In an event made possible by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, National Constitution Center, and Gerald R. Ford Museum, Lt. General Bent Scowcroft spoke as part of the William E. Simon Lecture Series on Public Affairs. Scowcroft served as the United States National Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs during the Ford Administration. He was also a personal friend of President Ford, and remains close to the Ford Family today. Scowcroft opened his lecture by giving person insights in to his relationship with President Ford., stating that President and Mrs. Ford were “not just leaders of the country, but dear friends.
Scowcroft found himself amazed that “this country had the good luck to have Gerald Ford when our National discourse was in a state of repair as bad, or even worse than, the state of disarray today”. He quickly pointed out the two “overwhelming traumas” prevalent when President Ford took Office: The Vietnam War which was “bitterly divisive”, and the resignation of President Nixon, which Scowcroft believes was the biggest domestic crisis since the Civil War. Scowcroft credited President Ford for being “incredibly brave“, taking a Nation “at war with itself”, and putting it back together again so well that the American people quickly forgot how divided they were before. Scowcroft continued to praise Ford and his ability to face “his problems head on” making “decisions which were best for his country, not for himself or personal gain”. He used examples such as the Nixon pardon, granting amnesty for draft dodgers, and the Helsinki Agreements of 1975, which Scowcroft believes eventually brought an end to the Cold War, to cement his point.
After his period of reflection, Scowcroft moved on to addressing the “new time of troubles” taking shape in the world today. He stated that there have been two fundamental changes in the world, and foreign policy. The first shift has been the shift from “strategy” to “tactics” in foreign policy. During the Cold War, there was a set strategy of containment, to hold in the “evil empire” until it destroyed itself. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a period of what Scowcroft calls “drift”. This was a time where the United States had no clear enemies, and thus no need for advancement in foreign policy.
The second fundamental change Scowcroft addressed is Globalization. It was masked by the Cold War, but since then, all consuming and demanding much attention. Globalization, he believes, is attacking the foundations of the Westphalia system which “sets up nation-state as main player in the world, solid to itself and sovereign to itself”. According to Scowcroft, the Industrial Revolution built up the modern Westphalian nation-state. Scowcroft believes Westphalian civilization is now “beset with the problems globalization bring”.. Today with a world economy the effects of an economic crisis in one nation-state can be seen worldwide.
Besides the economic issues caused by globalization, Scowcroft pointed out the security issues that arise from it. He believes that the Arab Spring, or Arab Awakening is a direct effect of globalization. In this scenario, globalization serves to politicize the worlds people. In Egypt, where the “awakening” originated, the revolt was on “behalf of dignity”, “not necessarily an uprising for democracy as we might like to think“. With the changes there having taken place Scowcroft posed the questions “ after the bad guys are gone, how do you put together a system when you have people with fundamentally different ways of thinking?“ With this in mind, Scowcroft then other nations which are a regarding foreign policy.
1) Syria: Scowcroft believes this is a major hotspot. Not being homogenous like Egypt, and with different religions and national groups that are not voluntarily part of a state the situation there is more complicated. The government is run by a small offshoot of Shiite Islamic, the Alawi, comprising only 10% of the population of the country. The Sunni’s are the majority, but inside that there are Christians, Jews, and Palestinians (who support the Assad regime for protection against the majority Sunnis). Additionally there is a religious vs. secular struggle. Scowcroft adamantly stated that an intervention in Syria would be akin to the situation in Iraq, with a price that he believes we cannot pay.
1) Syria: Scowcroft believes this is a major hotspot. Not being homogenous like Egypt, and with different religions and national groups that are not voluntarily part of a state the situation there is more complicated.