The Foreign Service Journal, November 2020

26 NOVEMBER 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL N ow in my hundredth year, I am impelled by recent events to offer my thoughts about what I have come to believe is as crucial an element in public life as it is in private life. I am thinking about trust. We all instinc- tively, or from personal experience, know that good neighborly rela- tions thrive when neighbors trust one another, and that life can become miserable if trust is replaced with suspicion and doubt. Trust is perhaps a more complex factor in life between communities and nations, but it is just as critical in determining whether cooperation or conflict—or even war or peace—will dominate the relation- ship. I have become deeply concerned in these last few years that distrust has become a common theme in our domestic life. It is now accepted as normal that our two great political parties rarely find common ground and that legislation to advance the well-being of American citizens can be achieved only under the pressure of a great life-or-death crisis like the George P. Shultz served as the 60th Secretary of State, from 1982 to 1989. He also served as the first director of the Office of Management and Budget, as Secretary of Labor and as Secretary of the Treasury. Since 1989, he has been a distin- guished fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. A distinguished statesman shares his thoughts on the path ahead, starting with the importance of rebuilding trust. COVER STORY COVID-19 pandemic. It has taken a nationally circulated video of a Black man’s atrocious murder by a police officer—whose duties included training newcomers to a major American city’s police department—to reveal the depths of racial distrust that exist in our country. Our relations with much of the rest of the world also have become characterized by distrust bordering on hostility, even in the way Washington deals with close allies in Europe and Asia. We are nearing a Cold War II situation in our relations with China and Russia. Reliance on military threats, with little or no effort at diplomacy, is the most prominent feature of our relations with nations that we associate with anti-American sentiments and actions. What Trust Means Trust among nations or between those who represent their nations in official discourse with other nations should not be equated with burgeoning friendship or a change in fundamen- tal beliefs on either side. The idea implies a belief that what a nation or a public official commits to do will, in fact, be done. That means not only that honesty has become the accepted norm but also that what a nation or its official says will hap- pen is, in fact, capable of being done; that is, the commitment is precise enough to measure its implementation, and the authority to carry out the commitment is assured. As President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, I had the president’s backing to change the arms control paradigm from BY GEORGE P. SHULTZ