The 2010 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum: Restoring America's Leadership of a Democratic World

On November 15 and 16, the Foreign Policy Initiative held its 2010 Forum: Restoring America’s Leadership of a Democratic World at the W Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.  Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA), former Spanish President José María Aznar, and Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov offered keynote remarks, while panel topics included the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, China’s global ambitions, the changing Middle East, and the fight for democracy and human rights.

For videos, transcripts, key quotes, and summaries of all of the Forum's events, please click here.
 
In the Forum’s first panel, Lt. Gen. David Barno (Ret.) of the Center for a New American Security remarked, “With Republicans controlling the House, I think you're going to see much stronger support for the current effort in Afghanistan.”  He also said that with Gen. David Petraeus now the commander in Afghanistan, a counter-insurgency strategy in place that is delivering strong pressure against the Taliban, and an “unparalleled” tripling of troop levels over the past two years, that “the right pieces are in place” for success.

Senator Lieberman concurred with Barno's assessment, reporting that “the insurgency is in retreat. These gains would not have been possible without the surge of forces ordered by President Obama last December.  They also reflect the fact that there has been a surge, I think, in the strategic coherence of our war effort in Afghanistan.”
 
Senator McCain, however, emphasized the harm done by the President’s statement that July 2011 would begin a withdrawal process from Afghanistan.  Though he commended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for characterizing the withdrawal as conditions-based, McCain blasted Obama for recently reiterating the July 2011 timeline, and thus undermining the efficacy of Clinton and Gates’ message.  He added, “The President should not make decisions, where we're sending young men and women into harm's way, based on political consideration.”
 
Presumptive incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon used his keynote remarks to outline his plans for running the committee in the new Congress.  He promised strong, but not “gotcha” oversight of the Department of Defense and war in Afghanistan, and to increase spending for missile defense and modernization.  “Advocates for reducing the size of the military view the global security environment through the lens of what they hope it to be,” he said,“and fail to see how it really is.”
 
Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, now a leader of the pro-democracy movement Solidarity, pleaded, “In the interest of Russian people we need democracy and human rights and rules of law,” and reported that the average Russian citizen does not know President Obama’s position on supporting democracy in Russia.  He expressed that while he understood Obama’s realpolitik tactics of not criticizing Putin in an attempt to win support on other issues, like Afghanistan, he said that it was “absolutely” the wrong strategy.
 
The Forum’s second panel examined the rise of China.  Jacqueline Newmyer of the Long Term Strategy Group summarized the gulf between the strategic perspectives of the United States and People’s Republic: “[A]t the end of the day we think of ourselves as trying to promote human rights and lift all boats and prosperity, and that's not how the Chinese regime thinks of itself.  It thinks of itself as in a dangerous world surrounded by a hegemon facing a potentially restive population who don't deserve, who have no basic right to democracy or human rights.”
 
Ambassador Michael Kozak of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Rights, and Labor reported in the third panel that many repressive regimes have found new and innovative ways to oppress their people and curtail their rights.  “[T]rying to figure out how we keep advancing despite these measures has been a big aspect of administration policy, but we come at it from the premise that it's not a foregone conclusion that the repressive measures cannot be overcome.  Indeed, just as the authoritarians adapted to the new environment, we need to help activists around the world figure out how they can do so.”
 
Ahead of the NATO summit at Lisbon, former Spanish President Aznar lamented President Obama’s lack of attention to building relationships with America’s European allies.  “As you know very well, most Europeans consider themselves more supportive of Obama than Americans do.  The problem for Obama right now… is [that this is] the first time Europeans feel that for the American president, especially after the first and the Second World War, Europe is not a priority.  This is one of the important reasons because it is in the interest of Europe to have an alliance with the United States.”
 
In the wake of the Democratic Party’s losses in the recent midterm elections, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg concluded the Forum by noting the degree of commonality between FPI’s mission and the administration’s perspective and emphasizing the importance of a bipartisan consensus in conducting statecraft: “[I]f the U.S. is going to be successful in the world, we are most successful when there is a sense abroad of unity of purpose and commitment.”

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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