Brent Scowcroft Addresses International Issues Facing the Next President

  • Lindsay Hodges Anderson
| Oct. 30, 2008

Former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft called on the next president to engage in civilized dialogue on foreign policy during a Forum address Wednesday evening (Oct. 29) at Harvard Kennedy School.

"We need to stop simply shouting at each other and playing one-upsmanship and 'gotcha' and look at how we deal with the problems we face, because they're not easy problems," he said. "There are problems coming from parts of the world we hardly understand at all."

Scowcroft, who served under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford and who has not endorsed a candidate in the current campaign, said the next president will inherit "a very troubled world" and that bi-partisan efforts are required to overcome the problems.

While admitting that it is difficult to prioritize the long list of "discouraging" problems facing the country, Scowcroft outlined two important issues that he said are "not urgent and, indeed, could easily go unnoticed" that the next president may want to address.

"The image of the United States in the world is not good now," he said. "In fact, in the years I've been traveling around the world I think it has never been less... We've always had the benefit of the doubt. We don't have that anymore."

The next president may also wish to restructure key government agencies, Scowcroft said, in order to better meet the challenges of the 21st century. He pointed specifically to the National Security Council, which was established to deal with post-World War II issues and, though it has been through many changes, may not be properly aligned for modern times.

"We now face a world that is very different that the world that the National Security Council has done so well in helping the president with," Scowcroft said. "Many of the conflicts that we face now and in the future will not be great wars, but dealing with civil wars, or wars with non-state actors. Partly fighting, partly nation building.

"We have the military to fight wars and we use the military a lot to do nation building. They're not designed for it."

Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, have released a new book titled "America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Policy".

"The reason we did this was that we're both became alarmed at the quality of discourse, especially on foreign policy," Scowcroft said.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hodges Anderson, Lindsay. “Brent Scowcroft Addresses International Issues Facing the Next President.” News, , October 30, 2008.

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