On presidential leadership – Atlantic Council
Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe reflects on President Trump’s decision on Iran and the 2018 Distinguished Leadership Awards
It was a chilling coincidence that we scheduled the Atlantic Council’s annual Distinguished Leadership Awards dinner, saluting former President George W. Bush for his lifesaving work against HIV-AIDS, in the face of the leadership decision the President Trump’s most significant to date, the loss of Iran’s nuclear deal.
Receiving his award on May 10, the date Winston Churchill became prime minister in 1940, President Bush spoke with a clarity that ensured his message was not missed:
“Churchill said that during his lifetime, two world wars had shown that the oceans no longer protected the new world from the problems of the old. The only way to peace was partnership and commitment. If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, everything will fail. This is why the Atlantic Council is important today. And I appreciate your good works.
I rarely use this space to celebrate Atlantic Council products or purpose. However, we face an inflection point of historic dimensions in the dangers facing the global system of institutions and values that the founders of the Council helped to create alongside their allies some seventy years ago. years. A common cause to confront this growing peril is as crucial as it was in Churchill’s day.
So we enjoyed President Bush’s tip of the hat to our audience of over 750 guests from over 70 countries (see the full report here).
Again quoting Churchill, Bush said:
“The price of greatness is responsibility. One cannot in many ways become the ruling community of the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes… people in the United States cannot escape global responsibility.
Fifteen years ago this month, President Bush signed into law the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Says Bush, “My administration believed that of those who are given a lot, a lot is taken. We believed that we were all children of God and that every human life is precious. So in 2003 we decided that the largest and richest nation had a moral responsibility to intervene.
In his powerful introduction to President Bush, former national security adviser Steve Hadley said the result of the PEPFAR plan was that “over 13 million lives have been saved, and we are turning the tide of this pandemic.”
Just two days before President Bush was to receive his award, President Trump announced his decision to leave the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA).
As I wrote on our New Atlanticist blog this week:
“It is no coincidence that Trump announced this even as he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. These two commitments will go a long way in shaping the Trump administration’s policy toward nuclear proliferators and whether Trump’s disruptive approach can produce real results.
“Whether Trump’s decision today proves to be the right tonic to finally counter Iran’s multiple threats depends on the administration’s ability to craft a strategy as cohesive as Trump’s action. today was bold. For the moment, this is not the case. »
It will be some time before we know whether Trump’s intentionally disruptive style is producing outsize results or outsize problems, or perhaps a bit of both. However, Trump would be more likely to succeed if he heeded Churchill’s words about the primacy of partnerships to tackle compelling global responsibilities.
Trump entered uncharted leadership territory this week. Abandoning a useful but deeply flawed Iranian nuclear deal, which had been painstakingly negotiated with allies, requires urgent work on an alternative strategy that better prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, addresses its development of ballistic missiles and against Iran’s regional destabilizing actions and support for terrorism.
Neither the Obama administration at the time nor the Trump administration spoke of a credible and sustainable Iran policy beyond the time-limited nuclear pact.
Speaking on behalf of Germany, the UK and his own country, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed regret over Trump’s decision, but at the same time signaled his willingness to engage in efforts to achieve a more comprehensive approach to Iran.
President Trump should accept this French offer. Although the president’s first instinct is not to galvanize his allies, he has a better chance of countering Iran and denuclearizing North Korea if he can galvanize them.
Repeating Churchill, “If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, everything will fail.
Also read in my weekly newsletter for more information on our three other extraordinary Distinguished Leadership Awards winners, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Scaparrotti, Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz, and seven-time Honoree Gloria Estefan. a Grammy.
Don’t miss this week’s must-read: Senator John McCain, one of America’s great leaders and recipient of the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Award, takes aim at Russian leader Vladimir Putin in an excerpt from his new book.
As Senator McCain fights for his life, the Atlantic Council will continue to fight for its values.
Frederick Kempe is President and CEO of the Atlantic Council. You can follow him on Twitter @FredKempe. This blog post is based on his weekly InflectionPoints newsletter. Read the full newsletter here.