Samantha Power, and moderator John Ciorciari, discuss her latest book "The Education of an Idealist" and answers questions about the latest diplomacy challenges. September, 2019.
I'm delighted to see you all here this afternoon here at the Ford School of Public Policy on Michael Barr on the dean of the school the Sandy and John while dean of the Ford School of Public Policy it's just a real pleasure to have all of you here many of you are actually watching next door we had such an incredible demand and many of you are also watching online we're just delighted to have all of you here I want to welcome you to our 3rd annual Vandenberg lecture which this year features Ambassador Samantha Power journalist ambassador to the United Nations and Ellen professor of the practice of global leadership in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and author of the just released book The Education of an idealist in conversation with the Ford schools John chary associate professor of public policy and director of the wiser diplomacy center and coincidentally law school classmate of Ambassador Power.
I would like to say bit more about investor power in a moment let me 1st share why this distinguished lecture series is named for the great Arthur Vandenberg who served the state of Michigan in the United States Senate from 1928 to 1951 born and raised in Grand Rapids Senator Vandenberg led the Republican Party from a pick from a position of stance isolationism prior to American involvement in World War 2 to a broad embrace of internationalism as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he worked to forge bipartisan consensus for our country's most significant and enduring international policies including the Truman Doctrine the Marshall Plan NATO and the creation of the United Nations.
The Vandenberg fund was established here by the generosity of the Myer Family Foundation they've been fund enables the Ford school to host high profile public events on international relations u.s. foreign policy diplomacy trade and more the lecture series serves as a vital intellectual tribute to Senator Arthur Vandenberg we're honored that Hank Meyer is here this afternoon please join me in thanking Hank and the whole Meyer family for their generous support of this series.
Thank you and.
We also have a very special guest with us today the president of the University Mark please join me in welcoming and thanking Mark for his leadership of the school and support for our work.
And we're also honored to be joined today as you can see by the wiser family.
We hope region Ron wiser will be here in just a moment Eileen Wiser has just walked in and Ron and Eileen have been generous donors and supporters of the whole university and clued into the Ford school and the establishment of the wiser diplomacy center so please join me in thanking Eileen.
And then out of the story of our show you will find Ambassador Powers full biography in the program I want to highlight for our students in particular that the path that led Samantha Power to become and bass are the United Nations was not a linear one she did not know from the time of birth that she wanted to be or would be the ambassador to the United Nations so keep that in mind when you're thinking about your careers one thread however I think is constant throughout her career and that's been her abiding commitment to human rights power started her career as a journalist reporting from conflict zones including Bosnia East Timor Kosovo Rwanda Sudan and Zimbabwe before she joined the us government she was the founding executive director of the car Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School from 2009 to 2013 power served on the National Security Council for senior national cured Security Council for President Obama as special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights from 2013 to 2017 she served as u.s. ambassador to the United Nations as she notes in her new book she went from being an outsider to an insider from being a critic of American foreign policy to a leading representative of the United States on the world stage.
Her commitment to human rights is still embodied in her work in addition her appointment at the Kennedy School she is also the William d. Zabel professor of practice in human rights at Harvard Law School and best your power embodies the values of the Vandenberg lecture as well as those we hope to impart to our students here at the ford school please join me in welcoming Ambassador Power.
Of the let me let me just say a word on format before I turn things over to John will have some time toward the end for questions from the audience to Ford school students Brooke bass a gallon Marianna Smith with Professor Susan waltz will sift through your question cards and pose them to the panel who are very much looking forward to that for those of you who are watching online you can also submit questions of by tweeting them to the hash tag policy talks again welcome and now let me turn things over to Professor chary and Ambassador Power thank you so much Michel and I'm delighted to be able to welcome him Besser power here to the ford school and you're going to get a taste of what's in our new book The Education of an idealist as he reads to us a brief passage from the book to start us off indeed and.
Before I do so let me just echo the thinks that have been extended to Hank Meyer and the wiser family for supporting this.
Not just this lecture but internationalism diplomacy.
Aspects of our society and our governance that we never thought would go out of fashion but that are having a little trouble these days so to be sure that young people get exposed.
To the array of complicated factors that are shaping our world and the world that we will bequeath to our children and grandchildren it's just critical really the support that you have offered Mr Wiser the wiser family and then Mr President I'm used to saying that a different context but nonetheless.
Has to present I know your time is extremely precious I heard on the way over the you've got like 60000 employees never mind that number of students in graduate students so the fact that you're here I think sends a really important signal also to the students about just how important it is to build students who to shape students and the education of students who can deal with problems at home and also recognize the connection between what is going on out in the world and the strength and hopefully the vibrancy of our own democracy.
The last thing I'll say just because I could get to feel like I'm talking to people in this room is that I used to be one of the people who came late and was in the spillover room and so I just like to say hello and say hello you're my people.
Not to say that I was never really but but there'd be some chance I'd be in that room so what I thought I would do is we're going to get into a discussion I hope where we talk about contemporary issues present Trump is at the u.n. at the present climate incredible climate movement that young people are driving all around the world.
But I have written a book in a very personal way with an eye really to appealing to young people and the young at heart those who are feeling right now maybe more of a pull to try to make a difference than they've ever felt in their lives part of because in part of what ails us.
But also who may be plagued by some of what plagues me at various stages of my career which is doubt about whether one can make a difference and so in lieu of writing a policy book or a traditional government memoir I try to take advantage of the fact that I was a writer before I became a bureaucrat a government official a writer before I became a diplomat who try to tell a story that could open up this world and hopefully make it seem as appealing.
If complex but as appealing to you as it was to me as I've had the privilege of living within it so I just want to give you a flavor of how the personal and the political mix and how indeed inseparable they are and.
The story in this book which people talk a little bit about but is that of an immigrant coming to this country from Ireland I came when I was 9 to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
The year that the pirates won the World Series and the Steelers won the Super Bowl so it became a my way of fitting in was to learn all about sports and that's really what I wanted to be when I grew up I 1st I wanted to be the center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and then when that was.
Clearly not this really going to be available to me I wanted to be a sportscaster and the book tells the story of how rerouted and started to care about human rights and foreign policy and so forth and I won't I won't get into that but I became a war correspondent after college in Bosnia and I wrote a book on American responses to the major genocides of the 20th century and I will mention that that book which is called a problem from hell was.
One that grew out of a paper I wrote while I was in law school.
And so I just encourage you who are working on your papers and saying what does this do home I doing this for anyway and but to just know that the thinking you do here may well serve you later in ways you don't expect and this paper gave rise to a 5 year writing project that gave rise to getting a call from a 1st term senator named Barack Obama.
Who invited me to initially have dinner with him and not that much longer we agreed that I would come down and work in his Senate office at our dinner our 1st dinner together I said I'm hearing he had just gotten to Washington but I said I'm already hearing rumors that you might run for president he said what how presumptuous with that be I mean I just got here you know I'd have to start fundraising like next year that's crazy you know Anyway the next year he started fund raising he still launched his presidential campaign when he's on his book tour you can ask him about all of that but.
It's a tell the story in the book as to why he changed his mind but I then joined his campaign and being on this campaign was the 1st time I'd ever really worked as part of a team I'd always written done my articles alone and my teaching alone although of course with my students but to be part of that team I found immensely gratifying this is just a short story from the early days of the campaign and it's in a chapter called yes we can as I worked at my computer in Winthrop Massachusetts in the spring of 2007 I received an e-mail that was clearly not intended for me Cass Sunstein a University of Chicago law professor and an Obama campaign advisor had written quote Martha isn't this campaign Law Group a disaster.
As in worse than say anything and quote I had met this cas once before at an academic conference we had struck up a lively conversation and I had learned that like me he was an avid squash player and Red Sox fan but we had not kept in touch Cass had seemed almost incurably cheerful during our brief interaction so the sour tone of his e-mail surprised me but since it was addressed to Harvard Law School Professor Martha Minow I deleted the message and went about my day I soon realized however that I was not the only accidental recipient of Cass's private lament neither Kassner I were full time or paid campaign advisors we were professors who contributed policy ideas by telephone and e-mail to candidate Obama's campaign and who spoke publicly on his behalf Obama's staff his core staff paid staff had assembled an informal working group comprised of legal scholars to inform his views on an assortment of pressing issues including how to go about closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and reversing President Bush's licensing of torture Obama and Cas had been colleagues at the University of Chicago where they both taught classes on constitutional law with a possible Obama speech on the rule of law approaching the group had produced nothing in expressing his frustration to minnow via e-mail casts had mistakenly auto filled the entire senior staff of the Obama campaign.
His criticism of the Law Group caused wide offense Danielle Gray the immensely capable lawyer in charge of domestic policy took it as an insult to her leadership and forwarded the e-mail to me saying Can you believe this asshole.
A friend of hers converted part of Cass's e-mail into a large poster and hung it on the wall at campaign headquarters the posters read Danielle Gray worse than say anything.
I felt forecasts like most mortals I had suffered my own email mishaps not long before in fact I had been set up on a blind date by Tom Kean and a friend and fellow professor whom I had come to know through his research on mass atrocities the date had not gone well I wrote with a rundown of all I did not like about his friend asking how he could have conceivably thought that we might get along I stressed in the email that the incompatibilities were deep and I signed off the e-mail saying quote I think as the old saying goes you can only make them dress better and quote lovely.
As soon as I hits and I heard a ping in my inbox it was the message I had just sent freshly delivered as an incoming email.
Within seconds of that 1st ping I heard a 2nd I had received a note from Tom which simply read you didn't.
I put my head in my hands and slowly typed I did.
Tom and I were part of a list serv.
Of thousands of genocide survivors.
Activists and scholars and I had accidentally sent the note savaging the blind date to the entire list.
Years later when I was serving as u.s. ambassador to the un people who had received my email.
Would still exuberantly quote my words back to me you can only make them dress better.
I should add for those who don't know that I married to cast Sunstein and have 2 children with him now so.
There are some blessing to mishaps of that nature that you can't expect and I certainly would not have expected at that point to read.
That actually tempore only leads us right to I want to start which is to talk a little bit about your transition from the campaign into your 1st job at the National Security Council I know a lot of students are interested in the question about how your role as an activist and as a journalist fit into your role as a government official years later you tweeted about a Cuban democracy activist in the Mexican ambassador to the u.n. came up to introduce himself and said You have to decide whether you're a diplomat or an activist you can't be both and you disagree with that in the book and reject that premise but you do discuss at length the new ropes that you had to learn when you took your government in one exasperated moment you wrote in your diary that Sudanese troops were masters around door for 30000 people were gathered at the un base the un It was packed up to leave and Samantha Power up stander had no effing idea how to write a decision memo you should have come to the ford school.
But student I was wondering how you were going to deal with the expletive like I I wasn't sure.
How one deals with expletives these days.
But but really what are some of the key traits that you think you brought with you as an activist coming into this government role and what are some of the key new skills and thought processes that you had to develop to be effective at the n.s.c. and later as ambassador to the u.n. it's a great question and let me start by maybe just adding a little more to the sort of picture of the culture shock that one encounters from going from the outside to the inside I mean when I 1st got my badge my blue badge to be able to go into the why.
Swing which was a very hallowed badge to get.
And I went into the Situation Room you know I had a kind of intruder alert going off in my head because I had been on the outside for so many years trying to get u.s. officials to talk to me so that I could write elaborate articles for The New Yorker the Atlantic about what policymakers were doing and what the incentives were and how they were you know how group think worked and how individual stood up in those circumstances how individuals stood by and all of those dynamics that fascinate me said there was in those meetings.
And indeed I worried a lot of the beginning I have developed a habit and I recommend it to students who don't seem to have the have it in quite to quite the same extent any more as as people of my generation did but I am a copious no taker.
And of course that served me well as a journalist when I was writing down people's quotes but it also serves me well in government because the more savvy and seasoned government officials learn very well how to basically read describe what has been decided in the meeting to suit their preexisting agenda but I always had the notes.
You know again for a partly because of my journalistic background partly cause I didn't trust my memory and but I but early on there were suspicions that as I took these very detailed notes that somehow I was doing it in order to be in touch with my former journalistic friends and so there was a kind of suspicion that I felt I mean probably some share of it was in my head but some of it was real and I had to adjust also to the lingo the way people talk in government is no matter what you're learning here at this school it can't prepare you particular for the gendered metaphors you know like we'd be in and talking about a negotiation opening up diplomatic channel with Iran for example somebody would say you know we've got to go open kimono into these negotiations would be like open kimono seriously we have to show.
Some leg it's really important to show some leg and then the the funniest one was because I had just arrived in the administration and I was 5 months pregnant I actually heard myself say you know we can't be half pregnant on this decision.
Between this or that and there I was actually more than have pregnant so anyway there's all of that and I you know having come to America as an immigrant to Pittsburgh back in the day in 1979 I had then tried to learn Pittsburghese and American ease and to lose my Irish accent and so forth and I really felt that going into government was something similar It's like you had to suspend certain parts of who you were at least leave them at the door when you went in the morning and then master this new way of being and doing in order to be effective which was my number one objective in the passage that you read was at a time when I was struggling to be effective.
So I think what I brought was that I didn't change between the person I had been in the person in then these important rooms I had the same agenda broadly speaking as a human rights agenda but beyond that it was how to be a voice at a very.
Exclusive table for insisting that we think through the human consequences of our decision making and so yes as it happens my primary research had been on mass atrocities and that was a portion of my portfolio but I was also we were drawing our troops down from Iraq and I was very concerned about Iraqi interpreters who had risked their lives in order to support the American military and I didn't think that the process that was focused on the drawdown drawdown I very much supported was sufficiently focused on who we were leaving behind and so again to be the voice in that room saying what are we going to do for them how are we going to get them visas if they still want to come to this country or in some way support their efforts to.
To find security for themselves and their families given what they've risked for us.
L g b t rights was something that of course I care an awful lot about in the domestic context but I also was very aware that some 80 countries criminalize being gay around the world or criminalized same sex conduct and.
There's never been a u.s. government effort to even just in subtle and sometimes private ways to push governments to treat more humanely same sex couples in their midst and so you know doing little things like creating a legal defense fund for same sex couples that were just hauled into jail because they were gay in loving gay relationships or making sure that we looked at asylum claims from persecuted people in a way that meant that they in effect got an expedited look and so forth and so that was just me that was the me that had been outside and now I got to be the me that was inside but I had to figure out how to find allies within the government initially I was very stung Michael and others and any of you who've been in government can speak to you know questions of access of course loom so large and I've been very close to President Obama to Senator Obama and to candidate Obama and he had in some ways helped broker my relationship with Casanova is married to Cass but suddenly I found myself as the human rights advisor with a lot of layers between me and my friend who is now the president United States and so my idea of like walking into the you know the oval Mr President you know this is what it just was like that it was all mediated with all these it's just you know again not like the West Wing it turns out exactly and but just learning Ok how do I write the paper that's going to be written in a manner that is going to get before him and then he's going to write his scrawl in the margins and I'm going to take whatever that scrawl is and I'm going to run with it.
At the State Department and the Defense Department and it really didn't take long it's like any kind of new set of rules you're learning you figure out how to learn it but what I had to do is get over my own sense of what you know I don't see why I don't see much as I used to.
To which are hope the late great diplomat said he's like go where people aren't.
I don't worry about getting into we get another meeting on you know precisely how many troops we're going to be sending to Afghanistan go fix something that nobody is focused on at the highest levels that Obama would be thrilled if you could make progress on and where you know there's going to be much less interference many fewer people in your way and so you know building coalitions around the less high profile issues initially we became a kind of gateway to eventually then of course being at the table in the cabinet and being central to the debates on the on the even harder issues and as you go along in the book you describe then how you participate as part of a team that made a lot of progress on a wide range of issues you mentioned one a moment ago l g b t rights abroad as well as at home another one that comes to mind is a more punctuated crisis response to a bola I wonder if you could give us a flavor of what you think the key ingredients were in those 2 instances that in abled so much headway they're both great examples and again I know we'll probably get to Libya and Syria and the much harder cases but I think both are a really.
Important examples at a time when there is a lot of.
Eroding faith about whether the United States can do good in the world I mean it is let's face it in both parties that sentiment I think has grown over the last.
Decade plus for a whole range of reasons that we can go into but so on l g b t rights because I've already spoken about that a little bit that really was about my concept that I had taken from a different domain from mass atrocities which was that of the tool box What are the tools that we can employ.
When we employ them are we rigorously interrogating in advance what the consequences are likely to be for the people we claim to care about or as often happens and you see this a lot of which with the current administration because we care about older bt rights do we fall prey.
To a kind of expressive tendency a desire to show the world how much we care about all g.b.t. writes in a manner that actually could make it harder for l g b t activists to make the case which they make of course every day bravely that this is indigenous organic not Western imperial propaganda induced you know whatever which is what so many.
Demagoguing leaders claim about the communities in their societies and so we had a ton of consultations with people who were on the front lines in the most difficult places like Uganda Nigeria and so forth and that doesn't mean that by any means that you like any civil society that you get some kind of there's one stop shop and you get the consensus you should speak out of the consensus you should cut off this form of a supporter there was always a consensus that you look again a silent claims swiftly because usually somebody is on the case of many cases we're looking at people are fleeing for their lives there was always a consensus that offering legal support to people who were trying to litigate in their own countries to even shut down the publication of.
Periodicals that were inciting violence against gay people so there was sort of soft stuff that there was a lot of consensus about but on the question of whether to be private in public again that was something that really varied on a case by case basis and what we ended up doing in the in the story goes all the way through to my time at the u.n. we also recognize that so it isn't seen as an American.
You know a kind of tool of American propaganda or imperialism to do as much of it as we can through the United Nations and so for the 1st time we secured the recognition of the rights as human rights under the u.n. as a u.n. norm while I was in Basser we brought for the 1st time 2 gay men who were being pursued by.
This to the Security Council is the 1st time the Security Council in the 70 year history the un had ever met on the fates of gay people in it was the surreal thing before where where on ISIS and What You know already relations with Russia were deteriorating a bit and so Russia tended to block any human rights initiative or anything that we wanted to draw attention to because they'd already invaded Ukraine and were already beginning to do terrible things in Syria.
But on this ISIS was something of course Russia always wanted to cooperate on and so when I went to the Russian ambassador I said of another issue like ISIS is now pushing gay people off the top of tall buildings to their deaths they're executing them in this way and we have had 15 Security Council sessions in the last 3 months on ISIS crimes including one rightly about ISIS destruction of cultural artifacts and the heritage of the peoples of these of this region surely if we can focus on cultural artifacts we can focus on live human beings who will no longer be alive because they're being targeted this way anyway the Russian pastor said no.
And so we had to do it as a kind of side meeting but still the 1st meeting the Security Council and then after the Orlando pulse shooting I think having laid the predicate by ensuring that those men told their story before the council and then with this you know travesty and devastation that so many Americans were sub suffering we secured for the 1st time a condemnation by the Security Council including Russia of the targeting of people on the grounds of their sexual orientation which this may all sound like normative blah blah blah but the thing is once the Security Council has spoken it is something that can be seized upon by people who are struggling in their own societies and it's better to seize upon something like that then something that American president says in most cases so that's one example and again it's a it's you know we have changed the world there's still horrific violence.
And legal persecution of gay people around the world people around the world but the you know changing the norms shifting the norms creating a different set of international standards it seems to me was was one of the things that we could do it bola and I'll be brief on this but it is an extremely important case because it also reminds you that you don't get credit for that which you have preventives and I don't mean credit like we want you know that to be part of Obama's legacy nothing like that what I mean is once something has succeeded it quickly retreats from people's minds which then has bearing on whether people think the United States can do good in the world right so if you don't even remember.
As so many don't I find with my own students it's just something that sort of came and went.
And then we make the case that actually it's in our interest for the u.s. to lead the world and Bill global coalitions of all is not a doesn't come to mind as a data point and that's when the reasons I told the story in the book is I think that has to be corrected but what we what happened in September 2014 is that we were told by the c.d.c. that there would be 1400000 infections in West Africa serially in Liberia and Guinea by January so for 5 months away.
Already was beginning to tweet on a bowl and I know that now he tweets on lots of things but this ended up being and there are studies on this association look into this but ended up being a really important chapter in his own political journey because he tweeted you know I think hundreds of times he was on Fox News almost every day talking about a bull and was not the only one there were Democrats as well who were who were I think irresponsibly not as many as on the other side but irresponsibly stoking fear about this and not following the science which is what we needed to do in order to deal with the epidemic at its source.
But to his credit President Obama bucked the fear and bucked the fact that Congress did not want to support what we were doing at the outset and what saved the people of West Africa was not above all their own efforts and resilience and bravery because it was the scariest thing to be happening watching your loved ones basically vanish before your eyes so 1st and foremost the credit goes to them but the other thing that happened was thank goodness and I will thank the heavens till the day I die on this Congress happened to be on recess.
When we were in a position of figuring out exactly the contours of the response and had they not been and it really it gave us time.
To put in place our own forces and public above all our public health professionals but 2000 u.s. soldiers as well who built it all the treatment units just using their logistical passage he in partnership with our public health people and our aid workers but we started to build that in support of local efforts I then was empowered as was John Kerry to go to other countries and say Ok this is what Barack Obama is willing to do in the face of this crummy politics what are you going to do the British then decided we would do Liberia they would do serially own the French did a less energetic job on Guinea but nonetheless you know took notional responsibility and Guinea at least to be lead country China began building a polar treatment units we got the Cubans to you know provide doctors some of the best medical care.
That was offered in fact came you know the more more doctors per capita than any country in the u.n. but every country in Malaysia providing rubber gloves but the reason the ask about a poll is so important is when people say does the international order does it work does not work can it work isn't it collapsing that's what it looks like when it works it doesn't just congeal like there's a collective action problem every time there's something that happens in the Commons or outside of our own borders but what happens is someone has to step up and be a kind of team captain take a certain risk make a certain investment but then and this is where Trump has a point we have to leverage when we are doing to get others to do more as well and the a bowl of coalition response not just the American response in support above all of the indigenous actions really is a case study in how global coalitions meet threats that if they are not met at their source will inevitably come home to roost.
Along the lines that you described at the outset one of the features of this book that I recommend to all of you is the way in which you weave your your professional life and your personal life in the ways they intersect and in one passage they like very much you educate a young idealist when your son Declan then age 6 years of age asks you why a Syrian refugee family that you had met couldn't return to their home country and rebuild their homes and you explain that Assad would probably bomb it again and he asks why doesn't Obama make Assad stop and your reply is well because America has been into really hard wars over the last 15 years and he doesn't want to start another it's also really hard to use war to make things better and safe people often it doesn't work he then goes on in very precocious fashion to ask essentially if there should be a no fly zone so I think we've got here to diplomat he basically said why can't he at least stop playing and I was like that's exactly the argument I've been making in the in The Situation Room thank you so the moral was.
That of course is is is related to the central challenges that the Obama administration faced in Libya and in Syria to critics Libya is the example of the dangers of humanitarian intervention and the Ender's dire consequences that can flow from it and you argue convincingly in my view in the book that even absent western military intervention there would have been tremendous strife in Libya but the question nonetheless exists could there have been more done to stabilize Libya after the international intervention what can we learn from this experience and what's still going on in Libya to intervene the most effectively when humanitarian need to dictate in the future.
Well you're certainly right that Libya.
Is sort of looms out there you know not quite with the same status as the u.s. invasion of Iraq but it is something that I think is widely seen to.
Made things worse.
I don't fundamentally No I don't think anybody can know what Libya would look like if Gadhafi had been able to do what he said he was intent on doing which was to hunt down people who were loyal to the opposition house by house he had we there's a town called Misrata which was a town that Gadhafi forces bombarded really almost to the point of oblivion which if you if you see pictures of it look it looks an awful lot like Dresden.
Did after the 2nd World War.
Just rubble everywhere I mean there was a ruthlessness.
And not exactly a spirit of compromise in Khadafi that led us to be very skeptical.
That there was any way to avert what he was claiming he was on the verge of doing absent going to the u.n. Security Council and seeing was there international support for a civilian protection operation and again it's very easy to forget because Obama certainly was at the helm of this coalition.
But the United Nations Security Council which had already put in place economic sanctions against Gadhafi for his killing of his people had already referred the crime is in Libya to the International Criminal Court but at that point when Obama would not have intervened had there not been a u.n. Security Council resolution that was clear.
But when we went to the Security Council to see if there be support.
It Russia and China countries that would normally veto such a measure abstained and the resolution went through with 10 votes in favor and 5 abstentions and that's just extremely unusual any humanitarian action of that nature but in large Russia.
Would hold in great suspicion and would tend to just through our history has cost of East Timor whatever would always have been either delaying or blocking So this was a a testament to just how moved the whole world was by.
What could off he was doing it was also a testament to the very different time than the one we're in now where the Tunisian dictator had fled really without gunfire Hosni Mubarak the seemingly permanent leader of Egypt to step down peacefully so there was a sense then.
Maybe a hubris on the part of the of the protesters I don't think we felt hubris so much as what happens if Gadhafi succeeds brutally How does that affect the rest of the region and how does it incite actions by other leaders at that point Syria hadn't really gotten going.
In the horrible path it would soon be on so those are the factors the Libya Libya's own ambassador to the u.n. actually defected from representing Khadafi and it was very unforgettable scene where he's in front of the placard that says Libyans is look the rule in the u.n. charter is that the sovereign can ask for self-defense and I'm asking you on behalf of the Libyan people to protect my people from the slaughter that awaits them and so that's the context in which President Obama acted us rightly about the planning or whether more could have been done because I think in the in the context that I just described it would have been very hard to walk away spend the Arab League which is never for the use of u.s. military force or Western military force had asked us to set up safe areas for civilians as well so that was the backdrop I think the on the planning issue.
And Obama talks a lot about this being a regret of his not planning properly.
Huge amount of planning was done.
And I have had a back and forth with Obama since he left office to talk about that because I saw his answer in some interview and so let me just make sure you know what's going on in the bowels of your government I mean you know plan after plan you know the same was true in Iraq of course with the Iraq invasion but those plans never surfaced in that instance in our case very alert to the failure of those plans to be relevant in the Iraq on text we were not having any difficulty getting our plans to the right people but the Libyans themselves on the ground made very clear from the minute get off the fell that they did not want an international troop presence in Libya and so when you look back was the thing to do maybe to have asked before you know the Libyan about or saying Come help come help and the Arab League saying you better go rescue and you know not fail Arabs again like you always do they're yelling at us to do something even the Russians are willing to let this go through was that the time to say well what about the aftermath will there be you know would you but it's hard to do that because you never know what the aftermath is going to look like and so there was a lot of planning but it was on an assumption that they would want our help on the back end more help than Then they proved or at least more in person help than Then they wanted and then they but the other dimension is you know when a leader falls and is brutally murdered as Khadafi was by the opposition I mean you know some people you know I think were so relieved that it was over and that Khadafi was gone and that the next phase of Libya's development could proceed to tell the story in the book of even Declan my son who for months I've been.
You know at the White House 247 and he started running around the apartment saying this was actually before he was killed but when he just left Tripoli and my son ran around the apartment was then you know 2 or 3 but just saying coffee is gone coffee is gone no more coffee for him it meant mommy is back you know like I might come home.
And but when Kadafi was killed you know that was when it became very clear that I mean or at least looked quite likely that this was going to be an extremely contested and bloody aftermath and it you know they actually had a free election and it remained pretty stable for a while but then of course it has plummeted and what I'd say is was there more diplomacy that could have been done while the bombing was going on and the civilian we were seeking to protect civilians and fulfill the terms of the un mandate was there some huge diplomatic push where Khadafi could have been convinced to take a golden parachute out of his country for the sake of an evolutionary pact a transition where he would get to be reunited with his wealth and you know live out his life much as the Tunisian dictator did until recently until he died recently we launched that diplomacy Don't get me wrong but I just couldn't have been at a different level of intensity.
Sort of almost not taking no for an answer was there a way to rally African countries with us I think that could have gotten a lot more attention than it did and that's a big regret I think that we should have but on the on the decision as to whether to protect the civilians or not I think that's a much harder call because Syria today series an example again where we stand back and it's easy but a lot of people say Obama let x. number of Syrians die but the Syrians are protesting and taking matters into their own hands as well themselves sometimes I feel our debate negates the agency of the of the people on the ground and the same people who criticize us for going into Libya.
You know criticize us for not going into Syria and what I try to do in the book is bring you into these debates and make as vivid and real as possible what you know what little you know.
And what you're trying to achieve as well as the global dynamics that you're grappling with at the same time including Russia and its ever evolving relationship with.
With the Middle East but also with the truth which changes a lot of the course of the life of my time in the government sure on Syria you just alluded to the fact that there's there's a debate and you you express this tension in the book between sort of consequentialism and principles that would mandate intervention in some contexts right during the midst of the redline crisis in which Assad had used chemical weapons you gave an address on the topic can you express your understanding of people's fears another possible Middle Eastern quagmire possible inadvertent strengthening of ISIS sucking the United States into an unwanted role of global policeman but you come down at the end with this with the following statement We should agree that there are lines in this world that cannot be crossed and limits on murderous behavior especially with weapons of mass destruction that must be enforced and the question is whether this is essentially a trump card against consequentialism whether it's a trump card anymore in my house.
Whether this is a winning hand against consequentialism are their case or are there cases in which we we simply can't reach rights violations because of the the expected adverse consequences.
Well the argument I was making was consequentialist So it was not it may have had some flowery language in it but it was not some kind of Conti in categorical imperative it was what would it mean if a leader can gas $1400.00 people including $400.00 children as it happens at will after the president States has announced that there's a red line I was not part of those deliberations I think that was a pretty spontaneous articulation of the u.s. position the u.s. position of don't use chemical weapons but President Obama in a ad hoc exchange with Chuck Todd gave the flowery and memorable version of the of the statement of u.s. principle.
But I like President Obama like so many was of the view that if that genie is out of the bottle it's not just the Syrian people who are going to be harmed by the weakening or the this aeration of a norm that had held.
Largely for much of the previous century but there had been use by Saddam Hussein of course in 1908 sort of held exclusively thoroughly for 25 years and the thoughts are course u.s. forces who are in battle elsewhere in the region as they were just coming out of Iraq they would soon be back in Iraq because of ISIS but in Afghanistan our allies in the region and how they would fare if chemical weapons were suddenly becoming a kind of quasi conventional weapon of war which is what Assad was turning it into and then there's a larger question which is that the chemical weapons were giving rise to the largest or the most concentrated popular I don't write about this in the book but the most concentrated population flights because in a way they cause more terror than the terror they inflicted if you got if you heard a helicopter and you thought that a chemical weapon at Keppel a chemical weapons attack was coming the odds that you were you know off to the races and you know not around were much higher and you saw these huge waves of civilians crossing into neighboring countries and that was already at a time in the neighboring countries were.
You know sheltering in the case of Jordan and Turkey and Lebanon you know more than a 1000000 people in each place and so you know I wish I could say that in my argument I had said hey if we don't deal with these precipitating triggers for people's flight I don't wish I'd said this but I what I did not say but what proved to be true is the countries surrounding Syria will not be able to sustain the generosity that they have shown at some point the people in these countries will flee further afield.
That will have an impact on a future vote that we weren't even thinking about in the United Kingdom about whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union that will have an impact on European politics shifting them right word in a much whatever of our right left in a much more Xena phobic direction in other words what seems like it's sort of contained here in a heartbreaking wrenching.
Devastating war for the Syrian people you know has all of these other other consequences and you know luckily even though President Obama didn't use force have it he decided to go to Congress Congress didn't support the use of force very reflective of where the American people were by the way and I think not out of step with where the country was but we did manage to dismantle 1300 tons of Assad's chemical weapons and destroy the mixing sites and all of that and that was something I negotiated my 1st month in the job.
Which proved useful because then when ISIS a year later would set up its quasi Caliph it that was at least one weapon that it wasn't able to get access to as it overran various Syrian facilities so again I there's no clean way to look back on this would know dogmatism do I say you know President Obama you know if you'd only done this we wouldn't Briggs it we wouldn't have Trump you know we'd have a peaceful Syria but what I do think is telling the world we were going to do a certain thing thinks he's me and then pulling back I felt in the wake of that an erosion of our.
Our kind of mojo you know like you could just feel people thinking President Obama really he wants to bring the troops home they were right about that he was right to want to do that but who if anybody tests him who is going to challenge those individuals and so it may be that a little more smoke and mirrors a little less transparency about our fatigue would have been good all things considered in terms of deterrence and and incentives and disincentives in the international system but against hugely complex I have one more question for you and then we're going to be turning over to audience questions and it's on another theme that pervades the book which is the importance of other people in the course of your career you use the term lean on as a kind of counterpart to Sheryl Sandberg's idea of leaning in and when you were.
When you and your mother were moving to Pittsburgh and you were about 9 years old at exactly the same time I lived on the other side of Pennsylvania and there was a charismatic and principled high school kid who lived down the street from me who played a great role in mentoring me teaching me to play the same sports that you were learning across the state his name is John Prendergast and John is John is has well known for his role in say the Save Darfur movement he later became someone who is a professional and colleague of yours and a lifelong friend he's featured as one of the the numerous people in the book who are so important to your to your career development your personal development you mentioned some groups of women who worked with you as journalists in Bosnia or in the n.s.c. at times when you were juggling a 1000000 things with a young family and tremendous responsibility.
Obviously you talk a lot about your family including Cass and your your mother and step dad and others I just like to give you a chance to to share some advice with students as they move forward about how to think of this concept of leaning on and how they might use it usefully in developing their own careers and foreign affairs yet that's great I mean I I I in many ways you know in coming to this country as an immigrant I came with my mother and my younger brother and then my mother met up with my now stepfather who was also coming over from Ireland because there was no divorce in Ireland so that's on one level why they had to come here in order to be be together so as to Dublin.
Men and women coming together with me and my younger brother and in some ways my story is about kind of building an extended family.
You know person by person and you mention John I wasn't sure where you were going with John Prendergast But John was the best man at my wedding as the godfather of my son Declan.
Ends up being so important I met him as you know over the door for atrocities but he became so much more than that my book is definitely unique in the political memoir domain in combining ample discussion of romance with.
A sort of darker discussion of Putin.
But with no connection between the 2 I assure you.
But I mention that because John in my you know it's this and this is just one example as you've offered as well but you know when I was in at low points and where I was so focused on my career and neglecting my personal life or making very bad choices in my personal life there was always John and so yes we were going to die for but then there was John and he gives me the concept that a number of young women especially have have really latched onto of the bat cave so the back of you may know from Bruce Wayne but the back is also my head and John's head and when you're you know about to embark on a big decision the bats can come out and distract you stay up all night and you're not sure what to do and you could rethink your decision and so John gave me the back even my dad had been an alcoholic when I was younger John's dad have been an alcoholic and so after a bad breakup John took me to Allen on meetings which are for the children of alcoholics and it was like a revelation to me some of the things that I had been doing that were compensatory I guess in some ways for some things that happened in my childhood all of this is the book as well as Libya Syria the rest go figure.
But yeah the concept of I love that lean on I didn't get that's not mine I wish I could claim.
The coining of that idea in the in the context of of the jungle of life but actually.
It was Secretary Clinton who after she was no interceptor status she was already running for president and I ran into her and she said How's it going and I said well you know they talk about lean in but this is when I was at the u.n. I had 2 small children and I was like nursing at the same time I'm talking to Secretary General John Kerry calls and hears me nursing and it's like the whole it just I feel like those scenes were playing.
Every day and so the time I saw her I saw lights not so much lean in it's kind of fall down it's feeling kind of like fall down right now and she said no she says not lean and it's lean on and I even have in the in the photo sections of my books I have little photos of people who are who are again these characters in the book who have picked up along the way wanted Bosnia one in law school John and their photos of them with my children you know one writing a slide in Central Park you know another reading to my children John taking Declan to a Washington Nationals game and that's what it looks like right I mean there is there's no way I could've dreamed of operating at that level in national security there's no no way that most mortals can do their jobs at the highest levels that they seek to do the math without that kind of network and I spent a lot of time last they'll say.
Talking also about our nanny Maria Castro who I helped naturalize just presided over her naturalization ceremony when she became American but she was from Mexico and she's lived her whole life into her thirty's in Mexico and my kids to this day say they're hell Marys and they're our fathers in Spanish because.
She taught them I mean she was so the constant in their lives as I was getting you know with sought around the world and too often I think reflections on one's own life neglect these these formative characters without whom you know a book like this a life like this certainly could never could never have come together so so you know I try I try to do justice where justice is due but there are also you know a pack of incredibly interesting and humane characters and so but I think they will remain I hope they remind readers of the different people in our in our lives that we that we are each depending on and sometimes maybe taking for granted wonderful we're going to turn now to some questions from the audience and Marianna and brook and introduce themselves and leave us alone.
Thank you so much for being here today Ambassador Power It's really an honor to have you here my name is Mariana Smith I'm a 1st year and p.p. student and I'm part of the inaugural cohort of wise or diplomacy fellows prior to coming to the ford school I ran a model un program in India and after graduating from Ford I have a job as a foreign service officer with USA id great by the way I hadn't thought of hell like the wiser name lends itself like to be able to say Hi I'm a wiser fellow.
I know one of those other.
I'm wiser I was.
I know but that's not how you hear this early hero thought she was just wiser than I was exactly Hi My name is Brooke possible I'm a senior undergraduate student at the ford school and I'm focusing in complex peace building and I've also intern with the State Department so kind of on the foreign policy track as well.
Some ask a personal question 1st and then we'll go into the other question you're such a powerful storyteller.
And you in your book you talk about the free the 20 campaign and the rainbow cross walk on for sav How do you take a concept of a story and actually use it to pursue a policy agenda.
Is that your question or is that one of the questions that's a great question and so you read the book.
I prefer I actually prefer I started to I skimmed it.
Just for the record for the book citing later just that if we have to choose between unsatisfying responses to my desperate need for affirmation.
So I start is better than I give it but.
So that you point to a couple really good examples and they're a little deeper in the book so I.
Chose some highlights I mean let me start with the 3 that really let me just touch on the for the 20 campaign because I think it's a great example.
Of a larger proposition so one of the parts of my education is to believe that we need to shrink the change is the expression I use up again original to me there's a great book called switch by the Heath Brothers I recommend and I think the sometimes like making change when change is hard and their idea is while the problems in the world are so big burning planet and 70000000 displaced people and you name it that the solutions are not commensurately big that I mean eventually they might be but that fundamentally we need to each shrink the change that we seek and then over time those will aggregate them even snowball into something very large but that we can get stuck in a do loop if we think we need to find commensurately large solution to the kinds of large problems that we see so that's their idea I.
Became very drawn to it when I was in government because even in government at the highest levels you could get very demoralized just thinking I mean how my going to deal with the Human Rights recession in the world you know 13 straight years where freedom has declined and that's when Barack Obama's president.
You know what are we going to do about the way that rule of law is giving way to rule by law where governments are include creasing using their laws to crack down on.
Civil society and religious freedom and and so I'm waking up in the morning and just thinking like the planets going to hell.
And you know my temptation I have a choice I can watch the rerun of baseball tonight in the morning which is what I'm tempted to do or I can get out of bed and says Say Ok what are you to do and so I sat down with my team and said we have to do something about the freedom recession but it has to be manageable has to be something where conceivably at the end of it we could feel a dividend that we could have done something for someone and so that is the conversation that with my young whippersnapper diplomats who are experts on social media we came up with a political with it with a campaign called hash tag free the 20 and it was very modest but it was just about using my profile of the support of the u.s. government the windows of the u.s. u.n. lobby which is right across the street from the u.n. to hang over 20 days the portraits of 20 female political prisoners around the world not just from Venezuela and Syria and countries that we were always kind of at loggerheads with but also Egypt China you know country very powerful countries that we needed to have a strong relations with were massacre's u.s. ambassadors in those countries were a bit apprehensive about the nature of the campaign and the idea here was not that he would if we succeeded that that would change the world or deal with the freedom recession no chance but it was that actually exposing these women would draw attention to the larger systemic injustices in these societies that would if nothing else it would give some consolation and solace to their families because made these women have been jailed for a long time but lo and behold the combination telling their stories back to your question on social media is gripping away as I can but still making sure everything was fact checked and rigorous.
Getting this actually bipartisan support of 20 u.s. women senators in the u.s. Senate there.
Happen to be 20 at the time.
And the 1st I approach was Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire Republican from New Hampshire and that she helped bring the others along but we were able collectively in conjunction with what the lawyers and family members were doing to get 16 of the 20 women out of jail 16 now compared to the pivot ricer session that's nothing but each of those voices are then voices that go back to their society and have the chance to advocate on behalf of other political prisoners or the issues that they were campaigning against the 1st place which in the case of the Chinese prisoners was sexual harassment they'd been locked up because of protesting sexual harassment in one case it was environmental pollution another was corruption and so their voices matter intrinsically but it was also an example I think of telling a story in a manner that was easier for people to process and relate to and rally behind and actually the very fact that it was small and modest made people feel this we can do you tell me we're going to fix the human rights recession forget about it like that's that's beyond my pay grade you know and so I think that's that's 11 good example and but the story and telling it and make sure making sure that these individuals become vivid for the people that you're speaking to rather than just a name and then a kind of you know 2 sentence description of what they did I mean everybody's heard that that's in the in the newspaper every day but to paint the portrait of who are their children who are their parents you know where were they teaching before this happened what do they write.
You know that just made it a thicker and thicker portrait I think harder for people to look away.
Hi So I also have a personal question we began talking about successes so on the flipside I'll ask about failures but so we began this discussion with a mistake Cass's e-mail your e-mail bad dates all of us can relate to that and I can but what we can't relate to is mistakes that are made when the stakes are a lot higher so mistakes when managing mass atrocity and I was curious as to what you consider within your professional career to be one of your greatest mistakes how you manage that and how you manage to move forward.
Well we talked a little bit about the red line so just give a pre a brief answer there I mean I think.
So without getting into all the details again President Obama decided to stage having issued the red line threat.
Assad had crossed the red line multiple times in small ways prior to the very big attack that's often forgotten but there were a bunch of other attacks to which we didn't respond in in an over way so then the big attack comes and he says I'm going to stage these limited military strikes I was left confident partly because our military was not at all enthusiastic in general rightly I think about getting in Tangled in Syria so it wasn't like they were chomping to but I was convinced that the plan was manageable was limited and would deter Assad from further use and even though that was going to solve the Syria problem I thought maybe we could kick start some diplomacy on the heels of that and even to take one monstrous weapon out of his hand I thought was better than you know what we do and on most days when it came to Syria so my view was that the president's course was the right course he then and it's a story a tell the book so I won't belabor it but.
A few days passed between the time he made that decision and the time the targets were ready and again the idea to kill him no civilians to harm no civilians to make sure that these are that you don't hit the chemicals themselves which would cause a plume and and hurt more people and so it was a hard to do this limited thing but I think everybody was left confident that we were in a position to do it and with the passage of time the skepticism in the United States and globally about whether this was a good idea began to grow and the memories of what Assad had done to his people began to fade and that was the context in which President Obama decided on a Friday night.
On the eve of the day that he was going to be using military force for the 1st time in Syria against just as a select number of targets but that was the night he decided to go to Congress instead and he.
Told us he was going to do that I had just come through Senate confirmation and I managed to become a u.n. ambassador despite writing a 1000000 words that were.
A very large share of which were very critical of the u.s. government so I wasn't sure I would get through confirmation and somehow got through confirmation but I'd only been in my job for less than a month and when he said he was going to Congress I had a couple reactions one this is so the right thing like how is it possible that we are using military force as often as we are we and by we I mean the Obama station I mean just generally since 911 in so many places without a domestic debate without congressional support where our phantom military families are bearing this burden alone and most of our country doesn't even know where half of them are you know that nobody knew that that we had soldiers doing counterterrorism in Mali until it blew up so part of me thought that but another part of me thought there was no way this is going to work because basically my experience of having gone through confirmation was that so much of the debate on Capitol Hill was not at the level anymore and and while it was true that many Republicans you know they were in the opposition party and so in a sense that's where you would 1st look to to to wonder would there be support from them but many of them had called for military action in the wake of the strikes but I just thought as soon as President Obama's for it that may change their calculus and the truth is not without reason because their constituents just like Democratic constituents are really nervous about another war and it's you know the sectarian dynamics are similar to those in Iraq you know lots of series different but same.
Neighbors So people just like we were saying limited you know I mean literally in a matter of 48 hours probably this operation when it was just meant to do a version where President Trump actually did which is just to tour the use of of.
Deterrent attacks and but anyway so he decides he's going to do it and this 2nd impulse was very very loud in me in the meeting in which he said he was going to do it and in the meeting with me.
They were John Kerry Chuck Hagel Joe Biden who had a combined 76 years of legislative experience and then there was me who thought Congress is never going to go along with this but these individuals who actually knew the members who comprise the Congress sort of were themselves torn but ultimately came around to saying we can do this Israel was very supportive of carrying out these strikes a lot of the really powerful affective lobbying groups in Washington had already made clear they wanted to see a punitive response but I did not raise my voice in this me I deferred I basically said Ok here's my bailiwick I'm the person mobilizing the global coalition.
And convincing people that the evidence on which we are acting is accurate and not reprise of the Iraq war scenario that's my job.
I will raise a question this meeting about what happens of Congress doesn't go along like is our chemical weapons about to become a conventional weapon of war again and can we think that through before we go to Congress but for me on the narrow issue of legislative feasibility I did not raise my voice and say this Mr President I think I think this is crazy I think the Republicans going to want to do the opposite of what you want and Democrats and Republicans alike are skeptical of war this isn't going to work and I wish I'd said that I don't think I would have made a difference I think he was very.
Hell bent on going to Congress for the right reason right.
And he was also very confident we would get the votes not just because of these 3 individuals but because of again the support we had from such close allies like Israel.
So it's so I think it was damaging to us to have There's the red line and then not respond to the red line is how this normally gets understood but but to have announced already earlier that week that we had this military operation planned and then to show the world that we couldn't mobilize support from either party.
Had the effect I think of weakening his commander in chief authority going forward.
Will now move on to Audience question researchers are encouraged and expected to be unbiased yet research on violence warrants advocacy how do we balance advocacy and knowledge production that's a great question I don't and there are probably people in this room who thought more about that than I have I guess I would say.
That you know inevitably in most research there is a thesis that someone goes into.
It goes into their research with right some kind of proposition or hypothesis and where it gets very dangerous is that and that proposition may have.
You know a and activist soul behind it or an activist motivation behind it so for example I give you I've given example of a proposition I have right now which is but that I don't have the evidence for yet which is.
You know I believe that the sort of demagogue authoritarian nationalist surge in democracies is going to crest and fade.
Because I believe that the individuals who would centralized power around themselves and who in large measure care mainly about themselves but are taking advantage of others economic misfortune and demagoguing immigrants and other issues I believe that their inability to deliver for their citizens will hurt them electorally for as long as again they're operating in democratic climates and some of them want to take the Democratic rules away as soon as they're in office but in the in the set of circumstances where that's not the case so I guess my hypothesis.
So and my activist soul wants that to be true because I don't want right wing populist Zina phobic governments that would infringe the rights of minorities to thrive in the way that they feel they are thriving now so.
But as I embark on that which may be one of my next projects after I finish.
Talking for too much about myself over the coming weeks I.
I have to have to play it straight it has to be about the data and about what are they delivering and you know is it actually the case the prime minister per Mr President or Bonn of Hungary.
Maybe he's doing more on health care and social services than I ever thought possible you know maybe yes he's excluding the Roma and you know maybe he's invoking anti-Semitic tropes to sustain his own power but maybe he's got the economy zooming in a way that has brought jobs back and so to me you know I don't want that to be true I want him to be failing because I want my thesis to be true because I want to have hope and reason to believe but God forbid if I'm doing my research that I let my wants get in the way of the facts as I as I confront them and I'm making it seem like a clear distinction people cherry pick facts unwittingly all the time but I'm luckily.
Married to a behavioral scientist who's constantly reminded me of these dangers and so you know just making sure that as I did for this book even if this is a memoir and I had a team of you know 15 fact checkers you know going over everything just because just because my memory is this or I think it was this way I mean you just have to in a in a sort of this world where facts are in disrepute for no good reason The last thing you want to do is give anybody do anybody the favor of.
Of presenting something that isn't fully cooked and that isn't based on data science facts etc So you just mentioned the rise of right wing nationalism and populism So we have a question from Twitter asking given the rise of they specify Trump ism is there still a role for them diplomacy and what does that look like.
Definitely I mean there is a role for diplomacy today for starters there's a role for other countries who have relied on the United States for many decades and got used to the United States being the team captain as I described in the below example but also you could look at the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris Agreement Those are all examples of u.s. leaders taking the initiative and then mobilizing coalitions same with the ISIS coalition but now that u.s. leadership and is in retreat and that we are often not shaping outcomes I think in the interest of our own people we are ripping up agreements but not making it all clear to anybody what we would replace them with.
And believe me a lot of those and agreements are imperfect and if anybody could find a way to you know extend for example the life of the Iran nuclear deal an extra 10 years.
You know that would be a good thing for the world if anybody could find a way to get Iran to shut down its ballistic missile program though because thing for the world.
But I think it's really important to know also where your leverage comes from the extent of your leverage which is sometimes underestimated but also in some cases the limits of your leverage and what the current administration has done is dramatically limited and shrunk the amount of leverage the United States has to get what it wants by being seen to unjustly have ripped up agreements that were being complied with so what does that mean that leaves a space a thing for other countries to be carrying out diplomacy other countries trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal other countries to be pushing forward to press China and India to make not a done just to meet their Paris commitments but to make a new set of commitment because it was always clear that the Paris Agreement was just a floor and China and India would like nothing more than to point to our application from the Paris Agreement as grounds for not making new commitments but that's not going to serve their purpose people.
Well anymore than it's going to serve Americans or other people around the world so so there's space for much more creative and multi-pronged diplomacy no longer waiting for for the u.s. to catalyze a coalition but sort of unlikely suspects to step forward you see a little bit of that happening now Sweden getting involved the Yemen crisis Turkey and Russia although you know it's falling apart but the it lived the temporary pause in the fighting in it live there are some examples like that.
And then in our own country there's plenty of example plenty of grounds to rebuild our diplomatic corps and appeal to young people to go into the Foreign Service to know that this is that this neglect of diplomacy and expertise is temporary you know my own desire would be be very temporary but but we know it's finite amount of was Elice you know we see some kind of effort to change the constitution altogether and so so this is finite and we need there has been such a hemorrhaging of talent at just the time we need to pull mostly most I mean your average refugee today is displaced for more than 20 years you know the old days it was 7 or 8 years and that's one of the reasons we have so many displaced it's not just that we've more conflict as a conflicts aren't ending How do you end conflicts through diplomacy conflict resolution how do you do that you need to have talented people who invest themselves in the substance of these places and right now that's not what's being rewarded.
And that's what's being invested in other countries as well sufficiently.
That was a perfect transition to our final question as to women intending to pursue careers in the Foreign Service What advice would you give to us or others in our same position Well 1st of all I congratulate you on not being deterred by the exit of so many foreign servants as I think I said to to one of you earlier this is actually a great time to apply for the Foreign Service.
The acceptance ratio is going to be much higher.
Because there are just you know a lot of people leaving a lot of vacancies so you can view it as an opportunity.
But in general you know I find and maybe I can just broaden it because there are many people in the audience of many students in the audience who are may not go and that.
May not be pursuing that walk of life but may be interested in service of a different kind but I think you know he or she who fights every battle fights none and so figuring out what your slice of change is what your if you're going in the foreign service your regional expertise that you're most interested in acquiring or your functional expertise on cyber threats or on sanctions or on free trade if free and fair trade.
Whatever your slice of it is you know don't be afraid I find some of my students afraid to kind of burrow in something because there's like what I'm going to miss and you'll be some other opportunity there but it turns out the art of burrowing leaves you with a knowledge of how to burrow you know the practice of that and then you just be amazed at how the lines you never thought would exist between some area of many specialisation and how you end up later in a completely completely different group out there in a different posting or working on homelessness back in your where you grew up or whatever you know your career will change so many times but how you come back to something that seemed.
Narrow at the time you know and I have in the book.
You know a great something that really served me well over the years which is what I called the x. test and I would say to myself in this I said to myself before I went and left Harvard to go work for a 1st term senator named Barack Obama I did not think he was going to go be president as I said but I just asked myself in effect what's the what's the worst that that will come out of this Ok like I'll fall flat on my face I'll be marginalized in his Senate office but if all I learn if all that comes out of this is x. you know when you figure out your ex's will it have been worth it would have been worth it and for me it wasn't like I'll end up un about you know I wasn't even in a 1000000 years that would have never done to me it was literally like I teach American foreign policy if all that comes out of spending a year with Barack Obama in his Senate office is that I learned better how the Senate Foreign Relations Committee does or doesn't hold the executive branch accountable when it comes to the making of foreign policy that act that you know it's a small bit of knowledge but that's more than I'm going to learn if I just keep teaching the same course maybe and and and so just to find just just you know trying to be intentional before whatever you do in domestic service the corporate sector you know being a lawyer of some kind you know if all if you're in legal defense you know there's a 1000 reasons.
Might do it my loans how to pay that back and then you say yourself Ok well what do I balance that again Wolf all I do is help 5 people you know get a fair shake in you know a pretty lopsided justice system will it have been worth it.
Especially if eventually I'll go and I'll earn the money I need to pay back my my loans and so forth and so just defining it I think in those terms rather than sometimes we get a little grandiose about about all we can achieve in the end you'll get there but I think if each step is a kind of growth if you can identify the minimum growth you can achieve then that all kinds of good things can happen you know thank you so much thank you thank you.