Prospective Issues for the Incoming Administration

James B. Steinberg
James B. Steinberg Former Brookings Expert, University Professor, Social Science, International Affairs, and Law - Maxwell School, Syracuse University

November 19, 2004

Thank you, Bob, and good morning to you all. It’s a great pleasure to be here today and with so many distinguished public servants. The record and the experience that exists in this room today are a real tribute to the spirit of public service and the commitment to our national well-being, prosperity, and security, which the country needs to be grateful for. And certainly, as somebody who has had a chance to work with some of you and with many of your successors, I express my personal appreciation for all of your dedicated service.

I also want to thank Ambassador Einaudi and the OAS for hosting us. Luigi was a colleague of mine at the State Department and is one of the most outstanding examples of that spirit of a person who has given his life to the cause of not only American well-being and security, but the world. And it is really fitting that we have a chance to be here in this building to talk about the issues before us today. I want to talk broadly about some of the challenges facing the United States and the world, and I look forward to the conversation that my colleagues will moderate later, getting into more of the detail on both the security and economic issues facing the country.

The last several years have posed extraordinarily difficult challenges for American foreign policy. The electoral triumph of President Bush in 2000 was supposed to usher in an era of unipolarity characterized by the unchallenged dominance of a single superpower with the will and capacity to secure its global interests. The proponents of that view expected that the rest of the world would quickly fall in line – some countries because they share America’s vision, others because they had little choice.

Yet, in just a short time that optimistic hope has faded and the world has grown more treacherous for the United States. The 9/11 attacks brought home to the American public a mortal danger that some foreign policy experts had worried about for years. Even though the United States faces no conventional state adversary that could or would challenge our military might, a small group of determined terrorists can pose an asymmetrical, but equally deadly threat to Americans both abroad and at home.