Sunday, September 21, 2008

Five Secretaries of State: Advice to the New President, on CNN

CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Frank Sesno brought together five former Secretaries of State, Warren Christopher, Henry Kissenger, Madeline Albright, James Baker, and Colin Powell, to give advice to the new President of the United States. All five unanimously agreed that one of the first things the new president should do is close Guantanamo. They also agreed that the United States should be a leader in combating global warming and climate change, and excising waterboarding from our interrogations. The next president should look to cooperation with other nations, as well, improving our respect around the world.

In relation to dealing with Russia, Powell stated we should look at both sides and truly analyze the entire strategic situation before we leap to the favor of one side. Strategic, not tactical means of dealing with them should be used, said Baker. As for Iran, Albright says it is important to discover the right level at which you might meet to begin talks with Iran. Can the world live with a nuclear Iran? They agreed that once you know how to create 5% enrichment, it is easily scalable to 90% enrichment. Albright believes we need to better understand the culture and economy of Iran and stop vilifying Iran, which only serves to empower them. All five concur that we should negotiate with Iran. Many of these leaders believed there should be talks with Iran initiated at the level of Secretary of State. Kissinger believes that as a negotiator, you should tell the other side what you're trying to achieve and the outcome you have in mind, so that they have something to react to. He states we should make the content of negotiations clear.

On the question of Iraq, the Pentagon believes the war in Iraq is winding down and Afghanistan is ratcheting up. Powell believes we should 'get into the Afghan government,' create a relationship with Pakistan to bring control over the tribal border areas and better deal with the Taliban. Baker states we must beef up our soft power areas including foreign assistance and diplomatic personnel in order to reconstruct these countries. Our Department of Defense budget is 20% higher than that of the State Department. Hard power has been overutilized over soft power. Even Gates stated that military solutions cannot completely solve the problem. In relation to Israel and Palestine, Baker says we should engage with Syria and attempt to pull them away from their marriage of convenience with Iran. Try to make Syria our ally, instead.

All in all, this evening's interviews were powerfully informative. I hope that both Presidential candidates listen to their collective advice.

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