Full transcript of the Strategy Initiative launch through the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
Atlantic Council Strategy Initiative Launch:
America’s Role in the World
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.,
General Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.),
President and Founder,
The Scowcroft Group
General James L. Jones, Jr. USMC (Ret.),
Jones Group International
Stephen J. Hadley,
Principal and Co-Founder,
James N. Miller,
Adaptive Strategies LLC
Stephen E. Biegun,
Corporate Officer and Vice President of International
Ford Motor Company
President and CEO,
Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Date: Friday, March 13, 2015
Superior Transcriptions LLC
JON M. HUNTSMAN: Excellencies, special guests, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great honor to welcome one and all this morning to the Atlantic Council, particularly to General Jones and General Scowcroft, my two predecessors. As I told them earlier this morning, I too am trying to become a general. I’m only an Eagle Scout, so I have some distance yet to go. But maybe I can steal some stars from general – or Admiral Stavridis if he’d – (laughs) – if he’d be so kind.
But it’s a pleasure to have all of you here. And thank you for coming to this very important launch of this new effort called the Strategy Initiative. Now, strategy, as General Jones always reminds us, is the world’s most overused term. So we’re talking about a process leading to clear objectives that reflect our interests and values. And I think you’ll get a better sense of what we’re talking about as this morning plays out.
But why now? Because the United States faces unprecedented international challenges that together pose significant threats to global security and prosperity. From ISIL’s reign of terror in the Middle East to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe to the rise of China in Asia, there is a greater need to reinvigorate U.S. and trans-Atlantic leadership in the world. And we in this country have spent precious little time acquainting ourselves with this new world.
The demand for vigorous and sustained leadership across all of these fronts requires an effective articulation of a strategic vision, especially on America’s purpose and how it should seek to exercise its role in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a stark lack of conversation surrounding the big picture global role of the United States. Foreign policy debates in the past couple of election cycles have been siloed and short-range in nature, stuck on specific crises and hotspots with no long-term strategic approach defining how the U.S. engages with the rest of the world.
Through the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, the Atlantic Council is launching this strategy initiative to both help the United States work with its closest partners to lead in an increasingly complex and turbulent world, and to inject strategic thinking on U.S. foreign policy and America’s role I the world into the nation’s much-needed debate leading up to 2016.
Now, the five main efforts that you will come to understand, recognize and be more familiar with include, first, a problem – a program called America’s Role in the World. Now, this is aimed to serve as a platform – the ultimate soapbox, if you will – for prominent American public leaders to express their views on America’s role in the world. It’s designed to reinvigorate a substantive and constructive public dialogue on U.S. national strategy and provide a reliable source of strategic thinking.
The second component we are calling the Atlantic Council’s strategy paper series, which will be a nonpartisan endeavor, intended to open new horizons in strategic thinking on the most important global issues. Authored by established and emerging strategic thinkers, we plan to publish roughly two dozen strategy papers over the next two years. The first paper on dynamic stability, authored by our very own Barry Pavel and Peter Engelke will be publicly released later next month. These strategy papers will serve as the content vehicle for the America’s Role in the World effort and will culminate in a comprehensive strategy report pre-released to a new administration shortly after November 2016 elections.
The third component we are calling the D-10 Strategy Forum, which is designed to convene senior officials of 10 key democratic allies – trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific – that have been at the forefront of building and maintaining a stable world to discuss strategic outlooks and priorities. This unique series of track 1.5 meetings will serve as the international component of the council’s strategy initiative.
Fourth we are calling the strategy consortium. This is intended to promote an ecosystem of strategic thinkers with a consortium of think tanks and universities that will collaborate on strategy development.
Fifth and finally we’re calling the strategy lab. Just as the name would suggest, this last effort still in its very early stages of development intends to inject new thinking and strategy by combining interdisciplinary perspectives with new tools for assessment analysis and decision making. Its primary goal is to promote innovation and adaptation while building a network of emerging strategy leaders.
These five efforts will be showcased at our annual Global Strategy Forum, which this year will take place on April 29th and 30th. This multiplatform event will bring together the Atlantic Council’s key partners and leading experts in the strategy field and will feature what we’re calling AC talks – much like the TED talks that we’re all familiar with.
So through this deep, nonpartisan scope of work we hope to be a major source of strategic thinking in America and to revitalize public discourse on America’s leadership in the world. As you can see, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we couldn’t be more excited about the coming months and what this could mean for the United States and the world.
Now it’s my great honor to welcome former national security advisor, former Atlantic Council chairman and one of the greatest – Brent, if I could use it, I’m sorry – strategic thinkers of our time, General Scowcroft, to the stage to introduce today’s keynote speakers – also two former national security advisors and renown strategic thinkers – Steve Hadley and General Jim Jones. General Jones and Steve, thank you so very much for participating with us here today.
Following their remarks, we’ll host a lively discussion between Jim Miller and Steve Biegun, moderated by Fred Kempe, that will address the range of views on America’s role in the world on both sides of the political aisle. General Scowcroft, it’s an honor to have you here with us today. The podium is yours. (Applause.)
GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT (RET.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for those introductory words. We’re venturing onto a new platform, defining if you will, or fulfilling one of the most misused words in the American language, anyway. And that is strategy, and what it is and how you do it. And I applaud the Atlantic Council for taking this on. Especially – this is a particularly difficult time.
Many leaders are calling for substantive and constructive dialogue on national strategy. We have a not very constructive but certainly animated dialogue on it at the present time – at a time when we’re facing unprecedented international challenges – unprecedented in the sense of newness, new elements that we’ve not had to encounter before and the role that they’re playing. We face unprecedented international challenges.
Some we’ve seen before. Some we haven’t. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s behavior in the western Pacific, the ISIS or ISIL, however you want to call it, reign of terror, a non-state actor in a Westphalian world, other crises all point to the need for a reinvigorated U.S. strategy in the world, and a youthful one.
At the sub-state level, we’re seeing individuals and non-state actors – ranging from democratic revolutionaries to terrorists – play an outsized role on the global stage with the members of the Westphalian world. Dealing with these myriad complex and global shifts not only requires American leadership, but also a rethinking about how the United States should and can act in the world. Indeed, it requires new thinking on strategy.
As I say, strategy is the framework that gets a state – in this case the United States, of course – rethinking or thinking about how to get about where it wants to go. First, you have to know where you want to go. And secondly, the strategy is how to get there. And all too often the United States pursues them both together or in isolation from each other. And that we can’t afford now.
We can’t just respond to global events. But through – hopefully through the work of the Atlantic Council and the influential community that we convene, the Atlantic Council can serve as a hub for a new round of strategic thinking to help us in this very difficult and rapidly moving world. So I am delighted to see the breadth and depth of this initiative and to thank Jon Huntsman, Fred, Steve, Jim, Barry and many others in the Atlantic Council – an impressive collection of brains to launch this initiative.
I’d also encourage everyone involved in the effort to remember some important principles. Be rigorous in a way that can deal with a type of rapid and significant changes we increasingly see happening around the world, and not try to force them into boxes that we’re familiar with but don’t necessarily fit the world.
We need to be innovative, as it is possible the world today does not necessarily fit in frameworks that we are used to and have developed in the past. But most of all, to be actionable – that is a key to real strategy, it to bring strategy and vision together in an actionable plan to receive – to achieve our objectives and protect our interests in this very unusual new world.
This morning you’re going to hear from Steve Hadley and Jim Jones, two men who have contributed enormously to national security and global strategy, strategic debate through the years, and have advocated for more clearly defining our role in this complex and rapidly changing world.
The first keynote speaker will be Steve Hadley, who served as national security advisor to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009 and was co-chair of the congressionally mandated 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review independent panel. He remains heavily engaged in national security policy and among many other influential positions. He’s currently a board director of the Atlantic Council, serves on the State Department’s foreign affairs policy board. He is chairman to the United States Institute of Peace and chairman of RAND’s Center for Middle East Public Policy Advisory Board.
Following that, we will hear from General Jim Jones. Jim is a former commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, where he led all military operations for NATO. He served as President Obama’s national security adviser from 2009 to 2010, where he brought a clear vision and steady leadership to America’s foreign and security policies, included in our – including our mission in Iraq, War in Afghanistan, the country’s interests around the world. He was also State Department’s special envoy for Middle East regional security in 2008. There are few individuals who could better discuss national security strategy and assist in defining the indispensable role of the United States now and in the future.
And I’m delighted to introduce them both. And, Steve, the floor is yours. (Applause.)
STEPHEN J. HADLEY: Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be with you. I would like to begin by complimenting the Atlantic Council for this initiative – this strategy initiative. I think it is a very challenging and very fulsome agenda. And is, I think, going to have an enormous impact going forward for good in trying to help America sort out this very difficult world we face. So congratulations to you, Jon and Fred, for the courage to undertake this.
I want to say a word about why we need this initiative – this refocus on strategy. And I think in a way it goes back to the time where we actually did behave in a fairly strategic way as a nation, which was the Cold War period in which a lot of us grew up. And there, you know, we did develop over time a pretty coherent strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union and the threat of communism at the time. It was deterrence and containment – a strategy worked out over time, pursued over multiple administrations Democratic and Republican, and sustained by a fairly substantial national consensus. That didn’t mean we didn’t fight about how to implement that strategy and the various tactical decisions we had to make, but the basic strategy was intact.
And then, of course, the Cold War ended. The Soviet Union collapsed. Communism was discredited. And we thought in some sense that the strategic argument was over and we had won, that our model of political democracy and free-market economies has emerged – had emerged as the model for the international community. And in some sense, I think we took a vacation from strategy and a vacation from strategic thinking. Doesn’t mean we had – didn’t have a lot of challenges and a lot of policy issues, but they were, I think, handled in a more tactical than in a strategic way.
That began to change on 9/11 when we saw a new threat come in the form of al-Qaida. And it kicked us back to start beginning to think about a strategy for dealing with that challenge. But I think now the need is even greater because I would argue that what we’ve seen recently is the emergence of two alternatives to our model of political democracy and free-market economics. One is the attraction of ISIS or is the Islamic State, with their really extremist religious-based, if you will, totalitarian view that has enormous traction not just, we’re seeing, in the Middle East but among even middle-class people in Europe and in some cases in the United States. This is a very different vision about how the world should operate.
And alternatively, it – there is a vision now that is coming out of China and Russia which is an authoritarian vision which fuses some economic vitality with basically political repression and control. And it is a model that is gaining attractiveness, particularly among authoritarians, people who have been in power a considerably long time in places like Turkey and elsewhere.
So we find ourselves actually back in a – if you will, a strategic competition. Not a new Cold War, but a strategic competition where there are two alternative models to ours that have attraction. And ours is looking a little beleaguered at the moment. Our political system seems fractured and unable to make decisions on major national questions. And our economy still has not emerged as robustly as we would have liked after the financial and economic crisis of 2008.
So we are now in a situation, if you will, of a strategic competition. And that means we need to get back to the business of thinking strategically. Why then the Atlantic Council initiative? And that is because it is very challenging, as Brent and Jim Jones and others who’ve tried – it is very challenging to do strategic thinking in the White House in an administration, particularly now. Brent used to describe his period – he said, you know, when I was national security adviser – and correct me if I misquote you – when I was national security adviser, there was one big thing, which was how to deal with the Soviet Union. And at any point in time, we had one or two other crises we had to manage.
If you look at what’s on Susan Rice’s agenda, she’s got 10 or 12 things every day. She is forced into an intensive crisis management mode. And the problem, of course, is that if all you do is crisis management, all you will get is more crises because you will have not put in place the strategies and policies you need to shape events and avoid crisis. And that’s what we need to do now.
George Shultz, when he was secretary, in a very great little booked called “What’s On My Mind” that he published in 2013, he said that at least once a week he would say to his office: Don’t bother me for the next hour and a half and interrupt me only if my wife calls and if the president calls. And he had the order, of course, right. Domestic politics does trump foreign policy. (Laughter.) And he would then sit down and he would take a pad of paper and a pen. And he would pick an issue he was concerned about and he would say, what are we trying to achieve? What are our objectives? And what is our – and how are we going to do it? What is our strategy for achieving those objectives?
That is strategic thinking. We don’t do it enough. Bob Blackwell, a colleague of ours, used to say: The first thing that gets lots when two or three government people get together to discuss an issue is what are we trying to achieve? And Susan Rice doesn’t have the time today to do what George Shultz was able to do when he was secretary of state. So we believe at the Atlantic Council there is a mission for people outside the government to try to assist from the outside in doing the kind of strategic thinking that is many times hard to do within the government and for which people have very little time to do given the press of crises and the press of the 24/7 news cycle.
And that is what Jon Huntsman outlined. This is a step by the Atlantic Council to take some of the responsibility for leading on the issue of strategy. It is not an exclusive. It’s being structured in such a way to try to draw other elements – from the academic community, from the think tank community – because strategic thinking needs to be a national project for this country if we are going to deal with the challenges we face. And we can deal with them. We have – this is not a country that is a failing country. We have the economic, intellectual, military wherewithal to deal with these problems. But we need to think strategically, clear on objectives, clear on strategy, and then implement the policies that we need to achieve those goals.
Thank you very much. Jim Jones, the floor is yours. (Applause.)
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES (RET.): Well, thank you. And good morning, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here to talk about something that is – has been a great interest of all of us here for a long time. Governor Huntsman, thank you for your leadership of the Atlantic Council.
And I’d like to recognize Barrel Pavel and our new Deputy Director Dan Shue for their commitment to building this strategic initiative. Both of them bring great experience at senior levels in the Department of Defense and at the NSC in strategy formulation. And I think the ambition of the Scowcroft Center to build a strategy initiative is something that is sorely needed in a city that is governed by tactical decisions from day to day.
Steve and General Scowcroft, and Fred, Jenny (sp), and everyone else here, thank you for your participation and your ideas with regard to developing this concept. This vision for creating a strategy initiative comes from really a growing bipartisan realization that we’re living, as General Scowcroft said and as Steve emphasized, in a historic moment in our role in the world and in our relations around the world.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Global Trends 2030 report outlined a world in transition, where emerging powers and powered individuals, challenge to democratic norms and standards, new technologies, global competition, scarcity of food and resources. And that report came to two conclusions. One is that the future was unclear but the world was changing very quickly – and in many respects more quickly than we could adjust to those changes. And second, that American engagement and leadership, or lack thereof, would be critical in affecting and determining that global future.
But as General Scowcroft said, for the United States to participate and to lead, it must know where it wants to go. And it must have some common principles and ideals to govern its actions and policies. And more importantly, I think it must be properly organized. And I would submit that one of the major characteristics of the current vacuum of – absence of strategic leadership has to do with the basic organization that we have in our government, which is – was organized for a 20th century challenge but finds itself having very difficult times in dealing with the rapidly globalized world – the rapidly changing globalized world and the challenges that go with it.
So for me, the fundamental question if you’re dealing with strategy is where do we want to be in 2050? That’s a very simple question, but strategic thinking involves long-range thinking. And General Scowcroft frequently reminds the Atlantic Council that during the Cold War, as he said this morning, the U.S. and its allies had a common strategy for the era and we argued over the right tactics.
But today we debate tactical actions but lack a common strategy or common principles to guide our actions. And this isn’t for lack of trying, but we – and we have able and talented dedicated government officials who are working hard at this. But the speed and the – and the rotation of the globe and the speed of events on the – on the global rotation are taxing – are taxing everyone and presenting huge challenges in trying to deal with that.
Steve and I relieved each other from – or, I relieved Steve as national security adviser. I tried to challenge the National Security Council staff to think strategically and to stay out of the day-to-day tactical implementation or micromanagement. And we tried to bring new centers and directorates to the NSC to modernize our global engagement for the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century.
But too often, the urgency of crisis management – as Steve just said – trumped our ability to act strategically as we had hoped, despite best efforts. And that’s why I think an organization like a think tank, like the Atlantic Council, and like Universities – I notice Admiral Stavridis here – you know, those institutions are the ones, I think, that are going to have the time and the staying power to really think and make a huge contribution here to our future of strategic thinking.
As a matter of fact, upon leaving the White House I have seriously suggested to the president what he needed was two national security staffs and two national security advisors, so they could – they could stay on every 12 hours and just – and just take – and relieve each other, because the world – while half the world is sleeping half the world is awake. And you come to work the next morning and all you do is try to spend your next 12 hours catching up with what happened in the previous 12 hours. So obviously not implemented, but it’s something to think about. And it actually represents just the volume of work that is required.
The reality is that we do need a strategic debate and formulation to come from outside the government, where bright minds are less seized with the tyranny of the inbox. So it’s my hope and expectation that this Atlantic Council Strategy Initiative can bring serious bipartisan debate on national strategy to our country as we look towards our next election cycle.
There is no shortage of questions I hope this initiative will explore, including by not limited to: How does – how can the United States harness its newfound energy abundance and new technologies into the formulation of a national – a real national energy strategy to further energy security and prosperity around the world? How can we reform our global engagement to promote a whole-of-society approach that really brings to bear all elements of national power, to include our private sector and civil society, as well as our military? What impact will emerging and disruptive technologies have on the global future, and how can we leverage American technical expertise to help solve global challenges and spread our values? And how can our nation renew and rejuvenate its traditional alliances to tackle 21st century challenges, including the very strong historical relationship we’ve had with NATO?
So a vigorous and bipartisan debate on these and other strategic questions can’t wait. They are here now. The numerous crises we face that have been mentioned in Ukraine and the greater Middle East, in the emerging Africa, in our own hemisphere, just to name a few, will not accommodate the political calendar. So I look forward to this discussion that will follow and to hearing Jim Miller and Steve Biegun offer their thoughts on the strategic challenges that lie ahead. And I thank you very much for being here ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: What a – what a terrific introduction for our initiative and also for this event today. As most of you know, I’m Fred Kempe. I’m president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. Thanks to Steve Hadley and General Jones, Jim, for your great remarks. Steve, maybe we did take a vacation from strategy, but we’re back from vacation. This is – this is back from vacation.
I really enjoyed what Steve was talking about in terms of strategic competition. I think there’s things that have already been said that the two of you may want to come back to, the two alternative models. We talk a lot about the – at the Atlantic Council about a defining moment in history saying that the moment we’re in right now could be as important as 1919, 1945, 1989.
Clearly, we got it pretty wrong 1919 and we ended up World War II, the Holocaust, fascism, a period of relative disengagement, isolationism. 1945 really got it right. We still had the Cold War – if you’re sitting in the Baltics maybe it didn’t look like we got it all that right, but creating the Bretton Woods institutions, United Nations, European Coal and Steel Community, NATO, and ultimately setting ourselves up for a Cold War victory many years later. 1989, somewhere in between, I suppose. And right now, the real question is, can we come up with a strategy for this period of time to navigate this inflection point in history?
If all you do is crisis management, says Steve Hadley, all you will get is crisis. General Jones, we debate tactical actions but we lack a common strategy. This is also what General Scowcroft said to me as we set this up. He said: I want to Scowcroft Center not doing just policy, but strategy, because you really can’t figure out the policy unless you do the strategy. And that was relatively easy, I suppose, in the – in the Cold War where the strategy of containing the Soviet Union, communism, was there. It came about over a period of time starting in 1945 and evolving through the Cuban Missile Crisis. But we landed on a containment strategy.
So I guess as we talked – maybe we can get to these crucial questions that George Shultz was asking and that Steve Hadley reminded us about – which is what are we – what are we trying to achieve and how are we trying – where do we want to go and how do we want to get there? Let me introduce these two speakers and we’ll get started right away. This really reflects the bipartisan notion that we think any strategy has to have. One of the impediments to reaching a national strategy could be political polarization in this town. You really do have to have a consensus around this sort of thing.
Jim Miller, as president of Adaptive Strategies, spent the last 30 years in national security, half in government, the other half in think tanks, academia, private sector. His most recent position was undersecretary of defense for policy. Worked in Congress as well as DOD and started his career as a senior staff to House Armed Service Committee Chairman Les Aspin. Bipartisan, even though he’s worked for two Democratic presidents, under those two Democratic presidents he worked for three Republicans secretaries – so Secretary Cohen, Secretary Gates and Secretary Hagel.
Then we’ll hear from Steve Biegun. Both of them will give short opening comments. Long-time Republican foreign policy advisor working many years on the staff of the foreign – House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate majority leader, National Security Council in the Bush administration. Outside foreign policy advisor to the Republican candidate for president in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 – so if you’d like to call the next election during this discussion feel free to do so. And Steve was also in the Republican Party platform committee, a foreign policy subcommittee staff director of the Republican conventions in Philadelphia 2004, McCain campaign liaison to foreign policy platform subcommittee at the convention then.
So I think we have a lot of expertise, not just in how do you get stuff done in government and how do you implement what everyone’s talking about this morning, but also I think within this perhaps you can also address, is the American public ready for this discussion right now? And what kind of role do you think foreign policy is going to play in the 2016 campaign? So why don’t you get us started, Jim, and then we’ll move to Steve.
JAMES N. MILLER: Great, Fred. Thanks very much. And congratulations and thanks to the Atlantic Council for taking on this effort. I’m very pleased to be a part of it.
I do want to say at the outset that in addition to having the honor or working for Secretaries Cohen, Gates and Hagel, I also had the honor to work for Secretary Leon Panetta, who appointed me – who asked the president to appoint me as undersecretary. And I had a great time and a great experience working for him as well. I also want to make clear at the outset that I will not be speaking for the Democratic Party or for the administration or for any potential candidates. And so with that, let me give some high-level comments and leave the details for the question and answer period.
From my perspective, and very unfortunately in my 30 years in and out of government, I’ve never seen as much rancor as we see today between the administration and the Congress, between Democrats and Republicans. Some of you may recall or have read – Will Rogers said some 80 years ago, and I’ll quote him: There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. (Laughter.) I don’t aim that at the administration at all, I just – I left relatively recently. But as we look at our government as a whole, that means the administration and Congress and our ability to act coherently, and we’re way past the point of humor, I’ll say that.
Henry Kissinger said a few weeks ago when he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the period that we’re in today is the most challenging, in his view, since the immediate post-war – post-World War II period. I would agree with that. At the same time we face these massive challenges – (coughs) – excuse me – we also have incredible opportunities and strengths for U.S. leadership. We have strong allies and friends globally ranging from the historic NATO alliance to long-time friendships that are growing stronger, such as with India.
We have an incredibly dynamic economy driven by innovation and our ability to exploit technologies, including cyber, biotech and many others. As was referred to earlier, we have increasing energy independence. And if we are able to use that to our advantage it will further strengthen our national security, as well as that of our allies and friends. We have the strongest military in the world – indeed, in the history of the world, despite the challenges that it’s facing under sequestration and being spread thin. And we have not just a dynamic private sector, but an incredible nonprofit sector that is having impact across the globe.
So these are incredible advantages. Despite those advantages, we’re currently punching below our weight globally. And again, the Atlantic Council’s work on strategy and supporting bipartisanship I hope will contribute to setting a better direction. Democrats and Republicans agree that the United States must lead and – as each of the previous speakers outlined, Fred – that what the strategy needs to do is to set those goals and to find the ways to achieve them.
And bipartisanship, broadly with respect to strategy and then with respect to key elements of that strategy, is going to be needed in order to set the direction and in order to sustain that direction, and indeed to adjust over time because one of the – one of the challenges of establishing a political consensus to move forward is that sometimes you get locked in a little bit. And so having that bipartisan support to make adjustments, as we will need to in a number of areas, is important as well.
And finally, I want to say we also need a strategy in a – in a difference sense, and in a – in a – in the sense of domestic politics, and that is for gaining support of the American people and of – across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, for a national strategy – a national security strategy, and for key elements. And I think that a key part of that is going to be building consensus point by point where we can have it build on the areas where there is current agreement, look to move forward where there’s sufficient agreement, even if it’s by a 51-50 vote in the Senate, but to look forward and to – and to press on those areas.
We have some of those. I’d be glad to speak to them in the Q&A, but in the interests of brevity I’ll stop there and be glad to pick up after Steve speaks.
MR. KEMPE: Great, Jim. Thanks very much.
And then let me just say, before going to Steve, that even though Steve and Jim were senior leaders of Republican and Democratic national security establishments, both of them have a long history of working across – working in bipartisan manner to achieve our national interests. So that’s exactly what we try to project day-to-day at the council. So, Steve, please.
STEPHEN E. BIEGUN: Thank you, Fred. And thank you, Jim. And it’s great to be here as well. And let me add to the compliments to the Atlantic Council, not only on the substance of what you’re doing here, but also the timing, because the foreign policy debate has begun for the 2016 race. You don’t need to look any farther than the Republican field to arrive at that conclusion.
I just – in advance of making these remarks, I looked to a political website I check occasionally. And right now in the Republican race, we have, in alphabetical order – or expecting in the Republican race: John Bolton, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Bob Ehrlich, Mark Everson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsay Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Peter King, Sarah Palin, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Rick Snyder and Scott Walker.
It is a big Republican field. And by the way, they’re getting ready on foreign policy. We’ve already seen foreign policy speeches. We’ve seen overseas visits. We’ve seen campaigns floating advisers and even putting together paid staff on their political action committees to prepare for a presidential run. So timing is upon us. By August, Republican candidates will be debating each other to run on the Republican ticket in 2016.
Obviously, that group of names covers a lot of foreign policy perspective. To answer Fred’s question right up front, I expect foreign policy to be a really big issue in this campaign. And I don’t think it was a very big issue in the last two campaigns. Domestic economic issues by far trumped foreign policy. But this time, foreign policy’s back and it’s going to be back with a vengeance.
I don’t presume to speak for any Republicans, but I’ll – and I’m certainly not going to handicap the candidates here today, but I do want to talk a little bit about the lens through which the Republican candidates will be viewed, and then – and then ultimately come back to some of the broader principles that Atlantic Council’s looking at.
The first test is going to be experience. I think the public and the commentators are going to look to see previous involvement of the candidates in foreign policy, the degree to which they’ve been engaged in the debate, where they’ve traveled, their international economic involvement, governing experience, military background, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – all the classic qualifiers that people will look at on foreign policy. And some of them will have more, some will have less. Some of them governed at the state level some of them are governing at the federal level. So their responsibilities may be different.
A second thing – a second lens, I think, through which the candidates are going to be viewed is just how – their process, how they – how they manage, what kind of leadership they demonstrate. Also, it’ll be validated by endorsements or hints of likely officials in administration, although I suspect that’s more likely in the general election than in the primaries.
And lastly and most importantly is the substance, the issues that are going to drive this debate. And because I think foreign policy is going to be a big issue in the campaign, I think foreign policy is going to be an area where the candidates are going to be seeking to distinguish themselves from each other.
Now, for the most part I think there’s going to be very little daylight – there will be nuances, but I think there’s going to be very little daylight on most of the foreign policy issues that the Republicans debate amongst themselves – things like free trade, climate change, Middle East/Israel issues, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Latin America generally, Africa generally, the importance of rededicating ourselves to the Asia-Pacific region – I think these – there’s going to be very little daylight between Republicans. I also think on defense spending there’s going to be a pretty strong consensus on the Republican side to remove caps on defense spending.
I think it’ll be important to focus on where the daylight on. And this is – this is going to be interesting. Certainly there will be distinction of views on China – although, China will be a little – I think – my view is China will be treated a little bit differently in this debate than it had been in some previous years, less polarizing, more a question about America’s role in Asia than China, per se. Iraq, Syria – ISIL’s going to clearly be a big issue.
And that’s going to tie more broadly into America’s role in the world. And that really is going to be the central issue for this debate. Are we going to be a muscular power or are we going to be a collaborative power supporting the international order? Are we overextended? Are we going to seek to retreat? And I think Republicans are going to have to sort this out amongst themselves.
And then I think this’ll be a general election issue as well. There are some other issues – when we deploy the military, surveillance versus individual privacy – these are issues that’ll also have some daylight in the Republican field. So let me – let me wrap up with a couple of thoughts on what I would hope for in the months ahead from the Republican foreign policy debate and also what I think we all have a responsibility to contribute to that.
Ideally, a substantive debate where we see a sense of vision and direction from our candidates, in my view, to support a strong and leading role for America in a complex world. We want our candidates to show intelligence and awareness that they can understand these complex issues and they can connect them to the interests of the American people and they can connect that with the voting public. I think all three of those parts are very important – not just the vision, but the ability to connect the vision to our nation’s interest and our nation’s interests to the voting public.
Obviously, a demonstrated ability to govern is going to be a critical issue. By that, I mean the ability and competence to lead the nation itself, but also the ability to work collaboratively with the other party whenever possible, and the ability to make the executive congressional process, relationship work, and the ability to earn the respect of friends and allies abroad and also the attention and the caution of our adversaries.
I certainly hope as few self-inflicted wounds as possible by the Republican candidates, but it’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. There will be misstatements that are defended to the last breath. There will be policy positions that will be taken for political expedience that candidates will later have to try wriggle out of as president. So I think – you know, I think in general we want a very engaged foreign policy debate and I appreciate you creating a platform.
Let me conclude with what I expect from us – and by “us” I mean me and Jim and Fred and everybody in this room, that we have responsibility here too as contributors and commentators and even participants. I’m sure many people in this room will be aligned with candidates or working for candidates in the months ahead. I think we need to energetically engage in the debate. We need to bring the ideas, like the Atlantic Council’s putting out here. We need to be judicious in how we express those views and the words we choose. And we also have to be humble in recognizing that there isn’t a single answer on how to exercise America’s national security interests in this incredibly complex world.
I hope we don’t idealize the debate. You know, I too share this ideal of bipartisanship, but collaborative and broad support for American foreign policy, but let’s not idealize the debate. I’ve only been here since the 1980s, but I’ve seen the Latin America debates, I’ve seen arms control debates. I’ve seen the contest of ideas in the political process, and even in the governing process. And it can be contentious and bitter. Now, I think we all agree that the execution of that policy with the broadest support possible – what we call bipartisanship, but I would call shared interests beyond bipartisanship – is the most effective way to execute that policy. But don’t idealize the debate. It’s going to be contentious. And quite honestly, it should be. It’s a democracy.
Don’t expect any candidate – particularly in the Republican primary – to have a fully formed world vision and lay out a grand strategy that we can all embrace. That’s not what the process produces. I’d also say, be respectful of the men and women who put themselves forward in this process. I’ve had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall and see these candidates in the small towns and far corners of the world presenting their views before adoring crowds, and then ultimately accepting the judgment of the voters, win or lose, at the end of the electoral process. And you have to have a lot of respect for the stamina and resilience of the candidates who will run this race in the months ahead.
And lastly, perhaps unnecessarily, don’t forget the majesty of the process that we’re about to embark upon. Having seen it through the various campaigns that I’ve had the opportunity to work on, to watch as our leaders seek to gain the consent of the governed, is something that doesn’t leave you despising or resenting people who live in other systems. It actually – it leaves you kind of sad that they don’t have that ability. So this is a majestic process. These ideas – grand strategy, vision, foreign policy – will all play out in that process. And I think we all can play a very active role in contributing to it, including the Atlantic Council. Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Jim. Do you want to make any other comment on what you’ve said – heard Steve say? And then I want to go straight to the audience.
MR. MILLER: Fred, just one comment, I guess. And that is, as Steve describes, the contentious nature of policy development, strategy development, not just within a party but within an existing government and in a broader context involving think tanks, academia and the American public – I think that’s right and it’s important. And it is not new, nor should it be thought of as new.
One of the things that I think is also not new, but has risen to inappropriate levels is gotcha politics. And to the extent that we can have debates on the – on the merits of the issues and reduce the degree of gotcha politics that’s involved in this process, I think it would be important and very helpful for the future security of the United States.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Jim.
Questions, please. And wait for – if you can wait for – identify yourself and to whom you’d like to address the question.
Q: Dr. Kempe, thank you so much. My name is Ali Wyne. I’m with the RAND Corporation.
And I wanted to ask: A lot has been made of the American public’s war weariness after almost 15 years preoccupied in the Middle East. And I wonder if – number one, if you believe that that diagnosis of an American public that’s reluctant to engage abroad is accurate? And if so, is it part of the cycles of activism and retrenchment that we see in the American public, or do you think that there is a fundamental shift afoot in the American public’s view of America’s role in the world and how we should engage? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Good question.
MR. MILLER: Sure. I do see some war weariness on the part of the American public, but you see it shifting even month-to-month. For example, a few months ago there was fairly strong public opposition to the United States taking a strong role vis-à-vis ISIL or ISIS. That has shifted over time, and appropriately so because I believe our leadership is essential in that regard. If you – if you look at the possibility of a large-scale, long-term operation, analogous to Iraq or Afghanistan, I think that weariness in a sense is still there.
But the reality is that we need to continue to be prepared as a country and as a military to conduct a full range of not just military operations, but a full range of national security operations. And part of leadership is to bring the public along. And that means starting the conversation today or yesterday, not starting it on – when we’re on the brink of an intervention.
MR. KEMPE: Steve.
MR. BIEGUN: I think public sentiment, like you described, is very important, but it should be viewed in the context of both electoral politics as well as governing. And in the case of electoral politics, I think our candidates are compelled to lay out with as much precision as possible how they would intend to address crises, taking into consideration the view of the American public in that, because that’s – you know, ultimately they’re seeking to win their support.
Where I get weary is in – where I get a little bit leery is in governing when a leader would point to that public opinion as a reason to not act, because I think – I think the compelling responsibility of a leader is to engage that point of view, shape it, lead it – you might not win. And certainly, our congressional legislative – congressional legislative role in foreign policy and national security is a manifestation of that. That’ll be a test of the governing view.
There was a weariness in the United States in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. But the president of the United States went to the United States Congress and won the support of both bodies of Congress for an authorization to use force, and at circumstances which I would argue America was likewise war weary. They were waiting for the payoff of the peace dividend, not looking for another engagement overseas.
MR. KEMPE: General Scowcroft, sitting in the front row, played a crucial role at that point, as we all know as well.
Q: Thank you. I’m Jeff Soule with the American Planning Association. I spent the last 20 years working on global urbanization.
And my question is, given ISIS’s destruction of cultural heritage and the use of illicit artifacts to fund their reign of terror, what’s it going to take to get the U.S. government to re-engage the international cultural community and fund UNESCO?
MR. BIEGUN: The – I don’t – I don’t think the destruction of the artifacts is going to be the driving factor in the debate on to what degree the United States funds UNESCO. But I do think it is going to be one of a range of consideration that drives a more activist American foreign policy. Obviously the killing of innocents is a far more compelling issue for all of us, than even the horrendous destruction of our historical artifacts, which simply illustrates the barbarism of the people doing it.
You know, the UNESCO debate is going to be – not going to be debated in the Republican primary. But I have heard the UNESCO issue come up in the Republican platform committee before, more so in previous decades when it was a place where competing visions were played out. I don’t think it’s where you’re going to see these competing visions played out in the future. So if there’s a good reason to fund UNESCO, I’m sure you’ll win governing support for that.
MR. KEMPE: Let me push the two of you on something that grew out of the opening comments. The – because I don’t think you quite got there in your opening comments. So to answer the Steve Hadley/George Shultz question – what do we want to achieve? And them we’ll get to the how do we get there, but does a strategy present itself? And I know we’re not – you probably won’t finalize it right now, but how do you come up with that?
And then I’d like to get to General Jones’ point, which is you both spent time in government, Congress. Is it possible right now to be strategic? Or is it, with so much coming at you all the time and so many various crises, is one compelled to do crisis management, painting the sort of picture that General Jones did of what comes at you, what comes at Susan Rice and that kind of – so this is all nice theoretically, but then how do you execute it? So what do you want to achieve? Can one execute it?
MR. MILLER: Fred, from a – from a strategy perspective I think that the conversations and concepts that have been put forward by the Atlantic Council at this point are important. And so – just to highlight one of them, and that is that while we’re not in a post-Westphalian world, that the dynamics are changing and our objectives need to be – while we want to support international institutions, strengthen international institutions, we need to recognize that they need to adapt and that we will need to adapt over time as well, not just in – not just in how we – how we support the, but now we operate.
The long-term goal of a stable international order in which – in which a countries are able to engage in free trade and are able to settle disputes without the use of force – use or threat of force remains valid. And one of the big changes that we have today is that – not just the redistribution of power among states, but the diffusion of power from states to nonstate actors. Part of our strategy needs to be, as I suggested in my remarks, I think, as a country is to engage those positive forces from think tanks to foundations with deep pockets to many others more effectively, and working with international institutions.
On the question of is it possible to be strategic, the answer, of course, is – I believe is yes. It’s incredibly difficult, and yet if you look at someone’s calendar, they’re making at a lower level strategic choices every day about how to allocate their time, that can be difficult choices. But if time is carved out – and I actually believe, from my experience, it – in most weeks it was carved out on the national security adviser’s calendar for looking into the – into the long term during this administration. It is possible to – and it’s necessary to carve out that time. And it means pushing more issues that can be delegated out to the agencies and departments. And that’s a place where this administration has been criticized. And it’s a place where – I could think of examples where it could – it could go further in that regard.
Final quick comment on this issue, as you think about allocation of time: It would be very difficult to overstate the cost in terms of time and ability to think strategically of the gotcha politics I mentioned previously. And I’ll just single out Benghazi as an example. It was a very serious outcome. It deserved deep and continuing study. This is the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four, including our ambassador there. But it’s – when it comes to the point where it dominates the conversation between the administration and the Congress for months, and where other issues are shunted to the side, I think that – I think that as a nation we need to think about reprioritization of how we allocate our time, and that Congress has a responsibility as well in focusing on strategic issues.
Final sentence on that, I give great credit to John McCain for kicking off his Senate Armed Services Committee hearings with a look at strategy and bringing in a number of people from the outside to get their views.
MR. KEMPE: OK.
MR. BIEGUN: Strategy is something that’s built, it’s not born. And in building it, I think it starts – it has to start with the president of the United States. Who the president will be is instrumental in arriving at a strategy that person’s experiences, preferences, world view, their qualities drives that in the United States government. And so you have to start with the president. You can have a process that breathes life into the strategy or that executes the president’s vision. That process can be more or less efficient. That – you could have the strategy and not have the execution.
I think Steve talked about the phenomenon of the instruments of foreign policy being consumed with the issues of the day. I think strategy also will have a lot of euphemisms – a vision, a plan, a – you know, a world view. All those are to some degree euphemisms about a strategy, but I also think oftentimes – and this would be maddening for the people who have to execute foreign policy – strategy is often more recognizable in retrospect than looking forward. And the real challenge is to be able to create strategy that, going forward, can – the instruments of foreign policy can enact. And so I think – I think you can, but I also think it’s difficult.
And the one – just a pet peeve of mine in the national security strategy, which is intended to address this issue, it always struck me as odd that the presidents were required under Goldwater-Nichols to create a new strategy every year. It just – it’s a mismatch. Strategy is dynamic, but you don’t come up with a new strategy every year. You should have a strategy and you should adjust, adapt, execute along the way.
MR. KEMPE: Makes sense. Please. I see here and then over there. Please, yeah.
Q: Hi. My name is Sharyn Bovat, Voice of a Moderate.
And just – I talked to a lot of average people that don’t have a lot of time, that they want strategy, they want to go back to that era where they had the general with the map. I don’t know – remember the Gulf War, and General Schwarzkopf said we’re doing this, this, this – whatever he could say? And I think they believe – the people that have been talking to for an article – is they don’t think there is a strategy. They think there really hasn’t been a strategy in two decades. And the American people are frustrated. So I don’t think they’re war weary, I think they just want something laid out in paper that’s achievable. So if you can do that, I think that would be fantastic. And put in one paragraph so I can share it with my readers. Thank you. (Laughter.)
MR. KEMPE: The – we’ve had a few appeals to turn a lot of what we’re doing into a paragraph or two. But I actually think that’s – that is part of the challenge for a U.S. leader, is to – is to do that, to boil it down. And that’s the tricky thing. When, as General Jones was saying, you have all these things going on. 1945, we had 50 percent of global GDP. We now have 18 percent of global GDP, going down. We, together with our allies – our European allies, have 40-45 percent of GDP, used to up to two-thirds.
Does that just require a whole different way of articulating and executing strategy, when the U.S. just isn’t going to have, can’t have the role of dominance that it had in past phases, where it was difficult enough to shape the world?
MR. MILLER: Fred, my view is that the United States made enormous contributions, not just to our own security but to the security of our – of our allies in Europe and our allies in Asia after World War II. And we invested a tremendous amount through the Marshall Plan and through a number of other areas. We were – we actually were reeling, in a sense –
MR. KEMPE: And God knows there was war weariness then.
MR. MILLER: There was war weariness, and there was concern about where the economy was going. In the rearview mirror it looks like it must have been an easy choice. It was dedication of a substantial fraction of our – of our GDP at the time, as you – as you know well, to that effort.
So in today’s world the idea of a Marshall Plan on that scale across the globe doesn’t make sense, both because of this – the relative situation of us vis-à-vis our allies and partners and because of the diverse nature of the challenges that we have. However, the idea of working to build on our alliances and partnerships, to strengthen them not just as future instruments for us to pursue our aims but to strengthen them in the name of international order and to – and to continue to work to raise the bar on what our allies and partners contribute – as challenging as that is.
And each of the three secretaries of defense is one example. Each of the three secretaries for whom I worked in my five years of government most recently is part of – their core message to NATO was you need to boost your defense spending, right? Get to your 2 percent target. And you know that right now we have two of our allies that are – that are reaching that. It doesn’t mean it’s – it doesn’t – the fact that we haven’t succeeded yet doesn’t mean we should stop on that, nor does it mean we should continue to work with our allies and partners to help them build their capacity to pursue our common objectives.
MR. KEMPE: So, Steve, can you do one paragraph – one paragraph of what it ought to be? And maybe even run a – you know, tip of the hat to Barry Pavel who’s running this has vice president of the Atlantic Council, head of the Scowcroft Center, and Dan Shue, his deputy. Maybe we ought to run a little bit of a contest and do a little bit of an effort to see if we can – we can get the public involved in this process that we’re going through. It’d be interesting to see what comes in. But – Steve.
MR. BIEGUN: Yeah. So I’m not going to take a stab at the one paragraph, but I will say that the – you know, I will say that the one paragraph is what candidates need to do with the American public. And so, you know, we should all expect to some extent to be able to understand what the next candidates for the president, how they communicate this. And I imagine most people’s attention span will be about one paragraph, so they’ve got to be able to do it concisely and convincingly.
On the – on America’s role in a changing world, you know, I think there are both challenges and opportunities that come from that. And I think you could – you could see slightly less American GDP in the world and still a stronger influence of America in the world. I don’t think that’s at all contradictory. Also, you can see more shoulders to the wheel.
I thought one of the – one of the most interesting speeches on China was Bob Zoellick’s responsible stakeholder speech, which confounded the Chinese government, because Bob was at the same time expressing a sense of respect for a growing influence of China in the world, but an expectation of what that – how that growing influence needed to be translated.
So I wouldn’t – you know, I don’t want to hold China up as an example of people who have their shoulder to the wheel with us. You know, there’s a lot of challenges there. But nonetheless, I think looking at how we leverage the changing world is both – has some – has some challenges but has opportunities as well.
MR. KEMPE: Governor Huntsman, we had some discussion in China on how to translate stakeholder at that time too, right?
Q: Mike Mosettig, PBS Online NewsHour.
I’m just back from six weeks traveling around in Asia. And so I was particularly struck by Steve Hadley’s comment about a component of strategy is what the United States is to the rest of the world. And I don’t know how much your – all your various committees and everything are going to focus on, you know, what’s going on here, because I talked to a lot of people over there.
And one the one hand – and traveled in a lot of airports. And just speaking about airports, the third world begins at JFK Airport. (Laughter.) And then also, again, talked to a lot of kids. A lot of them would love to come to America, but I don’t speak to a single person in Asia who suggested that their country should adopt our form of government.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah. Governor Huntsman, did you – not on that, but did you want to step in on some of these other issues? OK, great. Questions, please. Ambassador.
Q: I’m ambassador of Korea.
And that was very interesting question coming from young lady back in the room, and it was about the one sentence – if you could sum up what we wish to do in one sentence. And I was just reminded of what President Obama is saying all these days, which is: United States must continue to be an indispensable nation, but we cannot do it alone. And then I was listening to Steve when you said another shoulder on the wheel, what the expression. And I said to myself, maybe we need more shoulders on the wheel.
But getting back to what you said, you highlighted some of the points on which there will be – there will be no daylight on what Republican candidates. And then you also highlighted some of the points you expect some daylight. And I was extremely gratified when you said on issues of the first category, where there – when – where there wouldn’t be any daylight, that will be rebalance to Asia. And then I remind myself, we are at the Atlantic Council. And it’s extremely gratifying to hear you say that.
But at the same time, on some of the points you expect you certain daylight you said China. So could you elaborate a little bit about what you meant?
MR. KEMPE: OK, thank you for that. And thank you for coming, Mr. Ambassador. I see several ambassadors. And we hope to engage you very much in this process. And we’re also running a parallel process in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East on Middle Eastern strategy, where we started it by talking to the ambassadors from the region. And so I hope we’ll be able to engage you all in this process.
MR. BEIGUN: So, Ambassador, just to give a little historical context, in my – just in my career here I’ve seen the debate, if you will, about U.S.-China relations evolve over three decades. In the 1980s China a growing strategic partner of the United States of America. In the 1990s there was a sense of both economic and even civilizational contest – it was a very polarizing political debate, particularly ignited by the Tiananmen Square events, but also playing out as the – as our economy and the Chinese economy recalibrated based upon an opening of the Chinese economy.
That debate into, if I can – and I’m simplifying here – into the new decade of this century became one of how to engage China in support of the global order. That manifested itself in everything from China’s entry into WTO to Bob Zoellick’s speech, which I referenced. And now I think, starting with even this administration, the debate is about America’s role in Asia. And China is a key factor in that.
Now, I’m not going to bore down on the particular issues – the territorial disputes or even the growing military capabilities of China – which are going to consume the next administration, and consume this administration for that matter. But America’s role in Asia, I think, will be the place where this plays out. And to some extent, this will be seen by Republicans – and here, I’m talking about – you know, I want to be very clear. I’m talking about what I think will be the Republican debate and the Republican primary debate, which is two qualifiers.
I think Republicans will argue about whether economic engagement with China is beneficial or whether we need to push back systemically. This is one of the – one of the examples that’s often cited with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement by President Obama is that either we set the rules or China sets the rules. That’s a – that’s a – by the way, that’s a one-paragraph explanation and I think the president’s using it effectively.
I think this fatigue that was raised before is – can apply to Asia-Pacific as much as Europe or the Middle East. Are we going to resource an American presence in the Asia-Pacific region that reflects the interests that I think many of us in this room would think that the United States has there. These will be places where Republicans will be debating. I don’t think there’s one view in the Republican Party on either of those issues.
MR. KEMPE: Jim.
MR. MILLER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks for your question. Very good to see you. I would just add very broadly that the importance of moving forward on TPP, as Steve referenced, and as we see the majority of global economic growth coming from – coming from the region, including your country, and the strong interest that we have in – not just in participating in that for our own sake, as Americans, but to promote free trade for the region. And I agree with the comment that Steve summarized from the president regarding either we set the rules or others will.
At the same time, I think it’s important to understand the real security threat that’s – that are posed in the region, and – with North Korea being obviously an immediate one with its nuclear aspirations and capabilities. And so the – both the economic engagement and military presence are important. And they should reinforce, in the sense that our military engagement should, in addition to defending our allies and partners in the region and supporting their defense, should support a rules-based approach to dealing with disputes over territory, over economic issues and so forth. So incredibly important, in my view, that not just this administration but following administrations continue the so-called rebalance.
MR. KEMPE: OK. I’m going to pick up – now I’m seeing even more questions. One here and one here.
Very quickly on China, you saw the report in The Financial Times today about the U.K. joining the infrastructure bank that China’s set up, and the U.S. apparently being quite unhappy about this. I think these are going to be key questions, is do we see in this inflection point China going it alone? And have we done enough to bring China into existing institutions, or are we going to have to have parallel institutions at worst, or at – or in a situation where China is not really putting its shoulder into the existing institutions? So I think that’s going to be a big area of work for us, but also for whomever – the current president and whomever’s next elected.
Q: Thanks. Matt Horn (sp). I’ll be brief.
We were talking about the divisive issues. Iran is going to be – it’s a huge issue now. It’ll be a huge issue in 2016. How do you square the recent letter by the Republicans in the Senate with the work of the administration and the P-5 plus one? And what does it tell our allies and our foes? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Maybe you can also spread that out to the larger question of how do – how does Congress and what’s going on in Congress fit into this picture that you’re – that you’re painting for the future?
MR. BIEGUN: You – on the – you know, the Iran letter, the 47-senator letter on Iran clearly created a lot of turbulence. But I think it’s very important not to look at that in isolation. I think it’s part of a process that seems not to be working, to use understatement. The congressional-executive relationship really does not seem to be working in any way, shape or form in my perspective. And I think that’s – and I think you have to get to that level to understand how this happens.
You know, on the one hand you have a president who’s stating affirmatively in advance that he will not seek congressional approval for whatever outcome. And you have a Congress that is expressing its views through another means. So something’s not working. And this goes back to my point, one of the things that, you know, I certainly will be looking for in the – in the Republican race I would – I think we would want to see in our next president is the ability to make the executive-congressional relationship work.
That doesn’t mean Congress doesn’t have its own share of responsibilities here. And you know, I don’t – I don’t lay all of the discord at the feet of the executive branch by any stretch of the imagination. But I see the Iran letter as part of a piece. I don’t see it in isolation.
MR. MILLER: I’ll make a comment, briefly. I see both the invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu unilaterally and the letter on Iran as Congress stepping across bounds that it should respect. And it has happened in the past and it’s happened – I don’t – it’s hard to think of one quite as dramatic, although there was a Democratic letter to the Sandinistas, as I recall, that I think back in the day also deserved to – some severe criticism. And so I think that it is a – it is a sign of the challenges, but it’s a magnifier of those challenges a well. And I’m – I guess I should be pleased for the five who didn’t – who didn’t sign.
The question on Iran that’s been asked is for this nuclear deal, and that needs to be asked, is: What is the better, achievable alternative? And we could talk about that in detail, but if we’re – but if we’re able to get a deal that keeps Iran’s breakout time to one year-plus, with an agreed framework plus, plus approach, with very tight verification both on what they’ve declared and the ability for challenges, inspections to what they’ve not declared – my view is that that would be in our national interest and in the interest of the P-5 plus one as well.
If Republicans or anyone else could define an alternative that’s achievable that’s preferable to that, then that’s – in my view, that would be good. An alternative that has indefinite duration of zero centrifuges is not an achievable diplomatic outcome.
MR. KEMPE: So – yes, please.
MR. BIEGUN: Just on that point, I actually don’t agree with Jim on the substance, but I will say that I expect this issue to be one on what these alternatives are that will be – have to be ventilated a little bit in the Republican primary process. I think any candidate that doesn’t have an answer to the question that you just asked isn’t paying attention, because I think this goes back to everything from America’s fatigue to the extent that there is. And I don’t agree with the fatigue argument either, but I recognize this is a factor that is going to shape our foreign policy. How we would address threats, challenges to our interests, like Iran, should be and will be part of this debate. And frankly, I’m looking forward to it.
MR. KEMPE: Great. A 30-second question, this is going to be the last answer. Please. And I’m sorry I didn’t get to several other of you.
Q: Hi. My name is Jan Zeider (ph), and I’m a visiting fellow from Finland and I work in CTR think tank.
My questions is obviously this strategy is going to have implications all over the world. So how to involve European partners to this strategy planning?
MR. BIEGUN: I think effective American – I think effective American foreign policy always starts, first, with a president who’s connected and has the support of the American people, but very quickly then flows to friends and allies in the world. And then it goes to adversaries and challenges. But I see it in concentric circles. So I think this is critically important.
And countries like Finland, which when we talked about kind of a respite from strategy, a respite from grand strategy over a period time – a country like Finland would have been one that would be easily have neglected or forgotten or put into the – put into the least-important category. Finland is now a very important foreign policy issue for the United States of America. Having a strong relationship with not just Finland but Sweden in the context of what’s happening in Russia is a compelling interest for the United States of America.
So when the United States used to pay little attention to the European Union, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and European diplomats would come in and complain at the lack of attention and awareness by the United States, I always would caution, be careful what you’re asking for. And I will say the same to many far corners of the world, that there is a lot that’s changing in the world today. And the next president is going to be looking to countries like Finland and Sweden, that are on the front line of a particularly tough foreign policy challenge with Russia, to play a role in America’s policy considerations, but also to find some joint interests in addressing conflicts like that.
MR. KEMPE: You’ve given me – I think we’ve run out of time – you’ve given me a great place to close though, because the whole reason that it’s good that we’re doing this at the Atlantic Council is we begin from the concept of this not being an American institution, per se, but rather an institution that brings together the U.S. with its friends and allies around the world. And we see this in concentric circles.
We have to bring in our closest allies first on this strategy, because there is no strategy that can work globally when you’ve got 18 percent of GDP and you’ve got a set of challenges all around the world, unless you’re working with your partners. But it’s also why we’ve expanded the Atlantic Council to a set of friends and allies that are way beyond the European realm, because you also can’t have a global strategy without them.
And so – and so I’m glad you asked that question at the end. It’s – we consider you all to be part of this new and expanding strategic community. And please join us as we build this initiative at the Atlantic Council, certainly through the 2016 elections, but then we just really see that as a road map for our work then going forward.
Thanks to all of you for coming. Thanks to the speakers and the panelists. (Applause.)