Leaders in foreign affairs come together on China, Syria and more at George Mason University
Fairfax, VA November 21, 2019 – On Tuesday night, Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization devoted to improving public discourse in politics, hosted its 11th public forum, which brought together former CIA Director General David Petraeus (Independent) and National Security Advisor Susan Rice (Democrat). The forum, titled “Finding Common Ground on the New Cold War,” was co-hosted by the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and held on the Fairfax campus of the University.
“In an era where gridlock and demonization have become the norm in our politics, this conversation proves there is a path forward,” said Bruce Bond, co-founder and CEO of CGC. “General Petraeus and Ambassador Rice are not of the same political party and did disagree on some issues while in government; nonetheless, they worked together to advance US foreign policy during their time serving in the Obama Administration, and Tuesday night’s discussion proved that constructive dialogue and cooperation can still be achieved. We hope the audience was inspired by their words to engage in more productive and civil dialogue, especially as we approach the holiday season.”
During the event, General Petraeus and Ambassador Rice came to agreements on a number of topics, including:
- The decision to withdraw from Syria was, as Senator McConnell assessed, “a grave strategic mistake,” represented an abandonment of our Syrian partners on the ground (who lost more than 10,000 of their ranks in the fight to defeat ISIS, and may allow ISIS to reconstitute). That said, the subsequent decision to allow US and coalition forces to support their Syrian Democratic Force partners in a substantial portion of NE Syria will salvage some of the gains that would have been lost by full withdrawal.
- President Trump’s call with Ukraine President Zelinsky bore no resemblance to normal protocol in past administrations and was largely focused on topics that were more relevant to domestic political interests than national security interests.
- The U.S.-China relationship is the most consequential in the world, and all other foreign policy initiatives should be filtered through a prism that asks what the effect of an initiative will be on the U.S.-China relationship – in order to make that relationship as mutually beneficial as is possible, while also recognizing that there are inevitably areas of competition as well as mutual interests.
- U.S. domestic political divisions and disruption of democracy in our nation’s capital (which is particularly evident at the present time, but dates back several administrations) are among our greatest national security risks, especially given the need to respond to the numerous complex challenges facing the world and the U.S. today.
During his 37-year career in the US Army, General Petraeus served in countries ranging from Cold War Europe, Central America, Haiti, and Bosnia to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, overseeing counterinsurgency campaigns in the latter two. He culminated his career with six consecutive commands as a general officer, five of which were in combat. After retiring from the military, he served as Director of the CIA and led initiatives to combat the global war on terror. He is now a partner in a global investment firm and the chair of the firm’s global institute, as well as a member of various boards of directors, a personal venture capitalist, and a supporter of numerous think tanks and veterans organizations.
During the event, General Petraeus called for the passage of additional cybersecurity legislation, urging members of Congress to put politics aside, and address the numerous challenges facing the country, not the least of which is securing the 2020 elections. “Not only have we been shooting behind the target on cybersecurity, it looks like we’re falling behind,” said General Petraeus. “This is an issue that has gotten trapped in politics and ignores the common ground that should clearly exist – e.g., that we should not allow foreign interference in our elections.”
Ambassador Rice is one of the country’s most prominent diplomats and national security strategists. As the United States National Security Advisor (2013-2017), she helped shape foreign and national security policy. Prior to that, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2009-2013), advancing America’s foreign policy objectives while strengthening global security.
During the evening, Ambassador Rice reiterated the danger our domestic divisions pose to U.S. national security and called for the creation of a mandatory civilian service. “Every day on social media, our adversaries are throwing salt in the wounds of our divisions,” said Ambassador Rice. “If we bring people together from all backgrounds on projects for the common good, we can begin to heal. It’s hard to hate someone if you actually know them.”
The event was moderated by Craig Melvin, a news anchor on NBC News’ “TODAY,” a co-host of 3rd Hour TODAY, an anchor on MSNBC Live, and a host of “Dateline.” His breaking news coverage and reporting appears across all NBC News and MSNBC platforms.
“The Schar School was thrilled at the response to this conversation,” said Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School. “It’s a rare sight in this era of polarization to see productive and respectful discussion of difficult foreign policy issues, but General Petraeus and Ambassador Rice gave our students a model of what that can look like.”
This was CGC’s second forum of the year exploring foreign policy, having previously brought together former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice at the University of Notre Dame to explore America’s role in the world. By demonstrating how people of differing views can find agreement without compromising core values, CGC aims to inspire the public, political leaders and the media to seek common ground, increase civic engagement and reduce polarization for a stronger nation.
For interview requests, please contact Zachary Halper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 862-224-3233.
Common Ground Committee
Common Ground Committee (CGC) (commongroundcommittee.org) is a non-partisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held nine forums featuring 26 panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as Michael Steele, Donna Brazile, Barney Frank and Larry Kudlow, John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to taxes and entitlements. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.
Schar School of Policy and Government
The Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University prepares undergraduate and graduate students to be leaders and managers who solve problems and advance the public good. Learning from professors with real-world experience, students gain the applicable skills and the practical knowledge to lead government agencies and nonprofit organizations, develop public policies and program, create innovative consulting solutions, and/or provide expert policy analysis. Located where policy happens – just 3 miles from the Pentagon, 4 miles from the White House, and 6 miles from the US Capitol Building, students are connected to jobs, internships, networking, and experiences that can only be found in the Washington, DC, area. Schar School alumni apply what they learned in the classroom to pursue fulfilling and meaningful careers. Graduates are doing consequential work at leading employers including the US Department of State, USAID, the World Bank, the United Nations, the National Endowment for Democracy, Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton, and many others. For more information, go to: schar.gmu.edu.