Foreign Policy Blogs

Five Former Secretaries of State on The Future of US Diplomacy


On Monday, American Abroad Media, the public radio program distributed through NPR, broadcast an excellent panel on the foreign policy challenges facing the next president.

They couldn't have picked a more qualified cast. The discussion featured five former Secretaries of State – Madeleine K. Albright, James A. Baker, III, Warren Christopher, Henry Kissinger, and Colin L. Powell, and was moderated by Frank Sesno, director of GW's Public Affairs Project and Christiane Amanpour, CNN chief international correspondent.

I highly recommend giving it a listen, or reading through the transcript.

The broadcast begins with each former Secretary of State offering their advice on what foreign policy issue the next president should address on day one.

Kissinger had some interesting advice:

“I’d probably answer the question by saying the first thing you ought to do is to get your principle advisors together and see whether you can achieve a consensus on these issues: Where are we? What are we trying to do? Can we do it?

And then, I would invite the rest of the world to– come in. But one of the problems early in an administration is a jockeying for position among various advisors who come in with strong opinions and then the president winds up in the position of adjudicating practical disputes that arise all the time.”

Next the panel discussed what America can do to improve its image in the world. Albright, Powell and Christopher simultaneously agreed that “closing Guantanamo” is the one policy that the next president could enact that would send a signal to the rest of the world that this administration is different from the past.

The discussion ends with each panelist confessing which candidate they support–as if you couldn't guess. General Powell made some intriguing remarks about his undecided status. In broad terms, one can understand why he would be torn. He has worked under a Republican administration, but he is also the first African-American Secretary of State. But, as Powell relates, his decision making process goes much deeper than that.



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.