Foreign Policy and National Security Challenges for the Obama Administration
David E. Sanger, The New York Times
Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post
Photos | Transcript

Washington, DC—On February 10, 2009, the Women’s Foreign Policy Group hosted an Author Series event at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC with David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times and Author of The Inheritance, and Karen DeYoung, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent for The Washington Post.

Mr. Sanger spoke about his newly released book, The Inheritance, and the foreign policy legacy left for President Obama by the Bush White House. His book focuses on the way in which the conflict in Iraq dominated foreign policy during the Bush years, drawing policymakers’ attention away from the emergence of both international threats and new opportunities for relationships abroad. Mr. Sanger stressed that, “this is the non-Iraq book,” and, in fact, it is a book about everything else that happened while the American government was focused on the conflict in Iraq. He cited Iran and North Korea in particular as countries that took advantage of the “great distraction” that Iraq provided the US government. In addition, Mr. Sanger pointed to the conflict in Afghanistan as an example of how preoccupation with the war in Iraq led the government to devote insufficient amounts of time and resources to a problem that must now be a top priority on President Obama’s agenda. He also detailed the complex and tenuous nature of the decisions that the Administration must make regarding engaging with Iran, particularly on whether to continue the covert program that the Bush Administration began, one of the largest of its kind run by United States. On the subject of the financial crisis, Mr. Sanger expressed concern that it will become “Barack Obama’s Iraq,” taking up too much time and attention and forcing the new Administration to sideline other important aspects of their agenda.

Ms. DeYoung spoke about her recent interview with Jim Jones, the new National Security Advisor, in which they discussed how the National Security Council would be organized during Obama’s presidency. Mr. Jones described an NSC that would encompass many topics not traditionally considered to be issues of national security, such as climate change, energy, and infrastructure. She noted that his take on the NSC reminded her of Colin Powell’s approach to the Council’s transparency, the Advisor’s role in keeping the group focused, and the importance of synthesizing the members’ views for the President. Ms. DeYoung said she is eager to see how different this newly expanded NSC will actually be from its predecessors, and whether the high level of transparency promised by Mr. Jones actually comes to fruition. She also spoke about Afghanistan and Pakistan and the recently authorized troop surge in the region. Ms. DeYoung said that the increased troop deployment was the only way to hold the front while the Administration develops a new, effective, and comprehensive plan for Afghanistan.


Karen DeYoung

David Sanger

WFPG President Patricia Ellis

Karen DeYoung, Patricia Ellis, David Sanger

Karen DeYoung, Patricia Ellis, David Sanger

Karen DeYoung, David Sanger

WFPG Board Secretary Donna Constantinople, Board Vice
Chair Gail Kitch, Patricia Ellis,
Board Member Isabel Jasinowski, and
Board Member Theresa Loar

Ambassador Hjalmar Hannesson of Iceland and
WFPG Board Member Mary Catherine Toker
of General Mills

Margaret McBride Lehrman of NBC News

Donna Constantinople, Patricia Ellis, David Sanger

WFPG Board Secretary Donna Constantinople

WFPG Members and Guests

WFPG Board Treasurer Dawn Calabia

David Sanger signing his book The Inheritance
for Tim Josiah of Raytheon

WFPG members and guests during the program


Mary Catherine Toker, Patricia Ellis, and
Jerry Hagstrom of The National Journal

David Sanger signing his book The Inheritance for WFPG Member Kris Erickson

WFPG members and guests during the reception