National Press Club

Scowcroft: Globalization erodes power of individual countries

June 14, 2011 | By Ken Dalecki |

Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft

Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Globalization is "reducing freedom of action of the nation state," former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft told a National Press Club luncheon audience June 14 during the annual Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation journalism awards presentations.

Scowcroft, the top security aide to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, said that globalization in communications, economics and other fields is "eroding the power of nation states" that have been the framework for international relations since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

He cited the global economic crisis that began in 2008 as an example of a problem that required a global response that individual countries struggled to address.

Scowcroft reviewed a host of foreign policy challenges facing the Obama Administration following the presentation of Ford Foundation awards for coverage of the presidency and national defense.

Winners were Steven Thomma, White House reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, for coverage of the presidency, and Shane Harris, senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, for coverage of national defense.

Scowcroft said globalization of communications has made possible fast-changing foreign policy challenges, such as uprisings in the Arab world. Instant communications have made possible street protests that were difficult to develop in the past but easy to organize now.

Such changes "present enormous complications for policy makers," he said. Discussing upheavals in Arab countries, Scowcroft said Americans should be cautious about viewing "what is going on this these countries as an upsurge for democracy."

Protesters in each country have different motivations with a demand for "dignity" as a common denominator.

He called for strong U.S. economic support for Egypt, which has lost tourism, investment and remittances from Egyptians living abroad since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

U.S. involvement in Libya is based more on promoting "values" than economic interests, according to Scowcroft. Tribalism is the central factor for unrest in Yemen and factionalism in Syria.

"Each situation is different and complicated" and a one-size-fits-all policy by the United States will not work, he said.

Scowcroft said the deepening of relations between the United States and China since the Nixon administration has been the nation's "most successful foreign policy" despite some bumps in the road.

He said the United States and China are "not fated to be enemies" in spite of political, cultural and economic differences.

The former general praised President Obama for staying the course in Afghanistan, which he said need not be remade in our image so long as it does not return to being a base for exporting terrorism.

Scowcroft said the United States has to be "more thoughtful" before resorting to force in dealing with frustrating foreign policy issues.

A strong critic of President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, Scowcroft also denounced polarized politics in Washington, citing President Ford's willingness to compromise to make progress.

He noted that the foundation of U.S. government -- a population-based House of Representatives and state-based Senate -- was the result of compromise.

Steven Ford, son of the 38th President and chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, recalled his father's close relationship with the press and his dedication to reading newspapers. He said his father believed democracy needs an informed citizenry via the press.

Reminiscences about President Ford included Steven Ford's recollection of the newly sworn in president having to return to his three-bedroom house in Alexandria because Nixon left the White House so fast that it took him six days to move out his belongings and move in Ford's.

He recalled new First Lady Betty Ford telling her husband: "Something is wrong: You just became president and I'm still cooking!"

Scowcroft recalled that Ford was a big, strong, athletic man who loved playing golf but had no idea where the ball would go.

"He hit a lot of people," Scowcroft said.