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Leslie Gelb and Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President and Director of External Relations

Speaker Events - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gelb Says US is Indispensable World Leader, With Allies

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a new book, Power Rules, said last week at an IPI event that the US remains the indispensable leader of the world, though US partnerships with other states are equally indispensable.

"The central operating principle for getting things done in this world is mutual indispensability," said Mr. Gelb, "with the United States as the indispensable leader, and other states as indispensable--equally indispensable--partners. Fail alone, succeed together. It's plain obvious, and we don't seem to get it."

Mr. Gelb also cited containment and deterrence, in concert with alliances, as two of the best strategies to keep hostilities in check.

In fact, said Mr. Gelb, these have always been the strategies.

"I see our colleagues writing all the time, 'You know it's not like the good ole' days when we could dictate foreign policy.' When the hell was that? During the Cold War when we told the Soviet Union what to do? It didn't exist. That's a mirage that's become a touchstone for the diminishing powers of the United States."

And even twenty-first-century threats, according to Mr. Gelb, can be tempered with containment and deterrence.

"If the Taliban represents a continuing threat to other countries, we have a way of forming alliances with India, China, Russia and, yes, Iran, as we did at the beginning of the Afghan War, in order to contain them. Deterrence and containment and other forms of power can work in the twenty-first century, so that we can concentrate on rebuilding our economies, our educational systems, and our ability to solve problems and make our lives better."

Said Mr. Gelb, "The worst word in my foreign policy lexicon are, 'no choice, no alternative.' Every time I hear that, I know that's the end of reasonable thinking. There's no more choice. There's only necessity. And necessity is the weapon of great tragedy in international affairs."

Mr. Gelb spoke at IPI on May 19th in the Trygve Lie Center. The event was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President and Director of External Relations.

Slide show: Image 1 of 7
Photo Credits: Elliot Moscowitz  
Left to right: Dr. Peter Gastrow, IPI Senior Fellow; Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President and Director of External Relations; and Leslie Gelb.







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