The Rosenkranz Foundation puts on some very interesting ticketed “Intelligence Squared Debates” in New York at the NYU Skirball Center in cooperation with National Public Radio, Newsweek and Bloomberg Television.
I participated in one of these debates last year on President Obama’s Afghanistan policy — and found myself on the opposite side of the debate on stage from my New America Foundation colleague Steve Coll. Great fun and interesting session.
However the debate my DNA was forged for — on Obama’s Foreign Policy — is taking place on Tuesday, May 11th, but I’m not in it. Darn it.
Those debating, however, include former senior Pentagon and White House official Dan Senor; US News & World Report editor-in-chief Mortimer Zuckerman; French philosopher and best-selling author Bernard-Henry Levy and retired four star General Wesley Clark.
Levy and Wes Clark are going to defend President Obama’s foreign policy — while Senior and Mort Zuckerman are going to argue that Obama spells America’s decline.
NOTE TO MY FRIENDS AT ROSENKRANZ & INTELLIGENCE SQUARED: If Levy drops out or gets caught behind another cloud of volcanic ash, call me. Wes Clark is great — and I’d love to partner with him.
The fact is that the George W. Bush administration, for which Dan Senor was a lead spear-carrier and which was often strongly defended by Mort Zuckerman (who I saw and chatted with at the White House Correspondents festivities), punctured the mystique of America’s superpower status and sent American power over a cliff.
Superpowers can define themselves in four key areas — military cability, economic power, moral leadership, and ideas and institutions.
George W. Bush’s team, particularly the Cheney/Addington/John Bolton wing of that team, managed to show fundamental limits of America’s power in the invasion of Iraq; managed to allow the exporting of toxic financial products to the rest of the world, undermined America’s moral standing through the embrace of torture, abuse of detainees, warrantless domestic spying on US citizens, and more; and worked to undermine America’s position at the UN, undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty regime, and sidestepped key international protocols America needs like the Law of the Seas Treaty that even George W. Bush supported but couldn’t get past his own staff.
Barack Obama has a lot of challenges on his plate — and he needs to do well at them. But American decline — that can be measured in the behavior of our allies as much as our foes — was started far earlier than the Obama administration.
So, this could be an interesting debate — though I think that the Intelligence Squared folks did not assemble the strongest team in favor of Obama’s foreign policy.
Still, it may be interesting to see.
— Steve Clemons