Henry Kissenger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeline Albright and Colin Powell recently met to "ponder how they would guide America in the world".
While Albright and Christopher have come out with endorsements for Obama, Kissenger and Baker for McCain and Powell remaining undecided, It appears to me that Kissenger and Powell have at least some leanings for Obama.
I think this is great news for Obama considering the public's notion that McCain would be the better suited candidate for foreign affairs.
Why is Powell waiting to make an endorsement?
Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Madeleine K. Albright and Colin L. Powell gathered at George Washington University to talk about the challenges facing the next president. Two support Mr. McCain (Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger) and two favor Mr. Obama (Ms. Albright and Mr. Christopher), while Mr. Powell remains undecided.
Powell speaks about restoring the the world's confidence in America. McCain continues to present more along Bush with his arrogant retoric while Obama speaks strong but also emphasizes cooperation and diplomacy.
They all agreed that the next administration must seek greater international cooperation. Immediately after taking office, Mr. Powell said, the new president must "start to restore a sense of confidence in the United States of America." That means letting "our friends and allies know that America is reaching out to them. ... We're going to work in unison." Mr. Christopher put it this way: "The president has to let the world know that this is not a 'with-us-or-against-us' administration."
While McCain insisted that Kissenger agrees with him about the need for preconditions to be met prior to high-level talks, It seems that Kissenger displays more flexibility in this notion than McCain might want to admit.
On Iran, they all agreed that the next administration needed to engage Tehran at a high level. "The whole point is, you try to ... deal with countries that you have problems with. It's one of the most important relationships we need to work on," said Ms. Albright, who tried to pursue an opening with Iran during the Clinton administration. Mr. Powell joined in: "Don't wait for a letter coming from them. Start the discussion." Mr. Kissinger said he would begin these talks at the secretary of state level, adding: "I do not believe we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations."
Closing Guantanamo and ending torture are more consistent with Obama's message than McCain's.
These diplomats agreed America's global image needs serious repair. They laid out three things the next president should do to start to fix it: Close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo ("A very serious blot upon our reputation," said Mr. Baker), outlaw torture and lead on climate change.
On issues of Russia and Georgia, it appears that Powell's approach is more consistent with that of Obama than McCain.
On Russia, the secretaries didn't excuse that nation's recent invasion of Georgia, but advised to keep perspective. "The Russians are the offenders right now," said Mr. Powell, but "the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side." Mr. Powell said to keep the strategic picture in mind: "You have to treat Russia as a proud country and treat them in a straightforward, businesslike, objective way, and not emotionally."
Even Kissenger agrees that Russian should not be seen as ther cold war enemy of before...again not consisent with McCain's bluster in the moments after the Russian/Georgian conflict began.
Mr. Kissinger, father of detente with the Soviets, concurred. "We need Russia for a solution of the Iranian problem," he said. "It is helpful to cooperate with Russia, not just on the proliferation question but on the issues of energy." His bottom-line assessment: "This Russia is not democratic, but it is also not what it was before, and one must permit some evolution to take place."
Even with China, Kissenger encourages coperation which lends itself more to the thought of Obama than McCain
Mr. Kissinger offered a similar prescription for dealing with a rising China. His advice: We are likely to have intense disagreements with China, but "the question is whether we can imagine and work on a world in which China and the United States do not look at each other as adversaries, but as possibly cooperating."
My final analysis of this commentary is that there is more support for Obama from these five past Secretaries then they are willing to formally endorse.
Karl F. Inderfurth, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, and Frank Sesno, a CNN special correspondent, are on the faculty at George Washington University. Derek Chollet is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Together they helped organize the meeting of the five secretaries of state.