Former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told an audience of about 125 people “I am in some ways an accidental foreign policy specialist,” during the latest Cazenovia Forum on Oct. 4 at Catherine Cummings Theatre.
Steinberg is currently the Dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. After a warm introduction from Maxwell colleague and former Forum board member Kristi Anderson, Steinberg noted the different perspectives between Washington and places like Central New York.
“I have had the privilege of serving three Presidents of the United States over the past 35 years,” Steinberg said. “As well as working in the Senate for one of the great public servants of our time, Ted Kennedy. But, I’ve also spent about half my career away from Washington and I’m very well aware that things look very different to those from beyond the beltway, as they do to us who reside in Washington D.C.”
He went on to speak about how the President of the United States, regardless of who he may be come November, will face a “daunting array of difficulties,” when confronting the complexities of future foreign policy. He spoke in particular about U.S. policy toward China, Iran and the Middle East in the wake of the “Arab Spring.”
“The challenge will be to develop an approach that will make sense to the kaleidoscope and give shape to our strategy for years to come,” Steinberg said. “In doing so, there will be constant calls to enunciate a doctrine. But to understand and to develop a sound strategy, you first need to understand the concrete challenges that doctrine is designed to address.”
In an anecdote explaining his opening comment, Steinberg recalled how he began his political career interested in domestic policy, until a fateful Nov. 4, 1979, while working as a young special assistant in the Justice Department.