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Authors & Insights: The Roles of Freedom and Democracy in American Foreign Policy

When making critical national security decisions, what role should principles of democracy, freedom and human rights play in the decision-making process? As the 26th National Security Advisor to the President, H.R. McMaster constantly considered this question and more as he helped shape American foreign policy from inside the West Wing.

On October 7, Gen. McMaster joined Arizona State University President and McCain Institute Trustee Dr. Michael Crow to discuss his newest book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World. This was the third installment of the virtual series, which examines America’s challenges and authors’ insights on how to meet them.

Watch or listen to the entire event below. You can also tune into the audio-only podcast version of the event via iTunes or Soundcloud.



“I think the core of the fight is that we have to compete effectively to ensure that our free and open societies remain secure, are prosperous, and can extend our influence effectively. I think we have to recognize that we have to compete and reenter a recent competition, Michael, that we vacated because of over optimism in the 1990s, and maybe too much pessimism and even resignation in the 2000s. And we are at a fundamental level, in a competition to create our free and open societies and closed authoritarian systems.”


“It’s bad. But the situation and its prospects are not as bad as we think. I think there’s a growing realization, Michael, that we in the free world are all in this together. I mean when you look at the aggression of Chinas’ communist party, this wolf warrior diplomacy. Theres nothing like the prospect of death to focus the mind. I think that in the west, within Europe and between Europe and the United States, the transatlantic relationship including now the United Kingdom, the separate from the EU, but still culturally and in terms of principles and values, connected to the continent. I think we recognize now that we are in a competition, that’s the first step. And we have to cooperate together to build a better future for generations to come and I think there’s a growing realization as we’re in this crisis of COVID, the recession associated with it, and a crisis of confidence as well.”


“This the difference between planning and implementation and execution. I mean a plan, you can have a beautiful plan, but if you can’t implement it, it’s not going to be effective…But you know, we understood, I think, what it would take. We being the US gov across multiple administrations, starting with George W. Bush, who had tremendous foresight on this by the way. This is the power of history. He read a historical account of the 1918-1919 Pandemic, and this is after 911, he convened his national security team and said ‘hey I think we have a big potential problem here. We need to really get after this.’”

Publish Date
October 14, 2020