Where we ask 10 questions that
help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the
Obama administration. This week's subject: Under Secretary of State for
Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats:
1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your
approach to foreign policy? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, JFK, George W. Bush,
FDR and Harry S. Truman. Both
understood the importance of strong alliances -- including with some countries
with which we did not agree on many issues -- to accomplish important
objectives. They saw great alliances as essential not simply to win World War
II but also to construct a new global economic order after it -- to promote
reconstruction and avoid a repetition of the mutually destructive economic
behavior that helped cause the war in the first place.
Their leadership was critical
to the establishment of institutions that underpinned post-war prosperity and
security. The economic institutions they created -- designed to build a stable
and open global economic system -- were essential to postwar recovery and
ultimately to the West's success in the Cold War. They also have served as the
framework for the integration of growing numbers of emerging and developing
economies into the global trade and financial system, and the cross-border
networking of individuals and businesses. Such developments, in turn, have
helped nations unlock the unlimited creativity, energy and inventiveness of
their citizens and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into
an increasingly vibrant global middle class. Together these institutions and
this system have helped produce the dynamic world economy we enjoy today, one
that is critical to continued American prosperity. They also form a strong
basis for managing a growing set of fresh challenges resulting from new forces
and pressures in the global economy.
2. How do you view U.S. leadership in the world in the 21st century? Is
America a hegemon in decline or going strong? Is that a good thing or a bad
America is still the "indispensable
nation," but there is virtually no major economic issue that can be
successfully resolved without a large number of other nations -- traditional
allies and powerful emerging economies alike. The global financial crisis was
ample evidence -- if any were needed -- of how closely nations are tied
together on financial and economic issues. But because the world now is so
intensely interconnected, the same also is true when it comes to the environment,
trade flows, energy, the volatility of food prices and the availability of food
itself, shortages of water, the spread of infectious diseases and vulnerability
to terrorism. Creative diplomacy and strong cross-border partnerships are
indispensable if American interests are to be served in these areas.
3. What's the number one narrative about the Obama administration's
foreign policy so far that you feel has been mischaracterized by the media?
I am reluctant to use the word
"mischaracterized," but I would like to see a more thorough media job of
documenting the work of the administration in building a more stable
international economic system,
alongside the political challenges that it is meeting.
4. Which Obama administration foreign-policy official should we watch
It's a great team that the president
and secretary have assembled. Watch all of them!
5. What do you see as the top three challenges for U.S. foreign policy
over the next three decades?
In the area of international
economic policy, I see many important challenges. Let me just cite one that
cuts across many policy issues: Successfully
integrating the large emerging economies into the rules-based, market-oriented
global economic system.
As these nations become more
powerful economically, they must also assume greater responsibility for the
stability and proper functioning of the international economic system. They will
also have an important role as America's partners in strengthening existing
global economic institutions, creating new ones, and establishing new methods
of cooperation to address the challenges of the 21st century. We all have a role in ensuring that zero-sum
competition for markets, energy, food, or capital does not emerge. Instead, the
U.S. seeks, in partnership with emerging economies and traditional allies,
greater access for all people to the benefits of global trade, investment and
information networks, and cooperation to address any disruptions in the global
economy or threats to our nation's, or international, economic growth and
stability. Shaping the global system of the 21st Century to meet American
interests will require U.S. leadership, vision, and creative partnerships with
6. Why did you decide to go to work for the Obama administration? What
do you hope to accomplish?
I strongly support the policy objectives
of President Obama and Secretary Clinton. I also believe that their leadership
is crucial to successfully addressing the critical issues our country and the
world face in this era. And I hope to play a supportive role in helping them
address the challenges before our nation.
If the U.S. successfully
addresses these challenges, we will strengthen prospects for American and
global prosperity for decades to come. Just as Secretary of State Dean Acheson
famously wrote that he was "present at the creation" of the American-inspired
and led world order established after World War II (of course he was more than
present; he was instrumental in the entire process), those of us in government
today, in the early 21st century, can be said to be present at the
"re-creation" and have an opportunity to help our nation shape it. Of course
the character and needs of the world economy today differ greatly from those in
the late 1940s and early 1950s -- and therefore require new ways of thinking
and cooperating. The turbo-charged globalization of commerce, finance, and
information flows, and the entrance of billions of new producers and consumers
into the global economy -- particularly with the reintegration of large
economies such as China and India -- raise new challenges. But they also require
of us today the same high level of creativity and vision displayed by Secretary
Acheson and his colleagues over half a century ago.
One area I will especially focus
on in this country is working closely
with American labor, business, farmers, entrepreneurs and investors to sharpen
our nation's international competitive capabilities, and to support their
interests abroad. A key task will be to ensure that changes in the global
economy can be harnessed to enhance international opportunities for a widening
range of Americans in communities throughout our country -- and to help them
take full advantage of expanding markets around the world.
I am enthusiastic about working
with my colleagues in the State Department, those in other agencies, and
members and staff on the Hill to tackle these issues.
7. Who was your mentor in the early stages of your career and how did
they help you?
I have had a wonderful mentor
in Fred Bergsten, who now runs the Peterson
Institute for International Economics. Fred gave me my first job in
government as his assistant on the National Security Council staff when I was
fresh out of graduate school at the Fletcher School at Tufts University; he has
been a valued mentor and close friend ever since. Fred has a passion for
international economic policy that I share and a remarkable sense of vision
about the kinds of issues that will be critical to the U.S. and global economy
in future years.
8. Who is the foreign leader or figure you most admire and why?
Nelson Mandela. Vision, humanity, creativity and commitment.
9. What is your favorite country to visit for pleasure and what should
we do when we go there?
Israel, because of Jerusalem;
there is no city that contains as much history per square foot as Jerusalem. Egypt
because of the remarkable monuments near Cairo and in Upper Egypt. By studying
these civilizations and their rich history we learn a lot about ourselves and
our religious and cultural traditions.
10. If you had the chance to meet with any leading figure from history,
who would it be and what would you say to them?
Galileo, Copernicus, and Darwin
-- for much the same reason. The methods of scientific inquiry we practice
today owe much to them. They embody human creativity. I would be interested in
knowing how they would advise us today on the question of how to adopt
creative, visionary and (if need be) daring solutions to the problems we face. Often
our societies find it difficult to face up to the need to dramatically change
our ways of thinking and acting in the face of new challenges or to overcome
past inertia; as the result tough issues often are not addressed with
sufficient boldness. These men were quintessentially bold thinkers. We could
learn much from them today.