Christopher R. Hill talks about his experiences on the frontlines in the U.S. State Department as well as touching on the issues of the day. January, 2016.
>> Good afternoon everybody, and welcome. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and I'm really delighted to see you here for today's policy talks. Today this event is actually a two part event. First we will the policy talks conversation, and that will begin shortly. But then at 7:00 p.m. the Ford School is delighted to host a free screening of The Diplomat the Michigan Theater. This is a really fascinating documentary about the late Richard Holbrooke and we hope to see all of you there also this evening. So first I'd like to acknowledge our cosponsors for today's event. The Nam Center for Korean Studies and also the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. And we are very pleased to have the founder, Ambassador, Ronald Weiser, here with us this evening. Thanks for joining us. We are very grateful for their generous support of this program. But of course we would not be able to have today's event without our honorable guest, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Welcome to you, we're delighted to have you here.
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Ambassador Hill was a Peace Corp volunteer in Cameroon. He then served for 33 years in the foreign service and he was a key player in several major American diplomatic milestones, including the Dayton Peace Accords, the Kosovo Crisis and the Six Party Talks on North Korea's Nuclear Program, certainly a relevant set of topics for discussion today. And I'm sure that we will hear more about these critical periods and their implications. He also served as ambassador to four countries. He was ambassador to Iraq during its 2010 national election, and before that ambassador to South Korea, Poland and Macedonia. And in 2010 he was named dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Affairs at the University of Denver. Which like the Ford School is a member of APSIA, the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, and as a fellow dean I've had the opportunity to get to know him in that context, and so that's been a real pleasure. Under his leadership the Korbel school has constructed a new building and established several new research centers, including the Center for Middle East Studies and the Coseley Center for Public Opinion Research. Ambassador Hill has recently published his first book, Outpost, Life on the Frontiers of American Diplomacy . This candid memoir details the complex and very human aspects of diplomacy, including his perspective on key political actors. His fundamental underlying critique of U.S. Foreign Policy really challenges us to think, just what makes for a successful American policy, foreign policy, and that is a very provocative and important question that helps to frame the conversation that we will all participate in here today. I'd also like to introduce my colleague and the co-director of the Ford School's International Policy Center, Assistant Professor John Ciorciari. And all of us who know John know his deep expertise on Foreign Policy issues in a wide range of areas, and won't be surprised that we invited him to host the conversation today. So for today's event we will follow the conversation format that's often used in the Council on Foreign Relations. So John will kick things off with a series of questions, and then after about 30 minutes of conversation we will open things up to questions from the audience. So a little later from now our staff will start collecting question cards, and all of you should have received a card, and we invite you to fill those out and pass them to the sides. Anyone watching online, please Tweet your questions to us using the hash tag policy talks. The question and answer session will be facilitated by Ford School Professor Susan Waltz, and also -- who is also a Korbel School alum, I might add, together with two Ford School students, Trevis Harrold and Swathi Shanmugasundaram. So we are delighted to welcome them as well. So now please join me in welcoming Professor John Ciorciari and our special guest, Ambassador Christopher Hill.
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>> Professor John Ciorciari: Ambassador Hill, thank you so much for coming. Welcome to the Ford School. As Dean Collins said, I'd like to start off with a few Council of Foreign Relations type conversational questions before we open to the audience. And I'd like to start by looking back at Bosnia. We've just passed the 20th anniversary milestone of the Dayton Accords, and I wonder if you would kick off by sharing with us some of the lessons that you think are most relevant today from the process leading up to the Dayton Accords. What factors were the most important in enabling you and other members of the negotiating team to craft a deal in 1995?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Well, thank you very much, John. Before I get to that I just want to mention Ambassador Ron Weiser, whom Susan already introduced, but Ron and I were in neighboring countries, Ron in Slovakia and I in Poland. And at the time, Ron, I think you remember everyone was worried about Slovakia. You had this guy, Michar [assumed spelling] as the -- you know, this very right wing kind of guy that everyone was afraid of. And you kept telling everyone, "It's going to be okay because it's really all about the economy and the economy is really going in the right direction." And sure enough I think Slovakia has ended up in the right place. And meanwhile in Poland, I'm mean I'm always going to be optimistic about Poland, but we got some challenges right now. And finally, before I get to your question, I just want to say, I'm thankful today because I'm a New England fan and [laughter] our University of Michigan quarterback is still alive today. It wasn't -- I was at that game yesterday and I was in one of those boxes with all these Bronco fans, and for me, you know, growing up in New England, I don't have a choice about teams, it's just, you know, sort of tattooed on you, Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots, but I'm just glad he's still alive. Anyway, it was a long day yesterday. All right, so where were we? We were talking about Dayton. You know, it was 20 years ago, and I think 20 years may be a blink of an eye in historical sense, but I think it's really time to start assessing what went right and what went wrong. I was at a conference, in fact Ambassador Boucher, Richard Boucher, somewhere in the back row there, was at the same conference at Brown University, which was Richard Holbrooke's alma mater. And the issue was, you know, what's happened in Bosnia. And it was amazing that we had a number of these Bosnian speaker, and, you know, we used to joke, you know, and you can find humor even in horrendous situations. I've always found humor as my sort of best companion in life. But, I mean, to hear all these Bosnians complaining about Dayton, and it was like 20 years ago when they all complained about the Ottoman Turkish Occupation for 400 years, and then they complained about the Austria Hungarian Occupation after 1908, and now they're just going to complain about American diplomats in Dayton. So I kind of challenged them on that. The point being that, what we did, it was a negotiated document, that is, if the three sides, the Croats, then we called them Muslims, now we call them Bosniaks, we've sort of awarded the place identity of Bosnia to what was then considered the Muslim population. So the Croats, the Bosniaks, and the Serbs. And we were trying to negotiate or mediate. So if the three of them had said, we want to call this place the Grand Duchies of Bosnia, would have been fine with us. So what we tried to do was get consensus. So often what we're trying to do is, we wanted to create Bosnia as a single state, it was very important that we not, for example, you know, a couple of years before Berlin and Germany had been reunited, we didn't want to turn Bosnia, and in particular Sarajavo, into a divided place, so we had certain objectives to make it one country. At the same time, because, you know, in democracy majority rule is understood lesson one, but I wish more people would take a look at lesson two, which is minority rights. Because you cannot have majority rule without minority rights. And a lot of what went on in the [inaudible] was the failure to understand lesson two. And so lesson two, minority rights, had to be articulated in the form of democratic institutions within the Serb Republic and among -- and within the so-called federation between the Bosniaks and the Croats. I think to this day it is proving to be a big challenge. And the question is whether the people's there have understood that Dayton was a platform on which they could do a lot of things. And instead they have many people, I can see 20 years later, have seen it as a limiting thing that we have to do exactly as the Bible of Dayton set out. And so, you know, we heard from Bosnian speakers talking about some school that had a Croat side and a Muslim side, and, you know, isn't this terrible. As if our Constitutional Lawyer, Robert Zoen [assumed spelling], had sat down to say, how can I divide Bosnian schools according to ethnicity or ethnic identity. In fact, that was not at all the point, it was to stop a war. And, you know, in the retrospect of looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, you think back to the Balkans, oh, that was just Boy Scout camp or something [laughter]. It wasn't Boy Scout camp, I mean there are 200,000 people killed, there are rape camps, there are all kinds of hideous things. It had to be stopped. But it was stopped finally with not as some people say today it was stopped by American power, it was stopped by arranging -- by putting together political arrangements where people could live together and feel they were going to be safeguarded. It was not enough to say to people, hey, we have the sort of Council of Europe guarantees on Human Rights, and, you know, if you speak to some Bosnian pheasant about the Council of Europe or OSCE or CSCE at the time, and they just kind of say, are you kidding me, you know, that's supposed to protect my identity. So you had to put together these institutions in this country, and I think we did that. So I think institutions are key. And we also understood something that I think has proven to be an elusive concept, or I should say our collective memories have not been able to keep it in our minds, which is elections absolutely a part of democracy. Can't have democracy without elections. But elections in the absence of political institutions, of democratic institutions, elections often in a country become a kind of census on -- you know, in that case, whose a Croat, whose a Serb and whose a Bosniak. So elections in and of themselves become a kind of census in that they do not tackle the underlying problems of how do you manage dispute resolution, etcetera. So we went beyond elections, we went beyond a cease fire. In fact the cease fire was really the last element we put together, and I know we're going to get to Syria. And people are always saying, well, first thing we need is a cease fire. You know, I think Beirut had 477 cease fires. A cease fire in the absence of what the political arrangements are going to be are not going to last. No one wants to be the last person to die in a civil war. I mean, I don't think there's any monument to someone who's the last person to die in a civil war. So what you have to do is convince them the war is over, and then they'll get out of their trenches. I think we understood some of those things surprisingly well in Bosnia. We also understood that there were different levels of this problem, huge human rights issue, no question. But one shouldn't be just a single issue voter on human rights, because there were other things that were very important. We had had, and we continue to have, a NATO Alliance, I think essential to our countries' future, and essential to our countries' relationships, and yet in the mid-90s it was being called into question because we had, you know, the Cold War is over and wasn't the purpose of NATO to, you know, fight the Soviets. And there as no more Soviet Union, so do we really need NATO? So a lot of questions about NATO and that fed into a whole question about the cohesiveness of the Transatlantic relationship with Europe trying to forge an identity at the time, you know, as Europe become -- because of German unification they tried to go deeper into German -- into European unity. And so as Europe was coming together they were often forging this European identity at the expense of the Transatlantic identity. And so this whole Bosnian issue, we were really not in sync with the Europeans, it was very dangerous and yet we understood that that was a problem. We understood the need to be engaged in it in such a way that at the end, together, with the Europeans, we'd come out with a solution. And I think a lot of Americans who sat in, you know, think tanks in Washington and just talk about what a bunch of, you know, terrible people the Europeans were, kind of missed the whole point of the thing, which was to try to forge an understanding. And I think we did that very well in Dayton. And so I'm mentioning a lot of lessons of Dayton, and by definition a lesson should be learned, and yet 20 years later here we are dealing with things like Syria and it's as if to, "tally rand" on the restitution of the [inaudible] Monarchy, nothing learned and nothing forgotten.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: I wanted to follow-up and ask you about Syria, because lessons obviously, if they apply, apply to other cases of complex multiethnic and ethno religious conflict. And one question that comes to mind right away is to build off the insight that Dayton wasn't intended to be as definition of a desired end state, Dayton is a platform on which the various parties are able to move forward, on the basis of a durable cease fire and at least a resolution for some period to the conflict.
>> Christopher R. Hill: And, you know, we had a concept that, if you want to change Dayton, you're free to do so, but you need to do it through consensus. And that was important because you remember the whole problem with the referendum that they had had in 1992, the whole problem of that referendum was, you would essentially -- if you got a majority for independence, as they did, then you simply would not pay any respect to the minority. And, again, minority protection is a key element. So we know that just having a referendum was not going to solve the issue and that we needed to kind of make sure that everyone felt they had something out of this. And so in the fullness of time we said, look, if you can't come to an agreement, you can't change Dayton, you can't change Dayton. And the problem has been, I think, that people who have not wanted to help the country, and in that I'm sorry to say there's some Bosnian Serbs I've put in that category, such as Mr. Dodich [assumed spelling]. People who have not wanted to streamline, improve the country have simply hidden behind Dayton. So should we, could we have put some kind of dispute mechanism such that we could interpret Dayton in a broader way then we've done rather than just going back to sort of the literal meaning of the sentences? Probably there's some room for improvement there, because right now Dayton is being held up as an instrument to oppose change. That said, I know a lot of Bosniaks who feel that what the Serbs have to do is just put away their Serbian roots and just call themselves Bosniak, end of story, and I just don't feel we're at the stage yet where Serbs are prepared to do that.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: Okay. Tell me, with respect to Syria, what we can draw forward from the Bosnian experience. Firstly, what does that -- I don't want to say it's an interim agreement, but that first important agreement in order to be able to stabilize the peace, what does that look like to you in Syria? And then what steps does the U.S. government, among others, have to take in order to put the conditions in place to make that kind of a deal possible?
>> Christopher R. Hill: You know, let me first say, I think Syria is a hideous situation. And I think it's probably worse than Bosnia. I mean, it's -- you've got all kinds of people there, many of whom have no concept of what we've been talking about in Bosnia. So the complete lack of consensus, the sectarianism that has gone rampant there, it's not easy. So the first point I want to make is, it's easy to be critical of the people working on, but, you know, you got to understand the degree of difficulty that they have to contend with. One thing we did in Bosnia, and I should have mentioned this earlier, is we were prepared to basically work with anybody. Now, this was somewhat changed by the fact that we were not going to work with indicted war criminals. And you recalled we pointedly would not have Ratko Mladic, the head of the Bosnian Serb Army, in any kind of negotiation in Dayton. We wouldn't have Radovan Karadzic. But I tell you, when we lifted the siege of Sarajavo -- we lifted, I mean, we got the Bosnian Serbs to pull back their heavy weapons and lift the siege, we talked directly to these people. Is it fun to talk to Radovan Karadzic? No. I sat at a table with him at this [inaudible] villa up in Voyvadena and he was eating a big piece of pork with a bone on and just kind of chewing at it with his fingers. I mean, it was just grotesque to watch him eat, let alone listen to what he had to say. So it was not fun, but we did it because we knew that he controlled the heavy weapons that were, you know, 120 millimeter mortars and other things that were, you murdering people. I think history will show in the fullest of time that there have been two terrible mistakes in the Middle East. One of them, of course, was that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, and, you know, that's going to be talked about for a long time, because it was really -- it involved a lot of mistakes including the abuse of intelligence. The second one, though, came some years later when our intelligence agencies concluded that Bashar al-Assad was going to be gone in a matter of weeks. Now, Assad is not someone I would, you know, exchange New Year's greetings with. I mean, he's not a nice guy. But when you look at a miserable dictator of that kind, the first question should not be, how do we get rid of him? The first question should be, how did he get there in the first place? And when you start examining Syria's polity, it's complicated. I mean, you have these Alawites, and he represents Alawites, you know, 15% proposition. But -- and you have Sunnis, who themselves have their divisions, but they're more like 60%. And many of them have felt disaffected from Syria. It got a lot worse -- and these are things, you know, people need to take a few minutes to read about these things. For example, Syria has had a longstanding drought that has brought many of these very hard Islamists, you know, nor urbanized, sophisticated Sunnis, I'm talking about people out in those villages, hard line Islamists, into the towns because there was no economy left with this drought. So you had a certain radicalization of the Sunni community there. It always had it's Muslim brotherhood elements in places like Hamaad [assumed spelling], etcetera, but you can tell that was going to be tough. And then meanwhile you have Christians, you have Druze, you have Kurds, all of whom have essentially supported Assad. So you've got quite -- now, why are they supporting Assad? Do they like Assad? No, they just worry what happens when Syria becomes Sunni [inaudible]. So meanwhile people in the U.S. are sort of anxious to see some sort of follow-up to the Arab spring, or, you know, Arab thing, whatever we're going to call it in history. And they start calling this opposition to Assad democratic. Well, it is democratic in that there is probably more opponents to Assad then there were supporters of Assad, because the Sunnis were largely in opposition, although not completely, but certainly these Islamist Sunnis were in opposition. So, yeah, you could call that majority, and therefore you can call that democratic opposition. I submit to you, however, that the sectarianism that we see today in such stark relief was probably there from the get go. And it's a bit of a fiction to say, well, you know, at first they were very democratic and then we didn't give them weapons, and they became Islamists. You know, I see that as kind of a self-serving narrative for people who want to send weapons. I really think that how it would start, to get to your question, is with a pencil and a piece of paper. And what you would do is write down on probably one sheet of paper, maybe two, what Syria should be in the future. You need to define in some broad strokes what the political arrangements would be in Syria. One, should Syria be within its international borders? You know, as much as we heap, scorn, and for good reason on Sykes Picot, you know, those two diplomats who are French and British, who in 1916 drew this line. As a colleague of mine said, "And you know they weren't even ambassadors." Well, you know [laughter]. And so they draw this crazy line, you know, and so the first point, I would not try to change that border. It's not that I think it was a great line that Sykes and Picot drew, it was basically between British and French influence. But, you know, show me a border change in the Middle East, I'll show you a war. So I'm not really sure trying to impose a border change is necessarily the right way. So I just say, Syria in its existing borders. Syria should be decentralized, and then I'd describe some of the decentralization. A kanton system, describe what a province in Syria, the rights that province in Syria should have. Can they teach kids in their own dialects, can they have certain religious aspects attached to the state? I don't like that, but, you know, maybe that's what we have to do. Should Syria have a kind of collective presidency? That is, instead of just an [inaudible] president, which is what they have now, should have they a kind of rotating thing, you know, like Bosnia has? You could write this kind of stuff on a page, and then you could chop that. And beware of those who say, no, we don't need this, this is patronizing. Well, my view is, when you've killed 300,000 of your fellow, you know, citizens, you've forfeited the right to complain about being patronized too. So I would be a little scornful of that argument. But I think ultimately people would need to decide, do they want it within it's international borders, do they want it decentralized, do they want a parliamentary system, maybe an upper chamber that through some combination of, let's say, you know, national identities can veto. So if the Sunni majority pushes something through, if the Christian caucus, the Alawite caucus and maybe one other, I don't know, the Druze caucus, in an upper chamber, could veto that, something like that. I think you need some description of politically how it would work, and right now people have been talking about you need a cease fire, and, you know, I'm all in favor of cease fires, and you need elections. But I submit to you elections are just going to be a census and a cease fire is just going to be broken, unless people know why they're cease firing. And I just -- in Bosnia we basically had all the accoutrements done that define what the contact group plan was before we got to Dayton, and then on the eve of Dayton we said, okay, cease fire while we implement all this, and somebody called it Dayton Peace Accords, and that's where we were.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: Okay. Great. Of course there are a few other things I wanted to get your thoughts on before we open up to questioning, and one of them is, to pan out and say there's also of course the broader conflict in the Middle East with a strong secretarian [assumed spelling] dimension to it involving Iran. And I wondered if you could share with us your thoughts on the Iran Nuclear Deal. Is this conducive to the resolution of this complex patchwork of conflicts?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Yeah. I mean, whenever you ask someone, what do you think of X, the answer should be, compared to what? And I -- you know, I'm not saying the Nuclear Deal was, you know, the only thing in the world to deal with it, but I have not heard an articulate explanation of what the alternative was. People often say, the sanctions were working. Well, I think the sanctions certainly were impoverishing the middle class of Iran, if that's your objective. But I think, you know, everything has it's life cycle and I think sanctions do too. So I think it was -- and given the parties involved, the Russians, the Chinese, Brits, French, Germans, I think we had kind of gotten to a point where it was time to sell sanctions and get a deal. Now, is it a perfect deal? No. Certainly within 10 or 15 years -- first of all the -- their nuclear capacities are still there. I mean, but, you know, how are you going to deal with that? Are you going to shoot all their nuclear scientists, is that your solution to keeping nuclear know how out of Iran? I doubt it. How are you going to manage that? And so I think the idea of getting some limits on it, getting the [inaudible] material out of the country, which has gone well, I think it was probably the right approach. Obviously it will start bringing to Iran a lot of capacity to -- because they'll get more money out of their bank accounts, by the way, that have been frozen, and certainly there was a danger that some of that money can be -- can go to some of the Iranian mischief making in the Arab Middle East. You can imagine they could be giving more to Hezbollah, there's no question that's a problem. But I think Americans need to understand that when we talk about Iranian support to terrorism, we are talking about Hezbollah, we are talking about some of these militia groups in Iraq. We are not talking about Al-Qaieda, we are not talking about ISIS, those are extremist Sunni groups. Iran is on the opposite side of that ledger. So, yes, it's a danger for them to have more funds for Hezbollah, but at the same time internally, and our policymakers don't talk about this as much, but internally within Iran I think to have Iran in somewhat better shape is to empower some of these urban people who want to see more development. And, you know, if you look at the history of sort of political unrest, it usually comes up through a process known as Rising Expectations. People seldom revolt when they're flat on their back, they revolt when they see things changing but not fast enough. So I think to some extent we're making a bet on internal dynamics. It's a long shot. I mean, it's not easy to unseat these Ayatollah's, but given the alternative to the Nuclear Deal, I think it's the right approach. I do want to say one other thing, though, in any deal in life generally you have something called externalities, negative externalities. And what this has done vis a vis our relationship with Saudi Arabia is serious. Saudi Arabia, frankly, they forgave us for supporting Israel, they've kind of, you know, dealt with that over the decades. They have not forgiven us for the fact that we went into Iraq and turned Iraq into a Shia-led country. So if you're a Saudi and you're looking at that northern border, you see Shia. You see Shia in Iran, you see Shia in Iraq, and you see Iran, because of Iraq's Shia status as a Shia-led country, you see Iran able to play more in the Lebanon and Syrian space, and you get very worried. So Saudi Arabia feels that demonstrably their strategic situation has worsened. At the same time there's another thing and it's a little more complicated, which is Saudi is saying, and you have to combine it with the whole idea that we're pivoting to Asia. Pivoting to Asia, you know, dealing more with Indonesia, China, all great stuff. But if you're in the Middle East, you're going, what are we, chopped liver? I mean -- and you're sort of feeling that America is abandoning the Middle East. And then you combine it with a sense that, wait a minute, now they're talking to their old buddies the Iranians. We remember that one in the '70s. So while for an American it looks ridiculous that somehow we're going to rehab our relationship with a country under these Ayatollah's, it's ridiculous to us, to the Saudi's it's not so ridiculous. And so we need to manage that Sunni reaction, and the Sunni reaction has been pretty ferocious. And by managing it, what have we done? We've sold the Saudi's F15's, that's always the solution to every problem with the Saudi's, you sell them airplanes. But we've also looked the other way while they bombed the bejeebers out of these Shia areas, these [inaudible] areas in Yemen. We've also looked the other way at the fact that the Saudi's are not even in the fight anymore with ISIS. Because, you know, to many people in the Saudi public opinion they look at ISIS and they go, well, we don't really like their tactics, but at least somebody's doing something about these Shia. And, you know, as Americans we always have this kind of solipsistic notion that's always about us, you know, ISIS is about to get us. They are, but they're really out to get the Shia. And, so, you know, this whole approach to Iran, I think it's the right thing, but we should not minimize the problems, the tectonic shifts we're having in the whole Sunni areas.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: Okay. For the last lead-off question I have for you, I want to pivot to Asia and ask you to compare the situation in Iran with another Embolia [assumed spelling] that you know all too well which is the nuclear issue with North Korea. Having served as the head of Six Party Talks team for the U.S. as Assistant Secretary of State for a number of years, when you look at this latest nuclear test by the North Koreans, they claim they've detonated a H-bomb, China calls for Six Party Talks. The South Korean president and the U.S. have said, maybe Five Party Talks are in order, excluding [inaudible]. What do you think the right next is there, and is there any hope for a deal in North Korea?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Yeah. First of all, you know, I negotiated with the North Koreans in the context of the Six Party Talks. You know, we made some progress, to be sure, [inaudible] discuss that. But I guess what's annoying about it is people always assume that you have some kind of Stockholm syndrome and that sooner or later you develop some appreciation for the North Koreas position. I never did [laughter]. I mean, these --
>> Professor John Ciorciari: The Pun Yung [assumed spelling] syndrome.
>> Christopher R. Hill: These are people only a mother can love, believe me [laughter]. I mean, I've never had such an unpleasant experience. You know, give me Karadzic and Mladic any day over these people, it's pretty awful. I think we were right to engage and I think President Bush was not only right but he was courageous to engage. And the reason he was courageous is half the Republican Party, and it may be three quarters today, opposed any kind of negotiation with people like that. And I submit to you that they kind of missed the point that he understood very well, which was, first of all we had a double-header going in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secondly, if you looked at polling data in South Korea and that is the relationship that we absolutely must preserve for many reasons. If you looked at polling data in South Korea some 50% of South Koreans in 2004 were blaming the United States and blaming our truculent behavior and blaming our lack of interest in negotiation as being the reason why North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons. That's all changed now, that's all changed. I mean, South Korean are not doubting our will to find a solution, especially they know that we're not afraid to negotiate. But the problem is, as you suggest, is that North Korea is not interested in a negotiation, so know what do we do. I think China is a major part of the solution, but I think a dialogue along the lines that somehow China needs to solve this is not going to get us there. And I'll tell you, I was frankly a little disappointed when our Secretary of State spoke to Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, that was a good idea to touch base with him. And then our Secretary of State says to the press, "I spoke to him and I told him their policy has been a failure. We put up with it and they've got nothing done and they need to step it up." Well, guess what Wang Yi's response was as soon as they could get their, you know, Chinese [inaudible] put into English? It was that you Americans haven't done anything either. And he's right. Actually both of them are right, but both of them are wrong to be going through the press. We need to have a deep dive with the Chinese on what we can get done. I think to some extent we need to have that deep dive in the context that the U.S. contrary to what many Chinese in their communist and security service apparatus believe, contrary to that, we are not interested in taking strategic advantage of China. We are not interested in a unified Korea such that U.S. troops would be on the Yellow River. We are interested in a unified Korea, if that's what Koreans want, and we support our friend and ally, the Republic of Korea, but we are not interested in supporting our friend and ally, the Republic of Korea in order to put pressure on China by putting listening posts or other things that many of these Chinese security people believe that we are doing. We need to have a kind of deep dive with the Chinese to explain what our real interests are. I think there are too many Chinese who have -- too many Chinese, especially in this security world who think that this would be a victory for America and a defeat for China. And, you know, have to understand North Korea and China not as a foreign affairs problem, but rather as a near abroad -- remember, China doesn't come out of the, you know, 1648 in Europe, China comes out of a very different view of neighbors. And so for many Chinese, if North Korea is to fail, and that's what Chinese believe, if they really put pressure on them they'll go under, they see this as something that would resonate and have a sort of echo effect within China itself. Where people would start saying, well, you know, our communist neighbors are down, why are we still pretending we have a communist system? It would have an echo on their internal issues. These are serious matters that any serious country, and I put China in the category of a serious country, they need to think about. And so we have had a lot of disagreements with China. You can see their misbehavior in the South China Sea and trying to sort of turn that into a southern Chinese lake. You know, we need to really have a proper dialogue with the Chinese. And most importantly, I think, we need to kind of set out some priorities. You know, priorities are a good thing, it helps sharpen the mind. Individuals do it every day. But we have a foreign policy, and this is a whole other subject, that is increasingly sort of up for sale. And the consequences, everyone's priority, gets put on the list.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: Okay. Thank you for that. And my priority right now is to turn over to Trevis and to Swathi to ask some of the questions that you all have provided from the audience. So, please.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: Okay. Thank you so much for your time and thoughtful answers thus far. My name is Swathi Shanmugasundaram, I'm an undergraduate student here at Ford with a focus on immigration reform and minors and Southeast Asian studies.
>> Christopher R. Hill: Could you try your name once again?
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: Sure. [Laughter] You know, it sounds like a sentence, because it's very long. Swathi Shanmugasundaram.
>> Christopher R. Hill: Okay.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: [Laughter] Great. Anyway, our first question from the audience is about Syria and Iraq. You suggested keeping Syrian borders the same. Why not divide Syria and Iraq along ethnic lines instead, such as [inaudible], a Shia state, a Sunni state, and a Christian state?
>> Christopher R. Hill: You know, in a sort of de facto sense, if you go up from the Arab lands to Kurdistan you'll find a checkpoint and it's like a border. You won't see Arabs north of that border, except as tourists, by the way, up in the Kurdish Mountains you see a lot of people from Baghdad having picnics up there and whatnot. But it already kind of looks like another country. Today if you go west from Baghdad into Ambar you're also seeing a little of that happen. It may end up in a different circumstance, but I submit to you that if we try to divide it, and unless it is done in a way that everyone participates in a kind of political process to do it, I can pretty much guarantee you there will be people who reject this and there will be lasting war. So I think we need to be very careful with solutions like that. Look, if the Shia and Sunni come -- have a meeting and they say international community, we're done. We really want to create two states, you know, the way the Czechs and the Slovaks did. Cool. You know, we should help them kind of figure that out. But I don't think that's there. And I think in particular the Sunni Arabs, you know, if you look at the Arab Middle East it's been 90% Sunni Arab, and Iraq is quite the anomaly at 60% Shia Arab. And so I'm not sure the Sunnis would just say, okay, Iraqis, you've got -- Iraqi Shia, you've got all that, you know, you can have 60%. I think there are a lot of problems in doing that. And I understand why people say this is a simple solution, I suggest to you it gets very complicated. And by the way, Baghdad in particular is very complicated in that regard and that you'd end up with more war.
>> Trevis Harrold: All righty. So just to echo. Thank you, again, Ambassador Hill, for your time, much appreciated. I'm excited to hear your insight. Hello everyone, I'm Trevis Harrold, I'm a first year master's Public Policy student here at the Ford School. Actually, I've done a couple internships with the Department of State, in Kosovo in particular. I know we didn't discuss that today, but --
>> Christopher R. Hill: [Inaudible] Pristina?
>> Trevis Harrold: Pristina, yeah, right in the crux of it. Took visits to [inaudible] as well, so very interesting. But neither here nor there, but thank you again for the time. The first question is, do you think the current right-wing [inaudible] of Europe is similar to the Balkan issues of the '90s?
>> Christopher R. Hill: No. I think the Balkan issues of the '90s, you know, one thing about education that's kind of interesting is the -- college education, is the political science that I studied became history. I mean, who the heck cares about the Soviet Poland Bureau anymore? It's history. But interestingly the history that I studied became political science. And so it seemed a little ridiculous to sit there reading about the Ottoman Empire, but guess what, that whole break-up of Yugoslavia was about the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. It really was 1912 and 1913, that's what it was all about. So what is going on in Europe is not the break-up of the Ottoman Empire or the break-up of the Habsburg's or any of these other empires. What's going on in Europe is the, I think, complex -- the difficulty of deepening political structures creating a new identity that's never existed, that is an identity as a European, and at the same time trying to hold on to what previous identities were. And I think many of this what you call right-wing politics is a kind of concern that identity, whether you're an Austrian or whatever, has been put into this sort of homogenized thing known as European. And I think a lot of these right-wing politicians, you know, strike a real resonant chord with people when they say, wait, do we just want to be put into this, you know, mosh pit of Europe? I mean, don't we have history, don't we have traditions, you know, what's happened to us? So I think that's part of it. I think when the sort of -- you know, the whole idea was, okay, Germany, you can be united, but it has to be in the context of a deeper European structure. Very nice, beautiful. The only trouble was, the result of all this is Germany now dominates the European Union. So ironically Germany is exactly what we feared it would be in 1991, '92. So a lot of smaller countries kind of resent that. Meanwhile, Germans resent some of those smaller countries. And, you know, to see this whole thing, I always thought it would come out with the European enlargement into Eastern Europe and I always thought it would be the Western Europeans saying, you know, why are we building roads in Slovakia, etcetera, you know, why can't these people, you know, pull themselves up from their bootstraps, etcetera. And what it really has been is the Southern Europeans that -- that's been the real fault line in Europe. So I think among Germans there's a real concern that the Southern Europeans they are not pulling their weight, and I think that has given rise to nationalism. And meanwhile you have this incredible flow of refugees from North Africa and from the war areas. And so I think for many Europeans they say, well, wait a minute, they seem to be more interested in those people than they are in us, and so that's been hard to manage. And when you kind of lecture them and tell them, hey, you know, this is your moral responsibility to take care of Syrians, they say, well, that's easy for you to say, but I've lived in this village of 200 people, my parents, my grandparents, my generations have lived in this village of 200 people and now this village of 200 people has a refugee camp of 800 people right next to it. What are you doing to us? So there's a sense of powerlessness as these big European structures make decisions. And by the way, some of these decisions are not so pretty when you look closely because you see some of the political parties, some of this is, you know, you put a refugee camp in the opposition party, not in your own territory. And by the way, party affiliation in Europe is a lot deeper than it is in this country. So there are a lot of problems there. And then I'll add that, you know, I'm not sure -- you know, this is maybe a little whimsical, but I'm just not sure that Europe is producing the kind of politicians it needs, statesman, I should use the term statesman, to deal with these problems. You know, I think there's been a kind of crisis of confidence, and we see it in this country as well, a crisis of confidence in institutions and the leaders that these institutions are producing. And so, you know, everyone's got this -- these issues, it's kind of global. But on the case of Europe, they have come a long way very quickly, and I think it's just been very tough on a lot of people there.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: At least one historian of the origins of World War I has argued that the infamous Austria-Hungary Ultimatum to Serbia would have been less an infringement of Serbia's sovereignty than the demands NATO made concerning Kosovo that were enforced by extensive bombing. What's your reaction?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Yeah. I understand why they're saying that. The Austrian Ultimatum was a something that there was no way the Serbs could accept. And it did involve, if I recall correctly, it did involve some territorial give back. The problem is, we live in a different era and you can't really compare an ultimatum of 1914 with a problem that was, you know, beyond just national in scope but rather had to do with sort of state formation in a neighboring country. 1914, it was tough because the Austrians had grabbed -- Sarajavo had grabbed Bosnia in 1908, Serbs just didn't accept it. And, you know, got [inaudible] and his ilk never accepted it. In some ways you can make it -- you can make the case that it was similar, except I would say the Serbs in 1914 handled it better by looking for allies, obviously the whole thing had disastrous consequence, but at least they looked for allies, while the Serbs in 1992 just did not understand that they were not going to be able to play the game by themselves. And for Serbs to talk about that somehow Russia is their friend, I think most Serbs know better.
>> Trevis Harrold: What lessons can we learn from the lead up to the Balkan wars for ethnically fragile regions such as Brandi, Lebanon, etcetera?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Yeah. Well, I tried to suggest earlier that I think we need to design political structures that will be post-war structures. And for people who say that our solution to these issues is to intervene militarily, I think, and that's -- by the way, that's what the whole American debate on Syria has been, how do we send more guns into that country and to whom do we send them. And to me that is very, very discouraging because I don't think Syrians need more guns. And nor do they need more military training. What they need are structures for peace, and I really think that this obsession that we have with -- that this is all about, "leveling the playing field." That's a nice expression, it's often used in trade negotiations, but when you talk about leveling the playing field in a war, you're into something a lot more than just, you know, a textile negotiation. And I would hope that we would have developed as a country a certain aversion to war and a certain skepticism that war is the solution to these problems. And yet when you look at any politician in this country all they talk about is should we or should we not give weapons. I would like some affirmative solutions such as should we, you know, pull the parties together and offer a peace plan. And there's some evidence that's happening, maybe happening this week, in fact. But even then it seems to be on the issue of having a cease fire and putting together elections, and I don't think that's going to -- elections I don't think will solve anything, there will just be a census of how many Druze, how many Christian, how many Alawites you have there.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: What do you think the biggest challenge for U.S. diplomacy is today?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Well, I'm an old-fashion guy so I always worry about nuclear weapons. You know, it was funny when they were talking about had North Korea exploded a hydrogen weapon, it turns out probably not. But I'm not even sure that's the issue. I mean, if you have a nuclear weapon, I mean, look at Hiroshima, can we really handle another Hiroshima in this world? I don't think so, and that was not a hydrogen weapon. So I think the real issue is how to stop these nuclear wannabes. And that's why I want to see much more concerted joint effort with the Chinese to address this, and I think trading accusations in the press is not [inaudible] foreign policy, so I would go after that. Obviously what is happening in the Middle East is dangerous, it's dangerous for the world. To some extent America is a little more protected from the needs for oil in the Middle East because we have, you know, all this nontraditional oil development in this country. I think if this issue of Sunni and Shia goes unabated it will be very dangerous.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: What are your views on the new government in Myanmar and the ethnic issues it faces?
>> Christopher R. Hill: You know, I mean, I think that is a country that has come a long way. And, you know, in so doing, I mean, there was this idea that Tunisian and these people were, you know, beyond redemption, you couldn't deal with them, and yet they've come a long way. There was also this view that Aung San Suu Kyi was a saint. I think people have discovered, you know, like most of us, she's not. But she has done a lot, she's done a lot. I feel Myanmar is a place to encourage what they've done. And it's not to say that they have solved the sort of centrifugal forces in that country that are really dangerous for it. I mean, the various -- these tribal structures, these are not easy and don't always assume that the government is at fault. I mean, some of these separatists are themselves at fault. So I think it's one of these things that bears attention and is worth paying attention. You know, when I was -- on my watch it was -- we turned it into a sort of human rights melodrama. You had Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest by this evil [inaudible]. And there's an element of that, definitely. But when you talk to people from the region, when you talk to Indonesians, Singaporeans, Thai, they saw it, yes, as a human rights melodrama to be sure, but it was also a huge chunk of real estate. And the question was, do you want to see this in a more Indian orbit, do you want to see it in a Chinese orbit, or do you want to see it in [inaudible] as one of these small countries that -- not small, I mean, Indonesia is not small, but one of these southeast Asian countries that kind of tries to work with their neighbors and comes up with these consensus, you know, rules of the road. And to me that's pretty obvious that's what we would like to see happen to Burma. But to encourage that is not always to be wagging our finger at them, and I think we need to kind of stay engaged and help them and try to support them.
>> Trevis Harrold: All right. So this question actually comes from a student, a hopeful student in the audience, Go Blue! The question is, how does once ace a Foreign Service Test [laughter]? Yes.
>> Christopher R. Hill: Well, all right, well, two great things about the Foreign Service Test. One, it's free. The second is -- you know, you don't have to pay anything to take the Foreign Service exam. The second thing that's nice is you can take it again. You know how if you take a GRE once and then you'll take it again they'll kind of average it with the previous one, which is kind of annoying. The Foreign Service Test, you pass it, they don't care if you didn't pass it before. The record is eight times. The record for someone actually getting in the Foreign Service and having taken it multiple times is eight times. So people should really understand that one of the tricks is not to think that you have to pass it the first time. Now, if you're way off the first time, if you don't come close, you might want to consider something else. But if you're close you should try it again. So I'm speaking as someone who didn't pass it the first time [laughter]. I was in college, I was a senior, I took it, and I came close, but I had -- my English, actually, was below the minimum. So I joined the Peace Corp. and all I did was read, you know, just I had stacks of books, I just read, read, read, and then I passed it. So you just kind of address your deficit there. So if you really want to enter the Foreign Service, you shouldn't consider the exam your problem. You'll eventually pass it. The issue is, you need to consider, do you want to move around the world every two years? Do you want to -- are you comfortable with some of the issues you'll have to take? You know, you don't pick and choose. If you don't like the Iraq war and you're a Foreign Service officer, if you really don't like it and you can't defend it, maybe you should get out. So, you know, it's -- you have to have a lot of considerations. I think it's a fabulous career, there's no country in the world that's more fun to defend than the United States, and we are it, no one is indifferent to us, no one falls asleep when you start talking [laughter] about our policies. And, you know, explaining Donald Trump to the rest of the world [laughter], I mean.
>> Swathi Shanmugasundaram: In your opinion who have the most effective diplomats and Secretary's of State been?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Well, you know, he drove me crazy, he -- I would say he was my mentor and my tormentor, but I'm a big Dick Holbrooke fan. So I'm pleased to be at this film that -- done by his son, which is really quite a touching film because it's his son's effort to get to know his dad posthumously and through his dad's work. So I'm a big Holbrooke fan. And, look, there have been a lot of great diplomats. One of them people don't ever talk about but there's a guy named Warren Christopher, very kind of quiet guy, not big on the media, but he understood things, he understood the balance of things. And I guess what I really liked about him, and I'll Condi Rice to this, is when they sent you out on, you know, mission impossible, they'd back you up. And what you don't like is for someone to send you out and then you, you know, things don't go well and then lo and behold you're getting criticized back home and, you know, you don't have someone sticking up for you. Collin Powell was very good at sticking up for his people. Condi Rice was, Warren Christopher was very good at that, as well. So, look, you know, we've had a lot of great Secretary's of State and I think it's -- we need to, you know, understand that this is such an important role for us in the world, and we need to understand that American diplomacy should not be an oxymoron, it should be something that we do and do very well.
>> Professor John Ciorciari: I think we've got time for one more question.
>> Trevis Harrold: Yes, yep, so last question here, and it's kind of a two-prong question.
>> Christopher R. Hill: [Inaudible] questions, you know [laughter].
>> Trevis Harrold: Yeah, sneaking them in there. But the number of American students studying international relations, area studies, and foreign languages continues to drop. Do you believe this will have an impact on the U.S. government's ability to implement foreign policy in the future? And secondly, as a dean, what can be done to increase interest participation in studies associated with diplomacy?
>> Christopher R. Hill: Yeah, you know, we notice this. As Susan mentioned, we're members of this association of international schools and we're noticing this kind of enrollment headwinds where we're not seeing enrollments grow like they did after 911. I think, you know, it's something we have to track and be aware of. I think to some extent there is a feeling that somehow we cannot make a difference -- you cannot make a difference in the State Department, and yet I think you can. And I think the State Department needs to do a better job of making sure that people know that this a very, you know, a career that can really, you know, it can be very important and very satisfying to people. I think, too, and I don't want to make -- you know, here I am in my 60s and I don't want to be lecturing younger generations, but, no, you cannot be Henry Kissinger at the age of 24. I mean, [laughter] you have to understand. I mean, I spent the first 10 years of my career schlepping people's bags in from the airport, and the second 10 years, you know, writing telegrams that no one ever cared about. And the third 10 years I had a ball. I mean, I really -- I knew the whole business and, you know, I would help younger people. And by the way, mentoring people, I mean, people helped me and my duty is to help others. And I think most Foreign Service get that, most Foreign Service officers get that. And so -- and I think people need to understand that it's not a sprint, it's a marathon, and so you need to understand that you're not going to be changing the world at the age of 24. Besides, I did that in the Peace Corp., so that kind of gets it out of your system. So I think we should be encouraging more interest in international studies. And I don't know what the solution is, but all I can tell people is -- I mean, there's a lot of concern now about business school or whether that's [inaudible] about law school, so I think a lot of these professional schools are experiencing some headwinds. But I just want to make sure that as a country we understand that there is a body of knowledge in all these fields, and international studies is one of them, and you need to know stuff. And you need to, you know, understand that if you don't know stuff you'll end up with a prospect of, you know, some Burmese diplomat being smarter than you are. So I think we need to kind of be respectful of what education can do and understand the absolute need for more of it, so. Thank you.
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>> Well, thank you so much Ambassador Hill and Professor Ciorciari. I hope to see all of you later at our free screening that will be at the Michigan Theater. You've already heard just a bit about The Diplomat, but I very much hope that all of you will consider joining us at 7:00 p.m. I'd also like to thank you for joining us this afternoon, and I hope that you'll stay and enjoy the reception that's right outside of our doors, in our Great Hall. There's also a book signing there, and I, again, hope that you will stay for that. Please join me in a final thank you to our special guest, Ambassador Hill.
[ Applause ]