TNI's editor Justine A. Rosenthal talks with the General about the tasks ahead and advice to be heeded by the incoming Obama administration.
What are the acute foreign-policy problems Barack Obama will face as he takes office?
The tasks ahead are enormous. The situations we face in the Middle East, Central and South Asia are at the heart of our most acute problems. By going into Iraq and Afghanistan with a transformationalist agenda, we have brought long-standing problems of the region to a boiling point. Whether it is a Shia, Sunni, Palestinian, Israeli, Persian or Arab issue, they all form one big mare's nest, and they all feed off one another. The question is how the new administration will deal with these diverse issues. We can only hope that, at least for a time, America has had enough of transforming the world.
What would a more realist-driven approach look like?
We tend to throw terms around loosely these days-realism, idealism, isolationism, interventionism. Perhaps this is because U.S. foreign policy has followed a compound track with three distinct stages, and we have struggled between the ideals of a city on the hill and a city on the march. During the first one hundred years of our foreign policy, we adhered to a formulation of our goals conceived by George Washington: realism in the most traditional sense. The notion was best phrased by John Quincy Adams who said we welcome all those who are searching for freedom and democracy, but we go "not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." We are the well-wishers of all who seek freedom. We are the guarantors only of our own.