Philip Zelikow | November 9, 2020
On November 9, Professor Simon Miles was joined by Dr. Philip Zelikow, the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and former State Department Counselor, to discuss his new book To Build a Better World, co-authored with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Zelikow began by addressing the motivations of the book, notably the idea that covering the end of the Cold War helps to remind us how we got through a global catastrophe without war. The discussion turned to why Germany was so critical during this period: the Cold War was not going to be decided by the big states, but by the “swing states.” The “swing states” in the global election between capitalism and communism were largely in Western and Central Europe, including Germany. Dr. Zelikow emphasized the idea that in looking at the history of American foreign relations, we have to de-center America in our stories in order to see how America really figured into the story. Understanding the story from a wider point-of-view gives a sense of proportion and perspective. The conversation touched on the foreign policy of the Reagan administration, the transition to the Bush (41) administration, and how they navigated through the changing vectors through the end of the Cold War.
The discussion then shifted to the lessons that can be drawn for modern foreign policy. Dr. Zelikow noted that while foreign policy-making at the end of the Cold War required dealing with constant crises, but with a broader grand strategic vision in mind. He compared that to today, as crises are often still the focus but there is a lack of grand strategy. He noted that this is the time to re-assess grand strategy and rethink for the problems of the 2020’s, which may require revamping institutions. During the Q&A, Dr. Zelikow addressed questions about role models for successful governance in the 21st century, how the U.S. can re-engage in a constructive way, and the relationship between Russia and the U.S. and possible security partners.