international order since the end of World War II is that American doctors are prevalent in the World Health Organization. They deploy early to go to place where you have potential outbreaks, and then the State Department and the White House tend to be major early coordination mechanisms for us with our allies.
And one of the things that has disappointed me about our government’s response to the outbreak of the virus is that the president has viewed it—consistent with his national security strategy—as a narrow opportunity for American advantage. And I think that that misses the bigger, more important point, which is that by being magnanimous in how we built the international order after World War II, how we respond to natural disasters—or indeed man-made disasters in other places—the United States gains a lot of goodwill from countries that have bigger problems than the problems we tend to want their help with. And so the commerce secretary suggesting this is a great opportunity to disrupt Chinese entrants in American supply chains, those kinds of things are damaging to American power in the international order. This is a huge opportunity for us to help diminish the human suffering that this pandemic is creating, and we’re missing that opportunity, and it will make other things we want to do in the future harder to get people to help us do. We’re missing a big opportunity. And that’s how an America engaged in the rest of the world, supporting international institutions really matters for our long-term welfare.
AMOS: Jose, is this a debate issue?
FERNANDEZ: Oh, it’s clearly a debate issue, but it’s—I think it’s a broader issue. I think you minimize it if you make it a debate issue. It’s really a test in many ways of the global order, which is something Richard just mentioned. You know, how do governments deal with their citizens? What kind of information do you provide them? And then how do you deal with other countries? Are we going to call it a hoax and say that we’re just going to put up the walls and not let people in and wall ourselves in, or are we going to try—as Kori just mentioned—to try and work with other partners in the way that, by the way, the U.S. has done in many other cases, as you know? In the Ebola virus, many American doctors ended up in West Africa. In the Indonesian earthquake I still remember when I was in—at the State Department, when I would go to Indonesia, people would still remember the American response to the—to the tsunami. And you get that kind of goodwill. And that’s—it’s an opportunity. It’s obviously a tragedy, but it’s also a test. It’s a test for how we treat our citizens and it’s also a test of how we can work together with other countries.
On the more mundane side, it’s obviously going to affect economics. I mean, you have Goldman Sachs I think last week said they expect the American GDP to go down from 2 percent to 1 percent. The Chinese were hoping to grow a little bit more than 6 percent this year; that’s out the window. So it’ll have that short-term economic effect, but I think it’s also a broader issue. And it’s certainly, hopefully, not a—not a campaign talking point.
AMOS: So there are some times when America can have a moat, and that is on immigration. And in 2016 it was a hugely polarizing issue, and now we have had almost four years of the tap being turned off. Are we at a moment in the 2020 election where whoever wins shuts it down further or opens the tap?
HAASS: If you’re asking me, I think it’s one of the areas that there’s not consensus. In some areas—and it’s hard to in some ways generalize about the Democrats because there’s a large gap, say, between a Senator Sanders and a Vice President Biden. But in general there’s a big gap, I think, between Democrats and Republicans on—or between the Democrats who are now running and the president of the United States—we’ll make it more narrow—on the—on the immigration issue.
I think if the president is reelected I would—I would assume a great deal of continuity, a restrictive immigration program. Our numbers are way below historical averages for us. I think if the Democrats, depending on who were the Democrats, things would increase.
Legal immigration, I think there’s a consensus in the business community and elsewhere that we need high-skilled workers. There’s six or seven million jobs at the moment that are unfilled in America, despite the fact that unemployment levels are at historic lows. So I think there probably will be more emphasis there.
And I think also on the humanitarian side, that the feeling is that the United States has a certain obligation as—to the rest of the world on humanitarian grounds, and we can meet those obligations in a way that’s still consistent with our security. The idea that there’s a fundamental choice between being an open country and yet being a safe country, that there are ways of dealing with it. There’s more, for example, we can do not simply at the border, making it smart, but in places like Central America and so forth to deal with challenges that lead people to come in the future.
There’s also things that have to be fixed. And maybe it’s beyond our conversation today, but things with the asylum system which really do need fixing. The current immigration system is not perfect. There are areas of that that are broken. But I think all things being equal, yes, I think there’s—one of the issues that will probably inform the election is the degree to which we are open.
I’d just say one last thing. Immigration has been a remarkable source of economic vitality to this country. Look at the Fortune 500. Probably half of those companies were founded or recently run by immigrants or the children of immigrants. So, yes, one could always find stories on the other side of the conversation, but immigration has been one of the great engines of American economic success.
SCHAKE: One of the things President Trump is brilliant at is asking first-order political questions. Why don’t allies do more for their own defense? Doesn’t trade allow good jobs to migrate out of the United States?
But the Chicago Council on Global Affairs does annual polls of public attitudes on important foreign-policy issues, and what they have found in the three years since President Trump has been in office is they have seen the biggest shifts in American public attitudes on the president’s three signature issues—on immigration, on trade, and on America’s allies. And what they have seen is public attitudes moving in opposition to the president’s policies.
And so I do think this is likely to become a major campaign issue, because it looks like what the president did well was raise an issue that Americans needed to think about and craft policies that now people are having—are reacting against. And that leaves opportunity for others who would want to recommend different policies.
AMOS: Let me ask, before you launch—and that is a very interesting point. Consistently most Americans are for immigration, legal immigration and even refugees. Yet the president controls it, and so he can go against that. Is that such an issue in the election that voters will vote on how they feel about immigration?
FERNANDEZ: I think, if I were a betting person, that in a state such as Florida it will be a major issue. And it should be. And the frustrating thing here is that, as you look at the polling, 75 percent to 80 percent of Americans believe that there ought to be a path to legalization for the eleven million undocumented people here, that 70 to 80 percent believe that the DACA kids should stay, that you shouldn’t—the same percentage that we should have—that we shouldn’t cut down the number of refugees from a hundred and twenty-five thousand during Obama’s last year to eighteen thousand today, that that somehow denigrates our moral authority in the world.
And in 2013 you actually had compromise. You had the gang of eight, including Marco Rubio from Florida, that came up with a workable solution, with a path to legalization, with an earned legalization, with a way to enforce. And it just didn’t even get a vote in the Senate. And that’s—the frustrating part is the—that our polarization sometimes prevents us from reaching decisions that most Americans believe in.
So I think it will be an important decision. And I think part of what we all have to ask ourselves is, you know, do we want to—do we want to be a country that, when you come to our borders as a refugee, we say, well, not through that door; go through that door. That’s a question that I think we have to ask ourselves. And it will be.
AMOS: On the theme that we are in Miami and policies on both Venezuela and Cuba are lived experiences here, it’s not mentioned much so far in the debates. Foreign policy is hardly mentioned at all in the debates, to tell you the truth.
HAASS: One of the reasons we’re doing this.
AMOS: Yes, exactly. So we’re making up. Are there issues that the next administration, no matter who arrives at that job, will have to deal with when it comes to both Venezuela and Cuba? Do you want to start, Richard?
HAASS: Yeah. I would answer Deb’s question, when you run for president, you can choose all sorts of things. You can choose your running mate. You can choose your platform. If you win, you can choose your Cabinet. The only thing you can’t choose is your in box.
HAASS: That’s going to greet you, like it or not. And this is going to be, shall we say, a fairly crowded in box. We can answer your question going all over the world—Iran, North Korea, Ukraine. But let’s—you asked about this hemisphere.
Clearly—I won’t say clearly, but almost certainly the Maduro government will still be in power in Venezuela. And almost certainly Venezuela will be hemorrhaging refugees. There are two enormous refugee crises in the world right now. One is Venezuela. The other is Syria. And they generated roughly similar numbers of people. So the challenge of caring for these refugees as a humanitarian but also as an economic reality, so the countries around them aren’t overwhelmed, that is clearly going to greet the new president, or the president, whoever it may be.
The second issue is, is there anything you can really do about Venezuela itself? There’s no easy answers here. A friend of mine used to be the chancellor of UCLA. Used to have three boxes on his desk. Al Carnesale: in, out, and too hard. (Laughter.) And it’s tempting to put the Venezuela issue—because there’s no—there’s no easy thing. And you mentioned Cuba. One of the reason’s Venezuela’s so hard to address is there’s tens of thousands of Cubans there who are basically there as intelligence and military officers, who are helping the regime maintain power. The idea I’ve been playing with is the thought that we should put a lot of attention on what our policy would be after Maduro. Not simply as a—as an empty hope, but for two reasons.
One is, we need to be prepared for that day. It could come. Second of all, to the extent we make public what is in it for the Venezuelan people, how we would deal with security forces—essentially, if we can paint a picture in which people realize the day after Maduro is better than today, then I think we hasten the arrival of a post-Maduro regime. So I think one of the things I would do is do an awful lot of work to be prepared for it, but also to put it out there. I want to incentivize people to promote political change there.
AMOS: Anybody else?
SCHAKE: I would just add two points. The first is I think we are not doing enough to assist the countries like Colombia who are doing heroic work taking in refugees and caring for them. The parallel for Syria is Jordan. We’re not worried nearly enough about the stability of policies by those regimes that are very good for the refugees. The second thing I would add is that I would get a little bit nervous—I agree with Richard’s point about incentivizing people to create political change, but I always get a little bit nervous about it because very often I don’t see the conveyor belt between what we’re trying to achieve, regime change in Venezuela, and the mechanism, broad sanctions that should incentivize people to political action. Because unless sanctions are very carefully tailored—work that the Council on Foreign Relations scholars pioneered—unless those sanctions are very carefully tailored, what they end up doing is further burdening a population that is already burdened.
And so focusing sanctions on elements of the regime, people bankrolling the regime, preventing them from having vacation homes in Miami, those kind of things that focus on the people who are keeping the regime in power, and instead of penalizing the broad population.
HAASS: I don’t disagree with you, but that’s why one of the reasons I used the word “incentives.” For example, we want to be—we made tremendous mistakes in post-Saddam Iraq.
SCHAKE: That’s a great example.
HAASS: We do not want to make the same mistakes in post-Saddam Venezuela, or in trying to hasten the day when—in post-Maduro Venezuela, rather. So we ought to be very clear about what is the likely fate of people who involve politically, and militarily, and economically, and supporters of the regime. We ought to be very narrow. And those we would say, you’re going to have to pay a price. Because what we want to do is have most of the people of Venezuela see an incentive in working for political change. That’s simply my point.
FERNANDEZ: But I think you can break it down to clearly it’s a humanitarian crisis. And there you have the—you know, the Jordan of Latin America is Colombia, that’s taking billions of Venezuelans. But there’s also a broader issue as well. There’s a global piece, which is it’s testing the fact that the Russians and the Chinese are holding up—you know, Rosneft is trading 70 percent of PDVSA’s oil. What does that do to the old concept of, you know, Monroe Doctrine? And what about our relationship with the army, the Venezuelan army, which at the end of the day holds the key to a lot of what’s going on in Venezuela? So we’ve got both a short-term humanitarian—and there I’d bring in the TPS debate that’s going on now, which is, you know, should Venezuelans be given TPS status in the—in the U.S.? There are many people who believe that they should, just like Cubans got it and a bunch of Central Americans got it. But there’s also the broader issue, which is, what should we be doing with the debt that will be owed to Rosneft when Maduro is gone? Should that be recognized? So there’s these both short-term and long-term issues that I think we ought to be thinking about, and Richard is right.
AMOS: I want to ask a broader question, because as I listen to you and I think out—you know, foreign policy usually doesn’t matter in elections, and we haven’t heard much of what the Democrats have to do, but my sense is that there’s almost black and white between where we are and where those who are contesting this election want to go. Are there places where you see, like, a huge U-turn if the administration changes? And if people begin to vote about foreign policy, will they do it because they want to see those U-turns?
SCHAKE: I’ll take a swing at this. I think the questions of the president’s corrosion of the independence of the FBI and the judiciary are going to loom much larger in voters’ minds than foreign policy, and I feel that’s probably right.
Where I think you’re likely to see a lot of continuity, I think Senator Sanders and Vice President Biden both are in favor of ending American involvement in the Afghan war. I think both of them will want to draw down as much as possible U.S. involvement in Syria.
I think you will see changes on refugee policy. There I think you could see a very big shift. I think you’re likely to see a very big shift on policy towards America’s allies—that is, being nicer to our friends rather than pressuring them on their shortcomings. I think you’re likely to see—although administration policy has been better on Russia than you would think if you only listened to the president, but the White House has not enforced many of the sanctions that Congress has put in place against Russia, so I think you could see a change in policy towards Russia, a tightening of that.
One of the things I think the Trump administration has done extraordinarily well is the focus on the fact that a rising China is not playing by the rules that have made China successful so far and that have made the international order for the United States and its allies both prosperous and peaceful for the most part. So I think you’ll see continuity in China policy.
I would hope you would see a less mercantilist trade policy, but the Democrats’ record’s not great on that. I worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 and I remember being aghast at Barack Obama saying that NAFTA needed to be renegotiated because it was a bad deal. So I think trade’s an interesting area where there are so many geopolitical opportunities to cement the rules that we have benefited from and want to—want to coerce China into behaving by, like the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which brought nineteen countries of the Pacific Rim into common standard-setting that President Trump backed out of. I think there will be a temptation for geopolitical reasons for a Democrat to change that policy, but it’s not clear to me that their trade policy will actually get them there.
HAASS: I guess three other areas. I agree with what Kori put forward.
One is climate change. I think regardless of who—or as I like to say in Washington, irregardless of—(laughter)—of who emerges, I think you’ll see a clear choice on that issue in terms of the priority it gets and also the American approach—not just rejoining the Paris process, but probably just a greater effort to bring about global efforts, both to lower the trajectory of carbon emissions and also to increase ability to deal with the climate change that’s already baked into the cake. It’s an issue you’ll hear more and more about. It has sometimes used the word adaptation, sometimes resilience. You know all about it living here. Climate change is not just a future challenge; it’s a current one.
Two other issues I think you are likely to see some change are North Korea and Iran. North Korea—this administration, after issuing all sorts of threats, then basically said, oh, we’re in favor of arms control; we want North Korean denuclearization. Well, I’m not confident of a whole lot, but one of the things I’m confident of is there is zero chance that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. And I think what you are likely to see, if the Democrats were to be in office, is some sort of a more traditional negotiation where, if you give up some of what you have or place ceilings on it, you could expect a degree of sanctions relief.
I think the same thing with Iran. Indeed, Iran is probably—if you put aside the coronavirus—it is the single-most pressing international crisis in waiting out there. We saw a little bit about it a few months ago, but I don’t how many of you saw the papers in the last twenty-four hours. Iran has now accumulated enough enriched nuclear fuel to make a nuclear weapon. I’m not saying they have a nuclear weapon, but what they are doing is systematically reducing the time it would take to get from where they are to that point. That will continue.
They will then produce enough fuel for two weapons. And at some point the question is do they begin to narrow that gap even more, and at some point do their neighbors get nervous. And neighbors getting nervous could have two very different reactions. You could have neighbors getting nervous, wanting to imitate what Iran is doing—the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Turks—and you could have neighbors getting nervous, wanting to attack what the Iranians are doing, and that is called Israel.
And so this is out there. And I think whoever wins is this is going to have to be on their short list of urgent questions to deal with, if indeed this has not emerged as a full-blown crisis before January 2021.
FERNANDEZ: One thing I would add is I think you will also see a change in tone in that I think in many ways America First has become America alone. And you saw it with the Soleimani strike where we were basically the only ones saying anything, and all the Europeans were just staying back and not saying a word.
But you can have a number of other cases where we basically have been out there on China. I mean, everybody should be concerned with China’s trade practices and, in fact, you see it’s a bipartisan agreement on the part of Republicans and Democrats that we ought to do something on Chinese trade practices.
But outside of the U.S., you don’t see the Europeans out there saying that they’re going to support it. They’re just—we’re alone, and I think part of that is an ability or willingness to bash allies, be it Mexico, or NATO or anybody else, and that has a cost. And I think you will see an attempt to come back to a more kumbaya moment and try and talk about partnerships and things that we used to talk about, you know, under Obama.
AMOS: I’m glad you brought up the Middle East—and it wasn’t me—(laughs). I’ve just come back from two months of covering it in Beirut, and so Syria is very much on my mind, and you brought it up.
It seems that this administration, you know, wants out permanently, but the Middle East tends to—like Las Vegas doesn’t stay in Las Vegas—it comes to you. And there is a million more refugees banging on Turkey’s door. Turkey has opened the floodgates to let them go to Europe.
This is another crisis that will move right through the election cycle. What does the next administration do? And how does it look different between the choices?
HAASS: Well, you’re right. To me it’s somewhat shocking that it has gotten so little attention—what’s going on in Syria. It is a humanitarian crisis of the first order, but it’s also an economic and strategic crisis, and a political crisis. The last wave of massive immigration into Europe totally changed the complexion of European parties, made it very hard to govern from the middle. And we are likely to see not just political effects but—and humanitarian—but potentially strategic in what’s going on between Turkey, Syria, Russia.
Essentially we’ve got a low-level war there right now between Turkey and Syria. Turkey is a NATO ally. We have potential obligations to it. So this is—again, this is the sort of thing that has all sorts of repercussions.
I have a fairly radical position on this, which I doubt too many people in this room will share. And I have no idea what the next administration will do, because the—I think this administration has made the calculation that after Iraq and Afghanistan, fatigue is the order of the day and we’ve kind of had it with the Middle East. And again, I think this is shortsighted.
And there are ways of doing things in the Middle East that do not require us to do things on the order of what we did in Iraq or Afghanistan. I opposed the 2003 Iraq war, and I had real problems to what we ended up doing in Afghanistan. But the alternative to doing things on that scale need not be doing nothing. Life is not a switch. There are dials in life. There are rheostats. There are in-between options.
And in something like Syria, I would think working with Turkey and with NATO, it’s not inconceivable to me that we could create a large humanitarian area in which people would be safe. The Russians and the Syrian government would be kept out by NATO airpower and by Turkish ground troops. We would have to negotiate the terms of it. But I would think something like that would be good on a strategic and humanitarian level and could be done at a minimal cost to the United States.
So I’d just make a larger foreign-policy point. What you don’t do in foreign policy could be every bit as consequential as what it is you do. And I think when at times we have overreached as a country—and arguably the 2003 Iraq war was a classic case of overreach—the tendency then is to overreact and underreach. We’ve seen that, by the way, both parties. It wasn’t invented by this administration; the previous administration as well, I would argue, when, for example, we didn’t respond to Syrian use of chemical weapons after we said, if they were to do that, we would respond.
And I think we need to begin to look for some in-between options. And what I’m hoping—and I think it would probably be more likely under a Vice President Biden than under a Senator Sanders—would be open to that sort of foreign policy.
SCHAKE: I want to add on to what Richard said with an example where we have done that successfully, because there is a tendency now to think that these problems are insoluble. The Middle East is in perennial uproar. And there is a successful example of a humanitarian operation that stabilized a part of the Middle East, where the United States and its allies created a safe zone where humanitarian organizations and governments could operate to take the pressure off states that were hosting refugees.
We stayed for 20 years to grow leadership among that community that would govern consistent with our values and our interests. And that place is the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. We did that after the 1991 Iraq war. And the Kurdish parts of Iraq in the northern tier are stable, prosperous, and strong supporters of what we want to see throughout the region. It is possible to use limited means and broad participation to have a lasting positive effect on these kinds of problems. And it doesn’t have to be an everything or nothing, as Richard has suggested.
FERNANDEZ: I mean, the only thing I would add is you’ve got two pretty erratic types on both the Turkish side and the U.S. side; Erdogan not a democrat. He will—
AMOS: Nor a Republican. (Laughs.)
HAASS: It is the Turkish Republic, however.
FERNANDEZ: Yeah, yeah—not a liberal democrat. How’s that? He’s closer to Orban than to anybody else. You know, he puts journalists in jail. He may—you know, who knows how long he’s been around? He’s lost a couple of elections recently, and he’s under a lot of pressure. He’s cut deals with the Russians on arms, even though he’s a NATO ally. And on the other hand, you’ve got—you know, the U.S. has always had a difficult time with Turkey in the sense of, you know, there’s been years where our popularity was in the 20s, 20 percent, in U.S. popularity in Turkey.
So it’s a place where I don’t know how much influence the U.S. can have. And it may be one of those cases where we prod the Europeans to lead, as opposed to trying to take the lead ourselves.
AMOS: Now it is your turn. We are going to turn to questions and answers. And I invite you to join the conversation. Remember, this is on the record. It is also livestreamed. There are standing microphones, so if you would—(laughter)—
HAASS: The Model U.N.
AMOS: The Model U.N. contingent! (Laughter, applause.) Well done, my friends. We were counting on you people.
FERNANDEZ: Let’s get somebody who can shave, all right? (Laughter.)
AMOS: And if you would kindly limit yourself to one question, concisely. And we will begin with you. And say your name and affiliation, please.
Q: OK, awesome. My name is Ashley (sp) and I’m here with the Model U.N. team, as well as a fellow for our Global Learning Department.
So my question is actually in regards to trade. So as we see that the TPP didn’t really go through and we’re no longer in NAFTA, we’ve seen the USMCA has really come up as the next NAFTA 2.0. So my question is, how can the next president, or even the candidates in the debates, prove that they’re able to maintain these partnerships in the future?
AMOS: Very good. OK. Good question. Panel.
HAASS: I would think there’s important opportunities to build on. You’ve got USMCA. You’ve got phase one of U.S.-China. You’ve got U.S.-Japan. I think the biggest challenge will be, can you build a phase two China agreement that deals with such issues as subsidies on the Chinese side, very difficult, intellectual property protection, and so forth? So I think you got a China agenda. You’ve clearly got a U.S.-European agenda. You could have a separate U.S.-United Kingdom agenda. So I think it will be out there. I think the interesting question, and Kori was getting at it before, is whether you can maintain or generate bipartisan support for trade agreements. The first agreement that’s been passed through Congress in decades was USMCA. And the issue is, was that a one-off because Republicans supported it because it was the president and Democrats supported it because of some of the provisions, or was that a precedent? Is that something you can—I don’t now know the answer to that. Sometimes it’s easier to pose questions than answer them. So there’s that.
The other bigger issue—or, other issue—is whether the United States will once again support the international trade mechanisms that exist, the World Trade Organization. This administration has essentially not. It’s weakened the tribunal. And the question is, and I think it gets to something Jose was saying also about the United States and Europe, can we come up with agenda to reform the World Trade Organization? It is an organization that has not kept up with some of the new challenges of commerce. So I actually think—and China, in some ways, is proof that it hasn’t. So the challenge—and I think there’s no better way than us with our natural trading partners in Asia and Europe—can we promote—are we prepared to promote an agenda to improve this international institution? I would hope so. But I think there’s legitimate questions about, one, whether we will do it and, two, whether you could get the necessary bipartisan support.
AMOS: I’m going to do this. We’ve got lots of questions.
HAASS: OK, we’ll be really—
AMOS: So can we just do one answer, so we can get more people to ask questions?
SCHAKE: Yeah, of course.
Q: Perfect. Thank you so much for your answer. That was very helpful.
AMOS: OK. Let’s go to this side. Name, affiliation.
Q: Hello. Yes. My name is Robin Lee Sakin (sp). I’m an adjunct in Sigma Iota Rho, which is a(n) international honors society here at FIU.
My question pertains to the rhetoric currently in at least south Florida, or Florida in general, about the concept of isolationism. Our current president is thinking that this is a great idea in order to increase the productivity of the general U.S. citizens. Is this current coronavirus, or—(inaudible)—I think it’s currently called—is this evidence that isolationism is going to be the next policy ideas moving forward? Or is this the argument against?
SCHAKE: I think it’s the argument against because cooperation reduces the costs of everything you try to do. And it provides you an early warning network. The great advantage—among the many advantages the United States has in the world is that we have good neighbors and oceans, we have a strong prosperous economy. The corrosion of the international order will be felt by lots of other countries before its felt by us, because we just have a much wider margin of error. And sustaining a positive system like we have now is much less expensive than allowing it to corrode or collapse and having to rebuild it. So the parallel that I think of in my mind is actions that free societies could have taken in the 1920s and 1930s when you started to have the fracturing of political communities in Europe and elsewhere. If we had taken action then rather than having to come in when the world was already at war and fight that war on the side of free societies, the cost would have been much lower to the United States.
And that’s what I think international engagement gets you. It gets you the ability to handle problems while they are small enough that the cost isn’t eye-popping.
Q: Thank you very much.
AMOS: This side.
Q: Thank you. My name is Michael (sp). I’m part of the (Model United ?) Nations team.
Mr. Fernandez, you mentioned that 75 to 80 percent of Americans agree in bettering the legalization of the immigration system. Now, most foreign—illegal immigrants need to wait for a visa to be issued and then they cannot become a U.S. citizen unless they marry a U.S. citizen, compared to the Cuban Adjustment Act in which Cubans, if they arrived, they have to wait just five years to take the naturalization test. Do you believe that—if the Congress passed a statute that is similar to the Cuban Adjustment Act and serves to apply this same policy to all illegal immigrants, do you believe this would be a way forward in bettering the immigration system?
FERNANDEZ: Well, as a beneficiary of the Cuban Adjustment Act, I don’t think that’s in the cards, to be frank. In fact, I don’t think you need it. I think there’s been—there’s been plenty of discussion on the path to legalization—you know, pay your taxes, not have a criminal record, and the like—and that’s a workable solution.
It’s also—you know, there are people out there that would take the ten-and-a-half, eleven million undocumented people who are here and kick them out. But what’s happening now, for example—some interesting statistics—60 percent of the federal prosecutions today happen to—happen to be immigration-related. What does that mean? You know, what are you doing with corruption, with organized crime, so on and so forth? So it has a cost.
So I think—I don’t think the Cuban Adjustment Act—you know, it’s a product of the Cold War and it worked then, certainly for the Cubans. But I don’t think it’s in the cards. I do think, however, you don’t need to go there. You can have a path to legalization. You can have a system where you don’t have to wait twenty years for a brother to join a sister.
I mean, what we have now—part of the problem is what we have now doesn’t work. And you need to find a way—you know, you will comply with the law, but at the same time you got to figure out what the law should say. And right now it’s a system that’s unworkable. But I don’t think the Cuban Adjustment Act is in the cards.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Hi. My name’s Noah Churrick (ph). I’m a student here at FIU.
Dr. Haass—(changes pronunciation)—Haass—you indicated that Iran is the most pressing international issue short of coronavirus at the moment for the U.S., and you mentioned that Iran gaining nuclear weapons would be inherently destabilizing and a threat to the U.S. in some way, shape, or form. However, there have been nukes in the Middle East for decades, from Israel to Pakistan and India. How is a potential counterweight to Israel’s nuclear dominance in the Middle East inherently destabilizing?
HAASS: Good question, so let me answer it. I think one is Israel would not tolerate it, so it would be—it would be seen as a justification for what’s in the lingo of the field known as a preventive military attack. If you had a situation, though, where Iran was allowed to reach the point, other countries would follow suit. That could set in motion dynamics where countries would use military force to prevent it.
Or imagine the next time there’s a crisis in the Middle East and you have three or four countries that have nuclear weapons. How well do you think the governments would be able to manage the crisis as opposed to saying, wow, we better attack that country now before they get a chance to use their nuclear weapons? It seems to me it would increase the chance of not just wars, but potentially nuclear use, because other countries may say, wow, we better use these nuclear weapons before they’re attacked. We better use them before we—before we lose them.
You then also have the chance that if you have a breakdown of authority in a country, where would—who, then, would control the nuclear weapons? If it were a Syria that had nuclear weapons or some other country, could it get in the hands of terrorists? Which is, by the way, one of the fears that people like me have about Pakistan.
And the Middle East has been and is the least-stable part of the world. Nuclear weapons, the introduction of them on a widespread basis, could be something that would actually make today’s Middle East look like a picnic by comparison. I just don’t want to see it.
Q: All right. Thank you.
AMOS: This side.
Q: Thank you. My name’s Nicholas Velazquez (sp). I’m also with the Model United Nations team.
And my question—
HAASS: By the way, do you guys win your matches or not? How good are you?
Q: I have a few gavels, you know. We win. (Laughter.)
But anyway, Dr. Haass, my question is for you, concerning Cuba’s unique ability as an island state to project its capabilities and interests in Venezuela. In your remarks you mentioned that there are twenty thousand Cuban personnel in Venezuela. Cuba says it’s zero. I’m more inclined to believe America, frankly, as a Cuban American myself. How is it that such an island state is able to do this? This is very reminiscent of Cuba’s presence in Angola during the Cold War. I can think of only two other island states that are able to do this, that of course being Great Britain, Imperial Japan. Cuba is, of course, nowhere near industrialized to those state—as those states were at the time. What can this administration or potentially a new administration do to sever that Cuban-Venezuelan tie?
HAASS: I’ll speak very shortly because Jose knows a lot more about it.
AMOS: We’re going to change the rules because he changed the rules. (Laughs.)
HAASS: OK. Go ahead.
FERNANDEZ: You take the tough ones. (Laughter.)
Look, Cuba has perfected the art of beggaring. Venezuela has been subsidizing Cuba for the last—since Chavez, since in the 1990s. Before that it was the Russians. So I think—I think part of it is a survival mode. And not to really open up a can of worms, query—as I would say in law school—query whether if we had a more benign trade policy with Cuba they wouldn’t be forced to look to Venezuela for support. In other words, if you are in an existential position and you need to survive, you know, you go to the Russians, you go to the Venezuelans, you go to whoever will support you. And I think we’ve seen that not only in Cuba; we’ve seen it all over the world. And so that, to me, is the question.
And I think you see it as an act of survival and it’s a way for Cuba to leverage their—you know, their medical—their medical resources. They’ve got lots of doctors, too many doctors. Are they any good? Who knows, but at least they can go to Venezuela and it’s better than nothing. So I think they’ve been able to get a lot of mileage—I mean, we can attack it, but they’ve been able to get a lot of mileage in many countries with their medical support.
Q: Thank you for your answer.
FERNANDEZ: You know, Bolsonaro kicked them out or virtually kicked them out, but—in Brazil. But you know it’s something that’s part of their export.
Q: Thank you for your answer.
AMOS: Either one of you? OK, move on. Shall we move on?
HAASS: Yes, ma’am.
Q: Hi. I’m also another member of the Model United Nations team. I’m contractually obligated to say that we got number one last year at the end of the year rankings. (Laughter.) (Inaudible)—one. (Applause.)
Honor to host—to host you guys here. You guys are experts.
My question is specifically on transnational organized crime. As a Colombian very tied to the issue with my history—so I started my research in Colombia with the FARC. It led me to Venezuela. From Venezuela I got to Liberia, where I found that Venezuelans and the FARC are negotiating with Hezbollah and Lebanon, and Lebanon was negotiating with Iran, and Iran was now negotiating with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that all of these underground criminal networks are all tied together. It’s not enough to be an expert, in my case, in only Latin America. So my question is, has the U.S. fallen behind in terms of being able to tackle these underground criminal networks? And how can the U.S pursue a policy of containment with criminalized states such as Venezuela and the future Afghanistan to tackle this kind of underground anti-U.S. network?
AMOS: Richard’s nodding, so you get this one.
HAASS: Do other people want to do it?
AMOS: No. Go.
HAASS: OK. This is not something that we can solve unilaterally. We need partners. So one thing you do is you try to enhance the capabilities of friendly countries so they can better take care of the internal challenges posed by these groups and organizations. We do that all the way around. That’s a good use of foreign assistance, of intelligence sharing, of multilateral cooperation. This is not a problem you solve. It’s a problem that you constantly manage, and you push—you push back against.
You know, we began this entire conversation over an hour ago talking about the coronavirus as part of this class of global challenges. What you’ve put your finger on is another manifestation of these transnational networks. And this is part and parcel of the—of the modern world. We have to push back against this. We have to make ourselves less vulnerable to it. We have to try to put them on the defensive. But whether you’re talking about terrorism, or drug cartels, criminal cartels, pirates, what have you, this is, again—I’d say, more than anything else, the fertile soil of these groups, funnily enough, are weak states. They’re states where the government doesn’t have the capacity or the will, or both, to control what goes on within its territory. So to me, the principal issue is not to go after them all the time militarily. That’s a little bit like whack-a-mole. It’s more to try to build up the capacities of the governments where they’re found so these governments can gradually diminish their capability and reach.
AMOS: This side.
Q: Hi. My name is Pablo (sp). I’m also part of the Model United Nations team. And I just want to say thank you so much for coming to discuss these important issues.
So you mentioned about NATO and its importance in the region, especially working with Turkey to discuss the different issues regarding immigration and Syria. But I keep reminiscing of President Trump mentioning his concerns with NATO and mentioning of potentially pulling out of NATO, especially considering that the United States has provided so much resourcing to NATO compared to the rest of our allies in the EU. So my question’s concern is to the potential dissolve of NATO concerning the United States in the future with a possible second term, or whether or not there should be a stronger unification between our allies in NATO with the EU and the United States for a—for it to continue on in the coming years.
HAASS: You take that one.
SCHAKE: So I’ll take that one. It’s true that NATO allies are really nervous about America’s reliability right now. It’s also true that President Trump is correct that NATO allies should be doing more for their own defense. And Dwight Eisenhower would have agreed with that. Richard Nixon would have agreed with that. John Kennedy would have agreed with that. It’s commonplace for American leaders to want our allies to shoulder more of the burden than they are.
The question on the flipside of the coin, since you’re in Model U.N. you have to like these big overarching questions. And the big overarching question is: Has any dominant power in the international order ever had this much voluntary help from other countries? And I’ll spoil it for you. The answer is no, because the way that the United States created the NATO alliance and created the international order after World War II was to give small countries a vote, a say in making the rules, to make those rules not just beneficial to us but beneficial to others as well.
And the magnetism of that system, as Richard was suggesting, causes countries to voluntarily cooperate. And most of the NATO countries, many more than in the 1950s and 1960s, are stable democracies. And that too has a magnetic power. Democracies fight a lot of wars in the international order, they just don’t fight each other. And so the NATO alliance is a strong, solid investment for the American taxpayer. Even though we get tired of Europeans, we want them to do more, my entire career I’ve been looking for better allies the United States could trade Europeans in for, and I still haven’t found those better allies. So I don’t want to give up on the ones that we have until I can find a better deal on the market. And I don’t see a better deal on the market. And the same holds true for Europeans with regard to the United States. They find us super-tiresome to deal with—sanctimonious all of the time. And yet they don’t have a better deal on offer either. And that’s what holds the alliance together through all of our disagreements and all of the challenges that we have faced.
FERNANDEZ: All I would add is—I agree with everything. But here’s a good example of a difference in tone and how tone makes—how you can draw a distinction. As Frank Morrow (sp) will tell you, because he was in the Department of Defense, you know, the—for many decades the U.S. has been asking Europeans to contribute more to their own defense. I mean, the deal was that they had to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. I think only Poland is meeting that.
But, you know, other administrations did it differently. You talked to them. I mean, you had a way of cajoling them. Now it’s just a hammer. And that’s—that creates insecurities. And it also may lead your rivals to say, well, maybe that NATO alliance isn’t that strong. Maybe I should try my hand and put some troops in Lithuania. And that—therein lies the question.
HAASS: Let me say quickly on it, one is, this conversation is not happening in a vacuum. We have a renewed Russian threat to Europe. So it’s something that we need to think about.
Second of all, the Europeans—I actually think the question of how much Europeans spend on defense is the wrong question. If you add up what Europeans spend on defense, it’s roughly, what, $300 billion; not quite half of what we spend. They could spend more, but they could also get a lot more defense for what they spend.
A different conversation across the Atlantic would be might you spend it in different ways, so rather than every country duplicating what everyone else does, maybe you would specialize more. And as a general rule of thumb, in virtually every avenue of life when it comes to governments, how you spend money is much more important than how much you spend. So I could get you more European defense capability for less than they spend now if I simply, you know, could organize it.
Lastly, implicit in all this is that we spend a lot and others aren’t spending enough. And it’s true that we spend a lot. We spend, what, 700 (billion dollars), $750 billion a year in defense, which is a lot, I grant you. But—it’s an interesting but—as a percentage of our economy, of our annual output, it’s only about half of what we averaged during the Cold War.
So it gets a little bit back to that earlier question about isolationism. We can afford to do what we’re doing in the world. Our domestic problems are not because of what we’re doing in the world. We spend twice what the other rich countries spend on health care, and we don’t—you know, we don’t live twice as long and we don’t live—we’re not twice as healthy. It’s not how much we’re spending. It’s how we’re spending it. So we can do what we do in the world and still do better here at home if we make better choices.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Hello. Good afternoon. My name is Carlos Madriz. I am a student at Miami Dade College. And my—
HAASS: Do you do Model U.N. there?
Q: We don’t. But by next year we should have one.
AMOS: Ah, great.
Q: So my question is for Jose Fernandez.
How can the U.S. do a much better job in terms of drug trafficking and human trafficking in Central America and Latin America?
FERNANDEZ: Big question. My bias is—I mean, you’ve got the usual answers, which is we’ve—let me back up. There are many things in Central America today that drive people to come to the U.S.: corruption, I mean, you can go down the list. We, as the U.S., you know, could do a better job—rather than threatening and sometimes cutting off aid, we could be working on corruption. There’s actually—you know, during the last year, you know, when—in 2016, we were spending $750 million—billion dollars—a year in aid to the Northern Triangle. That number has been cut down to 300 billion (dollars).
HAASS: Has to be million. Couldn’t be billion.
AMOS: It has to be million.
FERNANDEZ: I’m sorry, million. Yeah, I’m sorry, million. It’s only money. (Laughter.)
But we—you know, corruption numbers went down. You had presidents in jail in Guatemala and a couple of other places. There are things that we could do. You could work on entrepreneurship. You could work on a number of issues that drive people to come here. That’s a start.
There’s obviously a lot more—and that’s not just Central America; it’s Mexico, which is—you know, have the drug cartels there which in many cases are threatening areas of control for the government.
So we as a country could do more. What we can’t do, in my view, and it’s—I’m biased—is build a wall, and just forget about it, and throw away the key. I think we’ve got to—what history is showing us is that people will find a way. And so we’ve got to work on that.
And unfortunately, it’s a long-term problem. You’ve not going to—no one administration is going to fix it. It’s something that has been there for a long time, and it’s going to continue.
SCHAKE: If I could add one point to that, to reinforce something Richard said earlier, the problems of weak states are where a lot of this begins, and so good American foreign policy helps governments to address their problems where they are occurring, and so that you reduce the need of people to flee where they are for safety, for opportunity, for all the other things that Jose was talking about.
Q: Thank you so much. Just a side note, Miami-Dade College does have a Model U.N. We host one for high school and middle school students.
So thank you.
AMOS: Well done.
This side of the room.
Q: Hello. My name is Max Whuiwah (ph). I am also a student in the Model United Nations program here. And once again, we are very delighted to have you all attending this panel.
AMOS: How many are you? (Laughs.)
Q: My question regards the previous statement involving the everything-to-nothing approach alternative, as you discussed, in somewhere like Iraq where we could utilize strategic or humanitarian aid as, say, alternatives that could be done by, say, a Biden administration.
But whether he wins in 2020 or not, a Senator Sanders-type like candidate with a drastically different foreign policy of withdrawal from conflicts from Yemen, or say a hypothetical war where Maduro leaves Venezuela could easily happen within the near future.
Now, my question regards if such a policy were to occur, would our allies, such as the Saudis or the Lima Group, who have a tacit or expressed interest in us involving ourselves in these situations, would those ties irreparably be harmed by us withdrawing completely? And are global institutions and the international community ready to take the whole of the United States?
HAASS: Well, in the—when an ally of the United States sees the United States reluctant to act in traditional ways—to take the lead, to be heavily involved—they often have two choices. One is they can do more themselves to compensate. And some would say what the Saudis did in Yemen was just that. They saw the United States less willing to stand up to the Iranians in Syria, and the Saudis and the UAE decided to take matters more in their own hands. They bit off more than they can chew.
But my point is simply that one option for countries that no longer feel they can confidently rely on a great power is they become more autonomous. And this could lead also to countries becoming more powerful militarily, conceivably developing nuclear weapons. So that’s—you have to think about whether you want that. And usually it comes—you sacrifice some of your influence. If they’re not going to rely on you as much, they tend not to listen to you as much.
The other thing that countries that feel they can no longer rely on us do is they are tempted to defer to a powerful neighbor. So in Asia—when Kori was talking about China before—if countries around China felt that the United States was no longer a reliable partner, a lot of them would be tempted to cut their own arrangements with China.
So in this part of the world—you know, I don’t see the Lima Group—Kori can disagree with me if—but I don’t see the Lima Group taking a lot of matters into its own hands. I don’t see either a lot of capability or a lot of will. So I think the most likely consequence of the United States not doing much is the situation drifts. And what we’ve seen continues to be.
In most instances, the alternative to a world where the United States is willing and able to act on a regular basis is a world where there is less action. The world gets messier. It’s not an elegant word for Model U.N. types, but the word I much prefer is disarray.
But essentially the alternative to the world we’ve seen over the last seventy, seventy-five years where the United States has more often than not played a leading role is a world where there isn’t a global substitute for us. No one else is willing and able to fill our shoes. So you’ll see the world fall farther behind in meeting challenges like climate change or global disease. And you’ll see regional situations getting messier. And I think what we have to ask ourselves is the cost of doing something about it, how does that cost weigh against the cost of not doing something about it? And that’s where I think those who would have us often do less, their calculations are incomplete.
AMOS: This side.
Q: Thank you. Hello. My name is Kate Roover (ph). I’m an officer of Sigma Iota Rho, the international relations honor society here at campus.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for coming here. It’s such an honor to meet with you, and to speak with you, and ask you these questions. So thank you for spending our time with us.
So my question actually pertains—
HAASS: Well, thank you for coming here.
Q: Well, thank you. (Laughs.) So my question actually pertains to sub-Saharan Africa, because that’s my area of focus. And I have a bit of a personal stake in there. So I know that there is a history of giving loans and foreign aid to Africa, but it is commonly considered in recent history, just in the last few months, that China is actually “winning,” quote/unquote, the economic race for Africa. Do you think that it is necessary for the U.S. to reform their loans, because they currently have many conditions which African presidents and prime ministers have complained about, such as diplomacy—or, not diplomacy. Excuse me. Democracy. Do you think that it’s necessary for these loans to be reformed? And do you think that the debt crisis that is impending upon Africa is actually a security risk? Thank you.
SCHAKE: Love that question. What the Chinese have right about their investments on the continent of Africa and in other places where the Belt and Road Initiative is going is that there is an urgent need for the continued economic development of those countries to have infrastructure that facilitates it. That’s a great thing that the Chinese have done. And we should have beat them to it. We should have found ways to—through American foreign assistance, through the Bretton Woods institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, through organizing other potential lenders, to create a better alternative than the Chinese are offering, because it’s in the interests of our wellbeing, both economically and in terms of our security. It’s also in those countries’ needs—interests.
I can’t tell yet whether the Belt and Road Initiative is working as designed or as advertised by the Chinese government—that is, to create infrastructure the shifts global trade patterns to the advantage of countries in the so-called developing world and China, or whether it’s a gigantic debt-for-equity trap and they are—they are getting governments to commit to loans that don’t produce the economic output on which the solubility of the loans is based, and then the Chinese repossess the infrastructure.
Or, the third trajectory, which I begin to believe might be true and creates enormous opportunities for the governments in sub-Saharan Africa and for us, which is if the Chinese have embarked on this for domestic economic purposes—that is, a glut of capital that they needed to invest, and a desire to shift trade patterns. But they are now, the political leadership in the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping in particular, are how shackled to something that’s failing, that the economic benefits are not proving to have been carefully assessed—as Richard talked about the balance sheet. That the nationalist backlash against China importing Chinese labor. You know, we know what that looks like. It looks like United Fruit in the 1920s. And the backlash against American foreign policy was, deservedly, extreme in those places. It looks to me like that’s what China is beginning to have to deal with, with most of its Belt and Road Initiative investments.
And that means there are opportunities for the United States and friendly countries to step in and provide alternatives, to use the tools of free societies to advance those interests. Transparency is the great thing we can offer. So to use it as leverage to force China to loan and to build in ways that are actually advantageous to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and other places.
Q: Thank you very much.
AMOS: We are running out of time. So I think what I’m going to do is have you last three—because you all have stood in line for a very long time—ask questions, and then you all can figure out what you want to do with that. So let’s start with you.
HAASS: We’ll answer the easy one.
Q: First and foremost, we must congratulate ourselves for being here. (Laughter.)
HAASS: Pat yourself on the back.
Q: Yeah. However, my questions are exclusively for Richard Haass. I wrote—I read your book. And I felt like it was very similar to the book of Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince. (Laughter.) The world in disarray, actually.
HAASS: Did you mean that as a criticism or a compliment? (Laughter.)
Q: You could take it as you wish. (Laughter.) I would use the word of one of the greatest mind of—in the history of mankind, Albert Einstein: We cannot solve any of our problems with the same brain that we used to generate them. Man is born pure, however society corrupt them. Man is the product of its environment, education. Therefore, man cannot extend his knowledge beyond its own experience. That’s Rousseau. I want to know your point of view about what I’m going to say now. The invention of society is the very first error of human ignorance between reason and logic, the unshakable truth wedged between reason, the standard of society ethical and moral values, which have been lacking provided—preventing—(inaudible)—the man from the future he could have acquired in order to liberate his desire to want to live. And it was at this very moment that the logic of man was conceivably lost in a cataclysm of insurmountable and indescribable pain.
AMOS: Thank you. I’m going to do both of you so that we have everybody who stood in line to ask a question, and then the panelists can respond as they wish. This side.
Q: Thank you very much. Again, humbled to have your presence here. Guillermo Planos (sp), a graduate from the master’s in information systems, ex alumni of FIU. And I—it’s been in the ’80s that I was in the Model U.N., so. (Laughter.)
HAASS: This is your future. (Laughter.)
Q: Yeah. Anyway, so I just want to pick up, if you have time to explore two adjacencies that you were talking, when you were talking about immigration and you were talking also about the importance of having a different pathway on the threat of bringing the immigration that has come from hostile regimes, right? And how do we path them back to their countries for change—to provoke change? So picking on those two adjacencies, immigration, right now immigration—this question is only about how do you deport them or you naturalize them—you make them citizens. Is there a policy pathway that hasn’t been explored, innovative way to create a program that allows for transferring back the skills, the knowledge, what we hope—that lifestyle that they instill—that we instill as living in the United States, as a migrant myself, to bring it back and to have a democracy or to have a new economic boost into the countries that are—that they fled to? So that was my question.
AMOS: OK. One more. And—
Q: Hello. My name is Vladimir Antusko (ph). I’m an international student here at FIU.
So my question will be regarding the relationship of the United States of America and Russia, specifically about economic sanctions. So I believe that there are different reports—(inaudible)—that sanctions implemented by U.S. countries and European countries were in some points even harmful for these countries themselves. So for example, I know in Germany businesses loses a lot of money because they’re restricted to collaborate in some areas with Russian companies. So my question is, what is your opinion about these sanctions? Do you find them effective, ineffective? Do you believe they will be escaped at one point? And what are the areas Russia and the U.S. can collaborate? Thank you.
AMOS: OK. For our last round—
HAASS: Do you want to take the Russia one?
SCHAKE: I actually wanted to take the philosophical one.
HAASS: Oh, good. Even better.
SCHAKE: If I may. You didn’t address it to me, but I love that challenge.
So I want to pick a fight with Rousseau. It is flat-out nonsense that we lack the ability to learn beyond our own individual experience. History gives us the ability to do that. Art gives us the ability to do that. Great poetry gives us the ability to do that. So Rousseau’s flat wrong about that. You need to purge him out of your canon on that. (Laughter.)
And to the bigger, broader point that you raised, I think what the quotation and the challenge that you cast for us actually really is the center of gravity of this conversation about the nature of governance and whether the type of government matters. Because our political foundation in this country is that people have rights, and they loan them in limited ways to governments for agreed purposes, and they have the ability to throw the government out of office if the government doesn’t honor that bargain. And that’s why government isn’t a tragedy in free societies and it is a tragedy in authoritarian societies.
HAASS: Want to take the—
SCHAKE: Thank you, my friends.
HAASS: Does anybody here want to support Rousseau? (Laughter.)
FERNANDEZ: Machiavelli versus Rousseau, that’s great.
I want to go back to your question on the use of—(inaudible). Actually, and you’re preaching to the choir here. I actually think one of the greatest wasted resources that the U.S. has is the diaspora community. I mean, we—and it’s something that you were talking about, Kori, in terms of infrastructure. American companies are very risk-averse. The reason they are not in Africa is that they can be in Nevada, they can be in California, they’re making enough money there. So when you go to Africa, it’s Turkish companies, it’s Chinese companies. They have a different risk profile. Same thing happens when you have the Arab Spring and you need economic development, or when you go to Central America. And U.S. companies are unwilling to take that leap.
But the diaspora is. You know, people who were—who came from those countries are willing sometimes to invest. And right now, for example, you know, the—we have—this is billions of remittance dollars that are going to Central America, and they are being used for basically housing and food. Nobody’s using that for infrastructure, for investment. And there are ways that the U.S. could do to try to encourage the first wave of investment in these countries would be the diaspora. They’re willing to take the risk in many cases.
So it’s not just Latin America. In the Arab Spring there were a number of Tunisian Americans, Moroccan Americans that were willing to invest in those countries. And we need to find ways to encourage them because right now we’re not doing it, and as a result we’re not getting the kind of influence in these countries that we ought to, given our interests.
AMOS: Richard, last word?
HAASS: Russia. Look, this has been and is a really difficult relationship, but it’s increasingly a—it’s not a one-off. By that I mean it’s not a relationship that you describe in one dimension. And one of the challenges for whosever the next president is going to deal with a Russia which, in many instances and many geographies, is doing things we don’t like.
But we still have areas where we have overlapping interests. For example, the major nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia comes up in 2021. We do not want to live in a world where nuclear weapons are unregulated. We do not want to be spending precious dollars on expansion of our own nuclear arsenal simply because we believe we have to keep up with Russia if it’s expanding theirs there.
So we have to be able to carve out areas of limited cooperation. We want Russian help, for example, in—with North Korea. We do not want Russia violating sanctions or pressure there. We want Russian help with Iran. We could want Russian help with Afghanistan.
At the same time, we will disagree with Russia profoundly in places like Syria, where Russia quite directly is committing war crimes. No reason to sugarcoat it; that’s what they’re doing. They’re using military weapons indiscriminately.
So the challenge for the next administration is, how do you manage a relationship like this? And when I say it’s not a one-off, in some ways it’s similar to China, where you have areas of fundamental disagreement. On the other hand, you also will have areas where you need to or want to cooperate. Maybe it’s dealing with climate change. Maybe, again, it’s dealing with North Korea. So how do you compartmentalize, to some extent, your areas of disagreement at the same time you find areas where you could have limited collaboration to deal with a common problem?
It’s a real diplomatic challenge. But I think that’s the world we’re moving in. It’s not a black or white world. It’s not quite as, in some ways, one dimensional as the Cold War world. This is a more complex world, which all of you Model U.N.ers are going to—are going to inherit. And in some ways it’s a tougher world to manage. Our ability to simply stamp our feet and dictate and control is less than it was, and it was never all that great to begin with.
This is why, again, the premium on smart foreign policy will be great. And it keeps circling back to what I think has been the implicit message here, is that a lot of things going on out there are going to affect the quality of life here: our health, our physical safety, our wealth, what have you. And so foreign policy—so if there’s one takeaway, besides that Rousseau was wrong, I do hope that your—the other takeaway—and I think you’ve implicitly made the point by being here—is that what goes on in the world matters.
AMOS: Thank you all for coming. I would like to thank our panelists: Jose Fernandez, Kori Schake, and Richard Haass. (Applause.) And I would like to thank the Model U.N. for being excellent questioners. (Laughter.) And also I would like to thank Florida International University. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)