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A Diagnosis of America’s Foreign Policy

In the first edition of the McCain Institute’s Authors & Insights event series, former World Bank President Robert Zoellick joined Ambassador Mark Green to discuss his newest book, “America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy.” Having served as deputy secretary of state and U.S. trade representative throughout his career, Zoellick has had unique and consistent insight into American decision-making in the foreign policy arena and can speak to what the country’s future aspirations should be.

Watch the entire event below or tune into the audio-only podcast version of the event via iTunes or Soundcloud.



“I decided it would have been an overwhelming task to write a full comprehensive history, and it probably would have been less readable; I partly designed this for people who enjoy biographies as John McCain enjoyed biographies because I think people are the way you bring these stories to life, but as you know, Mark, for each person, it tried to associate with an episode or a brief era of issues, as well as an idea. So I try to associate Hamilton with economic statecraft; for Jefferson, it’s the future because of his view; for John Quincy Adams, it’s sort of American realism. So I try to come up with a menu if you would like of ideas that I think people thinking about foreign policy today could look at and say, ‘Oh yes, how does that one show up here.’”


“If you think about Teddy Roosevelt, we often associate him as the lieutenant colonel who went up San Juan Hill and the great white fleet. Indeed, if you go to the Roosevelt Room today, you’ll see this picture of Colonel Roosevelt on a steering horse – this is in the west wing of the white house – but below it is the Nobel Peace Prize. And he won that Nobel Peace Prize in 1905-1906 for mediating the Russo-Japanese war. And that’s interesting because one often thinks of him in terms of his bully impression; he used that discipline as a mediator extraordinarily effectively and this was at a time the U.S. didn’t really have a diplomatic service, so part of what Roosevelt does is he enlists the support of the German and the French ambassadors to the United States, a groomsman who was a British diplomat serving in St. Petersburg. They want to work with him because they can see he’s a guy who gets things done.”


“I believe that a strong continental base – 500 million people, three democracies working together that will also help the United States engage with problems around the world – puts 1.3 billion people in China in a different perspective.”


“Throughout American history, there are key members of Congress – often in the Senate, but sometimes, as you know, in the House – who sort of step up and play a role in this. And of course, I was thinking about Senator McCain in this. When I worked with Senator McCain in the 90s – this was in the Clinton Administration – he played a key role in the opening to Vietnam; he played a key role in building Republican support for the military and peace efforts in the Balkans; he clearly mentored a generation or more of members of Congress at the Munich Security Conference, Singapore and others.”

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Publish Date
August 11, 2020