ROBERT HARRISON: Good evening, everyone. I'm Bob Harrison, chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees, and I would like to welcome all of you here tonight.
This is a very sad time for Cornell, as we mourn the loss of President Elizabeth Garrett, who passed away late Sunday evening after a very brave battle with colon cancer. It is very difficult for me to express the enormity of the loss. On an institutional level, it is unprecedented. No president of the university has ever died in office before. And on a personal level, I lost a close and remarkable friend. I had the chance to get to know Beth very well over the past year. She was an extraordinary passionate, courageous, and action-oriented leader, who regularly amazed everyone by how much she could pack into every single day. Many described her as a force of nature, and I would agree with that.
Beth would have relished being part of this discussion of foreign policy with the legendary Cornell scholars and alumni here with us tonight. She devoted her entire life to public service. She was a strong champion for increasing Cornell's global reach, and she believed in the power and influence of Cornellians to change the world for the better.
To honor Beth's memory tonight, I ask that we begin the evening, as the Ithaca campus did yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock, with a shared moment of silence.
Thank you. I know that all of our thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with Beth's husband, Professor Andrei Marmor, and the rest of the Marmor and Garrett families.
Now, it is my honor to introduce Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Thank you very much.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you, Bob. So as you've just heard, I am Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences, and I'm pleased to be with all of you today, and especially pleased during this difficult time to be among other Cornellians. One of the many things that I admired about Beth was that she really believed that higher education played an important role in fostering democracy. So I think it's particularly appropriate that we remember her here at tonight's event.
Besides being a dean, I'm also an alum of the college, class of '83. And as you may recall, the late '70s and '80s was a very interesting time in the world. It was during this time that we witnessed the Iranian Revolution. I remember well the spike in Anti-Iranian sentiment, not just in the country, but even on campus. It was also during this time that we saw at the beginning of the end of the Cold War. The '80s was when Ronald Reagan went to Berlin and said to Mikhail Gorbachev, "Take this wall down." And the '80s as well was a time when we were all interested and focused on Japan as a rising power in the world economy, a time, if you compare it from then to now, where some things have changed and some things have stayed the same.
And for me, making sense of all this was something I could do in drawing on the perspectives and the experience that I gained as a student of two great Cornell faculty members. They being Peter Katzenstein and Walter LaFeber. And we are so honored to have both of them here with us Tonight
Peter Katzenstein is the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Relations in the Department of Government.
And Walter LaFeber is the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of the Department of History.
Now, let me tell you what the agenda is going to be for tonight. Walt and Peter will start us off, giving us a little bit of background in context for thinking about the question of what is Cornell's contribution to American foreign policy. Then, we will have our panelists, who will say a few words about their own sense of what Cornell's contribution has been to their careers in American foreign policy. Walt and Peter will, then, help to lead a discussion among the panelists and, at that point, we'll open it to the floor. And I'm very pleased that, when we open this discussion to the audience tonight, we will start off the Q&A session with some current and perspective Cornell students.
So let me introduce you to our distinguished panelists. First, we have Ambassador Dwight Bush. Ambassador Bush is the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, a position he has held since March of 2014.
Previously, Ambassador Bush was a corporate and financial executive involved in private equity, management, and finance. He has also been very engaged in philanthropy in civic leadership, having served on the boards of Cornell, Xavier, GAVI Alliance, the Joint Centers for Social and Economic Studies, and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Next, we have Derek Chollet. Derek is the senior advisor for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund.
He is also the author of six books, most recently his forthcoming The Long Game-- How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America's Role in the World. From 2012 to 2015, Mr. Chollet was US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
Our third panelist is Stephen Hadley. Stephen served for four years as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
He was the principal foreign policy advisor to President George W. Bush, and he directed, under President Bush, the National Security Council staff. Earlier, he served as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor under Condoleezza Rice. His areas of responsibility included US relations with Russia, Israeli disengagement from Gaza, strategic relations with India, and ballistic missile defense. Still earlier in his career, Mr. Hadley served as Assistant Secretary for Defense under then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney.
Finally, our last panelist is Ambassador Makila James. Ambassador James currently serves as a faculty member in the Department of Security Studies--
--at the National War College. From 2012 to 2015, Ambassador James served as the US Ambassador to Swaziland. Previously, as an officer in the US Foreign Service, she served as Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs at the Department of State. And prior to that, she also served as Deputy Director of the Office of Southern African Affairs.
Given the incredible talent and expertise on this stage, I think we're in for a wonderful evening. Walt and Peter, the floor is yours.
WALTER LAFEBER: Gretchen has asked me to introduce this by talking about Cornell and foreign policy from the late 19th century to World War II. And--
--I'm to do this in five minutes.
Those of you who took my course, the few of you who are out there, will probably notice that I'm leaving a few things out.
There are three Cornellians items I want to use. One is Andrew Dickson White, where we always start Cornell history with. The next one is Jacob Schurman, the third president of Cornell. And the third one is Carl Becker, who was a great historian after whom one of the residential colleges of Cornell is now named.
White, when he left the Cornell presidency in 1885, became an international diplomat. His founding of Cornell, of course, is well known. His diplomatic experience is less well known, but yet it was very significant, because what he did was he became Ambassador-- First Minister, actually, in those years-- to Germany, and then Ambassador to Russia, which meant that he was at the point when there was a very interesting turn going on in American foreign policy.
The Allies we had been lined up with since 1776, and against since 1776, like Great Britain, we were becoming friendly with. Our interests coincided in many parts of the world, particularly China. And we were becoming enemies of the places where White was, particularly Russia-- especially Russia-- and Germany. By the 1890s, the United States had essentially become one of the great powers of the world. We had the number two battleship navy. We have the number one economy in the world by 1900. And this diplomatic turn was occurring at the same time as the United States was moving out to become a great power.
The big step here was the War of 1898. And in that war, of course, the United States not only took Cuba and Puerto Rico, but the United States also seized the Philippine islands from Spain, as a stepping stone, essentially, to China, and the great China market which was all the rage in the 1890s. There was a tremendous debate that erupted over the Philippine occupation, especially after rebellion broke out, and a huge debate in the United States over foreign policy.
One of the people who opposed that was Jacob Gould Schurman, the third president of Cornell. And when President McKinley found out about this, he invited President Schurman down to Washington for a friendly talk. And after McKinley got through with Schurman, Schurman had changed his mind and become an annexationist and wanted to take the Philippines. This was not public knowledge.
But McKinley, then, built on his convincing of Schurman by appointing Schurman as the head of an investigating committee to see whether or not we should annex the Philippines. And lo and behold, it was almost unanimous on the committee that we should annex the Philippines, and it was signed by a Cornell president who had been opposed to an annexation until he was befriended by McKinley and headed the commission.
So the United States in 1900 became a great world power, in part by the help of a Cornell president, who began to build a tremendous amount of public sympathy to fight the Philippine insurrection and to establish a toehold in Asia. One of the interesting things about this is that, when the United States went into World War I, the United States only went into World War I to oppose Germany, the United States also went into World War I because the Chinese Revolution was erupting, and President Woodrow Wilson knew that the European powers, especially Russia, might well take advantage of this war, and that a new power, Japan, might also take advantage of this war to seize parts of Chinese territory. And one of the ways that President Wilson decided to oppose this was, as is well known, he took us into war, as he said, "to make the world safe for democracy." We were to make the world safe, and a democratic world was to come out of World War I.
One of the people who signed up early for that crusade was Carl Becker. Becker, from Kansas, a progressive, an optimist, a person who thought that you could use governmental power to essentially correct the imbalances that the industrial revolution had corrected, he went into war with Wilson gladly. Becker even left Ithaca for a while to go down to Washington to serve on a couple of the war boards.
But after the war was over, Becker was terribly disillusioned. The war had not produced democracy, as Wilson had predicted or promised. Instead, it produced the Bolshevik Revolution, and it was producing the Chinese Revolution. And it was producing revolutions in Eastern Europe. It was even producing revolutions in Latin America and Africa. And Becker, the usual optimist from Kansas, came out of this bitterly disenchanted.
He taught at Cornell for the next 25 years, and he was one of the most popular historians, not only at Cornell. He was known nationally. His books sold widely. He was in all of the weekly publications. He was well known. He was probably the best well known, and his books probably sold the most, of two historians who lived in the inter-war years, Becker and Charles Beard. Becker was paid close attention to. And when he turned against Wilson and became, essentially, an isolationist, that was news.
Now, in 1941, just as the United States was about to enter the war, just months, in fact, before Pearl Harbor, Becker gave a series of lectures at the University of Virginia. Those lectures are called "The Dilemma of Modern Democracy." And the thesis of those lectures, published as a book later in 1941, can be summarized in one particular part of his final lecture, where he said, "The last war was to make the world safe for democracy. Instead," he said, "it made half of Europe safe for dictatorships. What will the next war bring? I can't promise. But based on the past, it looks as though we are down the road to revolution."
And Becker wasn't wrong there. I mean, that's what came out of World War II, particularly in China, in Indochina, in French Indochina, Vietnam, and so on. And he then went on and said, "The one thing that I can say from the experience of the First World War is that, if we go into another World War, there will be a destruction of democratic values and a collapse of democratic institutions." That was Carl Becker's prediction months before Pearl Harbor of what would happen if the United States went in.
So what Cornell had given to the world in those 75 years was the man who supervised the realignment of American relationships, the man who essentially helped establish, helped create a national consensus for establishing, a US base in the Philippines so that we could participate in the race for the China market, and, finally, Carl Becker, who warned about what this might lead to, and as Becker saw it, it would not be democracy.
Now, if you want to know the happy conclusion to all this, Peter Katzenstein can tell you.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: So when introducing the panel, Bob said there are legends on stage, and I just want to say one thing-- Walt could have filled Yankee Stadium last time he talked in New York, but he was modest and it was a small hall with only 3,000 people. Or was it 30,000? I can't remember.
When I started teaching at Cornell, which was 1,000 years ago, there was the riff about LaFeber. He would give a lecture with one three by five card.
And of course, he would lecture on Saturdays. In fact, as Ambassador Bush informed me, this led to problems among the love lives of undergraduates at that time.
But it turns out that, while Peyton Manning is retiring, Walt now lectures without a three by five card.
So my three minutes on critical realignment in American politics. The first period, Bob which Walt talks about, 1896, is one critical realignment. It was a period about finance-- silver and gold-- and war. 1932 is a second critical realignment. It was a period of the Depression and the looming of fascism. And the third period is when I was in graduate school. And by hindsight, it started in '68, but I was in graduate school in 1972 in Cambridge.
And there was a scholar. His name was Dean Burnham. He had written a book on critical realignments in American politics. It came out in 1970. And he was watching, the way we are watching now, the primaries, and then the election, and would write memos to the Cambridge intellectual community, in which he would sort of analyze the news of the day or the weak against his theory. In the end, he couldn't quite decide whether he was right or wrong, whether '72 was a critical realignment. After all, Nixon won the election in a landslide. And looking back, I think he was half right and half wrong, which is what professors normally are.
That is, the critical realignment started in 1968 with George Wallace, and it ended in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan. It was a critical realignment not compressed into one election, but three election seasons. And of course, that election was about war. So in these critical realignments, the world is always part of it.
So the question for us today, I think, as a background is, are we entering a critical realignment or are we in the middle of it? And my personal view is the critical realignment started in 2008.
Obama would never have gotten elected without the financial crisis. It was in September that McCain's popularity dropped dramatically. And he would never have gotten elected without the war, because Hillary voted for it and he voted against it. And it mobilized a large part of a population which hadn't been mobilized into politics before. Excluding 2012 as sort of an unusual election, the mobilization now is occurring on the right, and it's bringing people into politics who haven't been in politics for a long time.
And so the question, then, is, is this mobilization fracturing the political institutions which we are accustomed to? I mean, I think in this season, you know, it's a season of plenty. We're getting two Republican parties. But it is also a season of scarcity, because when these critical realignments happen, it is fundamentally about domestic politics. It's about how to contest and create a coalition which will sustain the next cycle in American politics. And the relatively uninformed and crude foreign policy discussions we've had in the election campaign on both parties so far are a reflection of this.
Now, happily today, we have four wonderful practitioners who will illuminate us on this topic. And I look very much forward to learning from them. Thank you.
DWIGHT BUSH: Good evening. I just had a flashback to 1978. I took Professor LaFeber's fever's class on Saturday morning then. I hate it when he stopped speaking then. I wanted you to continue today.
I also have my three by five card--
--in my hand. So the question that Gretchen asked was what impact Cornell had had on us and how it affected the career choices that we made. And I could say that Cornell had a profound impact on me. You have to understand where I started from. I'm a landlocked boy from the Midwest. Two working class parents. I had never seen the ocean before I came east to go to Cornell.
I showed up in Cornell as a freshman. My roommate was first generation Chinese-American. Two doors down was a young man who was in the line to become the head of the government in Uganda. A couple doors down was a young man from Brazil. And you went all around this corridor, and there were all of these different people. And indeed, you will all recall, that, in 1975 in St. Louis, where I grew up, there was not a lot of diversity. And so all of a sudden, I'm in this incredible melting pot with people who are very different from myself.
And I think, at the time, I was perhaps a bright kid, but by no means a scholar. You know, I did my homework in school. I did pretty well in high school. And I show up at Cornell, and all of a sudden I start to meet scholars, and I come to appreciate scholarship. And so I studied government and economics at Cornell with all the intention of becoming a lawyer. I didn't become a lawyer, I married one. So that's--
But in my junior year, I took Professor LaFeber's course on Saturday morning. And Peter Katzenstein was right. I had a girlfriend at Cornell. And we went out on Friday night and I said I got to go home now. And she said, why? I said, I have to go hear Professor LaFeber speak tomorrow morning in my class. And that was the end of that relationship.
But through those experiences at Cornell, I developed a real curiosity about the world. I started to recognize that everything that I watched on CBS, NBC, and ABC were not necessarily correct, that there was a world out there that was much broader, much more dynamic than what I had been exposed to. And so when I was about to graduate and started to look at opportunities to work, I wanted to take a job that would exposed me to the world.
So instead of becoming an analyst in one of the departments at Morgan Stanley or Goldman, I went to the Chase Manhattan Bank. And I went for one reason-- the job as an analyst at Chase, 80% of my time would be spent overseas. So in 2 and 1/2 years, I went to eight countries in Latin America, four in southeast Asia, three in Africa, two in Europe. And through this process, I became more interested in becoming a citizen of the world.
And I always look for opportunities to continue to be exposed. So I joined the board of an organization called the GAVI Alliance, which vaccinates children in 75 countries around the world. And it pretty much behaves like a mini-United Nations. So the representatives are from countries from civil society, and then they had a couple of working stiffs like myself on the board. But what it did was to help to quench this thirst that I had to really understand people different from myself much better.
And so when President Obama was elected president the first time, he asked if I would come to work in his administration, and I declined. I had little interest in working in the Treasury Department, or SBA, or one of these federal agencies. But when he called again and asked if I would be a diplomat, I jumped on the opportunity. The opportunity to serve our country is one of the best opportunities I could imagine for any of us.
And now, I'm in Morocco every day trying to make sure that the relationship between the United States and one of our closest partners continues to grow. And I know for a fact, if I hadn't had the Cornell experience, it is highly unlikely that I would be where I am today. Thank you.
DEREK CHOLLET: I think I have the same feeling that probably everyone in this room feels, which is that I was at the right place at the right time. When I started Cornell, my freshman year, 1989, November of that year, the Berlin Wall fell. I was also a landlocked state guy from Nebraska. Never traveled abroad. Never really thought much about the world. But history came to our doorstep.
In this fall of 1990, that summer, before my sophomore year, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. That fall I was lucky enough to have signed up to a class called Government 181, taught by Professor Peter Katzenstein there-- Introduction to International Relations. I'd never thought much about international relations.
What that class taught me was how to think conceptually about the world, that there were theories of international relations, that there were different levels of analysis that you should use to try to understand international politics. And it helped provide, for me, a framework to try to make sense of this dramatic change that was happening before our eyes.
I would argue, Peter, actually, reflecting on your critical elections, that that was perhaps the beginning of a critical election period that was ending, I think, in 2008, the end of the Cold War.
Before my junior year-- summer of junior year, fall of 1991-- it was another bad August. Steve Hadley was in the government at the time, so he can relate with this. There was a coup in the Soviet Union. And in that fall, we all watched the Soviet Union fall apart.
I was lucky to take another course by the man to my left-- The Introduction to American Foreign Relations, in which I learned the broader historical context of these events that were, again, dramatically unfolding before our eyes, the importance that individuals can have in foreign policy. I learned about people I'd never heard of before-- Brooks Adams, Henry Adams, William Henry Seward. Later, George Kennan and Henry Kissinger. Again, the great Americans who had helped shape our country's foreign policy.
Then, that spring-- spring of 1992-- I had the good fortune of participating in the Cornell in Washington program. Many of you in this room probably did the same. It was a tremendous time to be in Washington. It was another dramatic presidential election, in which we had another somewhat eccentric, very rich, person running for president, Ross Perot. We had a very vibrant debate in the Democratic Party, with an emergence of Bill Clinton. I remember it was that January, in fact, when I first, on television, saw Hillary Clinton. She's been part of our lives for basically a quarter century.
And that Cornell-Washington experience was indispensable to both my understanding of American foreign policy, but also my career. The unique mix that Cornell in Washington offers of study in Washington, in which the best Cornell professors can come down and teach seminars, but then also the opportunity to intern in Washington. I interned on Capitol Hill and stayed that summer, and interned at the State Department, where I had the good fortune of working on the policy planning staff and worked with two people who went on to become mentors and friends to this day, Dennis Ross and Bill Burns.
It was because of my opportunity that I had from being at Cornell that I was able to do that. And almost every step of my career, both in and out of government, I trace back to those experiences.
And now I'm very proud to be part of what is really a Cornell mafia in US foreign City. And it's from everyone on this stage to friends like Eric Edelman or the late, great Sandy Berger, to Steve Stevanovich, to Bob Einhorn, people who I've learned from, I've been able to serve with, and I call colleagues and friends and fellow Cornellians.
So it's really my pleasure to be with all of you here tonight to renew friendships with my old professors, and to really celebrate what Cornell has done for our country. Thank you very much.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I want to begin, if I might, just saying a word about someone who is not on this stage. When this event was conceived, Sandy Berger was supposed to be with us. Sandy, as you know, passed away a couple of months ago.
Sandy and I were both on the Cornell campus at the same time, 1965 to 1969. I was a small figure on this campus, and Sandy Berger was a very large figure on this campus. And for the next 20 years, I watched from afar Sandy's service to his country, his law practice, his consulting practice. But I really didn't have an opportunity to have much interchange with him until the transition from the Clinton to the Bush Administration, and Condoleezza Rice and I showed up in Sandy's office for a beginning of a transition process. And I remember Sandy said, well, you guys have been out of office for eight years, and one of the things you don't understand is that you're going to spend an awful lot of time dealing with Al-Qaeda. And of course, that turned out to be very prophetic indeed.
I didn't have a whole lot of interaction with Sandy until after I left office in 2009. And I started a series of panels with Sandy, working groups, Republicans and Democrats, working quietly outside the public eye to try to develop bipartisan policies that could help resolve many of the problems this country was facing. And sandy was a fabulous colleague. Smart, terrific writer, insightful, and always committed to finding policies that would advance the interests of the United States in the world.
I remember about three years ago, Sandy and I, and Madeleine Albright, and Brent Scowcroft were invited to have lunch with President Obama to talk about the policy issues of the day, and Syria came up. And the president turned to Sandy, and Sandy-- you know, I think I know a thing or two about how to brief presidents of the United States. Well, Sandy delivered, I think, one of the most effective briefings I have ever seen of a president on Syria. He shook him. Did not change his view. At the end, the president turned to me and said, so Steve what do you want to say about Syria? And I said, I have nothing to add, because nobody could have said it better than Sandy. And history, I think, will record that Sandy was right.
I just wanted to say that. We were lucky to have Sandy with us, and we and our country is the lesser for his lack, and we will miss him.
As Derek said, Sandy is part of a generation of people who were led into foreign policy and national security by this gentleman right here. But we don't hold him, and you shouldn't hold him, responsible for the results.
But there was a whole generation of people who came into his course, and it was like the scales fell from our eyes. And the excitement, the romance, the challenge of trying to represent this country in the world, with all its challenges and difficulties, was something that captured our imaginations.
I still have my notes from that class, now 50 years hence.
WALTER LAFEBER: My god.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Yes. And I can still read my handwriting, so be careful. And one of the things I remember from the class is that Professor LaFeber would come in and talk about a figure in a particular period of time who had a vision for his time and what our policy should be. And invariably by the end of the lecture, it was clear that the guy got it-- or it usually was the guy-- got it wrong.
And I think one of the things that it taught us was to have a little humility when you think about foreign policy, and the stewardship of this country and foreign policy. And I will tell you there were some times, I think, in my service when I did not have that lesson in front of my eyes as firmly as I should have.
One of the other things I learned from him was I remember coming up to him after class at one point in the turbulent period of the '60s and I said, where are the great leaders for America? The great leaders that we had of yore, where are they? And he said, well, be careful about this great leaders thing. He said, our country is designed by institutions, and designed for institutions that can be run by normal men and women. That's the genius of our country.
And I saw that many times. The strength of this country is its institutions. They've been tested, and so far they have managed to stay the course. So I also learned and saw that, notwithstanding those institutions, leaders do make a difference. There are choices. And the president makes choices, and who that president is, is very important, because those choices matter and have historical impact.
So I left, like a lot of people, from Cornell, I can remember very clearly thinking, you know, what I would like to do is I'd like to serve on the National Security Council staff. And when, five years later, I was invited to join the National Security staff, I thought, you know, it just doesn't get any better than this. And that's all because of Walter LaFeber.
I want to say two other things about Cornell. One, what we learned in the class. I was a government major, and the government department at that time was a wonderful place. Wonderfully diverse. And you could take Walter Berns on constitutional law, and Allan Bloom about Plato and the Republic, and Andrew Hacker about what was going on in the world today. The intellectual excitement that it engendered in our students was wonderful in that period of time.
But we also learned a lot at Cornell outside of the classroom. Because in that period of the '60s, all of the drama going on in the country about civil rights, and the war, and all the rest, was being played out in the microcosm of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. We saw all of that. And we saw the country go through the period of the war, a crisis really of confidence in our country.
Sometimes I think, in '68, '69, we almost had a collective nervous breakdown. Elites were discredited. We were coming out of a war that we believed we had lost, a military force that was shattered, a country that had lost confidence that it could be a force for good in the world. And it was a very traumatic experience, and we felt that very vividly in the Cornell campus.
It came back to me in January of 2005, when President Bush asked if I would serve as the National Security Advisor. And you may remember, the Iraq War was going nowhere good. There were beginning to be demonstrations in the streets. And I thought to myself, great, I get to be National Security Advisor presiding over Vietnam II. And one of the things that we in the administration at that time-- and I can remember Bob Blackwill coming into my office and saying, your number one priority is help the president with Iraq so we don't go back to what the country went through in Vietnam.
And that was the priority we took, and luckily, because of the bold decision the president made with the surge decision in 2007, 2008, whatever you say about Iraq today, we left it stable, Al-Qaeda defeated, and the men and women who served could come back with a sense of dignity. And the country avoided what we went through in Vietnam.
All of that, in all of my experience in the Bush Administration for eight years, I was drawing all the time on the legacy I got in those wonderful four years at Cornell. Thank you.
MAKILA JAMES: As a die hard New Yorker, I am delighted and stunned that I'm here.
I was raised in Queens. I never thought I'd be sitting on this stage, or even sitting out there too often. And I'm just delighted to be here. And I want to thank Dean Ritter for reaching out to me.
When I think about my Cornell years, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I stumbled into Cornell. Nobody was looking for me. Nobody was recruiting me. I kind of stumbled into Cornell. I went to a public high school, did very well, but nobody came and found me. I recall being first approached about Cornell by a woman who was an African-American woman who was the Labor Commissioner. And she was talking to me about the ILR School.
I didn't know what ILR was. But I quickly went home and looked up Cornell in the old Google, which was the encyclopedia. So I looked up Cornell, and I started realizing this sounds pretty darn good. And I wanted to go to the arts and sciences. I wanted to do arts and science. I knew very clearly that's where I wanted to go, because I wanted to study the humanities. So I ended up going to Cornell, and it was my great fortune when I got there, I did not know that I had hit gold. I just stumbled into it.
The COSEP program is a program that some of you may have heard of. It was a Committee on Special Education Projects. That was really the only reason I could even go to Cornell, because it gave me a scholarship. I understand the program is no longer around. There are now other programs doing similar work, similar recruitment work on diversity. But COSEP was very important, and I personally regret the loss of it, because it was sort of that glue and that instigator to keep me at Cornell. So that's my first memory.
When I got to Cornell, it was a time of great tumult. Steve talked about being there in '69. I got there in '79. But in '79, the case of Bakke, the affirmative action case, was in full rage and full debate. The Anti-Apartheid movement was in full rage and full debate. So I got there in '75-- got there in '75-- graduated in '79. So between '75, which was only six years after the takeover of Willard Straight, I came to a Cornell that was still grappling with this influx of new students from urban areas, not from the Midwest, but from New York City. And we had expectations and we wanted to see a lot of change and quickly.
So it was a very politicizing, very quickly eye-opening experience for me, for a young woman, very sheltered, really didn't know much about the university. But I quickly figured out, I got to get in some leadership positions here. This train is moving fast, and I kind of like where I'm at, and I want to be in front. I don't want to be in the back.
So I got a job as an editor of one of the newspapers called Umoja Sasa. Very demanding, very challenging, but it just kept me every week having to produce some written pieces, having to do some editing, building some skills. It also put me in the heart of engagement. So you're doing scholarship, but it also forced me to be engaged in what was going on on the campus community, in the larger Ithaca community, and then, of course, internationally. So I'm already beginning to link what's happening in the United States to things that are happening outside the United States. The Anti-Apartheid movement playing out on campus, as during your time period, was very, very much a formative event.
But really what shaped my Cornell experience more than anything was my choice of majors. I chose to double major. I majored in American history, which was fantastic. I don't think I had the lovely professor, because I'm not a Saturday morning woman at all.
And I like my social life, so I didn't sign up for that. But American history.
And then I discovered the Africana Studies and Research Center. And the Africana Studies and Research Center, for all of you Cornell know, you know that it's still there. 50 years going strong. That was formative for me, because it was the first time I had a chance to really, in an interdisciplinary way, study a region in depth. To this day, even in the State Department where I work now, you won't find a lot of people who've got academic understanding of Africa. It's a very complex continent. But I got that exposure at Cornell. It was very important. It got me thinking globally as I was acting locally.
So I want to pay homage today to the fact that the Africana Studies Center is there, is strong, has a PhD program, and is well vested in the Arts and Science College. And it has a home, and it is very much linked to the entire campus. That has been the strength of the program, and it has enhanced Cornell overall.
OK, so I did my Africana studies, my history, and then I went on to law school, because I did want to be a great lawyer. I realized I didn't want to be a great lawyer. I got out. I didn't want to practice law in New York. I went to Columbia and I said, this is not for me. I wanted to do people-oriented law, because one of the things that my work at Cornell had done for me was really focused me on social justice and values.
And that is something that's played out through my entire career. My foreign service career has all been about promoting, what is the United States? What is our mission? What is our international mission? What is it that people love about us?
And I always say to people everywhere, it's not our stuff. They don't really want our stuff. Other people make our stuff cheaper, and some of them are even better. But they really love our values. And so the values building that I got at Cornell, in this politicizing process, in this struggle to define who I was, who I was against the larger community, who I was internationally, Those values have been critical to my foreign service career.
So I went to law school-- fast-forward-- got out, practiced for about five years. I had a lot of money, but I had no time, and I was stressed and stressed. And I just wasn't fulfilled. So I took the Foreign Service exam. Again, nobody was looking for me. Nobody was recruiting me. I'm thinking, I'm the kind of candidate they should want. I stumbled into the Foreign Service, never looked back. Chucked those law books and never looked back.
I have served mostly in Africa by choice. People say, why would you want to serve in Africa? It's not critical to the US national security interests. I debate that vigorously. Africa is very important, and Africa is continuing to get more important. If you read today's New York Times, Africa has a lot of issues that will come and bite us on the butt if we don't pay attention to what's going on there.
But it's not just the negative, it's the positive. There are a lot of good things going on in Africa, and I felt like I'm the best representative to really bring to light what our country stands for in these very troubled and difficult countries, where they are trying to make a difference.
So I've had a profound and very rich experience from Cornell that's taken me into the Foreign Service, and I think that I make a big difference. And I always think back to the Anti-Apartheid struggles that we were fighting on Cornell's campus. I got to, then, go to South Africa and see the fruition of all of that struggle, and engagement, and values promotion, because that's really what we do overseas. We are promoting US values. As I said, people can buy stuff anywhere. But American values are really what we're selling overseas.
Dwight and I were in the same class, '79. Neither one of us knew we'd be doing this kind of work. And I think about the struggles. I would think about the meetings we had Ujamaa House, and the struggles about how to make the campus more diverse and more responsible, and it plays out every day in my foreign service career. When I'm overseas serving as Ambassador, people are watching CNN, and they see what's going on in Ferguson. And I've got to explain our imperfect union, and how we struggle to make this union better, and how we have that chance. And people love that story. It's a very, very compelling story, especially in Africa.
So I'm glad I got to go to Cornell. And the Africana Studies Center was there, is there, will be there, and that it continues to produce students who are focused in depth. And I say this because the world is so much more complex now. You have to know a lot of stuff, a lot more than we knew coming out of college. To serve the country, to serve the national security interests that we are now called upon to look at, you have to understand the real complexities. And I'm so glad that the strong, liberal arts college we have is focused on languages, and geography, and demography, and science, and all the things that really make a difference, because foreign service officers have to understand all of that.
We talk about something at the War College called Instruments of Power. The non-instruments of power are really the things that American foreign policy is based on. Our diplomacy, our information advantages and assets, our economic advantages and assets. Military is a small part of what we do. But it's the other ones, the diplomacy, the information, and economics that really are what your foreign offices overseas are pushing, promoting, and selling, and that's what keeps America strong, and keeps people attracted to us as that indispensable.
So I'll stop there. And I look forward to the conversation, but, to me, Cornell was formative. If taught me how to hold an argument, make an argument, and never shut up until you win. So that's how I did it.
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
WALTER LAFEBER: We're going to ask a couple of questions among ourselves and hopefully answer them. And then we'll over up to the audience. But what the Ambassador just said raises a question in my mind that I've wondered about ever since I came to Cornell, and that is, what are the good of major subjects? What are the good of majors?
From some of the things that were said tonight, it seems to me that what you choose for a major is much less important than what you choose outside of the major. And that when we hear about Cornell in Washington, which covers a lot of departments at Cornell, or when we learn about what's going on on campus outside the academic structure, it seems that these have been very, very important, in terms of pushing people in particular directions that lead them into diplomatic service of some kind. And now, as a person who represented a major, and had advised majors, this concerns me.
Because this means that the major subjects are being essentially lessened. And I'm not sure that's bad, as long as the Cornell curriculum is flexible enough to handle this.
But I'd really like to know-- I mean, I'd like to pinpoint this question-- did you find your major that important, or did you find your major important because it allowed you to look outside of it, gave you time and impetus to do other things, and that the choice of a major really was secondary to what you finally have done in your career?
DWIGHT BUSH: I would say that I was a government and economics major, and I feel that those studies were foundational for me. I learned a lot about the world taking a lot of government courses, history courses, economic courses, and philosophy courses. I gained an appreciation for critical thinking, which I didn't have before I got to Cornell University, quite frankly. And I think that today, when I am solving problems, it's because of that foundation that I can reach back to get support for resolving the problems.
The second thing about what we learn outside of the coursework, I was always an RA or head resident, because I needed to make money to go to Cornell. And I found that to be a very unique and positive experience because, again, I was interacting with a lot of different people with a lot of different problems and challenges, some of which, in hindsight, I can't believe I was authorized to deal with, quite frankly.
So developing the people skills and the critical thinking skills concurrently I think were very important for me.
DEREK CHOLLET: Well, so I was a government and history major, double major. Mostly that was a plot to get out of doing any math.
But to get to your question of do majors matter, and did I look outside the major, I'll give you a pretty typical Washington answer, which is, yes to both. And when I reflect, actually, on, Peter and Professor LaFeber, both of your classes and your scholarship, as well as other professors that I had-- my history advisor was Michael Kammen, my government honors thesis advisor was Theodore Lowi-- that what I learned so much from you was, again, to use a Washington bureaucratic term, look outside your stovepipe. That it's important to understand the scholarship of government or political science. It's important to understand the scholarship of diplomatic history. But the folks that I learned from, and the folks that I've come to greatly admire professionally, are those who draw from other disciplines.
And it's a way to ground your work-- the major-- but I do think, to be successful, I very much agree with the Ambassador, to be successful, particularly in today's world, everyone needs to be a bit of a utility infielder, and be open minded, and be creative enough to draw from different disciplines to help you try to solve very complex problems.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Yeah, I don't know how they structure these. I would favor something called a soft major. I was a government major. I'm glad I was. I took some great courses. But I took a lot more government courses than I needed to take. And what I wish I had done is taken a couple more economics courses, and a lot more history courses. And as I pursued my public career, that's the lack I feel more and more is not having historical depth on some of the problems we were doing.
I've got a couple of other regrets. One is I learned at Cornell to consume a lot more news than I did books. And if I had it to do over, and I would give people advice, less news, less information, more books and more wisdom and understanding. And the last thing I wish I'd never done is I wish I had never elected to take advantage of the opportunity to get an extension on a paper.
That is a terrible lesson to learn, that you can get an extension. Should never be allowed.
MAKILA JAMES: I was a history major, and so I'm biased towards history. I think history matters. Always did, always will. But as a practitioner, I think everything matters. So I now take the perspective of anything you study, study well and really know it, particularly like languages. I don't think we had too many Farsi speakers when we needed some. We didn't have too many Arabic speakers. We need some Chinese speakers. We don't even have enough Portuguese speakers. I mean, these are basic language skills that we are missing in the Foreign Service. If you can't communicate with people, you really can't do diplomacy. So that's a critical issue.
So I'd say languages, very valuable. Literature, I agree with you. Reading is more important, because ultimately our foreign policy is about relationships between people. If you don't understand these people, you really can't influence them. You don't really have an impact on them. You don't really have a way to get into their cultural way of thinking.
And so I think anything that brings you into other cultures is a very valuable skill, which is why I'm such a big proponent of strengthening liberal arts education, the humanities, because children don't like to read these days. And the kind of books that they need to read, they're kind of fat. And these are the books they do need to read. So I would say, any discipline, do it well.
At the same time, I'd say you need to be general. You need some in-depth knowledge. In the Foreign Service, we're missing a lot of people have in-depth regional knowledge or language skills. And then just a sense of cultural openness. Cultural openness comes from the more exposure, the more you read, the more you engage, the more you travel.
I'd like to see Cornell's traveling expand. I'd like to see more Africa trips. I cannot tell you how many times I meet people-- senior people-- who've never been to Africa. I find that hard to understand. It's a big continent, 54 countries. You tell me you've never been to Africa at all. That's just hard to understand. How can you write off a whole section of the world.
So I think any discipline that gives you that broad exposure, very, very valuable.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: Well, it's interesting, because the teaching of students today, they would say, why don't you just use Google Translator? Right?
MALIKA JAMES: It's wrong.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: I know it's wrong, but that's the mindset. And the second one is as you said, to teach the students to see the difference between information and knowledge is almost impossible. It's almost impossible, that is, the notion of providing a conceptual map by which you can filter information. I always tell students, I teach you to know more and read less, because they are inundated by information all the time. Between classes, you just see them with their little machines. Yeah, I've got one, too here. But I only call my wife. I don't know how to use the rest of it.
So that's critical for the liberal arts to work, and that's at great risk now.
So I was going to pitch you another question, but Walt, another question came to my mind. And I've not cornered you. You're in the middle of the stage. But this struck me as we were listening. Walt's scholarship comes out of what's called the Wisconsin School of Revisionism, which is a polite way of saying, well, it's an economic argument. That's a polite way of saying, it's a semi-Marxist argument. That was the tag line in the 1960s.
Walt is like a Hong Kong real estate mogul. He has his Rolodex in his head of about 3,000 names in the US government, all his former students. I don't think they're mafia. They're just Cornellians. But he knows everybody. I mean, when we tried to put together this panel, Walt would say, well, what about X, Y, and Z, and the email was this long. And Gretchen and I said, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And he said, what about that, and what about that?
So through his teaching career throne, he was very systematic. He fed the beast. And I've always wondered, from the perspective of the students and from Walt, how does the Marxism and the feeding of the center of the empire, how do they come together? So I'd like to put this to those of you who have been deeply effected by Walt. And I want to put it to Walt, too.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I'll tell a story. You won't remember this. But I remember when Cornell was blowing up, and I came to see you. And it was your course, and everybody left, and I came down front, and I said-- and you talked, and we were very distraught about what was happening on campus. And I remember saying, you know, my friend, Chip Marshall at SDS, who was helping bring this university down, he cites your course for economic determinism. And it was very interesting. And at that point, Professor LaFeber terminated his course. We didn't finish out that semester. And I never knew why.
I thought that grounding was terrific intellectually. I, then, as my time as a practitioner, began to see that, while there are constraints on the system, many of which are economic, there is choice. And people do make choices, and they make it based on their sense of history, their sense of politics, their values, and those choices really matter, even as they play within that context that Professor LaFeber sketched out so well. That would be the one footnote I would make on the course.
DEREK CHOLLET: I'll just say I've been puzzled myself by the question, because as I have grown up in Washington over the last 20 years, and gotten to know more Cornellians who are LaFeberites, we all don't necessarily agree on foreign policy issues. There's some who consider themselves very conservative, and very liberal, who both idolize this man.
I was one who was blown away by actually, first, a former professor of yours, William Appleman Williams. I read it in your class, though. But then, imprint that scholarship on, then, your work, and this is really the forerunner of the Wisconsin School. Fred Harrington, I think, was another, right? And for me, what I take away, is, as I said earlier, it's this conceptual thinking. It's the idea that you can use frameworks to help you navigate what is a very confusing world.
Now, you're not necessarily imprisoned by those frameworks. You shouldn't be, because that will actually lead to bad decisions. And you may actually conclude that, after you think about it more and learn more, you don't necessarily agree with that particular framework. So therefore, some folks who may very much reject the Wisconsin School nevertheless admire it, understand it, and use that muscle that they've developed to think rigorously and conceptually to use other frameworks to try to help understand the world's problems.
I think that is absolutely indispensable today. I completely agree with you, Peter, on the difference between information and knowledge. And having just spent a year now out of government, where I've tried to regain some knowledge after depleting it for six years in the Obama Administration, and just being inundated by information, I've come to appreciate that even more.
WALTER LAFEBER: Well, I agree with all of that.
I grew up and went to school, did my graduate work, during a time when there was a strong consensus in American history about who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. We were the good guys, and the Soviet Union, obviously, were the bad guys, which had a certain amount of truth to it, obviously.
But as the 1960s went on, and as Vietnam evolved, for example, and then when I came to Cornell and I met somebody like George Kagan, who had been involved very much in the Indonesian Revolution, I began to see what I had learned at Wisconsin was quite true, and that is that you had to look at all of these sides, and when you looked at all of these sides, you couldn't look just politically, you also had to look ideologically and economically.
It was strange how American history was written in the '50s and '60s. And in fact, it was taught that way, I know, at Cornell in the '50s. It was taught without any economics, which I've always found rather strange.
Anyway, when we got into the '60s, there were a number of historians and political scientists at Cornell. The '60s are really the turning point for all kinds of reasons that we're familiar with. But another reason is because, to you use Derek's phrase, the worldview of American college professors really began to change. And they began to incorporate many other factors into their lectures and into their writings. And it's broadened out since then terrifically. But what was once a consensus in the 1950s became diversity multiplied by the 1960s. And what were the enemies in the 1950s became a mixture, if not, friends and better friends in the 1960s and 1970s as the anti-colonial revolutions erupted.
It's been a fascinating time to be a college professor, because the world is changing so fast around you that the old categories no longer fit. And if you're going to make sense of what you are teaching, you have to devise a new set of categories, and they better include some of the points that have been made here tonight, particularly ideology and economics. I feel I'm very fortunate to have taught at Cornell, with the pluralism that is at Cornell, the pluralities that are at Cornell, as the Ambassador pointed out, at a time when that scholarship was exploding, as it was. It was a wonderful time.
1969, as Steve said, to the contrary notwithstanding, that was really rough. But we got back to business in the '70s and '80s. And it's the best place to teach the kind of history that I happen to believe in.
GRETCHEN RITTER: I think we're going to open things up to the audience now. And do we have some mics that we'll have here? Yes. Good. OK.
And just a couple of notes as we get started here. So there's a mic on either side for folks who want to ask questions. And a couple of notes. Please introduce yourself. Please ask a question. And please be reasonably brief.
And the first person to the mic.
JOHN FURMAN: Hi. I'm John Furman. I'm a senior majoring in government, currently writing my honors thesis on liberalism in Kosovo. One of the things that Cornell's really taught me is the combination of academic and practical.
So with that in mind, my question's about institutions, and more about foreign policy, a little bit less about Cornell. So Mr. Hadley, you mentioned the importance of institutions, and the reason the United States has persisted as a world power is because of its strong institutions, so can countries, like a Kosovo or a Lebanon, with deeply divided communities, achieve the institutional kind of level that the United States has achieved, or are they kind of just destined to have deeply divided ethnic, sectarian, religious divides?
That's open for kind of anyone on the panel. And I know it's a little bit more practical, but it's something that's really been interesting to me from a philosophical perspective and a theoretical perspective at Cornell from classes like Professor Kramnick's American Political Thought to Middle Eastern Politics with Professor Patel my freshman year.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, I'll start, but the two professors on the stage ought to answer that question. My answer would be one of the things we learned, of course, was that democracy, it's a tautology. Democracy is more than just elections.
And whereas we've seen countries that have started to throw off authoritarianism, and have used elections as a vehicle for change and a catalyst for change-- and they are a catalyst for change and they can provoke reform-- but a number of those countries are bumping up against the immaturity of institutions, and they are not able to withstand the political pressures that arise once authoritarian comes off and you have a much more free environment.
And it's very interesting and sad to see what is happening in eastern Europe, what is happening in Hungary, for example, which is beginning to turn its back on the freedoms and democracy that was won so hard after the end of the Cold War. And again, I think it is this immaturity of institutions.
And I guess the other thing I would say is democracy, for my money, is an invitation for a struggle. It's the journey as well as the destination. And you keep working with these institutions. They keep being challenged. You need to, then, adapt the institutions. We're seeing that in our own country. But we are blessed that we've been at it for 270 years, and through some very difficult times. And that's one of the great gifts we have as a nation.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: We have been at it for a long time, and we have been through some difficult times. I think that's saying very politely that the Civil War was a disaster. It was the Syria of that time.
So when we talk about institution building from a historical perspective, you're talking about a century or two. And it seems to me always sort of strange to hold other countries who are starting up to a time scale, which we ourselves didn't follow. So that's one of those.
And the other one about institutions, think about the financial institutions. I read this article about Taleb, who writes about the Black Swan, and he says, why is Syria so horrible? Because it had a very strong set of institutions for 40 years. Lebanon didn't. Lebanon had horrific civil wars, but they were smaller civil wars.
So if the institutions are too strong and bottle up the societal anger and frustrations, you will get your blow up and be much bigger. So having well organized institutions can also have a cost.
RANDYE RINGLER: My name is Randye Ringler, ILR, '76. My uncle, after World War II, he took his MBA at Cornell, and he went on to run different continents for one of the international pharmaceutical companies. And when he went to South Africa to be in charge of Africa, one of the things in the 1970s that impressed me so much that, being a United States based company, he could bring the values of someone from the United States to that corporate culture, and was able to give pensions to black employees which had never been done before in South Africa.
So I'm wondering about how often that is that, by being able to be located in another country, you find that we are able to do much more from within?
DWIGHT BUSH: I will tell you practically, in Morocco, the impact of American companies, American NGOs is very great. We bring business practices, like transparency, rule of law, that some of these countries really haven't embraced as much. The culture within companies-- often the US companies that are in a country like Morocco are the standard bearers for everything, from how they treat their employees to things like, as you mentioned, benefit plans, becoming much more transparent and reluctant to do business with parties that want to engage in unsavory business practices.
And so we become the standard bearers in some of these countries through our activities, through our deeds, and through the American brand. We are perceived really as being exceptional in so many different ways. And people admire the embassy, because we do things like have mentor programs for women, and it gets out into the community that that's what goes on at the embassy. Or we're embracing a civil society engagement by more women in a Muslim country, and helping them to have some pull as well through our actions. You'll see it in the corporations where there are often female executives, for example. Sometimes unusual, but because of how America is perceived, it has an impact much more broadly.
MAKILA JAMES: Because you brought up the South Africa example, that was an exemplary case. I'm very glad to hear that. That wasn't every American company's story. There were some that were considered complicit in apartheid. They really weren't doing their share.
But I think we've come a long way from those bad, bad, old days. I think now where we are is very much what Ambassador Bush has said. American companies-- first of all, we're held to a very high standard. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act doesn't allow our companies to engage in some of the unsavory acts you see other companies involved in. But we also bring corporate social responsibility that I find really very useful as an Ambassador. You can draw upon that. We can hold companies accountable.
In my little small country of Swaziland, Coca-Cola was the only major American company, and they were doing very little corporate social responsibility by my standards, considering they were such a large company. We engaged with them, we impressed upon them, and they got much more involved in the HIV/AIDS work. And that's something we can do, because I think they do feel a sense of that is what is expected, that is the standard we hold, and, of course, it paid dividends. It was a win-win for everybody.
So I think the story is a lot better now. The story is a good news story.
RANDYE RINGLER: Yeah, I was surprised because this was the 1970s. And that's what, to this day, I was at Cornell then thinking this is fantastic for us to be so involved there with people. But that's why I was very confused about the divestment issue, you know, and I thought, there are pluses.
GRETCHEN RITTER: OK. We're going to go to the next question. Sir?
CARLOS MARTINEZ: Carlos Martinez. I was an English and government major, and I wanted to give a shout out for any English majors in the audience.
MAKILA JAMES: Writing matters.
CARLOS MARTINEZ: But I want to bring forward into this conversation I think something that kind of gets lost in the mix. And after having studied an English major and sidestepped all the transcendentalist writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, I began reading them, and reading through those essays.
And what's so amazing is, in reading through those essays, you really come to understand the fabric of what this country is made of, the warp and the weft, and how a nation that's only recently formed was trying to figure it out what shape this can be. Because they are very conscious that this country was supposed to be the beacon of post-Enlightenment democracy, the fulfillment of a promise that something had not existed in the world.
And rather than make this a commentary, and trying to formulate it as a question--
GRETCHEN RITTER: Yes, your question?
CARLOS MARTINEZ: So often I feel like we've lost our way, and we've lost sight of that. There's one significant essay of Emerson, which I forgot the title, but it was written in the 1870s, and it was the rest of the world questioning whether we were really indeed what we purported ourselves to be. And so often what I feel is the promise of what we're supposed to be has to be renewed in the crucible of change and the crucible of acknowledging that this is an ongoing experiment.
GRETCHEN RITTER: I'm not sure if there was a question. Do we have any response?
DAVID MORIAH: My name is David Moriah, class of 1972, ILR School. And I want to mention that I took Professor LaFeber's course in 1970. My daughter took it 30 years later, and she is now a Foreign Service officer. So thank you.
My question is for Mr. Hadley. I, too, was interested in your comment about the genius of America being our institutions that can be run by normal people. And I specifically want to ask you about the institution of the United States Congress, and especially the Senate.
Given that Senator McConnell said on the first day of the Obama Administration that his priority was not to help the country out of the economic crisis, but to make President Obama a one-term president all the way to now, refusing to entertain a nomination for the Supreme Court, would you, as a Republican, say that your party is strengthening or diminishing the institution of the Senate?
STEPHEN HADLEY: So let me answer that question in a little different way.
On your question, the thing that I think that's always been great about America is it was a country that was formed on a basis, not of an ethnic group or a linguistic group, but of a set of ideas and ideals. And that means that, in some sense, if you do that, you're always going to be managing failure, because none of us ever really live up to those ideals. But it gives us something to strive for and struggle for. And you know, it's very interesting in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, what does Lincoln cite all the time? The Declaration of Independence.
Second, the institutions are important, but we've also lost something very important. I was in Israel a couple of weeks ago, which has one of the most fractious politics going. But they have something that we have lost. All those Israeli politicians, so far as I can tell, as much as they fight with one another, there is a presumption of good faith that all those actors are looking to try to do best for the state of Israel, even though they disagree completely on what that is.
Vice President Biden came to a dedication of the bust of Vice President Cheney in the capital building and gave some very gracious remarks. And one of things he said was, you can disagree about principles. You can disagree about policies. But you must never question someone else's motives. Because once you do that, it's impossible to compromise.
And we have gone from disagreeing about principles and policies-- I think we've lost that presumption of good faith, that we are all working together trying to do what's best for the country, even though we disagree on what that is. We have lost that.
And one of things I try to say when I talk about foreign policy is I disagree with a lot of what President Obama has done, but I know the people, and I know the president, and they were trying in good faith to do what they thought was best for the country. We need to start with that, and hold on to that, and restore it if we're ever going to get political discourse in our political process starting again.
DAVID MORIAH: Thank you for your answer and thank you for your service.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you. Sir?
BRETT APPLEBAUM: Hi. Brett Applebaum, ILR, '88. And one of my favorite classes was outside my major, which was Professor Katzenstein's America's Loss of Hegemonic Power, taken in about '87, I think it was. And so I always think about your anecdote of Japan being a train on a line, and watch out when that first car comes off, versus the United States, which is like a flock of birds flying. One industry gets tired, kind of fades to the back, and somebody else becomes a champion. And so I'd always love a refresh on that, kind of a 2.0.
But you made a comment about Taleb's article on strong institutions like Syria over the last 40 years. And I wonder if you can talk, and other people on the panel, can talk about China, and what's in their future, what do you think about in that picture?
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: Somebody.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I'll give you an anecdote about China. So I was there a week ago, and they were all tut-tutting me about our political system. You know, Trump this and Sander's that. And I found myself saying, well, you know, what you're seeing is the great triumph of our political system. Because there is great disenchantment with the policies and where the country is and has gone over the last 20 years. There is a "revolt against the establishment," quote, quote, but it is being acted out within our political system, not on the streets, and not with violence. We tried that in the '60s. We didn't like it so much. This is much preferable.
The problem for the Chinese is that, in the interest of achieving economic reform, they are so clamping down on their political system that, if they do not open it up, dissent and disaffection will be acted out in their streets. But they don't get that.
MAKILA JAMES: Just one word I would have on China. I'm not a China hand, but I see China from Africa's perspective. China is a rising power. No doubt about that. But when you look at them in Africa, and look at what are they engaged in, what are they doing, what are they promoting, we always say that we're really not in competition, because what we're promoting in Africa is not the same as what China's promoting in Africa. I'll leave it at that, that the value system that we are dependent upon for our success and for our strength of our global leadership is not what China is offering. And so that's going to be the challenge in the future. What are they offering the world globally besides TVs?
DEREK CHOLLET: Add to that, no question China's future is going to be the most important factor in the 21st century. And it will be extremely important for the United States. But as it stands now, and as I see into the future, China is not a problem solver around the world. China tries to buy influence. In some cases, it's somewhat successful, but it's very transactional. But in my experience, there's not a lot of countries that actually want more of China, or seek China out to help them solve their problems. I'm unaware of China setting any real agenda in an international forum when it comes to trying to solve global problems.
Countries still do look to the United States. They look to us even when they think that we're down. And many countries do think that we're down today. They thought we were really down in 2008, when they were worried our financial system was collapsing. But they still do looked to the United States. It's because of our values. It's because of the way we approach problems, and because of what we stand for.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Peter.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: It struck me on the previous round true. We talk about America synonymous with the United States. And we talk about China as a unitary actor. We talk about we and they. And this strikes me as fundamentally wrong, given the complexity that diplomats have to think about.
So abroad, for example, the United States-- and the ambassadors will subscribe to this-- has a tough time. Anti-Americanism is not anti-Americanism, it's anti-United States. It's against the political manifestations of the United States. For the soft part of civil society, America does very well abroad. And so the only way that diplomacy works is sort of pigging back and onto that nice part of America.
China is not just the People's Republic of China. China is also the overseas Chinese diaspora. And when I saw them in Hungary, in Budapest, in the 1990s, I said, wow, that's a world power. A lot of the Chinese in urban African areas have nothing to do with China. They're just there to make money.
And so let's not think in they and us, because we ourselves are not one. We are very different things abroad, and perceived as very different things. And so are the Chinese. Who developed China? The overseas Chinese did. It wasn't Japanese capital. It wasn't American capital. It wasn't European capital. It was Chinese capital. But it came from the overseas Chinese. That's how it happened.
So the rise of China is not due to tracking in foreign capital. It was tracking in some kind of form of a Chinese capital, which led to this rise of China.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Yes, ma'am.
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ: Hi. My name is Gladys Margarita Diaz. I am an architect. I lived at Rand Hall. I was unable to take any of your government courses.
However, I lived American history, because I'm Cuban-American and I came to the United States in March of 1962. And so, obviously, I live in Miami, the capital of Latin America. And we are a city that's been elected the most entrepreneurial in the United States.
Now, I know that the concept of the two pillars of American culture, which are home ownership and entrepreneurship, are being undermined by this whole banking situation, which, of course, I have lived, because I lived at ground zero for the housing crisis. And it was invented by an architect. His name was Thomas Jefferson. And he wrote that he would create a country that would have a place for everyone to own their own home and create their own business.
And so I'm hearing about institutions, but I come from a culture of entrepreneurship. And now that I'm dealing with Cuban artists-- I'm bringing their art into the United States-- I'm looking at entrepreneurship at not the macro scale, but the micro. And that has been the survival method, because I employ a lot of people who come to Miami to start over.
So I ask you, as professionals in the government business, how we can address that in an elegant way, as I think America has always tried to do, in spite of what everybody says, you know, that we're losing our way and all that. I think that, at the level that you just explained, which is the people that are trying to survive, that are trying to create a living, that are trying to make a better life for themselves, I know people who have lived under that for 54 years and they've tried to make it work. So in their own way, they tried to survive. So I ask you what we might be able to do in Cuba? Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Volunteers?
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: I know nothing about Cuba, but traveling the world, the largest amount of resources a society has is the resilience of its own population. The United States is great not because of the United States, it's because of the American people. So I fundamentally agree with Steve about something, being bullish on America, in a time in which I'm very dark on United States politics.
So I think wherever you go, I find that this resilience and the innovation, and innovative capacities, are local. And people all over the world are trying to reinvent their own solution. There's not one solution. Their own solution working off a template. That template is the template of Walt's and my life. It's the 18th century-- the Enlightenment. But it has to be internalized in different ways.
And the biggest struggle right now in the world is inside Islam to try to figure that out. I don't worry about Cuba. That's not a problem. I worry about how is Islam, which is like China and the United States, a global force-- 1.3 billion people-- without a state, without an empire? The ummah is not politicized. How are they going to make this? And we are deeply affected by it.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you. Sir?
GUS KAPPLER: Hi. My name is Gus Kappler, and I'm losing my balance. I graduated '61 from the Ithaca campus, and then the medical school in '65. It interests me that the war in Vietnam was mentioned just twice, but the error was alluded to. I served as a trauma surgeon at the 85th evacuation hospital in Phu Bai, Vietnam, '70, '71.
You mentioned that the veterans now are welcome home, which is great. But the suicide rate in the Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans is astronomical. 22 active duty military and veterans of all wars commit suicide every day. Well, I just wrote a book, and in it, I present a preventive approach to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The basic question is, first of all, can you help me talk to someone where it would make a difference? And secondly, what does a country owe to those it sends to war?
DEREK CHOLLET: [? Doctor, ?] what's the name of your book? I think people would like to know.
GUS KAPPLER: Welcome Home From Vietnam, Finally.
DEREK CHOLLET: Thank you.
GUS KAPPLER: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
GRETCHEN RITTER: All right. There's that entrepreneurial spirit.
DEREK CHOLLET: All I can say, sir, first of all, thank you for your service. Thank you for writing this book. It's a very important set of issues.
DEREK CHOLLET: I think there is no question that the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration has purposely tried to do more than any other administration for the fighting men and women coming home. But it's also true that we're not still doing enough. And I know-- I served in the Pentagon up until a year ago, served with Secretary Hagel, another Vietnam vet, served with Secretary Carter-- this is a high priority for both of those Secretaries of Defense to work hand in glove with their partners in the Veterans Administration to ensure that our fighting men and women and their families get the support that they need.
But I think your book sounds like it's about an enduring problem, a problem that I think our military has actually made great strides over the last several years in acknowledging the ailments of PTSD, making sure that it's not just about limbs and organs, it's about what happens inside your head. So it's a way of saying this is going to be a project for a generation, because folks are going to be living with the wounds of war for many, many years, and it's not something that a simple medical procedure will fix instantly.
GUS KAPPLER: Well, actually, all the effort takes place after the horse is out of the barn. I recently spoke to a couple Afghanistan vets in Stamford. They were just discharged. No instruction, no counseling, nothing. Sink or swim. That's a term I use, all right? Advances have been made. There are about 15 different approaches to post-traumatic stress. That's because there's not one good one. Prevention. We do colonoscopies to prevent cancer of the colon, we immunize patients. Prevention is the key, and that's what I would just like to stress.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you, sir.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I'll give you my card. You can send me an email describing your work, and I will forward it to Pete Chiarelli. Pete was Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, military assistant to Bob Gates. And of the persons I know, he is more focused on this than anybody else. So I'll give you my card. Send me an email describing what you've done. I'll forward it to Pete and let him get in touch with you directly.
GUS KAPPLER: He's going to get a lot of stuff. Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: And we will give the last question to this young man over here before we hear final reflections from the panel.
JOEY BINDER: Thank you, again, for speaking to us tonight. My name is Joey Binder. I'm a sophomore at Cornell, studying biology. This question is for the whole panel. It's about the threat of ISIS in the Middle East.
Currently, Turkey allows the US to use its air fields to conduct airstrikes to combat ISIS. However, at the same time, Turkey is also allowing ISIS to transport its weapons and equipment through its country. And it's really counterproductive to the US's goal in the Middle East and to combat ISIS. So how does the US deal with the threat of ISIS, seeing that Turkey's doing that, and also to other countries that want to have relationships with the US, but do another thing to combat their goal? Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you.
DWIGHT BUSH: Well, the one thing I would say-- and, again, I'm not in Turkey-- but one thing that's really obvious is that relationships are fleeting, and that some historical relationships have to be reconsidered, and they have to be considered in the moment.
It's a very dynamic time in that region. I think that there are countries that we always perceived as our friends, but there are so many nuances in this whole dynamic that we're constantly rethinking, from a policy perspective, who today do we align with, and how likely are they to be the partners that will help us to work through the whole thing. It's a very, very complicated situation in that part of the world. And it's not going to be resolved any time quickly.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Just to underscore that. Almost all the countries in the Middle East that we're talking about don't like ISIS. But for almost all of them, they don't like something else more than they don't like ISIS. The Saudis will tell you it's all about Iran. The Jordanians and the Emirates will tell you it's all about the Muslim Brotherhood. The only person who actually really thinks it's about the terrorists is probably President Sisi in Egypt.
So your problem is there is a common notion that we ought to defeat ISIS, but everybody's got other objectives. And for the Turks, it's the Kurds. They prioritize that over ISIS. And it's one thing that makes managing this situation so terribly challenging, as the ambassador said.
DEREK CHOLLET: I'll just piggyback on that. When I was in government up until last year, the last year of my life was dominated by the ISIS threat. And I spent as much time with Turks as any other of our partners in that region to try to get a handle on it.
To take the Turkish perspective for a second, they've been dealing with a tremendous refugee crisis for the five years of the Syrian conflict. I mean, I first had conversations with my Turkish counterparts in 2012 about their views and desire to have some sort of safe zone, or safety belt is what they called it, within Syria because of the refugee push into Turkey. Now, of course, the refugee, or migration, issue exploded internationally last summer when they started leaving Turkey and going up into Europe.
And one of the challenges we have faced with Turkey, with our Gulf partners, has been because of the different prioritization of issues that Steve has mentioned, and because of their different views about how to handle the problem, they have engaged in behavior that has, in our view, made it worse, whether that's throwing a lot of money and resources into the Syrian problem that's ended up in the wrong hands to being difficult partners for us to collaborate with. It's a very good thing that the Turks are allowing us access to Incirlik, the airfield, but that was a long time coming, and there were many years where we were hamstrung in what we could do until the Turks gave us that access.
And so it's one of the great challenges for diplomats to try to deal with a country that shares a problem, but sees it a little bit differently, both in terms of the priority for them, but also what to do about it. And what we do in government every day is to try to deal with those counterparts, have good faith that they-- in most cases, have good faith-- are also trying to do the right thing by their country and by their citizens, but to try to find some sort of mutual solution.
JOEY BINDER: Thank you.
GRETCHEN RITTER: Thank you. And I want to invite just brief, final reflections from our panelists as we wrap up.
DWIGHT BUSH: Well, it's a delight for me to be here. I mean, 1975, Makila and I walked into Cornell University eyes wide open, looking for the opportunity to really grow and learn and create a foundation. And I mean it sincerely when I say that the two things that were foundational in my life were my parents and Cornell University. And when I was with, in May, when Chairman Harrison was in Morocco with President Clinton, I said, man, this is a long way we've come, that from 1975 to sitting with my good friend, the Chairman of the board of Cornell in Morocco and serving our country. Thank you Cornell for what you've done for me.
DEREK CHOLLET: I just want to echo that. I think, probably like many of you in this room, memories have just been rushing back over the last several hours as I've been sitting here. And I think back to where I started and how lucky I felt to be at Cornell in the first place. I never imagined that I would be able to get out of Nebraska to go to school.
And I look back on my career, and it sounds like a cliche, but it is true, there's really not a day that goes by where I don't reflect on some part of my experience at Cornell. It's mostly happy. There are sometimes it's a hard lesson that I learned there, that I have to apply to life now.
But I am deeply nostalgic about my time at Cornell. I'm deeply grateful for all of the opportunities that the institution has given me over the years, for the friendships and the mentorships that I have enjoyed, and I'm very humbled to be on the stage with distinguished colleagues, but also to be part of this very proud Cornell tradition in trying to make our country a better place and in trying to make the world a safer place. So thank you all for being here tonight.
WALTER LAFEBER: Teaching at Cornell as a multifaceted business, obviously. I was once asked, do all of your courses aim at turning out professional foreign service officers?
And then I said, I never thought of that. When you approach a Cornell audience, you never think of that, because it is so multifaceted, so pluralistic, that you cannot aim for one objective. What you've got to do is aim for high objectives and try to do it right, but you don't try to turn out professionals. It doesn't work that way at Cornell.
The great thing about Cornell is its openness. The ability of a student to find, as we've already heard this evening, just about anything he or she wants to find in terms of scholarship, and sometimes in terms of non-scholarship. Cornell is a very, very effective place at producing knowledge that is usable. And I've heard this from generation after generation at Cornell. You don't aim at a particular objective. What you do is you teach as best you can, and the Cornell student, then, uses it to do things that you never dreamed a Cornell student might do.
STEPHEN HADLEY: So I also have two thank yous. One to this gentleman to my right, without whom I would have never gone into the career that I have had in national security and foreign policy. And I'm grateful to you because, without it, I wouldn't have done it.
And secondly, I'm grateful to Cornell. I remember a conversation I had with Andrew Hacker. He said, you know, Mr. Hadley-- he would call us Mr. Hadley for some reason-- he said, Mr Hadley, your four years of college is a very special time. It's like no other time in your life. And once you leave it, you can't go back. And it is true.
It was a very special time for me, and I think people who were at Cornell from '65 to '69. It was a magical time. We learned a lot. And what we learned has illuminated the whole rest of our lives. So we're all very grateful to Cornell.
MAKILA JAMES: My gratitude to Cornell is because it helped me combine scholarship with activism, and then activism turned into service. I think, at Cornell, I didn't have a chance to think about it for very long. The first week I was there, I was thrown into activism. I was politicized the first week I was there. And that, along with the scholarship that I was getting, that melt. It naturally led me to a career of service. I started off in private sector, but government service quickly became more rewarding, more fulfilling, to me. And I credit that to Cornell, to what Cornell taught us, how you have to take a stand.
I know that Cornell now has an Engaged Cornell program. I'm very impressed to hear that. I want to learn more about it. Because I think that's what our young people need. They need to combine their scholarship with activism. The world is complex and it's waiting out there for you to get involved. And if we can send them out with a sense of mission, and not just sit back and be academic, they're going to be well-served by Cornell. So I'm glad we're moving in that direction. Thank you.
PETER J. KATZENSTEIN: I hadn't really thought about this, but I think of Cornell always at the end of August, or the beginning of September.
It's a special feeling for teacher. The students look younger and younger every year.
But the promise of another generation of students to be taught is an unbelievable experience. And that's, I think, why Walt and I hang on as long as we did. Because it is a promise that will be somehow cashed in, even if we can't see it. So today, we've seen it. But as teachers, we, of course, know it's there. And I sense it most acutely late summer, early fall.
And then the other thing, which the Ambassador said, that there's a notion that there is the ivory tower and the real world. This has always struck me as sort of a little weird. Because when I sit, trying not to be inundated by information, but to think and learn, I sense the air stirring. And it's always the owl of Minerva moving, and we are always trying to figure out dawn or dusk.
GRETCHEN RITTER: I want to thank our panelists, and I want to thank our audience, for a great evening, and for the kinds of contributions that all of you have made, not only to public service and good, but also in your support of Cornell. Thank you for coming this evening.
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On March 8, 2016, Cornell gathered preeminent thinkers in American foreign policy—both alumni and academics—for a rare look at the university's legacy of diplomacy. The program, which took place at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City, featured: Dwight Bush ’79, Derek Chollet ’93, Stephen Hadley ’69, Makila James ’79, Peter J. Katzenstein, Walter LaFeber, and Gretchen Ritter ’83, Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.