Given the increasingly familiarity of video conferencing during working from home arrangements, we thought to take the opportunity to commence a new series of interviews with key policy makers and observers in world affairs. To kick off, we were fortunate to interview Brett McGurk, currently a distinguished lecturer at Stanford University, but also someone with a unique insight into US foreign policy decision-making, having served in the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

In the first part of the interview, McGurk discusses the broad challenges in foreign policy making. This included the tendency for US presidents to set maximalist objectives without necessarily providing the resourcing or laying the necessary diplomatic foundations to achieve such goals.

The second part of the interview deals with McGurk’s time as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition to Defeat ISIS and focuses on the campaign in Syria, including the challenges in constructing an effective long-term plan. For those interested in the anti-ISIS campaign, it is worth combining McGurk’s insights into the political challenges with this recent interview with Major General Roger Noble, a senior Australian officer intimately involved with the military component of the ISIS campaign plan in Iraq.