Development and Diplomacy in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections: Q&A with Steve Radelet

January 15, 2010

Steve Radelet

Last week the Center for U.S. Global Engagement, the new educational arm of the U.S Global Leadership Campaign, launched Impact '08: Building a Better Safer World, a national campaign focused on inspiring the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates to prioritize development and diplomacy as keystones of America's engagement with the world. CGD senior fellow Steve Radelet chaired the bipartisan, multidisciplinary working group that drafted the campaign's policy framework and answers questions on this exciting new initiative.

Q: What is Impact '08 and why is it important?

A: The interconnected global challenges and opportunities facing America in the 21st century call for smart power -- elevating diplomacy and development assistance while integrating them with our economic policies, defense and intelligence activities. Through the Impact '08 presidential initiative, a diverse network of leaders and foreign policy experts will be working to reshape U.S. foreign policy by elevating diplomacy and development programs as a priority for the 2008 presidential campaign and the next administration's foreign policy and national security strategy. America cannot rely on the military alone for national security. Making greater and more effective use of our development and diplomatic tools will advance global health, economic prosperity and international cooperation while restoring America's global image and moral leadership.

Q: There are lots of initiatives around U.S. foreign assistance reform and the use of smart power. How is Impact '08 different?

A: The existence of so many initiatives aimed at elevating development and diplomacy is terrific. It shows a demand for new terms of global engagement by the United States. Impact '08, CGD reports and congressional testimony, the CSIS Commission on Smart Power, the Brookings/CSIS U.S. Foreign Assistance Reform Project and other initiatives share a common call: progress on today's tough security and global challenges requires smart investment across the full range of instruments of national power. We must complement our defense policies with wise investments in diplomacy, foreign assistance, and reinvigorated global economic policies that promote cooperation, encourage democratic and responsive governance, and expand economic opportunity, basic education, and improved health. We now substantially under-invest in these tools, weakening our ability to enact effective foreign policies that respond to the new environment of the 21st century. Impact '08 will leverage all the good work of these initiatives through a three-pronged strategic outreach and engagement strategy: engaging presidential candidates and key advisors; encouraging debate on America's role in the world; and keeping Americans informed. Through meetings and forums at both the national and state levels, the Impact '08 network will connect with the candidates and the public to educate them on the importance of greater U.S. investments in development and diplomacy.

Q: What is the potential for Impact '08 to succeed in getting smart power into the national debate?

A: Impact ’08 launched with a bang. Our working group included fifteen experienced and deeply committed foreign policy professionals from both parties that were able to reach consensus on these critical issues. Inspired by Impact '08 co-chairs Madeleine Albright and Frank Carlucci, more than two dozen former cabinet officials, congressional and foreign policy leaders -- from both political parties and spanning development, diplomacy and defense sectors -- have endorsed a summary policy framework and more are signing up every day. Several presidential candidates have already included smart power concepts in their foreign policy addresses. I think we are at a pivotal moment in our history. I think Americans want to engage in the world of hope, not fear, and on the strength of our values and statecraft, not just our military might. Recent polls show Americans don’t mind not being liked, but they care deeply about being respected. And smart power, done right, can bring this respect and goodwill, which in turn greatly enhances our ability to achieve our most important foreign policy goals. A Pew Global Attitudes survey finds America's image slipping. Terror Free Tomorrow found that foreign aid dramatically improved public perceptions of the United States in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, for a sustained period following U.S. generosity in the wake of the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake. The Program on International Policy Attitudes/Knowledge Networks found that fully 57 percent of Americans favor building goodwill toward the U.S. by providing food and medical assistance to people in poor countries. Every American can make a difference in elevating smart power into the national debate: here’s how.