3 Foreign Policy TED Talks Worth Watching

“On Being a Woman and a Diplomat” – Madeleine Albright

Highlight Quote: “From some people, I think they thought [women’s rights] was a soft issue. The bottom line is I decided women’s issues are the hardest issues, because they are the ones that have to do with life and death in so many aspects.”

Madeline Albright was the first woman to hold the post of Secretary of State. Both amusing and straightforward, she uses this Q&A session to address the need to place women’s rights in the States’ top priorities in foreign policy, as well as increase the role of women in the political sphere as a whole.

Albright’s draws from her vast experience to illustrate her points. She explains how women leaders are better at communicating across ideological barriers, from weapons debates with Finland to reconciling Hutu and Tutsi leaders after the Rwandan genocide. Finally, Albright speaks of women’s tendency to hinder their own progress by criticizing powerful women in the workplace.


“The Global Power Shift” – Paddy Ashdown

Highlight Quotes: “Suddenly and for the very first time, collective defense, the thing that has dominated us as the concept of securing our nations, is no longer enough. It used to be the case that if my tribe was more powerful than their tribe, I was safe; if my country was more powerful than their country, I was safe; my alliance, like NATO, was more powerful than their alliance, I was safe. It is no longer the case. The advent of the interconnectedness and of the weapons of mass destruction means that, increasingly, I share a destiny with my enemy.”

Ashdown has had a long and illustrious international career, serving in MI6, then as a member of Parliament and after as the Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 20 minutes, Ashdown delivers us more food for thought than we can chew on at once.

Ashdown discusses the global shift in power, a phenomenon we are witnessing as it becomes ever more globalized and shared. Unlike the past, where a single superpower has risen, Ashdown projects a globe with multiple powers. Thus, co-existing will depend less on dominance and more on cooperation.

He points out that the interconnectivity of the world has a far deeper effect than what we imagine. Our future, our safety, our resources increasingly depend on each other, and with the world evolving the way it is, the idea of a nation no longer being able to bully its way to dominance is a novel one. This is an idea that sounds encouraging, but will take much getting used to. For global powers, the implications of a world where willingness trumps will is going to take adjustment.


“Time to End the War in Afghanistan” – Rory Stewart

Highlight Quote: “Because the worst thing we have done in Afghanistan is this idea that failure is not an option. It makes failure invisible, inconceivable and inevitable. And if we can resist this crazy slogan, we shall discover – in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya, and anywhere else we go in the world – that if we can often do much less than we pretend, we can do much more than we fear.”

Rory Stewart, a British MP, offers a refreshingly honest talk about the reality of the war in Afghanistan. A war that was so well sold to the public – wrapping philanthropy, revenge, idealism, and power into one – has ended up being a bloody, costly disaster, leaving both America’s psyche and Afghanistan itself irreparably wounded. Stewart compares intervention in Afghanistan to intervention in other countries asks the question: why didn’t it work here?

In answering, Stewart says the unsayable – that America’s arrogance and self-interest ultimately undermined any possible chance it had of improving the situation of the Afghan population at the cost of the lives of American soldiers. Stewart focuses not on pumping money or destroying dictators, but working with those who fully understand and comprehend the complexities of foreign intervention, and can deal with the challenges and frustrations it may bring.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: TED Paddy Ashdown, TED Madeline Albright, TED Rory Stewart
Source: The Self Employed