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CNN Live Event/Special
The Next President: A World of Challenges
Aired September 20, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRANK SESNO, CNN CO-HOST: And welcome to the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of The George Washington University in the heart of Washington, D.C. Thanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CO-HOST: And I'm Christiane Amanpour.
The next president of the United States will inherit a very troubled world, with the U.S. fighting two wars, facing a global economic crisis, and rising powers to the east.
SESNO: There are opportunities too, of course, but many challenges. To look ahead to these challenges and how the next president must respond to them, we have an extraordinary group, as you can see: five former secretaries of state whose experience spans four decades.
AMANPOUR: From detente with the Soviets to opening the door to China, from humanitarian interventions to full-scale war, and from trying to spread democracy to defeating terrorism, these former secretaries have confronted it all.
SESNO: So joining us: Warren Christopher, who served in the first Clinton administration; Henry Kissinger, who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations; and Madeleine Albright, who served in the second Clinton administration as secretary of state.
AMANPOUR: And also, James Baker, who served the first President George Bush; and finally, General Colin Powell, who served the second President George Bush.
Thank you all for being here. And today, we're not looking for pat party-line talking points. I'm sure we're not going to get any of that. What we really want is for candid, robust, meat and potatoes advice for the next president, no matter who he might be. Our future, your future depends on it.
SESNO: It's Inauguration Day, 2009. You're all invited to the presidential ball. And while you're there, the president brushes by, and he says, General Powell, what's my biggest worry in the world, besides the U.S. Congress? What do you tell him?
COLIN POWELL, 65th SECRETARY OF STATE: You've obviously never been to an inaugural ball.
(LAUGHTER) POWELL: One of the first things that you have to do as president, the very next day, is to start to restore a sense of confidence in the United States of America, let all of our friends and allies around the world know that America is reaching out to them.
We want to hear them and we want to listen to them, tell them we're going to work in unison.
We always reserve the right to act when we feel we have to act in our own interest, but we understand the importance of allies and alliances.
I would also communicate to the American people that we may have some difficulties in Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever else we're going to have difficulties in January. But we're Americans, we should confidence in ourselves, confidence in our system, reach out to the rest of the world.
And it will be important for the president to convey this message to the American people and to the rest of the world.
SESNO: Secretary Albright, what would you say?
MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT, 64TH SECRETARY OF STATE: I...
SESNO: My biggest worry in the world?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, first of all, I'd say, remember, you wanted this job.
And that there are a tremendous number of challenges and opportunities. I do think -- I agree with Colin, that it is very important to give this sense of confidence, but also to understand that the issues that are out there are primarily the kind that can only be solved in cooperation with other countries.
And therefore, the idea that you reach out to other countries has to be a different way of operating. I think that's going to be one of the really important parts. And the American people need to understand that if you work with other countries, it's actually a sign of strength.
And I think that is a very important message.
SESNO: Warren Christopher?
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, 63TH SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think we have to deal with the two wars we're dealing with at the present time. They're draining our economy in enormous way.
I found when I came into office that our economy was in some difficulty. The first year the president got through the Deficit Reduction Act, and it just improved things so much. So I think the president needs to begin to work on that to give the world confidence that we can manage our own economy and thus we are a trusted partner.
SESNO: Secretary Baker?
JAMES BAKER, 61ST SECRETARY OF STATE: There are two things I think that the president ought to focus on in the very beginning. And the first is to structure his national security apparatus, his -- used to say, or hers, but now I would his -- in a way that provides clear lines of authority and responsibility so that it can work together as a team, and so that everybody is singing from the same sheet of music.
That is extraordinarily important...
SESNO: Is that a change? Are you suggesting that hasn't happened?
BAKER: In some administrations it has been good. in some administrations it has been not so good. But it is really critical to the formulation and implementation of a solid foreign policy.
SESNO: Dr. Kissinger, toughest problem?
HENRY KISSINGER, 56TH SECRETARY OF STATE: One of the problems early in an administration is a jockeying for position among various advisers who come in with strong opinions and then the president winds up in the position of adjudicating practical (ph) disputes that arise (INAUDIBLE).
SESNO: Competition within the administration, imagine that, right?
KISSINGER: Well, competition is good. But it has to be resolved in -- to lead in an agreed direction so that...
AMANPOUR: And what...
KISSINGER: And then we can talk with conviction to the rest of the world. I agree with what my colleagues have said about the importance of reaching out to the rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: Let's have a look at where the U.S. stands in the world right now.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and embassies even in London that look like fortresses. In much of the world, these images are telling America's story. Negative feelings towards United States are widespread, according to the most recent Pew study of global attitudes, which polled in two dozen countries.
In Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, all U.S. allies, only 22 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the United States.
In Turkey, a member of NATO, 70 percent described the U.S. as the enemy.
Even in Germany, less than one-third said they hold America in high esteem.
There is some good news and improvements in some places, attributed to hopes for new policies under a new American president.
AMANPOUR: So what should the new American president do to regain America's respect around the world? Of course, it's not a popularity contest. This is not just about being liked. It's being able to get America's business done.
Here is an e-mail question that I want to read out: "America is at a crossroads," says Diana, from a viewer. "We have a stretched military and tarnished if not destroyed relationships with other powers in the world. Do you think," she asks, "that the bully attitude is possible as American leaders move forward? What would enable America to gain respect?"
Secretary Christopher, can the United States continue to be the demander in the world?
CHRISTOPHER: No. I think we have to take a much more cooperative attitude than we have been in the past, listening to other countries, recognizing our strength, but moving forward in a way that makes other countries feel they'd like to be on our side, helping us.
AMANPOUR: General Powell, it's not just about like, is it? It's about being able to get things done. America is the strongest nation in the world. But a new intelligence report is going to tell the next president that America's dominance is not going to be as supreme as it was.
So what do you tell the next president about how to regain respect?
POWELL: I think we have to recognize that there are other nations in the world now whose economic strength is growing, and therefore their political influence is growing.
I don't know that we should be afraid of this or see that as a threat to us. Isn't this what we were working for all of these many decades? We wanted them to rise up and join the international economic community. And that is what is happening.
We're working multilaterally to solve the Iranian problem, the North Korean problem. We have worked with the world to increase funding for HIV-AIDS. We've doubled the amount of money we're putting into development assistance around the world.
So I think a case can be made that we can build on that strength. And the new president, with a different approach to things, and with a different attitude to the rest of the world, can reverse this. SESNO: But how about some tangible things that the next administration, the next president can do to change policy or send a signal that will address these issues?
POWELL: Close Guantanamo.
ALBRIGHT: Close Guantanamo. I think...
BAKER: Close Guantanamo. We were on a panel together several months ago, and we all agreed, one of the best things that could happen would be to close Guantanamo, which is a very serious blot upon our reputation.
ALBRIGHT: One of the issues is that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in the world. And there is the feeling that the United States is contributing to that gap.
I think that we have to do what Colin was saying in terms of helping on HIV-AIDS, and what Jim was talking about in terms of using various elements of our power.
The trick in this, and what's hard, is how to have confidence and at the same time have some humility. And that's not easy if you're in office.
And I think that is why how the next president immediately talks to the American people is going to be very important. And realize that when he is talking to the American people, he is also talking to a foreign audience.
SESNO: Secretary Christopher?
CHRISTOPHER: Outlaw torture in the same way it is outlawed in our military, have that extend to all agencies...
SESNO: Waterboarding, all of that?
CHRISTOPHER: Waterboarding and the...
SESNO: Make a clear statement to the international community, that would have an impact?
CHRISTOPHER: Absolutely, right away.
And second, I think that the new administration ought to take a forward-leaning position on climate change. We ought to be leaders there rather than hanging back.
You know, we've had sort of a dog in the manger position in the past. We haven't been willing to move until China moves. We haven't been willing to move until India moves. I think the United States needs to be in a position of leadership to do the next thing after Kyoto in a very meaningful, effective way.
I think if we did those three things, Guantanamo, torture, and climate change, we'd be off to a very good start.
SESNO: Do you want to jump in, Dr. Kissinger?
KISSINGER: America, in the nature of its position has had to be concerned -- maybe excessively, but in anyway, has had to be concerned with global security, which is very difficult for Europeans to ask their people to make sacrifices for.
So we have to understand that not everything that affects public opinion in the world is necessarily our fault, or we become totally paranoid.
BAKER: I really support what Chris said about climate change. And I support it because we were in office when Kyoto first came down the pike. We thought it was a bad treaty for the United States. I still think that. So we didn't sign it.
But America is going to have to lead the effort to get a global climate change treaty. It's a global problem. It's going to have to be solved globally. We are going to have to bring all of these other countries in. They can't be excluded, China and India and others.
But only America is going to be able to lead that charge.
SESNO: We're going to have to take a break. When we come back, we'll start to get specific and peal back a bit of them map, Russia and Iran, the Middle East.
SESNO (voice-over): This past August conjured up images of the Cold War as Russian tanks rolled yet again, this time in the small nation of Georgia. It prompted growing concern that this is the new Russia, united under the authoritarian control of Vladimir Putin, plush with profits from oil and gas, resentful of what in many in Russia see as Western arrogance as the U.S. builds a missile shield in its backyard. And the NATO alliance expands right to its door step.
Russia is determined to be a powerful player on the world stage again, and could change the whole game.
SESNO: What does the next president do about this new Russia?
KISSINGER: We have a number of common issues that we have to settle, if possible, with Russia. We need Russia for a solution of the Iranian problem. We may need Russia if Pakistan evolves in some of the directions that it might.
We have to face the fact that the first shot in Georgia was fired on the Georgian side. Now Russia reacted in an excessive manner. But we should not make the whole relationship depend on the pictures that you showed (ph).
And I would urge the new president, as I'm urging this president, to explore the possibilities of cooperation and be very sure before we go the route of cutting off WTO and the other international measures for which cooperation with Russia may be very important.
And I think also that this Russia is not democratic, but it is also not what it was before, and that one must permit some evolution to take place.
SESNO: Secretary Baker?
BAKER: Well, I told -- I agree with what Henry said. I think it was interesting to note what Secretary Gates said just last week when he said the United -- the administration has come to a unified position on how to deal with the Russia-Georgia problem, and that is to look at it in a strategic context and not tactically.
You know, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, when the Soviet Union broke up and Russia -- I mean, Georgia became an independent country back there in 1991, neither of those enclaves wanted to join Georgia.
SESNO: You were there. You were...
BAKER: And I was there. And they wanted to be -- they wanted to be with Russia. They didn't want to be with Georgia. And so I guess what I'm saying is, we have some big picture issues that we need to be conscious of when we think about our future with Russia.
And we ought to cooperate with them where we can, where it makes sense, but we ought to also be willing to confront them where our vital interests are involved. We are committed to the independence of these former republics of the former Soviet Union.
And that should continue to be our position. That doesn't mean we ought to send the 101st Airborne in to guard the South Ossetian border. I mean, that would not make very good sense. And that's not the kind of thing we ought to be speculating about.
AMANPOUR: But can we just cut to the chase here. Both the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration have pushed for NATO expansion eastwards and right to the former Soviet republic.
Georgia they want in NATO, Ukraine, they in NATO. Now you've got Russia invading Georgia. Is the advice to the next president of the United States therefore, you have to go to war against Russia in order to protect your NATO allies?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think we have to understand what NATO expansion was about. It was trying to erase an artificial line from the Cold War and was not, as we saw it, anything that was anti- Russian.
It was not a NATO -- it was a new NATO, theoretically against a new Russian that was there that we even talked about Russia being a part of it. So it is now -- it should not be viewed that way.
And I also think that countries have the right to choose whatever alliance they want to be in. And the main thing, while I fully agree that we can't go back to the Cold War and have a really very bad adversarial relationship with Russia, Russia cannot think that independent countries on its border are a threat to them.
So I think -- I personally believe that we need to go forward with the Membership Action Plan for Georgia and for Ukraine, and keep explaining that it is not a threat.
AMANPOUR: Except for, General Powell, it basically hopes that Russia is not going to be the aggressor. And if Russia is and you have to, you know, keep your NATO allies' security, aren't you then committed?
POWELL: Under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which is the NATO Treaty, when one member of the alliance is attacked from abroad -- meaning outside the NATO geographic limits -- then all members of NATO treat that as an attack.
AMANPOUR: And yet...
POWELL: Article 5 has only been invoked once in the history of the alliance, and that was on the 12th of September, 2001, when it was invoked in our favor, when the whole NATO alliance said we were attacked, the alliance was attacked on 9/11.
Now, in the current situation, the Russians acted brutally. I think they acted foolishly. But it was also absolutely predictable what the Russians would do. You could see them stacking up their troops.
And I think it was foolhardy on the part of President Saakashvili and the Georgian government to kick over this can, to light a match in a roomful of gas fumes.
SESNO: So you're saying the Georgians provoked this?
POWELL: They did. I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side.
AMANPOUR: And yet...
POWELL: And that's a given.
AMANPOUR: And some debate in the presidential elections has basically been, "We are all Georgians now." What does that mean? It's the same as was said after 9/11.
POWELL: One candidate said that, and I'll let the candidate explain it for himself.
SESNO: You can help a little, if you'd like.
POWELL: No, the fact of the matter is that you -- you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you've taken a good analysis of the whole situation.
This was something that might have been avoided if people had looked at the Russian troops that were stacked up, if people had realized that the Russians were serious about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and if perhaps more guidance and suggestions had been given to President Saakashvili beyond those that he received, it might have been avoided.
But it wasn't. It's over. The Russians are the offenders right now. And we have to see that.
We cannot say to the Russians, "We are not going to allow the Georgians or Ukrainians or anyone else to start down the path toward NATO membership." It's not for the Russians to decide that.
But I think it is wise for us to look at the whole strategic situation and all of our equities before deciding how fast that should happen and whether it's the time to do it right now.
The Russian Federation is not going to become the Soviet Union again. That movie failed at the box office. But they do have interests. And we have to think carefully about their interests.
So you have to treat Russia as a proud country that lost a lot of its pride some 15, 16 years ago, and it's restored with a political leadership that is enormously popular in the country and with a level of wealth they've never had before, and with concerns about their near abroad, and treat them in a straightforward, business-like, objective way and not emotionally.
BAKER: Do it strategically and not tactically. You're going to -- you had these -- you're going to have these border conflicts all around the periphery of the former Soviet Union.
They're there. Stalin created it, ethnic tensions. And these are little flash fires that we need to be aware of and deal with properly, but it's -- that should not be a cause for rupturing the entire big relationship, unless we can't keep that big relationship together to deal with nonproliferation, to deal with environment, climate change, you name it.
AMANPOUR: Secretary Baker, you just talked about strategically, not tactically. Let's talk about Iran, which has been a strategic and tactical headache for the United States over the last 30 years.
Let's say, in the few weeks after the inauguration of the next president, a message comes from Iran that the Iranians are ready to do a deal, all conditions on the table. Is the advice to the next American president to once again put conditions to expect Iran to cry uncle or to engage?
ALBRIGHT: I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries that you have problems with and take the Russians (ph)... AMANPOUR: So what do you advise the president when he gets this message across his desk or it comes to the State Department that the Iranians are seeking feelers?
ALBRIGHT: You begin to look at what level to talk at. And actually, something like that happened when we were in office. And you begin to find the right level.
And I think it's one of the most important relationships that we need to work on. We are not gaining anything by this. And I -- while there are many issues, ultimately, Iran has benefited the most from the war in Iraq. And I think that we need to deal with them.
AMANPOUR: The intelligence assessment that's going to be given to the next president says that Iran, they believe, will continue to seek to enrich uranium, but at the moment they don't see evidence of building a weapon.
Can the United States, despite all that's been said up to now, can the world live with a nuclear Iran?
POWELL: The Iranians are telling us that they are developing a nuclear program and they're doing it for civilian use and for power generation.
Once you know how to do that, that 5 percent enrichment, you can scale it up to 90 percent enrichment and make a weapon.
So I agree with Madeleine, and I suspect my other colleagues, that we should start to talk to them. Don't wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions. We were talking to them up through the middle of 2003.
AMANPOUR: So take the initiative?
POWELL: Yes. Why shouldn't we?
POWELL: We did.
BAKER: We did. In our administration, way back in '91.
POWELL: We were talking to them through 2003 at a low level. And then it was stopped. And so find a way -- and don't make it, "Let's get together and talk just about nuclear weapons or just about this or just about that." Start a dialogue at a low level and let it grow over time.
SESNO: Might the next president have to have a showdown with his Israeli allies, to tell them to hold back?
CHRISTOPHER: I must say our relationship with Israel needs to be strong enough so we can say to them, "Look, we want to have a comprehensive dialogue with the Iranians. We can't be complacent about the nuclear possibilities in Iran, but nevertheless we cannot afford not to have a comprehensive dialogue to see if it can be stopped," because, frankly, the military options here are very, very poor.
And if that's what the Israelis are advocating, I think that we have to tell them that we think their military options are very poor and we don't want to go down that route.
SESNO: So neither candidate, neither of the men who would be president has taken the military option with respect to Iran off the table?
CHRISTOPHER: I didn't say to take them off the table.
BAKER: Can I just say one -- one more thing? When I was in office, we had a standing policy with the Iranians. We were ready to talk to them, provided it would be done at an official level, at the level of the secretary of state, and they did -- they wouldn't -- they didn't have enough domestic political support for that.
Having vilified us as the Great Satan for so long, they couldn't get the domestic political support necessary to meet with us. So it wasn't the case of our -- we hadn't been isolating Iran from that standpoint. We offered to meet with them at the level of secretary of state.
And I think a well-placed, quiet, private phone call to the Iranian leadership, if you can find out which leaders to talk to, to the effect, "Look, if you do so much as aim a missile or anything else toward Israel or toward anything else, toward Israel or toward us, our strategic nuclear deterrent can be re-aimed in 20 seconds," they would understand that, I think.
AMANPOUR: I'm sure they would.
But the question is, do you want to change the policy? And do you want to actually try to engage for strategic reasons?
BAKER: We ought to engage, yes.
AMANPOUR: To use them for help in...
POWELL: I think we're all saying yes.
BAKER: We're all saying you ought to engage, I think. I don't know. I haven't heard Henry. He may not.
KISSINGER: Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level so that we -- we know we're dealing with authentic...
SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?
KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are -- what the outcome is that you're trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to.
Now, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Japan and Germany, have all said nuclear weapons in Iran are unacceptable. They've never explained what they mean by this. So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we're trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can't achieve what we're talking about?
But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations. We ought, however, to be very clear about the content of negotiations and work it out with other countries and with our own government.
ALBRIGHT: I think also we need to make clear that what we're doing is not counterproductive. At the moment, I think we don't understand Iranian society. It is not monolithic. There are various aspects of the fact that Ahmadinejad is not particularly popular. There are economic issues.
And the more that we go around vilifying them, we create -- put him a stronger position. And so not only should we do these steps that the others have been talking about, but we have to make sure that we're not undercutting what we want to do by creating a bigger problem than we have.
AMANPOUR: So it looks like there's possibly some different advice to the next president.
And on that note, we're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to discuss Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the war on terrorism.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of the George Washington University. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
SESNO: And I'm Frank Sesno. And we're discussing what advice these five former secretaries of state have for the next president.
AMANPOUR: The Pentagon believes that the Iraq war has begun winding down, Afghanistan beginning to ratchet up. And the general, your successor, one of your successors, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, "I'm not convinced that we're winning in Afghanistan," but he adds that we can win.
What does the next president of the United States have to do to make sure that Afghanistan, six years later, actually is winnable?
POWELL: Well, you have to first ask Admiral Mullen what he meant and what does he need to keep that from happening...
AMANPOUR: Well, he said more troops. That's for sure.
POWELL: More troops is one thing. And, of course, General Petraeus is now responsible for that theater as well, that sub- theater, as we call it.
And more troops is one thing to do, but I think you also have to get into the Afghan government. It is not functioning as effectively as it must if it is going to create a solid democracy. There's a great deal of corruption. You've got to do something about the drug problem in Afghanistan.
But perhaps the problem that is causing the most difficulty now is the tribal areas in Pakistan, which are a free zone right now for the Taliban. And so the Taliban has been able to re-create itself and grow itself in those areas.
And so one of the major challenges for the next president is to create a relationship with Pakistan where we can get their full cooperation and their activity to help bring that border area under control. Otherwise, there is a sanctuary there that can be violated or crossed constantly and create problems in Afghanistan.
And when you look at Afghanistan, you have to consider Pakistan. They're interrelated.
AMANPOUR: You say Pakistan. Does there have to be a new Pakistan policy? Right now, or up until now, until he was basically booted, the Pakistan policy was a Musharraf-type policy.
BAKER: Yes, but you now have a new government in Pakistan, but I think the policy is not -- should not change much. But as Colin pointed out, we've got to get the Pakistan government to, together with us, take control of those tribal areas.
We need to beef up the elements of soft power for this country. We need more -- we really need more civilian (INAUDIBLE).
When you talk about reconstructing a country, beyond the provision of more troops, you've got to get civill reconstruction teams in there, economic development. You need more -- actually, we need more foreign service personnel.
You know, we have today, I think, active foreign service officers, maybe 6,500, not as many as there are on one aircraft carrier. We need more there.
We need more foreign assistance. That has been diminishing every year for the past probably 15 years. So how can we -- how can we reconstruct these countries if we don't have the elements of soft power that we need to do it?
SESNO: Secretary Christopher, what do you tell that next president? If he's going to build on these elements of power and win in Afghanistan, what's the winning strategy or combination?
CHRISTOPHER: Ironically, Secretary Gates has been the strongest spokesman for having more support on soft power. You know, the...
SESNO: Can I stop you right there? We actually were drawn to a comment that Secretary Gates said. Take a look at what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former director of CIA and now as secretary of defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use soft power and for better integrating it with hard power.
One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER: Well, that's a terrific statement by him. You know, the military budget is about 20 times the State Department's budget. I have nothing against lawyers, but there are more lawyers in the Pentagon than there are foreign service officers -- just amazing.
If we want -- if we really believe in negotiation, if we believe in diplomacy, we have to strengthen that arm of our government. So I would make the case to the president we must enormously strengthen that and change those budgetary priorities, that budgetary disproportion.
POWELL: In Afghanistan, we did not create conditions of security in the early years. And so soft power has a role to play, and it's complementary to hard power, but don't underestimate the need to do the first thing that all governments have to do, and that is to provide security for their people.
AMANPOUR: OK, just to be, you know, call a spade a spade, Afghanistan was on the way to success, and you were there -- your administration was there. I would say the consensus is that the eye was taken off the ball, and it went to Iraq.
Now you face what could have been a success and an example and a stabilizing phenomenon in that region. You know, you need to snatch back victory from the jaws of defeat.
So really, practically, pragmatically, what do you tell the next secretary of state -- the next president, as a diplomat and as a military man, what do you tell him? How do you get back Afghanistan?
POWELL: If we have provided a level of security in Iraq with our troops -- those that are remaining, as well as the improving Iraqi forces -- shift your attention, shift your hard power attention and your soft power attention to Afghanistan, because I think the risks in Afghanistan almost outweigh the risk we've been facing for the last three years in Iraq.
AMANPOUR: We'll talk more about some of the major responsibilities, including some of the leads that the next president can take, climate change, energy. And, indeed, we're going to talk a little bit about the Middle East, which has burned so many administrations.
AMANPOUR: Israel-Palestine has been a challenge for American administrations since it first began. Is there, Secretary Baker, a deal to be made anywhere there -- Israel, Palestinian, Syrian, anywhere?
BAKER: Today, I don't think there is, but I think there could be for the new president.
I would advise the new president to engage fully and completely with Syria. I happen to be one who thinks that we could flip Syria away from Iran. I think Syria's marriage to Iran is a marriage of convenience, and therefore I think it's ridiculous for us to say we're not going to talk to Syria, and yet the Israelis have been negotiating peace with them for the last six or eight months.
Now, because of the situation domestically within Israel and the Israeli politics, I don't think they're going to reach an agreement, but I think there is a Syrian deal to be had. And it is much, much easier to do that deal than it is to do a deal with the Palestinians.
SESNO: Secretary Christopher, let me flip over to you for a minute and go to Iraq. What should the next president do to assure success and continued progress in Iraq?
CHRISTOPHER: I think the next president ought to put a lot of pressure on people in Iraq to try to come to some political conciliation. They really have not made any progress down that road at all.
But I think the No. 1 thing that needs to be done in Iraq is to try to, one way or the other, through either pressure or incentives, to try to encourage them to come to some political reconciliation, which they're a long ways from.
All the developments on that front in the last two or three weeks have been discouraging rather than encouraging.
SESNO: General Powell, I'm wondering whether you agree with that and agree with putting the timetable out there and what kind of -- you're a military man, as well. So how does that work?
POWELL: Well, I agree with Chris that we have to put more pressure on the Iraqi political leaders to move on with reconciliation -- that ultimately is the answer -- and to build up their own security forces.
SESNO: Timetable for leaving?
POWELL: They are giving us a timetable. They're telling us when they want us out. They don't want us to stay a day longer than necessary.
So I would not want to put down an artificial timetable, but I would make it clear that the draw-down will continue. If conditions are getting better, then increase the rate of draw-down. If conditions are getting worse, then stop and pause and make sure we don't lose what we've gained.
KISSINGER: I think the right outcome is to continue on what we'll -- on what we're doing, to withdraw troops as we can but we should not put this in terms of a -- of pressure that we need to put on the government in order to achieve a reconciliation with groups that have been fighting each other, which is essentially Sunnis and Shias.
AMANPOUR: The other big thing that we were talking about, in terms of advice to a new president, is climate change. Can we first know whether there's a consensus amongst all of you that climate change has a lot to do with mankind, that man is contributing to the global warming? We all agree?
ALBRIGHT: Except in Alaska.
AMANPOUR: Now, now.
(UNKNOWN): You broke the rules. You broke the...
BAKER: That's a breaking of the rules.
(UNKNOWN): You broke the rules.
BAKER: This is a nonpolitical gathering here.
SESNO: It was just coincidental, right? I see. Uh-huh.
AMANPOUR: So it's a gathering of like minds on the origin of climate change and perhaps on what we need to do about it. What does the United States need to do to take the lead on something that is so vital globally?
BAKER: Kill all the cows, because most of it comes from cow farts.
AMANPOUR: We're leaving that in.
BAKER: I know that.
SESNO: How very diplomatic of you.
AMANPOUR: Cows against Baker.
BAKER: Cows, that's right.
BAKER: Well, I've said it earlier, Christiane. I think the United States needs to lead an effort, global effort -- it's a global problem -- to round up all the countries that have to be -- major countries that put carbon dioxide in the air, that have to be a party to any treaty.
And you're not going to get it done if the president of the United States doesn't lead the charge.
So it's one of the major, I think, responsibilities of the new president to do something about that, but do it in a way that doesn't destroy our economy and that is not -- and that is not detrimental to the United States in the way that the Kyoto treaty was, where you exclude some of the biggest polluters.
SESNO: And welcome back to our conversation with five former secretaries of state. Christiane Amanpour and I are pleased to be here at the campus of the George Washington University.
Let's go to the floor now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. My name is Harris Davidson (ph), and I'm from Greenwich, Connecticut.
Many members of the media have suggested that electing the first African-American to our nation's highest office would send a powerful image to our allies overseas. Do you think electing Senator Obama would send the same message abroad as electing Senator McCain would?
BAKER: Well, I think electing the first African-American president would send a powerful message not just abroad, but within this country as well. Having said that, I have, of course, endorsed Senator McCain.
ALBRIGHT: We just came from the Democratic convention, and I'm chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute, and we had over 500 foreign visitors there. About -- more than half of the visitors there were people of color. And I think it would send a huge message, in terms of what America stands for and in terms of diversity and potential. And I, of course, am supporting Senator Obama.
You -- you said you were supporting Senator McCain.
AMANPOUR: We have to ask you.
POWELL: I think there's no question that it would send that kind of a message. I think it would be electrifying.
But at the same time, we have to make a judgment here within our country as to which of the candidates brings the right measure of experience and judgment to the task and which would be best for America.
I have been watching both of these individuals. I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I'm going to vote for yet. And I'm anxious to see what the debates are going to be like, because we've got get off this "lipstick on a pig" stuff and get into issues.
SESNO: How much harder is this for you? You were the first African-American secretary of state. This has to be personal...
POWELL: I'm an American, first and foremost. And I'm very proud...
... I've said -- I've said to -- I've said to my beloved friend and colleague, John McCain, a friend of 25 years -- John, I love you -- but I'm not just going to vote for you on the basis of our affection and friendship.
And I've said to Barack Obama, I admire you, I'll give you all the advice I can, but I'm not going to vote for you just because you're black. We have to move beyond this.
AMANPOUR: Should we go to our next question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Michael Herman (ph). I'm from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And I was wondering, how do you see the U.S. responding to humanitarian crises, like the situation in Darfur?
CHRISTOPHER: When you look at some of the problems around the world, we need to work through the other countries of the world and other regional organizations. And that's especially true in Darfur.
It's a very demanding, appealing crisis, but I'm not sure putting a lot of American troops in there, without thinking through those other issues, makes a lot of sense for us.
POWELL: I couldn't agree more with Chris. You look at something like Darfur, and it just breaks your heart. But the ultimate solution to the crisis in Darfur is political solution between the rebels and the government in Khartoum.
AMANPOUR: Well, not to put...
POWELL: We've done a lot, though, with humanitarian support in other places.
AMANPOUR: Not to put too fine a point on it. It's the same that was said about Bosnia, Rwanda, and et cetera. Since all of you have presided over these periods in American history and global history, can we pin you down?
The United States has called it genocide, what's happening in Darfur. Secretary Albright, what should the next president do?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's in U.S. national interests, in fact, to do something about humanitarian situations that lead to or are genocidal. And the question is how you get the will of the American people behind it. It is not easy.
But, I'll say this, is, if you're the United States, you're damned if you do or damned if you don't. We intervened in Somalia, and people thought that was a mistake. We didn't intervene in Rwanda, and people thought that was a mistake.
And what has to happen is for us to be clearer about the extent to which humanitarian intervention and humanitarian assistance is in U.S. national interest. And if it is, as I believe it is, it's to have the various resources that are necessary for it and explain it to the American people as a national security issue.
BAKER: But you also have to have a healthy dose of national interest involved, because otherwise you lose the support of the American people. Your foreign policy can only be sustained as long as you bring the American people along with it. They are the final arbiter of foreign policy in our democracy.
We cannot be the policemen for the world. We shouldn't be asked to be, couldn't be if we wanted.
AMANPOUR: OK, so many, many people on campuses all over the United States have distinguished themselves by creating a grassroots movement for Darfur. If I remember, you in your administration said that we don't have a dog in this fight about the Balkans, about Bosnia...
BAKER: That's not actually what I said, but it's now out there in the ether, and you'll never get rid of it.
AMANPOUR: What did you say?
BAKER: I didn't say that. I didn't say that. It was reported that I said that, but I didn't. I didn't say it.
AMANPOUR: OK, but, nonetheless, we didn't do anything at that time. So the question is, should the American president lead...
BAKER: Well, we didn't do anything for about four or five years after that, if I'm not mistaken.
AMANPOUR: OK. Should the American president lead on these issues of vital human rights interests?
BAKER: He should lead, but he should lead wisely and not commit American lives to a task that is not going to be supported by the American people. We should do what Colin said: work through private voluntary organizations, do what we can diplomatically with countries that are involved in Darfur, particularly the government of Sudan, the government of China and others, to bring about a solution to the problem.
But don't start talking about sending troops on an issue like that all the way around the world, because you're going to lose the American people. Then you'll lose the policy.
ALBRIGHT: Then we should not have declared it genocide, because once it's declared a genocide...
BAKER: I didn't declare it genocide, Madeleine.
POWELL: I did.
AMANPOUR: You did?
POWELL: I did. No, I did. I sent teams over to see what was going on, and the reports came back in. And it was a judgment call on my part.
But based on what I saw the Janjaweed doing under the leadership of the Khartoum regime and how it was affecting the people -- and I visited the area -- I felt that it met the standards of being called genocidal.
And our responsibility when we make such a declaration is to report it to the U.N. for the U.N. to make a judgment independently, under the law. This is the international law.
And the U.N. made their analysis and did not judge it to be genocide, and we pretty much stand alone in the international community calling it that. And I still think it is.
The problem has to be solved politically between the government in Khartoum and the rebels.
SESNO: If I may just follow up briefly on that, then, Secretary Albright, is not there then an important point to be made by the United States and the world going on record and saying, "This is genocide," recognizing the limitations as you've just established them. It does clearly establish a point, an important historical point, does it not?
ALBRIGHT: I think it does. But, also, there are so many aspects to this. We need to figure out how to prevent genocide. And one of the things...
SESNO: What you're saying is you shouldn't declare it if you can't back it up with your troops if it's happening?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think there is an issue, in terms of it isn't just our troops. It's a matter of whether we provide logistics assistance to those who might want to go in, strengthen the African Union, decide whether there should be a no-fly zone.
SESNO: Do something.
ALBRIGHT: But I have to say, I anguish over this, because I know how difficult it is. And we didn't do anything about Bosnia for a while, but we actually did in the end, and we won, and we did it in Kosovo, and it was the right thing to do.
And I think we have to figure out where our resources are. And when you say it's up to the president of the United States, I agree. And that's why we have to figure out what the role of the United States is. That is what this election is about.
AMANPOUR: And, unfortunately, we are out of time now, and we'd like to thank our panel once again, the former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, and Colin Powell. Thank you all very much for being here.
SESNO: We'd also like to thank the organizations that made this possible, the School of Media and Public Affairs and the Elliott School of International Affairs here at the George Washington University, the Center for a New American Security, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and the Colin Powell Center of Policy Studies at the City College of New York.
I'm Frank Sesno.
AMANPOUR: And I'm Christiane Amanpour. Thank you very much for joining us.