The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Cabler of the Week: P.J. Crowley

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week’s subject: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley: 1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy ideology? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, ...

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572028_100326_crowley2.jpg

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week's subject: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley:

1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy ideology? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, JFK, George W. Bush, someone else?

If I look at President Obama's 43 predecessors, I would have to pay tribute to Bill Clinton's foreign policy. He laid the foundation for our relationship with the world in the 21st century, a fundamental change from the foreign-policy framework of the Cold War. He broadened how we define our national security, integrating issues such as the economy, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS and terrorism into our policy-making. Secretary Clinton as First Lady did as well, drawing attention to how women were fundamental to solving the world's problems. President Clinton made conflict resolution a driving force behind our foreign policy, devoting personal attention to the Middle East, Northern Ireland and the Balkans. The Bush administration defined the world in terms of our differences -- you are either for us or against us. The Clinton administration, and now the Obama administration, defines our relationship in terms of our similarities and common challenges. We are better off for it.

Where we ask 10 questions that help us to understand one of the personalities making foreign policy in the Obama administration. This week’s subject: Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley:

1. Which American president do you look to as the model for your approach to foreign policy ideology? Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, LBJ, JFK, George W. Bush, someone else?

If I look at President Obama’s 43 predecessors, I would have to pay tribute to Bill Clinton’s foreign policy. He laid the foundation for our relationship with the world in the 21st century, a fundamental change from the foreign-policy framework of the Cold War. He broadened how we define our national security, integrating issues such as the economy, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS and terrorism into our policy-making. Secretary Clinton as First Lady did as well, drawing attention to how women were fundamental to solving the world’s problems. President Clinton made conflict resolution a driving force behind our foreign policy, devoting personal attention to the Middle East, Northern Ireland and the Balkans. The Bush administration defined the world in terms of our differences — you are either for us or against us. The Clinton administration, and now the Obama administration, defines our relationship in terms of our similarities and common challenges. We are better off for it.

2. How do you view U.S. hegemony leadership in the world in the 21st century? Is the American hegemon in decline or going strong? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The United States is still the most powerful and influential country in the world. Some resent our hegemonic status, but the fact is that there is no significant challenge in the world that can be solved without the leadership of the United States. But it is also true that we cannot solve any global challenge — conflict, climate change, poverty, the economy, whatever — alone. So we need partners. We will still lead, but it will be leadership together with other rising powers. This is absolutely a good thing, but it means we will need to learn to share responsibility and listen more attentively to others than we perhaps did 50 years ago. Our leadership will remain a given, but our style of leadership must change and be more inclusive.

3. What’s the number one narrative about the Obama administration’s foreign policy so far that you feel has been mischaracterized by the media?

We have a number of special envoys here at the State Department, almost 50 when you put them all together. Why? Because we face an unprecedented number of significant and complex challenges and crises — Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East, climate change, Sudan, energy, just to mention a few. These challenges cut across traditional policy silos and regions. They demand constant attention, more than any one person can devote on any given day. The media for some reason believe that these envoys overshadow the secretary of state. This is nonsense, part of the traditional Washington parlor game of who is up and who is down, that an achievement by one figure comes at the expense of someone else. There will be great accomplishments here at the State Department under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, based in large part because she, working with the president, hired a great team, supported them and gave them responsibility to do what needs to be done. This is the essence of effective leadership.

4. Who is the Obama administration foreign-policy official that we should we watch more closely?

David Goldwyn is our energy guru, doing incredibly important work around the world and very much under the radar. He is working with individual countries and regions trying to determine how to bring more electricity to more people; how to make energy markets function more effectively and predictably; how to expand the sources of energy in regions of the world, which helps avoid disruptions and prevent energy from being used as an economic weapon; and how to help countries avoid the so-called energy curse, where resources of energy-rich countries will be used for the benefit of the many, not the few.

5. What do you see as the top three challenges for U.S. foreign policy over the next three decades?

There are others far more knowledgeable than I am, but I think the next 30 years will be defined in terms of how we manage the environment and whether we are prepared to reduce the release of greenhouse gases, reduce our use of fossil fuels and increase alternative sources of energy. This is no longer a debating point; it is now a national imperative. Secondly, how we manage scarcity, whether oil, food, water or other essential of life, will be vital. Any of these can be a future source of conflict. And, finally, it is how successfully we promote responsible governance. In this world, countries that are well-led will advance and countries that are poorly-led will fall father and farther behind.

6. Why did you decide to go to work for the Obama administration? What do you hope to accomplish?

I have been a public servant most of my life, first in the military and then as a political appointee. So, when Secretary Clinton made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I welcomed the opportunity to serve my country again. Regardless of whether the president is a Democrat or Republican, our common interest is to promote our national interest. I am committed to helping advance our engagement with the world, a clear priority of the president and the secretary of state. This is a never-ending challenge given the 24/7 nature of the communications environment and the evolution of traditional and social media. I know when I am standing at the State Department podium or in front of a camera, I am responsible for explaining the foreign policy of the United States to the American people and people around the world. I hope I can contribute in some way in helping different communities understand each other a little better, fulfilling the vision that the president set out in his Cairo speech.

7. Who was your mentor in the early stages of your career and how did they help you?

My father was a B-17 pilot turned journalist turned broadcaster turned public relations executive. He steered me both towards the military and the public affairs career field. I have been blessed with many mentors, from Sandy Berger to John Podesta, from Mike McCurry to Joe Lockhart. But before all of them, there was the late Ken Bacon, the former Pentagon spokesman who saw something in a mid-level officer and kept promoting me into interesting and visible positions. I would not he here today without him.

8. Who is the foreign leader or figure you most admire and why?

Let me choose two from the past 25 years. First, Nelson Mandela. He made a conscious decision to look forward, not backward. He decided not to be consumed by the past, but immediately set out to unite his people behind a common view of the future. That is the essence of political courage. Societies and leaders who cannot seem to overcome history can learn some lessons from him. And, second, Mikhail Gorbachev. When he advanced the policy of perestroika, he thought he could control the outcome. When it became clear that the Soviet Union would not be reformed but would disappear, he decided not to stand in the way of a very different history than the one he first envisioned. That is the essence of statesmanship.

9. What is your favorite country to visit for pleasure and what should we do when we go there?

My grandparents came from Cork, so every time we stop in Ireland — lately to refuel at Shannon — I always feel right at home. I am an avid golfer, and the most fun I have had in Ireland revolves around stops at Ballybunion or Lahinch and getting closer to how golf was played way back when. Whether in Scotland or Ireland, you haven’t played golf until you cope with the winds that can spring up at any time.

10. If you had the chance to meet with any leading figure from history, who would it be and what would you say to them?

If we invented a time machine, I would go back to 1919 to talk with Harry Frazee, then the owner of the Boston Red Sox. I would have strongly suggest that he keep a young pitcher-outfielder named Babe Ruth and find another way to finance his production of No No Nanette. As a Bostonian, there is no more significant moment in history than that one.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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