CAMDEN, Maine —While these are very troubled times internationally, the United States isn’t waning in relevance, according to foreign policy expert Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft who spoke Friday night at the 22nd annual Camden Conference.

“I don’t believe we’re a finished power by any means,” Scowcroft said. “We need to find our values again. We need to restore our ability to lead. That’s our challenge and I hope the new administration is up to it.”

Scowcroft was the keynote speaker at the conference, which this year is focused on “Global Leadership and the U.S. Role in World Affairs.”

He brought with him an unusually packed resume, including stints as national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. Time magazine recently dubbed him “Obama’s Yoda,” as the new president has looked toward Scowcroft’s foreign policy experience for guidance.

Scowcroft, a slight white-haired man, spoke familiarly to a crowd of 375 at the Camden Opera House, and to about 350 more people who were listening at the conference’s satellite locations in Rockland, Belfast and Portland.

He gave plenty of advice aimed at making the world safer for U.S. interests in a speech that zipped around the world’s hot spots from Afghanistan to Venezuela. It also served as a primer on recent foreign policy decisions.

The U.S. government has spent too long using Cold War tools to navigate in a world that has changed irrevocably, he warned.

“Globalization has led to fundamental changes in the way the world is organized,” he told the crowd. “The whole nature of power has changed … We’re trying to learn how to cope with it.”

Some of those outmoded tools include NATO, post-World War II financial systems such as Bretton Woods and the United Nations as it’s now organized, he said.

The world is hungry for new leadership which “only the United States can provide,” Scowcroft said, but added that damage done to the nation’s reputation during the Bush years has hamstrung our diplomatic ability.

“We have come across as unilateral and authoritarian,” he said. “And the psychology surrounding the Guantanamo Bay subject may be the worst blow to the image of the United States, ever.”

Scowcroft sounded a note of muted hope when discussing Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

“I think the new president is trying,” Scowcroft said. “When he sent George Mitchell to the Middle East and said, ‘I’m sending him out to listen,’ it didn’t mean that much to Americans. To the Middle East, that’s a profound statement. We’re here to listen — not to preach.”

Scowcroft deftly described a laundry list of global problem areas. Those areas include Israel, where he said the peace process is “perhaps the crucial element” for American interests; Iraq, where he is more optimistic but suggested the president should not “leave prematurely”; and Iran, where he advised the U.S. to begin a dia-logue.

The country that scares him most is Pakistan.

“Pakistan is the country about which I have nightmares,” he said. “It has never been able to grapple successfully with democracy. It has a very weak government now. It’s very fragile, with a lot of radicalism.”

Overall, Scowcroft painted a picture of a dangerous world, where U.S. missteps would be deeply problematic.

However, he broke with recent U.S. governmental practice by stating that he would encourage communication with groups such as Hamas in Palestine in order to broker a more secure world.

“Talking to people doesn’t mean that you’re giving in, or you’re weak,” he said to applause. “It’s only sensible. If you have differences, find out what those differences are. See if we can deal with them.”

acurtis@bangordailynews.net