New York, New York – According to key foreign policy makers during IRI’s foreign policy panel convened on Monday, August 30, 2004, a successful U.S. foreign policy must remain focused on long-term leadership in promoting freedom.

This panel, held at Time Warner, Inc., in New York City, was entitled “The Forward Strategy for Freedom: What is Needed to Advance Democracy Abroad?” and served as a substantive forum to explore the nexus of timely foreign policy issues such as democracy promotion, public diplomacy, human rights, the role of the United Nations, trade, and security.  Panelists included Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Dr. Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard; Ambassador Rich Williamson, Partner at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP; the Honorable Vin Weber, Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy; and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

Time Warner, Inc., ChevronTexaco, and AT&T made this event possible through their generous support. IRI would like to extend its appreciation for their role.

Following a welcome by Time Warner, Inc. Executive Vice President for Global Policy Robert M. Kimmitt and brief remarks from IRI President Lorne Craner and IRI Chairman Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Representative David Dreier (R-CA) served as moderator for the first half of the discussion while Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) served as moderator for the remainder of the event, during which the audience of nearly 150 people provided questions to the panelists.  IRI Vice Chairman Mike Kostiw let the audience in an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. 

“It was a big adjustment, to say the least, to the end of communism, that played out through the ’90s. Many thought that this would somehow be a united front for peace and prosperity,” said Dr. Kristol.  “The dream or the fantasy perhaps was that this was somehow an irreversible trend, and commercialization, globalization, and democratization were all going to move ahead unimpeded.  A close look at the ’90s will suggest this wasn’t the case.”

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration has sought to resolve difficult, festering issues pushed to the margins during the 1990s including, but certainly not limited to, the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s continued flaunting of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

As the U.S. has attempted to lead the global community in confronting these hard decisions, some other countries have refused to be led, thus in part contributing to the U.S. public diplomacy problem in the world, said Mr. Weber.  He then asserted the U.S. must not shirk its leadership duties in lieu of popularity.

“If we don’t it, no one else is going to do it.  That’s the message in Afghanistan, it is certainly the message in Iraq, it’s the message in Sudan, and it’s going to be the message over the next several years in many other places around the world,” said Mr. Weber.

Similarly, Dr. Kirkpatrick characterized France, Russia, and Germany as practicing “old fashioned real politik” while the U.S. is “trying to do something quite different, which is humanitarian foreign policy.”

“My view is that we should do as good a job as we can in dealing with the merits or the substance of world problems.  And play a humane role. And help the world when we can, as we can.  And try to treat other people with courtesy in this regard and respect.  And not worry much about the opinion of us,” Dr. Kirkpatrick said. “That’s really what I think.”

Several panelists provided detailed recommendations for continued U.S. leadership in regions where rule of law, free markets, and freedom of expression remain foreign.  Having recently served as Ambassador and U.S. Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Convention in Geneva, Rich Williamson stressed the importance of fostering transitional justice to facilitate the development of rule of law in post-conflict environments, citing the trial of Saddam Hussein by Iraqis as a largely unexamined, yet critical development in the Middle East. 

“There is a certain tension because [people in the Middle East] kind of liked that Saddam Hussein could stand up to America,” Ambassador Williamson said.  “But they are more fascinated whether a brutal person can be held to be accountable.  And if he is, more will ask ‘Well, why don’t I have a say?'”

Continued negotiations on free trade agreements are an important long-term investment in democratic institutions, said Representative Dreier, an IRI Board Member since 1990.

“Giving the option to people to actually choose the goods and services that they have has a spill over effect,” said Mr. Dreier.  When people move from accepting state-produced products to having choices in goods and services, and then to choices in media outlets and political leadership, “it underscores the interdependence of economic and political liberalization.”

While Mr. Weber agreed that promoting free enterprise, developing political parties, and expanding independent media outlets will be necessary in the Middle East, he indicated the “linchpin strategy” for helping Middle East societies move forward is “enhancing the role of women in the political process.”

“It’s not easy, and you have to be respectful of religious traditions as with anywhere,” said Mr. Weber.  “But it is succeeding in a lot of places in the world, and it is a critical part of our strategy in the Middle East.”

As an elected official who must be accountable to his constituents for progress on America’s forward strategy for democracy, Senator Chambliss cited education reform in countries where anti-Americanism is embedded in the curriculum as a critical benchmark.

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