Foreign Policy Blogs

Sage Advice From Former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State during President Bush's first term, was recently  interviewed by the Washington Diplomat.

Armitage  spoke about the need to repair the U.S.'s tarnished image abroad. He told the Diplomat:

"The decline in American influence can be a temporary phenomenon. I believe most countries want us to be the indispensable nation, but they don't want us to be rejectionist. For example, if we didn't like the Kyoto Protocol‚ and I think there were good reasons for us not to like Kyoto‚ it was incumbent upon us to put a better idea forward. You can't just say no.

"The great majority of nations want us to be the indispensable nation, but that is only the case when we are true to our national values. When we engage in such things as torture, when we waterboard, when we deny habeas corpus, when our actions are not consistent with our words, we engender a huge amount of cynicism."

The Diplomatreports that Armitage outlined several key initiatives the next U.S. president should undertake:

“First, the new government should shore up U.S. alliances and work closely with multilateral institutions. There is a compelling need, Armitage said, to reverse the impression that for the United States, international law is suggestive rather than binding, that alliances are outdated and peripheral, and that international institutions are ineffectual or hostile.

Second, the United States should take a bolder and more creative approach to global development,crafting a coherent strategy on public health. For instance, Armitage pointed out that strong U.S. leadership to combat infectious diseases would save millions of lives and reflect the nation's best traditions.

Third, the next administration should focus on global economic issues, working hard to ensure that the advantages of globalization are available‚ and evident‚ to all countries and peoples.

Fourth, the next president should employ U.S. technology and innovation to tackle climate changeand energy insecurity. Policies that reduce demand through increased efficiency, diversify energy suppliers and fuel choices, and better manage the geopolitics of key regions are crucial. U.S. leadership is needed to shape a new energy framework, Armitage argued, noting that the United States and Japan should work closely with India and China on energy issues.

Finally, the next president should pay closer attention to public diplomacy, although Armitage cautioned that this does not entail a slick marketing campaign.”

Armitage explained: “I don't see public diplomacy as an exercise in the U.S. talking louder or talking more. Nobody out there doesn't understand the U.S. The question they have is: Do we understand them? A large part of public diplomacy should be to hush up and listen. Everyone knows what we want and what we think. Let's hear what they think and what they want. People would be so shocked it might have a salutary effect. Maybe there is some common ground.”



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.