Experts at Aspen Ideas weigh in on U.S.’s role in the world
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado – The heavy hitters came out Thursday during the Aspen Ideas Festival, talking about big issues around the world and how the United States fits in.
For more than four hours, a lineup including former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and James Baker, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, economist Hernando de Soto, biologist Eric Lander, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, and deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg discussed myriad issues during “An Afternoon of Conversation” at the Benedict Music Tent.
On the topic of America and the world, the three secretaries said they think President Obama has handled the crisis in Iran correctly. They also agree that the U.S. must continue to try to talk to the Iranian government to persuade them from backing off on its nuclear program.
“You don’t lose anything by talking to somebody,” Baker said. “You talk to your enemies, not your friends.”
Steinberg said talking to the enemy doesn’t mean the U.S. condones its behavior. If the Iranian government doesn’t back off on its nuclear plans, the international community will be forced to take action, he added.
“They can isolate themselves if they want,” Steinberg said.
Options could be levying financial sanctions on Iran, or something more aggressive like re-aiming U.S. nuclear missiles at that nation, as Baker suggests.
He acknowledged that even though Iran’s leadership might be mentally unstable, “they don’t want to be blown off the face of the Earth.”
Albright said the U.S. must intervene in Iran’s nuclear plans but also deal with the human rights issues that have come to light in that country.
The biggest threat, however, is the nuclear power plants Iran is pursuing. Steinberg said it could lead to neighboring nations having to protect themselves with nuclear power, and Iran may use it to harbor terrorists.
On the issue of Iran, Albright said Americans have turned their attention away from that country when they shouldn’t be – and rebuilding the nation is crucial.
There was similar concensus on America’s ongoing role in Afghanistan. The U.S. must help citizens of that country rebuild their nation and governance and security is critical in that endeavor, Steinberg said.
When asked by journalist Charlie Rose about Pakistan, Albright said “It has everything that can give you an international migraine.”
The Taliban and al-Qaeda are scattering in that country and the international community has to start paying better attention to what’s happening in Pakistan, she added.
The U.S. has a real opportunity to rebuild its relationship with Russia, and with President Obama’s upcoming trip there, the secretaries are confident that it can happen.
“It’s an opportunity to start a dialogue, an honest dialogue and not be afraid to disagree,” Albright said, noting that polling indicates that the younger generation of Russians are anti-American.
On the topic of where Europe stands in the world, Albright said she just returned from Prague and they are spending “too much time examining themselves.” Like other European countries, they need to be more active in the international community.
“They are not as much a part of the story as we would like them to be.”
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