The New Era of Diplomacy, Cameron Phelps Munter
– Good evening and welcome to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. My name is Michael Grauske and I’m one of the AP Fellows this year. In the last several months, the Trump administration has made some profound changes to U.S. Foreign Policy, both in terms of its overall direction and its implementation. Consistent with the goal of deconstructing the administrative state, many senior level positions in the State Department remain unstaffed and much of the department’s budget has been cut. In place of career diplomats and subject matter experts in Foggy Bottom, President Trump’s 36 year old son-in-law seems to have taken a lead roll in representing the United States in a wide range of Foreign Policy matters. While the sidelining of the bureaucracy in American Foreign Policy is not entirely unprecedented, it does raise many concerns. Here tonight, to talk about this new era of diplomacy is Ambassador Cameron Munter. Ambassador Munter currently serves as the President and CEO of the EastWest Institute, an organization located in New York City that works to reduce international conflict by bringing together policy makers, experts, business leaders, and innovators from around the world. Prior to taking over at the EastWest Institute, Ambassador Munter had a nearly 30 year long career in the U.S. Foreign Service. From 2010 to 2012, he was the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and for the record, this included explaining to the Pakistani government how dozens of Navy Seals and a german shepherd ended up at the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad in 2011. Prior to Pakistan, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia from 2007 to 2009 and additional overseas postings include service as the Deputy Chief of Admission at the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic and the U.S. Embassy in Poland. Domestically, Ambassador Munter has served as the Director for Central Europe at the National Security Council, the Executive Assistant to the Counselor at the Department of State, the Director of the Northern European Initiative, and the Chief of Staff of the NATO Enlargement and Ratification Office. Outside of public service, Ambassador Munter was a professor of international relations at Pomona College from 2013 to 2015. He has also worked as a consultant to the equity funds KKR and Mid Europa Partners and he was a senior advisor to the Albright Stormbridge Group, where he advised the Gates Foundation on polio eradication. Ambassador Munter graduated Magma Cum Laude from Cornell University in 1976, earned a doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University and was a Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Last but not least, Ambassador Munter was born and raised here in Claremont, California and was a graduate of Claremont High School. Ambassador Munter’s Athenaeum presentation is the 2017 Lectureship in Diplomacy and International Security in honor of George F. Kennan. As always, audio and video recording is prohibited. Please join me in welcoming Ambassador Cameron Munter to the Athenaeum. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Michael, and you’re well-trained. You must have had an internship at an excellent institution on the East Coast. (audience laughing) So, thank you very much to Michael. Thank you very much to all of you here at CMC, to the leadership, to the foot soldiers, to the friends, to the community. Thanks to all of you for this opportunity to speak and it’s always every diplomat’s dream to be the George F. Kennan-something. You know, you wanna be that.
(audience laughing) But what I’ll talk about a little later on in my talk is why there isn’t gonna be another George F. Kennan, why the romantic image that we may have of diplomacy and the way that American Foreign Policy works is perhaps a thing of the past and that the idea that a long telegram sent from Moscow back to Washington to spur America on to an act of generosity such as the Marshall Plan with the impact that it had may not be what we see in the future. That doesn’t mean everything is bleak. There are many more opportunities in diplomacy than there were in the past and I’ll get to those but it’s not gonna be, as we say, your father’s foreign service, and for the record, I can say that with authority because my father is in the crowd tonight, as is my mother. So, thank you for being here.
(applauding) Okay, what I’d like to do is talk to you for a half hour to 45 minutes about four topics, basically. I’d like to talk a little bit about where I’ve come from in learning how to be a diplomat and you know, give you some of the good stories that those of you who’ve taken my courses can close your ears ’cause you’ll hear them again, to talk a little bit about the current situation that I think this has led us to where we are now in diplomacy and why a new diplomacy is where we are, the situation we’re in right now. And then finally, a little bit of a plug for the EastWest Institute, as kind of a representative of this new diplomacy, what we do in conflict resolution that doesn’t replace the old system of state-to-state diplomacy as we understood it but rather amplifies or compliments what traditional diplomacy does and indeed, I think gives us hope, not only what we do gives us hope but what many people are doing outside of traditional diplomacy, give us hope that there are possibilities to deal with the transnational issues and the new and very perplexing political landscape that we see. So to begin with, as Michael noted, I grew up in Claremont and I was sent into exile at age 18. I couldn’t kind of cut it, didn’t get into CMC, didn’t apply,
(audience laughing) but didn’t get in to CMC, so I went to East and spent a number of years learning about academics at a time when you had the luxury to think about things while you were playing a lot of ping pong and drinking a lot of beer. So, I got a doctorate in history, I was getting on towards age 30 and I decided that I would go into diplomacy and some students have asked, “Why did you make that switch “from being an academic to being a diplomat?” And the point that I’ve raised with them is that it wasn’t really a switch, it would have been a switch to be an academic. To be an academic, you have to have discipline, you have to be able to sit still, you have to write books, things of that sort. Instead, because I don’t have that kind of discipline but I do have curiosity and I do have enthusiasm and I do care about other cultures, I found that going from the breadth of an academic study to the foreign service was a natural transition. So, to all of you students, first message I want to give is when all of these professors tell you to overspecialize, don’t do it, look broadly. Don’t let them drag you into specialization. Now, not all of you are gonna end up getting your embassies burned down and things like what happened to me but you have the opportunity to do something other than showing a resume that is perfect at the age of 22. And I’m half-joking, only half-joking. There is a sense that I got when I taught at Pomona that you were being pressed to be too good, too young. And I love excellence, don’t shut your mind to the things that are in your peripheral vision and this theme is not only my advice for you as students but it has to do with the new diplomacy that I’m gonna turn to. So, I ended up going to Central and Eastern Europe for the first half of my career. I went to Poland, I went to Czechoslovakia, lost Slovakia while I was in Czechoslovakia, went on to deal with NATO Enlargement, as Michael said, and thought that because I’m someone that speaks Central and Eastern European languages that I would live out my days in richly deserved obscurity in Eastern Europe. But what happens when you serve the U.S. government is you do what the U.S. government wants and this is the second lesson that I would like to give to the students who are thinking about this. If you are looking at a diplomatic career, there are huge, huge rewards that come from it. Being on the front lines, finding fascinating relationships with their people, finding creative ways to solve problems but you do end up having to do what your government tell you. If that’s not something you want to do, don’t be a diplomat. You can be a journalist, you can work for Human Rights Watch, you can do other kinds of work but don’t find yourself in a position where it is so painful for you to have to swallow hard sometimes and do what you might not want to do. It’s a question of knowing what kind of person you are and in my case, even though I am a latte-sipping blue-state Democrat, I’m also enough of a patriot that I wanted to serve my country and do things that maybe in some cases I might not want to do so much. I ended up at the White House in 1999 and got to work for a year for Bill Clinton and then a year for George Bush, the main differences I think I may have mentioned to some of you was that we had buttons that we would wear in the Clinton White House which said “We’re running a little late.” Clinton was famously late for all meetings whereas under George Bush, if you came to a nine o’clock meeting at 8:55, you were late. So, the Republicans make the trains run on time. The Democrats have meetings in which, is everyone around the table happy at what we’ve decided? The Republicans say, “Get out and do it.” You know, it’s difference of style but 80% maybe 90% of diplomacy at that time was still diplomacy of consensus and in the area I was working, in Central and Eastern Europe, it was pretty well agreed that both sides of the aisle were for a kind of robust support for the reunification of Europe, pressing ahead of the institutions like E.U. and NATO so that Europe and the scar that had gone through Europe, we could say drawn by Stalin, would be erased and we all thought, even by 2004, 2005, history truly had ended, there was no such thing as a European policy, there was only Europe as a partner. History had come to an end, Francis Fukayama was right and we were going to set out, shoulder to shoulder, to solve problems around the world. Meanwhile, 9/11 happened. I was in the White House at 9/11 and I was not important enough to be taken to the secret undisclosed location with Dick Cheney. (audience laughing)
Sadly, but what happened after that was that U.S. policy changed and the U.S. policy became less focused on such questions as the future of Europe and the reunification of Europe or the expansion of globalization to China and things like that, it became much more focused on counter-terrorism. So, what happened with me in the rest of my career was that I had to adjust to counter-terrorism. Now, did I sign up to do that? No, but that again was the kind of career that I was in and that was the kind of new challenge I had to deal with. So, I volunteered to go to Iraq, even though I was not a big supporter of the Iraq War, I volunteered to go to Iraq to run the first Provincial Reconstruction Team, that is the first group that was trying to do something equivalent to implementing the Marshall Plan in 1942, that is to say doing assistance while the war was going on. I was assigned to the town of Mosul and essentially became the shadow governor of the province of Ninevah, and those of you who are biblical scholars will know just what an unhappy history Ninevah has if you read about the Babylonian Captivity. In any event, when I was there, I had some tough times, some difficult times trying to build rule of law, trying to build governance, trying to build job creation at a time when people I worked with were being killed because they were working with me. When we had professionals who were prevented from doing what they were doing not because they weren’t dedicated and capable but because we had tensions within our own system between the Americans in the military and the Americans in the civilian service. And so I, early last year, gave a presentation at the Brookings Institution, which is still online in which I outlined the difficulties of that kind of assistance and why I think in a microcosm, those of you who studied the effort that America made between 2003 and 2012 in Iraq, why we failed despite all of our best intentions or at least some theory of why we might have failed. There’s a story that I tell, and forgive me, there may be other stories that you may have heard about that time, we were on a forward operating base in Mosul, it was called Fort Courage and it was a FOB, F-O-B and people who live on FOBs are called fobbits and we were fobbits there and we thought we were safe ’cause we were on the base and one evening, some of the jihadis came over the wire and killed a couple of people on my team. And so I called the team together and I said to 25 servicemen and women and to 25 contractors, I said, “You have to show better security. “You have to just not be wandering around the base. “Even though you’re behind the barbed wire, “you have to be safe. They said, “No problem, boss, “we have our weapons in our hooch.” Hooch is, they speak a different language when you’re overseas and hooch means your trailer. And they asked me about what weapon I had in my hooch. And I said, “Well, I don’t have a weapon in my hooch.” They said, “No, no, no, not the weapon “that they were gonna issue you, “the weapon you brought from home.” You brought your weapon from home and I said, “Well, I don’t have a weapon at home.” Dead silence, they all looked at me and they said, “Are you a Democrat?” (audience laughing) And I said, “Let me tell you three things. “I’m a Democrat, I voted for George McGovern, alright, “and I’m your Commanding Officer.” Right?
(audience laughing) And so, Democrats are patriots, too. But what was touching to me was that one of the contractors came to me afterwards and said, “What are you doing here?” As if America, in the time that I had left had changed into a place where only kind of red-state people fought wars and this is when I got an inkling of what I think all of you, who were in the United States began to realize it was changing in the United States, that there was this cleft inside the United States between those people who saw themselves in some way as the guardians of American culture overseas and, “Let the liberals sleep in because we have work to do,” is what they were saying. This was kind of a shock for me but it was an introduction for what was going on back at home and I use this same line in talking to the students earlier but as you know the definition of a diplomat is someone who’ll do anything for his country except live there. And so, I was out of touch, that’s what I did. Well, as a reward for being out of touch, I was sent to Serbia and in Serbia, I arrived just in time for the Kosovo crisis, as Michael mentioned, and one of the things he didn’t mention was that when we recognized Kosovo, they burned my embassy down. And when they burn your embassy down and you’re in the embassy, you can’t see it happening, so you’re getting phone calls from Condi Rice, who was the Secretary of State at the time saying, “What’s happening?” She, of course, was watching CNN and CNN was set up across the street watching that, so I told the security people who I was with, “Turn on CNN.”
(audience laughing) And so, we turned on CNN and so Condi would call up and say, “What’s happening?” and I’d say, “I guess the flames have gotten to the second floor.” (audience laughing)
Right? Cause, I’m here, I’m the man on the scene. Anyway, what happened that night was that I was forced to destroy all the communications equipment, so we went through with sledgehammers and smashed up all the hard drives and we smashed it so that, those of you who’ve seen Argo and have seen how the bad guys get a hold of the information there was nothing left, millions of your taxpayer’s dollars smashed up so that the bad guys wouldn’t come over the wall and steal our communications equipment. The next two and a half months were the best two and a half months of my life. I couldn’t receive instructions nor could I answer instructions so I decided during that time to be creative as a diplomat and this also bears on my creativity as a post-diplomatic diplomat and decided I would, this is off the record, right? Yeah, I decided that I would help the forces who didn’t like the guy who ordered the attack on the embassy beat the guy who ordered the attack on the embassy in the election and usually, we like to think of working with foreigners as we work with the good guys and we stand up to the bad guys. One of the things I do at the EastWest Institute is I talk to a lot of people who are both good and bad in diplomacy, so I worked with some pretty bad guys when I was in Serbia, to beat this guy because I wanted, not only to see him lose but I also wanted the country to go in the direction of being oriented towards Europe. And so, I got to play hardball and then I had communications equipment sent in and I could no longer play hardball. I had to report on what I was doing. The moral, the coda, on this story is that when Wikileaks came out in 2010, if you look at all of the documents that were released, there was a three month gap from Belgrade where there’s no record of anything that I did, so I not only had the pleasure of being my own man but I also had the pleasure of not getting ratted out by Julian Assange many years later. My reward for being in Serbia was to be sent back to Baghdad and my father did ask me in terms that I’ll kind of bowdlerize a little bit, “What did you do to make these guys angry?” But those aren’t the words he used, but it was kind of like that. And I don’t know, I got the reputation of being a guy who likes to go to places like this, so I was sent to Baghdad and I was in charge of a very difficult task, which was warring tribes, two warring tribes who have historical enmities going back a very long time, don’t speak the same language, hate each other, won’t work with each other, and I’m speaking of the State Department and the Defense Department.
(audience laughing) Right, my job was to speak with the military during the time of the draw down of the troops to make sure that we were trying to leave intact those institutions, those courthouses, those rule of law programs, those correctional facility programs, those job creation programs, we leave those intact when we pulled out. We wanted to make sure beyond the shadow of a doubt that if there was a challenge to the Iraqi troops after we left that they would fight bravely and not throw away their weapons and run away and we didn’t do a very good job. I did that for a year and I did such a good job of that that they sent me to Pakistan and in Pakistan, the situation was that there was an American diplomat named Richard Holbrook who many of you may have heard of, who was a firm believer in the idea that you don’t just carry out diplomacy as a series of one-off gestures or a series of statements that you parade in front of the world, but rather that you have long-term strategic plans that integrate long-term economic development, so in other words prosperity, long-term investment and security, and long-term support for democracy. The idea in Pakistan was that a country with whom we’ve had a number of misunderstandings, in fact a history of misunderstandings since its founding in the late forties, that we would repeal the laws of kind of narratives of negativity that we had and we would actually build a strong Pakistan, at peace with its neighbors. And this idealistic proposition was fully supported by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and so I went there and was given an enormous aid budget, 1.5 billion dollars a year, which is more than I make in a week at the EastWest Institute. In addition to two billion dollars of security assistance, so we spent a lot of money in Pakistan and we were trying to make sure that we would build a long-term relationship with this country that would withstand the difficulties of what was going on at the time in the region, namely the war in the tribal area of Pakistan and that had come over the border from Afghanistan. In the year 2011, basically it all went up in smoke. Most people who are diplomats get to write their own evaluations, you write kind of a report, how did you do, and usually, what you say is, you know, “I came to France and relations were like this “and I left France and relations were like this. “That’s all the things I’ve done “and look how much better things are with France.” I may be the only ambassador who wrote, in my final year I might add, as an ambassador, I wrote, “I took what could have been a catastrophe “and limited it to a rout.”
(audience laughing) Because in that year, we had for instance, a crisis, there was a CIA agent name Raymond Davis, who was, unbeknownst to the ambassador, doing various things in Lahore. He shot two street thugs, was put in jail, and was stripped of his diplomatic immunity, we insisted he had diplomatic immunity, he was going to be sentenced to death in court, and my job was to get him out. And when you’re in this kind of situation, you kind of say, “Well, we can send in the helicopters.” That wasn’t gonna work. “We can try to talk them into admitting “that they’re wrong,” and usually, I’ve found in diplomacy that going to people and telling them that they’re wrong usually doesn’t work.
(audience laughing) And so, something that I was never trained of when I was reading German literature as an undergraduate, but a creative way of trying to solve a problem was we realized that using Sharia Law, you can actually get the survivors of an alleged crime to forgive the perpetrator of that crime by a process known as diat, or blood money, and when you give enough of this blood money, the family of the street thugs would go into court and would say, “We forgive you, let him go.” And in Pakistan, Sharia Law, it has to be recognized by a secular court. So, we convinced the family to do this and we did this with the help of the Pakistani Secret Police, the ISI, ’cause the ISI was convinced that what we were trying to do, to build a strong relationship with the country was probably in the interest of Pakistan. This is a different story than you usually hear about the ISI, they’re usually painted in the American press as wicked people who only like to assassinate people. These particular ISI guys helped us get Raymond Davis out of jail, so he was released from jail and of course, you can imagine that the Islamists in the country were gnashing their teeth. Not only was this guy, who should have swung, I mean, I’ll tell you how tough this country is, it’s such an uncivilized country, Pakistan, they have the death penalty, imagine that. Anyway, they were gonna kill him and they were really upset that he was gone and they were really upset that we had used Sharia Law to get him out, this is what I wanted to give you, is an illustration of creative diplomacy. And so, off we flew, I had an airplane when I was Ambassador to Pakistan and it was kind of like the scene out of Casablanca at the Lahore Airport, as I waited for Ingrid Bergman to come and join me on my plane to Lisbon, it was Raymond Davis but it was just as good. (audience laughing)
And so, off we went and the next day, after we had taken him to Afghanistan and freed him, we had a drone strike that killed approximately 50 people, which we think were people who were at a jerga, a meeting. The ISI chief called me in, and this is what happens to diplomats, you get called in, and we call it getting your head scrubbed and I got my head scrubbed by the ISI chief who said, “We helped you get this guy out of jail “and then you ordered a drone strike “and you killed 50 people.” Bad luck. I had a guy who worked in my office, he was my general who was one of my advisors, who came into my office and said, “Okay, we got him out, you got your head scrubbed, “we had this happen, what else could possibly go wrong?” So, six weeks later, we had the Osama bin Laden raid. (audience laughing)
Right? And I had known about Osama bin Laden, or at least that Osama bin Laden was supposed to be in the house in Abbottobad from the time of about October, November of 2010. The problem was I couldn’t talk to anybody who was not in the intelligence community, so I had to make plans but I had to make it on this kind of yellow paper and then lock up my plans because I was in charge of making sure the Americans would be safe at the time of the raid. I was asked a couple of weeks before the raid, should we actually involve the Pakistanis in this? Should we have it be a joint raid? And I was probably the biggest dove in the embassy who was for building these relations with the Pakistanis and I said, “No, you’re not gonna tell these guys.” Because when you really get down to it, it probably would have leaked and we wouldn’t have gotten him. So, we had to go on and keep doing what we were doing to show the rest of the world that nothing was up. As you recall, Barack Obama was at the White House Correspondence Dinner the night before the raid and you know, it was actually funny, I was playing volleyball against the Chinese team, they whooped us, much better teamwork. We were taller, they had better teamwork.
(audience laughing) And I was called away that evening and got to watch the raid on the screen and when you go into the embassy, there were four screens. One screen was the picture from the drone, it was an invisible drone but I can’t tell you that, that was about 5,000 feet above Abbottobad looking down, there was one, which was the picture that you’ve all seen of the people at the White House, you know, with Clinton biting her finger and all this, and then there was one of us, that is my intelligence chief and my military chief in Islamabad and then one of Admiral McGraven, who was the Head of Special Operations, that kind of uber-Navy Seal in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, he narrated the story and those of you who’ve seen the Zero Dark Thirty, that movie, you know, I always was taught that the CIA guys don’t leak, CIA guys keep secrets. Some of those guys described exactly what it looked like ’cause that depiction of that raid is exactly what it looked like on the screen. And it was just what we thought it was supposed to be. They were supposed to repel down on top of the house on ropes and get the guy and then of course, the helicopter crashed. Those of you who are old enough, like me, to remember 1980 remember Desert One, when Jimmy Carter had sent in the team of helicopters to try to rescue the hostages in Tehran and they crashed in the desert and it was a disaster. As soon as it went down, all of us had big sweat under our armpits and began to worry about this and Admiral McGraven, whose pulse is around 40 spiked to about 41 and he just said, “Alternate Plan B,” everyone fled out of the helicopter, went in the side door and ran upstairs and got Osama bin Laden. They also, after they had killed him, they got a bunch of material, a bunch of intel from the house, computers, hard drives, and other things like that and they flew off into the night. Now I, then, asked my boss on the screen, Hillary Clinton, I said, “You know who’s gonna get the first phone call? “It’s gonna be me, what do I say?” She said, “Don’t tell them anything.” And so, I thought about that one and sure enough, at about three in the morning, I get a phone call from the Foreign Secretary, who asks me, he says, “Cameron, there has been a helicopter crash in Abbottobad, “do you know anything about it?” And I thought about this and I said, “I’ll get back to you, Solomon.” Right, and I thought I had this cooled and he said, “Cameron, you weren’t asleep, were you?” And I said, “You know, no, I wasn’t.” This is one thing you hear, that diplomats are not always truthful, diplomats are always truthful, they don’t always tell everything that they know but they’re always truthful. And in fact, i have a recovering journalist in the crowd, so I also have to talk about journalists. Do you know the difference between a diplomat and a journalist? You see, a diplomat knows many things that he doesn’t say, a journalist says many things that he doesn’t know. (audience laughing)
Right? Present company excluded, of course, right? So, I had that conversation and then once the team was back in Afghanistan, Admiral McMullen, who was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed General Kayani, the head of the army in Pakistan, and they knew what had happened. Now in 1979, there had been an attack on the Great Mosque in Mecca and that had been blamed on the Americans. It was actually jihadis who had taken over the Great Mosque but it was blamed on the Americans, something that happens in that part of the world, and as a result, the American Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, had been burned down and the Americans had been killed. So, this is basically what we expected would happen the next morning. When you’re a diplomat assigned to a country like Pakistan, you have a suitcase packed by your door and when you get a phone call, you don’t ask questions, you come into the embassy and so my job was waiting until the raid was over but then starting up the telephone tree to get everyone to come into the embassy. We had everyone in the embassy compound, which is now a big fortified compound by six o’clock in the morning. We also had all the people who were in Karachi in our compound in Karachi, everyone in Lahore in our compound in Lahore, and in Peshawar, which is really at the end of the Earth, everyone at Peshawar. We were able, or we had the ability to evacuate our people from Karachi by sea. There was the battle group, the Carl Vincent, the ship that’s heading for Korea right now, was off the coast and they could come in and pull people out by helicopter from Karachi. Similarly, our consulate from Lahore was only about 50 miles away from India, you can drive easily through the Waga Crossing and get out of Lahore but as for Islamabad and Peshawar, we were on our own. So, they came out and they made me sign the piece of paper that I had to sign a couple of years previously in Serbia which is called the Authorization to use Legal Force. And what that means is the marines are able to shoot anyone coming in to the embassy but you’re the one that gets to go before the tribunal. Right, ’cause you’re the ambassador. So, I’m probably the only ambassador you’ll meet who has signed that piece of paper twice. I signed it and nobody came the next day, which is also nice. It helped convince me that the Pakistanis didn’t know that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there. Had there been kind of an organized outrage, it would have convinced me that they knew and that they were trying to cover it up. But then, that morning, the morning dawned, everyone was in with their teddy bears in the embassy, there was no response. My job was to go and then talk to General Kayani about the next day and the first thing he said to me was, “Congratulations,” and we spent a couple of days trying to spin this so it wouldn’t be that humiliating to the Pakistanis before they gave up and decided to blame us for violating their sovereignty, which was accurate, we had violated their sovereignty. Mike Nigotta, the deputy in my military section came into my office and said, “Okay, so we had Osama bin Laden, “what else could possibly go wrong?” Right?
(audience laughing) Well a few months later, a couple of marines led some special operations troops from Afghanistan over the border at place called Salala and thinking that they were in Afghanistan, they were fired on by a Pakistani border station within Pakistan but since they thought they were in Afghanistan, they called in an airstrike and they obliterated the Pakistani border station, killing 25 soldiers. At this point, I called the White House and said, “We should apologize.” And the person at the White House said, “Apologize for what?” I said, “We just killed 25 people in their own country.” He said, “Yeah, but they fired first.” And I said, “We were in their country and they fired at us “and we obliterated them, let’s say we’re sorry.” Right, and this was 2011, this was another lesson for domestic politics I’m gonna pass on to you. This was 2011 and you recall that this was gearing up for the election in 2012 and the person in the White House said, “Haven’t you read Romney’s book?” I said, “Romney wrote a book?” (audience laughing) And they said, “Yeah, it’s called No Apologies.” (audience laughing) And so, it took us seven months to apologize and in that period, the Pakistanis shut down our supply lines from Karachi to Afghanistan, so all of the supplies that went to our soldiers in Afghanistan were blocked for seven months and we had to ship them in either by air or through the alternate system called the Northern Distribution Network, which is run by our best friend, Vladimir Putin. So, I estimate that that decision not to apologize for what I consider to be a mistake probably cost us between 500 million and 700 million dollars. So, we make that kind of mistake, I guess, on a big scale. Anything in America that’s worth doing is worth overdoing, right? So, I got to the end of this time and as you can imagine, I was pretty tired, so I eventually decided the next year, I would retire and find my dream job, and that was of course coming to Pomona and teaching International Relations. So, I did that and ended up, after a couple of years, going back to the fight at EastWest Institute. So, the situation that we’re in now is, now that you’ve heard just how much fun the foreign service can be, is coming back to the idea of diplomacy in general. What is the situation, then, that we face today that I face at the EastWest Institute, a privately funded organization that tries to anticipate problems before they happen and to try to deal with them in ways based on building trust among different people. You’re in a situation now where a new kind of diplomacy is necessary. The problems that were faced in the past that could be dealt with by state-to-state diplomacy, again, what we call the Westphalian Model of Diplomacy, is something that’s really been kind of slowing down or changing over the last decades. The new diplomacy is a diplomacy that’s carried out by those countries that have a broad civic sector or that use, in the words of Joe Nye, a professor who is also a fellow at the EastWest Institute, that we use soft power. We use the idea that when you’re dealing with problems that are intractable, you don’t just have an embassy represent itself to another embassy. What you do is you mobilize all of the people who are both diverse in their participation to solve the problems that are also diverse in their essence. Climate change, public health, proliferation, issues that cross borders that you can’t deal with on a one-to-one basis. As a minor critique, what I would say is the United States, because it is powerful and because it is focused on counter-terrorism, does tend to funnel diplomatic questions into responses that are counter-terrorism or military responses because that’s where we have overwhelming superiority but it doesn’t mean that we, the U.S. government, solve problems very effectively that way, we just know that that’s a good way for us to respond. I would argue that what we face now is increasingly the need to have broad-based diplomatic service. It’s important that we have a strong diplomacy from the center, a strong traditional state-to-state apparatus because there are still things that can only be done by states but that needs to be complimented and helped by institutions like non-profits, by institutions like universities, by institutions like business people who are overseas and know the lay of the land better than many people who are locked behind the gates of an embassy so that America, in my opinion, and the West should take advantage of the fact that the strength of its society can make it better diplomats. But one of the difficulties is there has to be that basic strength of the state-to-state diplomacy around which to build. One of the most disturbing things that I and many of the more traditional people coming out of a traditional diplomacy see in the new administration is that which Michael mentioned earlier, that whether by design or by accident, the Trump administration has chosen not to staff the State Department at high levels. There is no Deputy Secretary of State. Out of the eight under Secretary of State positions, there is one and out of the major assistant secretary positions, that is third down, all of the regional heads, Europe, Asia, South Asia, Africa, all of these are unfilled. So, it means that the highest level of someone working on a problem, say in Turkey, is a Deputy Assistant Secretary and that’s equivalent to a very bright 35 year old who is pretty good at a job but has no, as we call in the Arab world, we would say has no wasta. For those of you that don’t know wasta, wasta is has no clout, has no ability to push people around in a bureaucracy. You can’t call up a senator, you can’t call up business people, you can’t beat up people at the Treasury Department, right? And so, the State Department doesn’t have that center area level of official. That, plus the Trump budget, which suggests a 40% cut at the State Department indicates that perhaps the argument of incompetence that some people put forth at the beginning of the Trump administration may not be correct. This may not be incompetence, this may be on purpose. This may be that people who were advising Trump, and I won’t name Newt Gingrich, for example, who have long felt that the bureaucracy, by being honest in opposing a president in a loyal way, that is part of the job of the State Department, is to tell the president, tell the White House when they think something won’t work, ’cause they speak Chinese or they speak Spanish, and they can tell the president, “Not a good idea.” That, if that’s seen as disloyalty, that this is a group that you don’t want to work with. So, the jury is still out, we don’t know whether this is something that is planned by the White House or whether it’s something they are simply taking a long time but if they don’t fill these positions, eventually when we run into a crisis in somewhere like North Korea or in the coming days after this referendum in Turkey or in China, if there comes a point where we’ve gotta have senior people who are versed in the background of the culture of these countries that aren’t in place, it won’t matter how good a communicator the president and his immediate kin might be. There will be no one to implement agreements or long time efforts to try to put things into place. So, one of the difficulties that I have in describing to you the new diplomacy is that it does depend on the fact that there is indeed an old diplomacy that functions that is necessary but not sufficient to carry on the tasks that we have. My unfortunate message to you is I’m not sure we have that old diplomacy, at least in the United States. This worries our friends. I’ve spent time in Singapore, I’ve spent time in Thailand, I’ve spent time in India, I’ve spent time in Germany, I’ve spent time in Britain in recent weeks and months and they are all baffled and puzzled why this is happening because part of the reason that you have these people is not necessarily to do everything the president says but to let the Singaporians and let the Thais and let the Indians, let your friends know what you’re doing so that you can better pull together people to do effective diplomacy. We’re not doing that. So, that is a big hole in the middle of the new diplomacy. Perhaps then, that’s all the more reason why we have to strengthen the effort of people outside of this center to try to compensate as best we can. If we’re going to build trust with countries around the world, we’re going to have to send people to deal with them in some way who have some sort of sensitivity about their culture and you don’t have to agree with Mr. Erdoan, you don’t have to agree with Putin. You know, we have an office we’re opening in Turkey from EastWest, we have an office that we’re opening, we’ve had for many years in Russia, doesn’t mean we agree with Putin always but we do everything we can to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, why the people around him make decisions the way they do and if the State Department is not staffed sufficiently to do this kind of thing, all the more reason why we have to do it more ourselves. And I would argue that there are a number of things that even institutions like universities, who are committed, as CMC and the Claremont Colleges are to international education will do. A story, once again, that my parents have heard a hundred times is when I visited the Agricultural College of Faisalabad in Pakistan, I met an ancient guy. Ancient is a relative term, I know, Dad, but you know, he’s a pretty old guy and he said, “Have you ever heard of UC Riverside?” And I said, “You know, I have, I’ve been to UC Riverside.” He said, “They’re so good at lemons. “They do lemons so well.” You know, there’s just this guy who was an agricultural researcher, utterly apolitical whose feeling about America was that UC Riverside could do lemons and that this power that UC Riverside had, this kind of mythical ability, this to me was huge soft power. I wanted to call up Riverside right away and get carryout or something but the point is that the role that institutions like universities have in diplomacy is not negligible. The role that the media has in making sure that people understand what’s going on, huge. The role that non-profits have and the role that businesses have, enormous and I think it’s going to be even more important that these non-government actors are self-conscious about the way in which they carry out that diplomatic mission and I try to spread that particular gospel to many of the business people I meet. One person who supports the EastWest Institute, for example, is a guy who builds parking garages in Dallas. And I thought, well, what does this guy have to do with China? And he said, “I can tell you a lot about China.” It turns out that the Central Committee in China came up with an infrastructure development plan where they built roads, they built airports, they built pipelines, those of you who’ve been to China, you’ve seen it’s all very impressive, right? They forgot about parking garages. One of the things about a planned economy is when you make a mistake, it’s a big mistake, right? So, if there are a hundred cities in the world that have the most population, probably 70 of them are in China, probably 50 of them none of us have ever heard of and all of them don’t have parking garages. So this guy, in their wisdom, the Chinese Communist Party said, “This is not the party’s fault, “this is a municipal responsibility.” So, the people who run the municipalities in China scrambled and they hired this guy in Dallas, some of them, and he is spending more time building parking garages in China than anyone else and he is a guy with a cowboy hat in Dallas who is a supporter of the EastWest Institute, he is also the best source of municipal finance and other information in China that I’ve ever met. He is, to me, a modern diplomat and he is someone that when we send delegations to China, we don’t go out and hire ex-diplomats, I bring this guy ’cause he knows what he’s doing, he knows the people on the ground, he has empathy for their problems and he can predict why people are gonna make decisions the way they do. So, I’ll end my part of the talk and let myself open to your slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by, just again, filling in what EWI does in the context of what I’ve tried to outline as the new diplomacy. We have offices in Russia, we have offices in Brussels, in New York, we avoid Washington, the Death Star, you know, and we have in San Francisco ’cause we work on cyber-issues, we have three main areas we work in. One is strategic relationships in the key countries of China, Russia, and Turkey, and these are just building relationships with people who we may not always like in terms of human rights and things of that sort but it’s not for us to judge, it’s for us to try to figure out how they work, what do they do, what is the way to get them to trust you so that when there’s a crisis, you can talk. So, that’s one area, strategic relations. Another area is regional problems. We support back channel talks between Saudis and Iranians, we engage in the internal politics and peace talks in Lebanon. As I mentioned, we are working on refugee issues, including in Turkey, we do Afghan, Pakistani military talks, we haven’t quite cracked the code on how to get the Indians and the Pakistanis to talk but we’re working on that. We’re talking with Indians, however, about water as a national security issue because all of India’s water comes out of China and not only is China damming every river that flows south but all the glaciers are melting anyway and if there’s gonna be a crisis in that part of the world, it might be water that causes that. We wanna bring these kinds of discussions, these everyday discussions out so that they’re at least clarity and shaping the way people deal with one another to try to solve problems. And the third area we work on is in cyberspace, an area where there are no norms, there are no pathways for people to have cooperation. We have a commission that we work with with the Dutch and Estonian governments. Never, never ignore the Estonians when it comes to cyber, they’re the best and what we’re trying to do is try to establish what are the rules of the road? What are the rules about protecting the domestic infrastructure, the critical infrastructure of countries from attacks? There’s no law, there’s no rules, there’s no agreements about whether countries can attack each other’s nuclear power plants. We’re trying to figure out can we come up with that kind of deal, a new kind of Geneva Convention. So, we do this at a broad level, convening, we do problem-solving, we do relationship building. Our ideas, we’re not telling them what to do but we’re trying to bring them together. We work with all the other areas. We have partnerships with universities. We have business people we work with. We have other NGOs and non-profits we work with around the world. So, I think that even though we’re a small organization, a microcosm, we’re doing what I think is going to be more and more necessary in the years to come and what I would like to then end with is that I exhort those of you who are high muckity-mucks in the administration of CMC to keep going, keep pushing ahead on your international, your global affairs, and pushing your students to engage on global issues but let them know and help them understand that they can do this in so many ways that being open, being curious, not so much making your resume perfect but being curious to the way things develop in the future that you might be taking part in the kind of new diplomacy in ways that you never imagined when you were in school. So, thank you very much. (audience applauding) Now, I would be delighted to take questions and I’ve been in all these terrible countries and difficult places and I’ve had people ask terrible questions. Nothing you ask will hurt my feelings, believe me, compared to what I’ve heard before, so thank you. – [Michael] If you’d like to ask a question, please raise your hand and Sarah or I will come to you. – [Man] Thank you, Ambassador, for this great talk tonight. About two years ago, as I’m sure you know, Ambassador Perkins and Ambassador Pickering authored a letter in the Washington Post criticizing the lack of social, economic, and ethic diversity–
– I’m having difficulty hearing, if you speak up just a little bit? – [Man] Sorry, okay, I’ll repeat my question. So, about two years ago, as you know, Perkins, Ambassador Perkins and Ambassador Pickering authored a letter in the Washington Post criticizing a lack of ethnic and social economic diversity in the foreign service and I was wondering what measures do you think State isn’t taking, at least internally, to address these issues and how this problem may impacting conducting this new diplomacy as you speak of in the future? Thank you. – I think diversity is one of the keys in foreign policy but I think we’re making a mistake if we measure diversity by measuring the people who are in the diplomatic service. I think the key is to find the diversity of participants and the diversity of opinions so that rather than focusing, while it’s important to get this bastion of white male privilege, which is the State Department, there’s no doubt, to open it up, the key issue here is expanding diplomacy to include groups that aren’t traditionally in diplomacy, so going beyond the walls of the State Department to say that if you’re really concerned about gender issues, there are people outside of diplomacy, rather than making sure you have a percentage in the State Department, worth a try, but also engage the women who live in India, engage the women who live in China, engage the groups that are concerned about legal reform that would prevent things like acid throwing in certain countries like Pakistan. So, that, I think the diversity that you want to have, in my opinion, is having a diversity of topics you deal with and a diversity of opinions of those people who you’re working on. So, I’m not trying to go around the question of diversity in the State Department, it’s important, but I don’t think that is sufficiently ambitious. I think the diversity has to be going outside of the halls of power at State and engaging with the people who are dealing with issues. I mean, I’ll give you an example, may seem odd. There are reformers in India who are working on the question of toilets for girls in schools. So many girls don’t go to schools because there aren’t enough toilets and they are not comfortable going there and so they don’t get educated. It’s a simple kind of thing that has a technical fix. Some of people then that we talk to, when I was serving in South Asia, would say, “Well, we have water problems.” You know, “Having all these toilets “where the water doesn’t extend to the schools.” So, the little girls aren’t going to school because you have a water problem, there are toilets that don’t need water. There are ways around this. I would like to engage with the guy, downtown L.A., who makes waterless toilets and have him be a diplomat of the 21st century to figure out how he can make money in India selling waterless toilets so little girls can be educated so that we have a gender balance in the workforce in India. Those are the ways that I think we need to look at the problems, that’s the focus I’d like to see for diversity. – [Woman] Hi, thank you so much for the time you took with us this evening. It was a very, very interesting talk. – Thank you.
– The entire room was compelled, I could feel the energy and so we really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. I’m wondering about, specifically, I feel it’s easy because I’m on Twitter a lot, so I would say my primary source of news at this point, like first responder news is like, via Twitter, so like, I’ll be linked to a certain article or become aware of Pence going to the demilitarized zone via Twitter and like a picture of him there. So that being said, I have a question because it seems as though punditry can sort of end up being this sort of thing where you’re able to minimize, perhaps, the current administration in a way where it kind of seems almost ridiculous just because there are two Twitter accounts for our president and they both tweet different things and they both have a level of decorum that is followed and they both have a level of legitimacy among especially people like you who are so smart and careered people who are very well versed and intelligent in the way that our government works, the way that it ideally should, maybe it’s not currently at this time. So, that’s a very long preface but I guess my question is is there a counter argument, so is there a compelling argument that you could come up with for why the State Department has been so dismantled in terms of, you mentioned Newt and like, this active dismantling where there are so many roles that are not filled, that from your perspective of being someone who is very smart and good at his job, they should have positions there. We shouldn’t be relying on the 30 year old or the 22 year old out of Claremont McKenna to like make these–
– Oh, I think if we get the Claremont McKenna 22 year olds, we’d be alright. – Maybe.
(audience laughing) In the best situation, so I’m just wondering if there’s a compelling argument you can come up with that would justify doing so because I would like to hope that they have our back, right? – Right, well here’s what I think. I can’t come up with a compelling justification. I can come up with a theory of why I think that’s happening and it has to do with the way that I think we need to take the president, even though he’s not a traditional foreign policy expert, we have to take him very seriously in the way that he addresses foreign policy and I would argue that there is not a traditional policy idea, set of policies or strategies for foreign policy in this administration or in this White House. There are impulses that are very important that tend to be, I think, aimed for domestic constituency, especially the domestic constituency that voted for Trump, that is those people who he, at his inauguration referred to as the real Americans while he savaged everyone sitting on the dais next to him. So, he’s talking about those people who he believes put him in power and he made promises to them. He is going to protect them, he is going to protect their jobs, and he’s gonna make sure that they don’t get taken advantage of overseas. You can hear this when the president then speaks with tweets, when he talks about a Muslim ban or when he talks about a wall with Mexico or when he talks about putting the one China policy on the table, you know, the old thing that’s been a diplomatic truism or article of faith for 50 years. I argue to you this has nothing to do with Muslims, it has nothing to do with Mexicans, it has nothing to do with Chinese. It has everything to do with Ohio, right? It has everything to do with his constituency. So, he’s not talking about policy and this is where I’m getting to your question, is there a rationale? I don’t think there’s a foreign policy rationale, I think what there is is a focus on making sure that he can credibly keep his promise to the people who put him in power. I’m gonna protect you, I’m gonna keep the Muslims out. Whether it works or not, whether he has the mechanisms to make it work matters less than if he’s gonna do what he said. Is he gonna really build a wall? I don’t know but the fact is those people who are supportive of Trump believe that he’s committed to doing so. Does he care about a one China policy? Beats me, I don’t know. Is he gonna put a tariff on the Chinese? I kind of doubt it but he’s gonna come across as saying, “I’m there to fight for you.” So, you have to take him seriously, that he is in a permanent campaign mode and it’s that kind of logic, to me, that would have him worried about Twitters, tweets rather, and that he’s staying up at night doing this not because he’s wandering around lost. No, he’s doing this very consciously, right? But that’s not the same thing as having a policy that he’s going to squeeze the State Department. It’s much more that he’s doing it in a different way. Does that make sense? That’s at least my explanation for it, best I can do. More victims? Yes? – [Man] First and foremost, thank you so much, Ambassador, this has been one of my favorite Ath-presentations. I’m interested, given your account on the new era of diplomacy, what are your thoughts on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Is he just the kind of person we should be looking for? – Well, yes and no. He’s got the right resume in the sense that he’s someone who understands diplomacy from the outside as well as the inside. And from every account that I’ve heard, from my colleagues who are still in the State Department, who have worked with him, he’s very intelligent and very well-read, that is he reads his briefers. That said, I don’t know whether he is part of the group that says they don’t need to fill these positions or whether this is being done in spite of him. I don’t know that. If he says, “I want to use my creativity “that I’ve learned on the outside,” that’s good but if he says, “I don’t think that the traditional things “that the State Department needs to do are necessary,” then I would take issue with him. I don’t think that’s smart. I don’t think it makes much sense. It’s also hard for me, kind of personally, because even though they may have the reputation of being passive-aggressive or cranky or whatever, foreign service officers, actually foreign service officers work hard for whomever is in power, they really do and they loyally support John Kerry just as they loyally supported Colin Powell. So, the fact, if they think that by not putting these people in place that they’re going to prevent some sort of disloyalty, it’s an enormous mistake in my mind, this gets around your question of whether Rex Tillerson is the one who’s doing this or not, I don’t know but on the positive side, he’s a very knowledgeable man who is, according to the people who’ve worked with him, very careful when he talks to foreign leaders and very thoughtful. One other criticism that other people have had is that he doesn’t seem to pay much attention to the public diplomacy side of his job. That is to say when you go to China and you don’t bring the Press Corps., you leave it to the Chinese Press Corps. to report to the world what happened, so that if you want to spin something or make a point and you don’t bring the amplifiers with you, you’ve given away a little bit of the pulpit. That may be either inexperience or maybe he truly doesn’t care so much about public diplomacy. So, I guess I’m waffling on that question, the jury’s still out. He’s a pretty smart guy but we’ll see whether he’s going to do things that really lead to an effective set of diplomatic actions or not. – [Woman] Hi, thank you for your talk. You talked about this new kind of diplomacy and I was wondering if you could talk to how that relates to improving U.S.-Russian relations, specifically with regard to NATO expansion and whether you think non-expansion should be a policy that the U.S. should pursue, seeing as Russia has continuously claimed that it does harm its security interests. – Yeah, there’s a sense in Russia that Russia would not be trying to upset the international order if they had not been provoked by NATO enlargement and we have a diplomatic term that I use really when I’m thinking about that, which I consider it’s bullshit, total bullshit. I think that the Russians have gone through extraordinary changes since 1990, obviously. The decade of the 1990s was humiliating for the Russians but I don’t think that not enlarging NATO, not letting the countries who voluntarily wanted to be in the Western alliance, not letting them in, I don’t think that would have made any difference. If you talk to Strobe Talbott, who was a big friend of Russia in the 1990s, he’d bend over backwards to try to figure out how to make this be a victory for both sides. Obviously, he and I and all the people who worked on this, we failed, we didn’t convince the Russians that this was a means of bringing stability to their border. They’ve chosen to see it as an act of aggression but I don’t think there’s any way, we could either have Russia, right now, doing what it’s doing with a Central Europe that was un-anchored or we could do it, have Russia doing what it’s doing and have Central Asia anchored in the West. So, I think that, frankly, we’re doing Russia a favor by, you know, when you think of all the problems that hurt Russia in the 20th century that came out of Central Europe, I think that historically there’s a huge argument to be made about the stability of that region being enhanced and it wasn’t an anti-Russian move. If the Russians choose, however, to see it that way, which they have chosen to do, it is probably not gonna be anything that the West can do to convince them otherwise. It’s hard sometimes for American diplomats or politicians to think that it’s not all about us but I think what’s happening in Russia is kind of not really all about us, it’s about a domestic set of issues that are very problematic in Russia. I think that the decline in Russia, the demographic crisis, the inability of the leadership of Russia to break out from basically what is a commodity-based economy, export of oil, timber, a couple of industries like weapons that they can make. I haven’t bought a Russian computer any time recently. That I think that the problem that manifests itself in this notion that the West has provoked it is basically an internal Russian problem. What we try to figure out, we at the EastWest Institute in our office in Russia is how do we figure out how we can understand the basis of what is a deeper dissatisfaction within Russia and try to figure out how to get what has been kind of a loop of complaints that come from Russia about the West and say, “Are these really the issues that you’re concerned about “or is it really the fact that you’ve got capital flight? “Is it really the fact that you’ve got falling rates, “birth rates and things of that sort.” There are deep problems in Russia but I think the idea of NATO enlargement and this kind of thing is just a smokescreen that the Russians use. It will be a long time, I think, before we get back to the opportunity that we thought we had in 1990, 91, 92, to integrate Russia into the West but I think at this point, what I hear when I’m in Russia is, “We don’t have anything to learn from you.” Basically, is what I was hearing. “We saw that basically you guys support gay rights, “that’s not very manly of you, “you have economic crises, “so basically, we’re gonna go our own way.” And I don’t know that there’s anything that the West can do to convince Russia to say, “Oh, yeah, we wanna be part of the European Union.” Or, “We want to deal with the West.” I think it’s gonna be a deep question that’s gonna take a long time that the Russians themselves are gonna have to solve. – [Man] Thank you for coming this evening. – Thank you. – [Man] I took a lot of comfort in the appointment of General Mattis and McMaster to Director of NSA and to Secretary of Defense. I’m curious in your experience for the military’s approach to foreign policy, how that’s different from the State Department and how you feel about sort of that coherent foreign policy as you were talking about, sort of being in the hands of two military men. – Yeah, you know the old statement, “Defense is from Mars, State is from Venus.” That kind of stuff, there are real cultural differences between people who have a military background and most people who have a civilian background and the way I like to describe it is that when you think of people and you go back to the classic texts like The Soldier and the State and other books that write about the officer core, the people who are drawn to go into the military, especially in the officers in the military tend to have what I would call kind of an engineering mindset. In fact, engineering is the most common major at West Point. You’re out there, you define problems, you solve problems, you move on. I had generals come up to me in Iraq and say, “You State Department guys, you love to admire problems. “You know, we solve problems.” Right, and so what you end up with is people who almost by their very nature tend towards the tactical ’cause they’re very, very good at that. If I wanna build a bridge, I’m not gonna bring the State Department, I’m gonna bring in the Army Corps. of Engineers, right? You don’t want me to build a bridge for you, right? If you wanna see it another way, the analogy that you might use is the analogy of people who think like lasers and people who think like floodlights, right? Military guys think like lasers, build that bridge, right? State Department guys say, “Oh, you know, “if you connect that bridge with those guys, “Kurds live there and Sunnis live there, “you don’t want that bridge “and there’s also a flood in the spring, plus, you know,” and you can almost think of reasons why you shouldn’t build that bridge, right? There’s a reason why people who have floodlight approach should be in charge, right? ‘Cause the world’s a big, messy, complicated place and there’s a reason why civilian control of the military is pretty important, because you want people to know what they’re doing when you give them those orders to execute. When you put people who are trained as lasers in a floodlight job, you run the risk of people who say, “I will go A to B.” Now, I’m not accusing McMaster or Mattis of suffering from this, these are really smart guys and I know both of them very well. I served with McMaster in Iraq and I knew Mattis when he was the head of SentCom. They are thoughtful guys, they know how to manage, they’re good guys but they do preside over a kind of a number of people who tend to be real problem solvers and who are also sometimes not always trained in some of the intricacies of behavioral psychology. I’ll give you one example. The Pakistanis were acting up in some way that I’ve now forgotten and I remember being in touch with the Lieutenant Colonel who was on the National Security Council and he said, you’ll remember I talked about General Kayani, he was the Chief of Army Staff in Pakistan, he said, “I think it’s time to ratchet up the pain on Kayani.” I said, “Wait, we want Kayani to suffer? “Or do we want Kayani to do what we want?” I mean, have you ever been to Pakistan? Have you ever ratcheted up the pain on someone in Pakistan and had them say, “Of course. “I’m gonna be a Democrat.” (audience laughing)
They don’t do that. That doesn’t work. And I’m picking on this one guy but I’m saying when you have people who are trained in a certain tradition, they often will formulate problems and look at them in a different way and I’m not sure that people who have chosen a military career are always the people who have the breadth that they should. In this particular case, given the fact that my concern that Trump himself is not a strategic thinker, under the circumstances, I’m actually very relieved that a guy like McMaster is in the NSC and a guy like Mattis is in the Defense Department. So, it’s a relative question but in the long run, I don’t think a country is served well by having people who are really good tacticians or from that tradition serving in broad strategic jobs. – [Michael] We’ll have time for one more question. – [Woman] Good evening, thank you so much for your talk and for sharing your experiences with us. So, this is kind of a big question but I guess I was super intrigued by you explaining the Republican versus Democrat and how you came together being like, we’re all patriots, you know, we’re all serving our country and just then, your reply about kind of the connection between State Department and military. So, I wanted to ask kind of a further opposition across cultures ’cause you’ve worked in so many places and I think the most difficult thing about diplomacy is finding a common point when the norms are so different. You know, the idea that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, the idea that globalization to one person may be considered an imperialism to another. So, I was wondering if you could share any experiences or any advice perhaps on how you find, how you reconcile these different norms in order to come to an agreement or in order to arrive at a stronger relationship. – It’s a really key question and anyone who works in diplomacy, new or old or any, has to deal with that and it comes down to the idea of are you not so much looking at a fundamental difference but looking at the actual prism through which people see their world? At EastWest or when I was a diplomat even at the State Department, I would try very hard not to emphasize the differences say, someone who comes from a country that have experienced a colonial past and therefore, the people from that country felt a certain sense of humiliation that was almost baked into their personality. I tried not to focus so much on that as say if I acknowledge that you have that feeling and you acknowledge that my cultural background is different than yours, is there a way to set that aside so that we find out the three or four things that we actually do agree on? And rather than end up litigating, you know, many times in Iraq, finding out that I was re-litigating what the British did to the Iraqis in 1922, right? Now, you can do that. You know, Churchill shouldn’t have dropped chemical weapons on the Iraqis in 1922 but I’m not sure that that got us anywhere. The point is to try to appear to the people and hopefully be sincere about it, that given the fact that you’re sensitive to that prism through which they see the world and that that’s a different one than you have, that you wanna get beyond that in a sincere way and say, “Shall we talk about public health? “Shall we talk about education? “Shall we talk about security?” Not saying what you feel and that perception you have is not important but can we get beyond making that the topic of conversation? And the way that I try most to do that and the people who I work with, I encourage them to do that, is to do two things. One is to concentrate on listening and to never be in a hurry because one thing that really sets American culture off and Western culture in general off from a lot of the other cultures, especially those who, not just developing world but cultures, many of the cultures who have experienced, kind of been on the receiving end of Western colonialism and things like that is a sense that we’re not listening. I was often told by my Pakistani friends, “White people don’t have feelings. “You see, we’re brown people, we’re warring, we cry, “we laugh, you guys sit there and you come in “and you say, ‘I have 15 minutes for a meeting “‘and this is my agenda.'” So I said, “Well, let’s not have an agenda then, okay? “Let’s have the six cups of tea, “just show me where the toilet is, you know, “but we’ll sit there and talk and all this.” But there are a number of ways to get past that notion that you are so culturally different based on your historical experience and my way of trying to get it through was, yeah, try to talk about it a little bit but not let that be the end point of what you talk about because if you get into that loop of simply repeating to each other, I guess many Americans would say, “Pakistanis are liars. “We give them money and they lie to us.” And the Pakistani says, “The Americans use us when they “want us and then throw us away.” And they’re probably both right and you can repeat that all day long but it doesn’t really get you anywhere. So the idea is, what do you do? And that just takes time. It’s very hard and this gets back to our question about the military. I would go in with a major, right, to a meeting in Iraq and he would say, “Here’s my list of things. “Let’s get this Shah to agree to these things.” I said, “If we get to item one by 10 o’clock, we’re lucky.” You know, “Sit down and ask him about his sons, “don’t ask him about his daughters,” you know? “Ask him about his sons “and then ask him about his sons again “and then ask him about the last time he was in a haj “and then ask him about his sons and then listen to him “and talk about whatever he wants to talk about “and I’ll kick you “when I want you to raise item number one.” Alright, so part of it’s tactical, part of it’s just method and part of it is having the idea that you’re getting past identity and getting towards problem solving and that takes an enormous amount of time. Last thing I’ll leave you with is a story I think I gave to one of the people who I talked to here, was sometimes people ask me, “What’s the best thing to study if you wanna be a diplomat?” And I could get you all to write this down on a piece of paper and you would all get a different answer than the one I’m gonna give you, which is theater arts, right? A good actor is not someone who is false, a good actor is someone who can play many roles and play them sincerely and if you’re gonna go and deal with people who have anger, a lot of anger about, “I’m a Palestinian and I’m angry “because of what happened to my people repeatedly “and you’ve been part of that movement “that’s been screwing my people for decades.” Alright, and if you’re an actor, what you can try to figure out is how do I play off of that and say, “I hear you, I understand, “I wanna do something about it, okay?” I’m not gonna apologize for being an American. At the same time, I’m not going to say that, “What you’re angry about is illegitimate.” It’s gonna take the kind of acting where you’re listening and learning and playing a role that’s so, so important and people say, “Well yeah, that’s not authentic. “You know, you’re not being yourself.” Well, is an actor not him or herself? I think that having the ability to step inside the role of someone else is something you’ll learn if you know how to do roles yourself. So, that’s my wisdom for all of you who wasted eight semesters of studying IR. (audience laughing)
You all should have been studying theater. So, thank you all very much. (audience applauding)