Antony Blinken  on U.S. Foreign Policy

On May 192020, Meridian hosted Antony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State and former Deputy National Security Advisor to the President for virtual Insights@MeridianAs a leading voice on international affairs and foreign policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, Blinken discussed a range of global issues and how they might be handled under a Biden Administration. Moderated by CBS News’ Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Margaret Brennan, the conversation also examined the U.S. COVID-19 response and how it has impacted the U.S. role on the international stage.  

Below are the key takeaways from the conversation:  

  1. RETURN TO INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND ALLIANCES. Historically, the U.S. has taken a leadership role in establishing the rules, norms, and institutions that govern international cooperation. While these institutions are imperfect and need reform, the absence of U.S. leadership in these bodies, Blinken noted, yields one of two outcomes: someone else, such as China, will step in and rewrite the rules, possibly in a way that does not serve U.S. interests; or no one will fill the void and the result will be chaos. If the U.S. is guiding reform efforts for bodies like the WHO, there’s a greater chance that they will be reformed effectively. 
  2. WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.  “China is a great nation, and with that comes great responsibility” especially for a virus that originated within its territory,Blinken declared. China has fallen short of this duty by withholding information and access for international inspectors. Pursuing a foreign policy that demands more of Beijing “is not about beating up on China. This about insisting that China live up to its responsibilities, as one of the leading international actors.”  
  3. AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE.  As policies on the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve,Blinken conveyed the importance of learning from mistakes made in the domestic and international response to the crisis to better prepare for the next one. He observed that previous administrations set up defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, but that these defenses have been dismantled. This is a trend, Blinken asserted, that must be reversed: “The main thing is to make sure we get through this, but once we do to put in place systems to make sure it never happens again.”  
  4. FAILED RESPONSES TO SYRIA.  Blinken spoke of the personal significance the Syrian conflict has for him, acknowledging that the Obama Administration’s policy failed, and the current Administration is doing no better. Yet, there are still areas where the U.S. can affect positive change. He cited American Special Forces near an oil-rich area in northeastern Syria, and America’s capacity to mobilize other countries to assist rebuilding efforts as reasons for hope. While there is no guarantee of success, Blinken declared that “I can guarantee that in a Biden administration, we’d show up.”  
  5. DIPLOMACY IN AFGHANISTAN. Blinken applauded the diplomatic progress made in Afghanistan led by the Trump Administration. He added that the situation was still complicated, and that reaching an agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government will be an even greater challenge. Moving forward, the U.S. needs to retain enough capacity in Afghanistan to prevent a resurgence of terrorism in order to protect American interests and national security. 

Insights@Meridian  is designed to provide ambassadors and other senior diplomats with an intimate opportunity to hear directly from Administration leaders, members of Congress, policymakers and business visionaries on vital policy issues of the day. 

Project summary