Thursday, December 14, 2006

Keynote Address: Bush Foreign Policy- The Next Stage

Event Title: Bush Foreign Policy: The Next Stage, Keynote Address
Sponsor: Stanley Foundation Conference on National and Global Security
Location: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Date: December 7, 2006
Time: 9:00-10:00am
Approximate Number of Attendees: 60
Intern Attending: Ava Jones

Speaker: Stobe Talbott, President of Brookings Institution.

Mr. Talbott believes that US strength is uncertain. It has been diminished because we are held in low regard around the world, seen as a country needing to be contained, and because international institutions are in an advanced state of disrepair due to disillusionment with the US over the war in Iraq. Our disregard for international law, institutions, treaties, and alliances further hurts our standing in the world. We have squandered our strength to topple a totalitarian regime which has turned into a failed state with a civil war and security vacuum. These problems exist not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan. Right now our focus should be looking forward to determine what steps we should be taking.

In the best case scenario we can rescue Iraq from complete failure. To do this we will need maximum help, collaboration, trust, and goodwill from the international community. We also need to learn from the failed structure of unilateralism: going in light militarily, dismantling the army and police, excessive reliance on exiles, and the use of Saddam’s prisons to torture.

Mr. Talbott expressed some skepticism about the ability of the US to save Iraq; It may be too far gone and out of our control. He states that our “search for new policy is driven primarily by exigencies of American politics without regard to Iraqi politics.” Finally, in looking at Iraq in a larger context we notice that the problems there are symptomatic of the problems in larger US foreign policy.

He offered four suggestions on how to manage this foreign policy problem. Firstly, he stated that we need a broad overhaul of US foreign policy, including a change of course in Iraq. We need to rely more on diplomacy, repair relations with our allies, strengthen international institutions like the UN, and take a new look at arms control and proliferation treaties such as START, NPT, CTBT. Secondly, we need to endorse international law. The US should sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Thirdly, we need to engage with the UN Human Rights Council. It is imperative for us to address the treatment of our prisoners and detainees and that includes developing an exit strategy from Guantanamo Bay. We should also firmly abide by the Geneva Convention; the interpretation of this convention should not be left up to the President. Lastly, we need to address climate change. A new policy for global warming will be evidence of a new foreign policy. A successor to the Kyoto Protocol is needed.

The next year of Bush’s presidency will be key to helping the new administration in 2008. The foreign policy decisions he makes will impact not only US strength in the world, but also the legacy of the war in Iraq.

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