Question: How can America restore its reputation abroad?
Dennis Ross: The title of the book was not an accident. “Statecraft” is a term that reflects an approach to foreign policy which I became fearful/concerned we had lost in the conduct of our foreign policy. We’ve lost the capacity to identify objectives clearly. We are not connecting our means to our objectives. We don’t frame our issues very well in terms of explaining ourselves to the world in a way that makes what it is we think are the right objectives from their standpoint. We’ve lost, in a sense, an ability to communicate effectively and persuade.
So if we’re going to restore our standing in the world, which is really the subtitle of the book, one of the things we have to start with is being clear about what it is we have to achieve; clear about what it takes to be able to get others to join with us; but also we have to realize again that somehow we have to identify with those larger public goods that those around the world also see as larger public goods. We need to be a leader, certainly not an impeder, of dealing with climate change. We need to be a leader and not a follower when it comes to dealing with the broader questions of poverty.
When three billion people in the world are living on less than $2 a day, and they can’t have access to clean water, this is not only a moral problem – a moral outrage – it also becomes a security problem, because in many places, because of just the grinding poverty, we have failed states. And where there are failed states, then you’re going to find that radical Islamists tend to insinuate themselves.
So if we’re going to reestablish our standing in the world, one of the things we’re going to have to do is, again, reestablish our moral standing. But we also have to make it clear to others that we’re seen as identifying with what others also identify with as being profoundly important issues. What are larger issues of public good?
Recorded on: September 12, 2007