How can America restore its reputation abroad?
Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and is currently a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (that includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ambassador Dennis Ross is The Washington Institute's counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow. For more than twelve years, Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; he also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.
A scholar and diplomat with more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ambassador Ross worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. Prior to his service as special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton, Ambassador Ross served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. In that capacity, he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the 1991 Gulf War coalition. During the Reagan administration, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Ambassador Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton, and Secretaries Baker and Albright presented him with the State Department's highest award.
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
We need to be clear about what it takes to be able to get others to join with us.