October 30, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Unlike a majority of those in Williamsburg this past weekend, I was not reconnecting with William & Mary alumni, watching football…or singing along to the Jackson 5? Instead, my sister and I were walking the darkened streets of Colonial Williamsburg (more affectionately known as “CW”) and scaring ourselves silly at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Homecoming – with all of its social splendor, but I figured that, in a town as creepy as Williamsburg, you really have to take advantage of Halloween-time (yes, Halloween-time) – exploring haunted houses, graveyards and dark alleyways. I’m not exactly Wednesday Addams, but I love Halloween – and I really like being scared!
My sister and I went to Howl-O-Scream, first. I had gone this past September for William & Mary Day, but, let’s be honest, those roller coasters are addicting; and, although the wandering characters can be annoying, they add to the eerie atmosphere. My sister isn’t a fan of too much height, thus we only ventured onto the Loch Ness Monster and Alpengeist, spending a majority of our time on the ground amongst crazy pirates and werewolves with chainsaws. The weirdest thing was that when I was at Howl-O-Scream for William & Mary Day, one of the English “wanderers” chased me all throughout England; this past weekend, he found me again! For some reason, he’s never satisfied with a simple scare – he needs to, literally, chase me out of the park with a bloody knife.
I hope that I’m actually encouraging readers to go to Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream. I’m just now realizing that my description is a bit dramatic. All in all, it’s always a fun time, and being a Senior, it was nice to experience it one last time.
After Busch Gardens, my sister and I embarked on a “Spooks and Legends” ghost tour – which was voted #1 on Trip Advisor. Considering the rating, and my desire for fear, I was expecting a lot; I’ve been on ghost tours that were devastatingly mundane, and I wanted some spine-chilling tales. I have to say that this tour was incredible! It was the best ghost tour I’ve ever taken and it officially creeped me out. The Peyton Randolph House had, by far, the worst history. Its ghosts trap unsuspecting victims inside, driving them insane with strange sounds and whispers. Also, you wouldn’t believe the stories surrounding all of those “cute” little houses lining DoG street. Don’t let those white fences fool you – there are some scary goings-on behind those walls.
So, no – I wasn’t dancing to the cover band outside the College Delly (which played ALL weekend), but I still took advantage of what William & Mary had to offer: Halloween-time creepiness.
July 15, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of CNAS Conference provided by: Darice Xue
June 12, 2013
After a few weeks of interning, the National Security Fellows reunited for two events:
- The Diplomatic Courier’s Annual Forum on Digital Diplomacy (#DiplomacySM)
- The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Conference (#CNASdc)
Only a few of us attended the Forum on Digital Diplomacy, which was hosted in the rotunda of the Ronald Reagan Building – a modern, expansive room covered with windows. The panel consisted of several prominent players in the fields of social media and global affairs; and the entire meeting was moderated by freelance journalist, Joshua Frost. The panel discussed the importance of social media in politics and international relations, explaining how social media greatly influences today’s leaders as it bridges communities of people and the values they hold dear. Social media and diplomacy are now so resolutely intertwined, there was discussion over the future relevance of ambassadors. I personally believe face-to-face interaction is, and always will be, a major factor in international relations, but I do understand and appreciate social media’s prominence in modern times. The National Security Fellows were responsible for tweeting throughout the event – reiterating what was said and giving our own opinions, as well. The fact that we were tweeting throughout the event proved the omnipresence of social media and the rapid, thorough nature of information-sharing in today’s world. This Forum served as a valuable look into how our global society is progressing, and what we may expect from ourselves in years to come.
After the Forum, we joined the rest of our National Security Fellows at the posh Williard InterContinental Hotel around lunchtime for the annual CNAS Conference. The event was packed with think tankers, professors, journalists, soldiers and students (like us)! Several speakers discussed how the United States, with its economic recession and waning political will, needs to reevaluate and reconsider its national defense strategy. Furthermore, issues such as the National Security Agency surveillance leaks, the Syrian Civil War, the pivot to Asia, and cyber security threats were mentioned, revealing a changing global atmosphere that requires more consideration by policy makers. However, the National Security Fellows weren’t simply listening to these conversations – our very own Jimmy Zhang and Tom Scott-Sharoni added to the discussion, asking the panel questions about the rise of China and other national security topics. I was impressed.
Both events were great exposures to the international affairs community in Washington. We were really able to see how thinkers contribute to American policy and governance, and it gave us something to aspire toward. Seeing such smart, competent people inspires me to be the exact same way – and I can only hope to be half as remarkable as those who have spent their entire lives learning the ways of the world, only to figure out how to make them better.
July 9, 2013 by Ariana Guy
It was our last day of classes for the W&M DC Summer Institute – but the first day we weren’t dressed in business attire! Ironically enough, the one day we were without three-piece-suits and blazers just happened to be the coldest day of May thus far. It’s the kind of thing that happens to me all of the time,but I’m not sure about the rest of the Fellows – I’d hate to think my luck was responsible…but it most likely was.
We met at the Washington office, shivering, but excited to discuss national security issues (and to attend the afternoon picnic). With the chilly weather, we weren’t certain whether there would be a picnic – but we were keeping our fingers crossed.
The last class was centered around review. Professor Floyd led a discussion where we talked about every speaker we had, every site we visited and every opinion we held about the program. It’s safe to say that the National Security Summer Institute satisfied its students. We mostly gushed about our past experiences, laughing at certain memories and recounting specific moments. It was astounding, thinking through all of the things we did in such a short period of time. I know I’ve said that in several of my blogs, but it’s true! I think Professor Floyd must have a time turner (yes, the Harry Potter reference was unavoidable).
After going over the past two weeks, our class had a conversation about U.S. primacy in today’s world: is it sustainable? Is it desirable? Every person spoke his/her opinion about the matter and it was great to hear everyone’s unique views. Some thought China didn’t stand a chance against U.S. power; others thought U.S. primacy required too much responsibility; and many viewed history to be a continuously-moving cycle, ensuring America’s eventual decline. It was quite a stimulating roundtable, and I was happy to hear Floyd say that she was “proud.”
After class, all of the Summer Institutes convened for a session on professionalism in the workplace. In preparation for our internships, this meeting provided us tips on how to dress and behave in office environments. My favorite tip was to regulate your sleep schedule. As students, we’re used to staying up late doing assignments and then crashing after class. This pattern just doesn’t cut it in the workforce: you get up early and you have to stay up. Those who don’t take the time to get enough sleep may end up dozing off on the job (gasp!) or having to drink several coffees just to get through the day. I noted this advice because I already drink one coffee a day to be productive – I didn’t want to become ninety percent caffeine this summer. Therefore, this sit-down was quite beneficial. I appreciated it.
Finally, it was time for the picnic. Despite the frigid breeze, we trudged out to the only field I’ve seen in D.C. and ate a variety of wraps, hotdogs, mini burgers, pasta salad and fruit. It was absolutely delicious. There were also several outdoor game options – but due to the cold weather, a majority of the National Security Fellows left after chowing down (much to the disappointment of the Leadership and Community Engagement Fellows).
It was a great last day. Entering into the Memorial Day weekend, we had a lot to contemplate: national security topics, our internships, and a new summer routine. From traveling in a pack, to being on our own; from having a set syllabus, to being at the mercy of our supervisors; from being in a classroom, to living an actual D.C. life, there was an obvious beginning to this ending; and I’m sure we’ll take D.C. by storm.
July 9, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Our two weeks of classes were dwindling down to two more days, and I began to realize that I wouldn’t be seeing Professor Floyd or my fellow Fellows every day anymore. Instead, I’d be at my designated internship (with Oak Ridge and Associated Universities), which probably wouldn’t consist of listening to such amazing speakers and discussing national security issues – well, maybe the latter. It was about time for change (yet again), but the week wasn’t over and Thursday was chock-full of great stuff, so I’ll stop being modillion and get on with my blog.
The first speaker of the day was Jessica Taylor from the Department of Agriculture (DOA). I was interested in seeing how she would link agriculture to national security because I understood that food can help or hurt the wellbeing of a population – which is important for a country’s stability, and thus, national security; but there are other components to ensuring food safety. We, as Americans, have much confidence in the food that we consume, and with the exception of calorie counting or allergy checks, it’s rare for us to question its quality or contents. Some may think that’s unfortunate, but I view it as a sign that protective food agencies like the DOA are doing their job. Taylor explained the phenomena of “agro terrorism”, where terrorists target food – making it extremely important that the DOA help protect our farms (which usually don’t have the best security). The DOA also handles nutrition assistance programs that are part of international aid, but has to ensure that these contributions aren’t being directed toward terrorist organizations within developing countries. Evidently, the DOA has a lot to do with national security; and it was a joy to hear from Taylor – a W&M alum who has a personality as fascinating as her past (which includes Secret Service training in the intelligence field)!
Our next speaker, David Solimini – from the Truman National Security Project – was no less fascinating, as he engaged us in a discussion concerning nuclear weapons, China, cyber-security, and the different schools of international relations theory. This was much like an overview – a broad review of everything we had been learning for the past two weeks (and for some of us, the past couple of semesters). It was interesting to hear Solimini’s views on the current world order – and his opinions on what steps the U.S. should take in dealing with terrorist organizations and transnational crime (both being quite slippery slopes). From our talk, I’ve learned that the U.S. has a demanding future in front of it; but we’ve had demanding times in the past, and with proper critical thinking skills, this country can get through anything.
Next on the agenda was a visit to National Public Radio (NPR). Located in the coolest, most modern building you can imagine, NPR was definitely a departure from the more formal, somewhat stuffy environments of governmental sites. As we snacked on free cookies, NPR journalists, Bruce Auster, Tom Gjelten, and Larry Abramson, discussed the ins-and-outs of being a journalist in today’s world. The government has certainly cracked down on intelligence-sharing, and government employees are discouraged from speaking with the press, making the search for information highly difficult. In addition to the scarcity of sources, journalists are also under constant pressure to be the first in getting the public its news – creating a stressful and competitive environment for those involved. However, NPR is both credible and distinguished, and everyone who worked there seemed honored and beyond-happy to be part of it. We all felt the same way, and some Fellows were inspired to describe their favorite aspects of NPR twitter-style:
- The surprising casualness versus other offices – people having decorated offices, comfortable clothes…I heard someone yell at one point – “Yo, look at this Tumblr!” It was like heaven #NPR
- Super sweet sound technology in the studios was awesome to see #NPR
- Gotta love surround sound safari music in the recording studios! #NPR
- Interesting in-depth explanations of how journalists protect sources and deal with classified government information that the public needs to know #NPR
- COOKIES!! Just kidding. The open office environment clearly fostered a creative and fast-paced work environment #NPR
- Rock’em-Sock’em Robots! #NPR
- Whiteboard walls were nice. Maybe these should be put in the dorms #NPR
July 2, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of Anne and Yochi Dreazen provided by: Wes Reichart
May 22, 2013
On Wednesday, the National Security fellows had the great pleasure of hearing from Mrs. Anne Dreazen and her husband, Mr. Yochi Dreazen. Anne currently serves as a Middle East Country Director in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Mr. Dreazen is a widely-acclaimed journalist, who was the National Journal’s Senior Correspondent for military affairs and national security in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Dreazens provided students with a wonderful inside look into the ground-level operations of the post 9-11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their differing perspectives provided a great dichotomy regarding the success of the U.S. surge in Iraq.
Anne views the surge as considerably successful in changing the level of violence on the ground. However, Yochi argued that the surge failed largely in its efforts to reconcile the government and provide stability. Although he acknowledges that lives were certainly saved, he views this “second part of the mission” as a reason to largely dismiss the success of the Iraq conflict surge. As the discussion with students continued, Anne and Yochi offered a wide variety of views on possible security concerns, tactics, policy, and strategy in the Middle East. Their expertise and varying perspectives provided for very engaging interactions.
After the Dreazens, we heard from W. Bonds Wells, Jr., who works for the intelligence component of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). We discussed how drugs can pose serious threats to national security and the lack of communication between different aspects of the intelligence community. With the recent focus on counterterrorism, it was interesting to hear how controlled substances can really harm the citizens and overall stability of a country. We also heard from two intelligence analysts (one from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the other from the National Center for Counterterrorism). It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – engaging with the very people who know the unknown…incredible.
June 27, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of Michael Greenwald visit provided by Clayton Southerly
May 21, 2013
Tuesday morning the William & Mary National Security Institute rallied at Dupont Circle for a discussion with Michael Greenwald, the policy advisor on Europe for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Treasury Department. Greenwald serves as the head of the U.S. delegation to the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) working closely with the Council of Europe.
In this role, Greenwald’s office is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to use financial sanctions and authorities to combat threats to U.S. national security, and for initiatives to safeguard the U.S. financial system from a range of illicit finance threats. Before his position at Treasury, Greenwald worked in several arms of the U.S. government on a range of national security issues and served with the Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan (PPP) to help the United States’ mission to strengthen the rule of law in Afghanistan. Greenwald’s visit highlighted the economic side of the International Relations discipline, in an otherwise security-heavy course, which was quite interesting.
After our discussion with Greenwald, we hurried over to the heavily-fortified Pentagon (seriously, you have to go through two layers of security checks). Our host was Colonel Shumake, the legal advisor to the Army Inspector General; he led us through the gray maze that is the Pentagon. We ended up in a rather luxurious conference room with a handsome, elongated table surrounded by plush, leather chairs; which made us feel like celebrities (or, better yet, national security experts).
COL Shumake explained how he utilizes his law background to ensure the Inspector General, and employees of the Pentagon, adhere to the rules and avoid any illegal behavior overseas or within the command of duty. Joining Shumake were: Bess Dopkeen, Program Analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Mark Ribbing, Senior Communications Advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Jim Mitre, Strategic Defense Analyst; David Radcliffe, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and Joshua Marcuse, Senior Advisor for Leadership and Organizational Development in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
Amongst such distinguished individuals, we discussed defense budget cuts, national security threats, missile defense, and a host of other topics. After our conversation, COL Shumake gave us a mini-tour, letting us see more of the Pentagon – including a beautiful courtyard located in the very middle of the building. Interestingly enough, the Pentagon holds countless stores, restaurants and service jobs, rending it unnecessary to leave the building for weeks, maybe even years, or longer…
Leaving the Pentagon, we returned to the W&M office to hear from Peter Apps, a political risk correspondent for Reuters, who has spent time in India and Africa; he gave us remarkable perspective on U.S. counterinsurgency efforts, as well as the differences (and similarities) between American and British governmental systems. Apps was also incredibly witty, which brought smiles to our faces – even as we discussed some pretty serious subjects.
It was obviously a long day, filled with numerous speakers and places, but it was the good kind of “full.” We learned a lot, and had fun doing it – a common theme, it seems, for this summer.
June 14, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Accounts of Statecraft provided by guest bloggers: Kelsey Sakumoto and Tom Scott-Sharoni
May 20, 2013
I look upon Monday, May 20, 2013 as a day of expectation, disappointment, trust and betrayal. This was a day that brought some National Security Fellows closer; yet tore countless friendships apart. It was a pivotal day.
Okay, so enough with the dramatics – this is what happened: the National Security Institute participated in Statecraft, an online simulation of international politics. It normally runs for seven to eight weeks, but our class got to test the brand new Statecraft Live, which runs the whole simulation in one day. We were split into “countries” and then given the monumental task of developing our militaries, negotiating foreign policy and improving the economy – all while pleasing our various domestic populations. There were six countries: NoVA, Canadia, the Kingdom of Alistar, Disneyworld, People’s Republic of the Cape, and N.K.A.C. (an acronym whose meaning was never made clear to me). Everything was great at first, with the trading and the United Nations meetings; but circumstances turned sour in no time at all.
We discovered how detrimental the lack of transparency truly is, as nations refused to trust one another, and all started moving towards a nuclear arms race. The day culminated with Canadia forcefully overtaking a neutral territory, high in resources, sparking unity amongst all other nations with plans for nuclear war. Of course, that’s when our class time ended, so we didn’t go any further than that (no war stories here, folks) – but we all ended the day with fond memories and the realization of how real international theories can be.
It was such a valuable experience, being in the position of an actual leader, with actual consequences. It was also beneficial to distinguish the diplomats from the war hawks – a distinction that will haunt classmates for years to come, as I refuse to let Canadia forget their destructive behavior!
Okay, now I’m officially done with the dramatics.
June 13, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of Sherman Patrick Provided by Guest Blogger: Sam Glover
Following Account of Stacie Oliver Provided by Guest Blogger: Evan Meltzer
Following Account of Melanie Nakagawa Provided by Guest Blogger: Jimmy Zhang
Following Account of NCTC Provided by Guest Blogger: Ryan Neuhard
May 17, 2013
Friday morning, the National Security Fellows visited the U.S. Capitol for a lesson in good, old-fashioned politics. We convened in the historic chamber of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where we were welcomed by Mrs. Meg Murphy who works in the Capitol and knows absolutely everything about Capitol Hill operations. In fact, she pointed out how we were sitting in seats that were once assigned to both Barack Obama and Joe Biden (in addition to other senators – former and current). She also let us in on some fun facts concerning the decor and senators’ favorite snacks. After Mrs. Murphy, we talked with Democratic staffer Sherman Patrick of Senator Chris Coon’s staff.
Sherman, a William & Mary grad, spoke to the Fellows about his role in working for the committee as well as his personal viewpoints and frustrations. On a daily basis, Sherman collects information to assist Senator Coons in his policy making. He regrets the current partisan divide on foreign policy and explained how the press has the potential to make senators say different things, as everyone wants a good camera angle when it comes to an important hearing. Ultimately, Sherman thinks that Congress needs better vision and a reevaluation of its priorities to be most efficient.
Stacie Oliver, the national security policy adviser to Republican Senator Bob Corker, spoke with us next. One of the interesting points she discussed was the importance of military equipment sales to foreign governments. In selling armaments, the United States maintains pressure points on other countries, inspiring international change. She also noted Congress’ increase in polarization following the 2006 midterm elections, which makes creating bipartisan solutions to foreign policy issues difficult. I particularly liked how Oliver found her degree in Education quite beneficial, as creating order in a classroom of young children takes the same tactical expertise as keeping the attention of government officials in a briefing.
Lastly, we met with Melanie Nakagawa on a visit to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Nakagawa was a senior staffer on the committee for many years, specializing in environmental security and clean technology advocacy, until she was recently selected by Secretary John Kerry to join the policy planning staff at the State Department. According to Melanie, it is vital for the international community to cooperate and promote access to water in regions of Africa and the Middle East. Difficulty or inability to access water resources increases the probability of regional conflicts, or different political groups fighting to gain control of these resources.
In sum, during our visit to the committee, we were able to appreciate the role of the legislature in coordinating foreign policy, and the importance of bipartisan cooperation in addressing national security challenges domestically and abroad. Furthermore, Mrs. Murphy, the woman who welcomed us to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee room, is also mother to our TA, Kathleen Murphy. D.C. strikes again! I swear the connections here are never ending.
We then drove to the discretely placed, unmarked, security-laden facility that houses the National Counterterrorism Center (N.C.T.C.). We had the opportunity to speak with several counterterrorism specialists and tour some of the building. It was indescribably cool. After leaving N.C.T.C., we proceeded to board the bus back home – but not without experiencing the infamous and ever-present D.C. traffic! Nonetheless, we made it to the Buchanan Apartments (or to our respective metro stops) in due time, excited for a weekend of rest and…rest.
May 22, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of LTC Murphy provided by Guest Blogger: Nicole Wright
Following Account of Douglas Farah provided by Guest Blogger: Ben Kenzer
Following Account of British Embassy site visit provided by Guest Blogger: Alexandria Foster
May 16, 2013
On Thursday morning, the National Security Institute welcomed Lieutenant Colonel Michael Murphy. He spoke personally (not on behalf of the Department of Defense) about his unique experiences in Afghanistan, walking us through some of the challenges facing counterinsurgency efforts – including the massive amounts of corruption within the Afghani government, leading to a disconnect between the administration and the people. He emphasized that the Afghani government must defeat terrorist insurgencies by building trust amongst its citizens; and the United States forces should act more as advisors, rather than facilitators, to enhance Afghanistan’s independence.
LTC Murphy was also adamant that U.S. forces be culturally aware in order to be more effective counterparts. Speaking the language, being familiar with the micro-level narratives, and generally connecting with citizens were all crucial to his success in building trust between local Afghani citizens and the U.S. military. Murphy believes that if we want to combat extremist rhetoric – and thus, terrorist organizations – the U.S. armed forces must make the effort to portray themselves as a positive presence with commendable values. LTC Murphy was extremely easygoing and personable – I had no trouble imagining him on the ground in Afghanistan, conversing with the locals and building personal relations. Once again, our speaker proved that engaging in serious business does not mean you have to be an overtly-serious person: LTC Murphy cracked jokes periodically throughout the discussion and inquired about what interests us, personally. He obviously cares about understanding others in an in-depth way, making him an excellent liaison between Americans and Afghanis, as well as an outstanding lecturer.
After the Murphy lecture, we had a while before our next speaker, so we could explore the surrounding area of DuPont Circle. Professor Floyd suggested we check out Kramerbooks, an independent bookstore not too far from the William & Mary Washington Office. My roommate, Kelsey, and I decided to embark on this adventure and were very glad to have found a gem of a place – filled with every genre of book possible, with a heavy concentration in political science and history. In addition to millions of books, the store had a cute little coffee shop: a must for college kids. Although we had to get going, Kelsey and I decided we would definitely be frequenting this spot in the future.
Hurriedly returning from Kramerbooks, Kelsey and I joined a discussion with Mr. Douglas Farah, president of IBI Consulting and author of Merchant of Death – a book that discusses the shady arms dealer, Vicktor Bout, and the underground world of international arms trading. Throughout his talk, Mr. Farah kept us riveted with stories of his adventures in West Africa and Latin America, describing meetings with drug lords, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, and everyone in-between. He depicted a world in chaos, where the criminal underworld has carved out vast swaths of territory and continued U.S. apathy risks dragging the world into further violence and uncertainty. However, there is some hope: Mr. Farah implied that with a proper re-configuring of the drug war, and with new enforcement and tracking mechanisms, those who challenge U.S. interests may be defeated.
The British Embassy was up next; and strangely enough, as we were traveling via Metrobus, we ran into Peter Apps, an internationally known journalist! He was heading to a different meeting at the Embassy and had agreed to meet with us only hours before. Once again, we were shown the incredibly connective nature of Washington, D.C. – which is almost eerie…
At the Embassy, we discussed the relevance of security policies other than our own. The United Kingdom is closely allied with the United States, and this was made very evident in our visit. Both countries share many of the same interests and values, and the structure of the Embassy closely aligns with that of the United States’ embassies around the world. Though the U.K. is a small country, it seeks to “punch above its weight” in order to remain competitive in the global economy and to assert itself as a significant global power. Its national security strategy focuses on countering many of the same threats that the United States has focused on recently, including but not limited to cyber war, conventional threats, and terrorism – seeking to resolve these issues in many of the same ways.
Therefore, it was another successful, yet busy, day. It is incredible how much we’re learning and doing within such a small duration; and frankly, I have no idea how time allows for us to experience so much each day. I feel challenged, in a good way, as the end of each session brings with it a more enlightened perspective on my part. My brain is definitely getting the workout of its life; but the results will be well worth the effort.
May 22, 2013 by Ariana Guy
Following Account of Ambassador Courtney visit provided by Guest Blogger: Haley Bauser
Following Account of Hillary Waldron visit provided by Guest Blogger: Bryan Joyce
Following Account of CNAS visit provided by Guest Blogger: Darice Xue
May 15, 2013
On Wednesday, the day began at the William & Mary Washington Office, where I had the distinct honor of welcoming Ambassador Ronald Neumann: former ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria and Bahrain – now President of the American Academy of Diplomacy. He was accompanied by Ambassador Courtney, former ambassador to Georgia and the first ambassador to Kazakhstan who worked primarily with Eastern Europe and nuclear non-proliferation efforts. He and Ambassador Neumann spoke in an informal manner, often piggy-backing on the others comments, providing a more interesting and relaxed take on the real-world experience of being a diplomat.
In discussing the misconceptions about the lives of diplomats, Ambassador Courtney mentioned the fallacy of believing all important decisions are made in Washington. He stressed how diplomats still hold value because they foster relationships that cannot be built by communication through modern technology. Thick skin is also important, as everyone is simply trying to implement the policy they view as the best and disagreements are likely. Ambassador Neumann stated the significance of dedicating an equal amount of attention to various tactics of policy: whether it is military force, cultural integration, or heavy usage of diplomacy, all bases should be covered when in relations with another country.
After the ambassadors, Hillary Waldron, international defense contractor of MLM International, explained the relationship between a defense contractor and the government, as well as the regulatory systems in place to keep security in check. Whenever defense contractors are mentioned, we instantly think of shady and illicit traders like Viktor Bout placing guns in the arms of African children. In reality, they operate in a well-regulated industry and typically supply reputable nations directly.
It was great to see such a vivacious, friendly woman in the male-dominated business of selling weapons. Thanks to misleading movies and TV, I’ve come to perceive security experts as humorless men in suits who reside in dark rooms with shaky overhead light bulbs. With Mrs. Waldron, we received a lively, youthful personality who told colorful accounts of her personal experiences with foreign customers and distant lands. It was an absolute joy listening to her.
Next up was the think tank, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a centrist think tank that specializes in U.S. national security and defense policies. Dr. Patrick M. Cronin, Senior Advisor and Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program, explained how think tanks serve as a bridge between the government and its constituency. In fact, think tanks exist to fill a policy void, since policy makers often lack the incentive to stray too far from convention. Think thanks, unfettered by political concerns, are free to explore and offer their research to those willing to listen. To this end, think tanks have great opportunities to advance an issue at hand to make a difference.
Thus, the day was good. We heard from many distinguished persons and learned so much more about diplomacy, weaponry, and policy innovators. Not to mention, on our way to CNAS, I witnessed a policeman riding a beautiful chestnut horse, which really made my day. Random? I think not.