Speaking to an audience of about 20 students in Linsly-Chittenden Hall Monday night, Yale lecturer and former ambassador John Negroponte ’60 commented on a wide range of foreign policy issues facing the Obama administration today.
The former ambassador identified what he described as the three key elements of American foreign policy: to protect the country’s security, to enhance economic interests and to promote and defend American values. Negroponte also argued that the core of U.S. foreign policy involves the ongoing need to build positive diplomatic relations with other countries. He called for the new secretary of state, John Kerry ’66, to continue the emphasis on keeping diplomatic channels open and to articulate the need for more economic and military agreements between nations as a strategy for deterring new challenges.
Negroponte also spoke of the consistency that has characterized American foreign policy since the end of World War II.
“When you take a look at what is actually done, foreign policy doesn’t broadly change from administration to administration or party to party,” Negroponte said.
The former ambassador said the international situation and the national mood mean that President Barack Obama is unlikely to start any new foreign engagements in the near future, adding that Obama will likely opt instead to concentrate international relations in the context of a national focus on the economy and internal rebuilding. He cited the president’s State of the Union address in January, which alluded sparsely to foreign policy but mentioned a potential free-trade agreement with Europe, as an example of a shift in focus.
Negroponte also touched on issues he predicted that America and its allies will soon have to face, including the changing role of NATO and a still-resurgent Russia. While there have been positive relations between the United States and Russia on issues like arms control, nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism, Negroponte acknowledged “some daylight” in terms of human rights and democracy issues that must be managed strategically.
In speaking about the Obama administration’s policy on the decadelong war in Afghanistan, Negroponte said the president seems committed to ending the war quickly, though he recommended leaving a small military presence to indicate long-term American interest in the region.
The former Bush administration diplomat also took questions from the student audience, fielding inquiries about current and past political issues.
When asked about the American military’s controversial drone program currently under international scrutiny, Negroponte said the president has been enthusiastic about the program and the administration is looking to expand the program by installing a new launch base in central Africa.
Toward the end of his speech, Negroponte spoke of climate change as an issue he would like to see addressed.
“This is an area where it will take the president’s personal leadership to get things done,” he said, recommending a focus on China and India as two of the world’s largest polluters.
Linh Nguyen ’15, who organized the event, praised Negroponte for sharing his views, adding that his personal experience enriched his opinions.
Miranda Melcher ’16 said Negroponte’s perspective allowed audience members to consider foreign policy over time.
“People our age tend to forget that the people making the decision are a lot older than us,” she said, adding that this time frame shapes the way high-level government officials make decisions.
The ambassador’s talk was sponsored by the Yale International Relations Association.