Foreign Policy Lessons

Derek Chollet is the Principal Deputy Director of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. Prior to joining the State Department, he was a Senior Fellow at The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-resident fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program and an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University. During the Bill Clinton administration, he served in the State Department in several capacities, including as Chief Speechwriter for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, and Special Adviser to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Mr. Chollet also assisted former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher with the research and writing of their memoirs, Holbrooke with his book on the Dayton peace process in Bosnia, and Talbott with his book on U.S.-Russian relations during the 1990s. He was foreign policy adviser to Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), both on his legislative staff and during the 2004 Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign.

Mr. Chollet has been a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at The George Washington University. He is the author, co-author or coeditor of five books on American foreign policy, including The Road to the Dayton Accords: A Study of American Statecraft (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11, coauthored with James Goldgeier (PublicAffairs, 2008). His commentaries and reviews on U.S. foreign policy and politics have appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Washington Monthly, and many other books and publications. Educated at Cornell and Columbia, Mr. Chollet was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska.

  • Transcript


Topic: Foreign Policy Lessons

Derek Chollet: The Cold War had been about containment, containment of the Soviet Union. George Kennan, who was a diplomat and scholar who came up with the phrase “containment” was many ways identified, he was a god among the foreign policy elites. This was the person who had come up with the word and the concept that had basically defined American foreign policy for over four decades and when the Soviet Union collapsed there was a tremendous desire among those in government and out of the government to be the next George Kennan, to come up with that phrase, that bumper sticker that would define not just the world as it was changing, but America’s role in it. Now what’s interesting is Kennan himself during the Cold War was unhappy with the way containment had been used and in his view, abused, and used as a rationale for doing all sorts of things that he didn’t think was in America’s interest. But nevertheless, at the end of the Cold War everyone, from Francis Fukuyama to Samuel Huntington with “The Clash of Civilizations” to George H.W. Bush with the New World Order to Bill Clinton with various versions of bumper stickers, tried to come up with that encapsulating phrase and win what sort of people derided at the time as the Kennan Sweepstakes.



Recorded on: 070/8/2008