Tag Archives: leadership

Ambassador John E. Reinhardt, first public diplomacy leader at USIA

State Department spokesman John Kirby does daily battle with the press; it must get tiresome. So he would know a true legend in the field. This past 18 February 2016, John E. Reinhardt passed away and left a foundation for public diplomacy that should be more widely recognized:

Speaking on the impact of public diplomacy, Reinhardt once said this: “[P]ublic diplomacy as a foreign affairs endeavor has never been recognized as much as now in its great importance.” Time has not changed that perspective. In fact, perhaps, it has only become truer. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, where regional issues quickly transform into global challenges, the value of public diplomacy has never been greater.

via DipNote, Remembering John Reinhardt: A Pioneer in Public Diplomacy

In the NYT, Reinhardt’s obit explained his approach to organizational leadership at USIA:

“He was the real thing, a genuine, practicing cultural diplomat,” Richard T. Arndt, another envoy, wrote in 2005 in his book “The First Resort of Kings.” …

Renamed the United States International Communication Agency and encompassing Voice of America broadcasts and cultural exchanges, the agency under Dr. Reinhardt expanded its agenda to include “speakers sent abroad, seminars held abroad, visitors brought to this country,” he said then.“

Our activities and programs as a whole,” Dr. Reinhardt added, “should be designed to learn as well as to inform, and to inform as well as to learn.”

Source: John E. Reinhardt, Ambassador and Head of U.S. Information Agency, Dies at 95 – The New York Times

Read the full transcript of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training oral history project interview with Ambassador Reinhardt from March 2002 to get the measure of a remarkable contribution to U.S. diplomacy.

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In Putin we trust? Syrian Solutions.

What did we learn about the Russian leader called “the man without a face” by Masha Gessen this week in Charlie Rose’s interview? (Republican candidate Marco Rubio has already drawn his conclusions.)

First, from a stylistic approach–what’s with al the fawning? Aren’t journalists–especially experienced, successful, and respected ones like Rose—supposed to be able to stand up to power and to elicit truth? The interview seemed to be a dinner party chat rather than a journalistic exchange.

Next, we hear the Russian point of view on concerns about terrorists currently fighting in Syria that potentially return home to foster mischief (or worse). After two interactions at the UN between Putin and Obama we see little agreement.

On a strategic level, how can the U.S. hope to defeat ISIL and to remove Assad from power? Vali Nasr explains why Vladimir Putin is the solution to the Syrian Civil War.

The United States has from the outset been reluctant to get involved in the Syrian debacle. Its support for opposition to Assad has been ineffective and so have its attempts at finding a diplomatic solution. By contrast, or perhaps as a consequence, there is now recognition across the board that Russia is central to an end game in Syria.

Source: Putin: Syria’s Only Hope – POLITICO Magazine

For a contrarian view, Fred Kaplan sees weakness–not grandmaster chess moves–occurring in Russia’s repositioning forces in Syria.

In the past decade, Russia has lost erstwhile footholds in Libya and Iraq, failed in its attempt to regain Egypt as an ally after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and would have lost Syria as well except for its supply of arms and advisers to Assad—whom it still may lose, despite its desperate measures.

The portrayal of Vladimir Putin as a grand chess master, shrewdly rebuilding the Russian empire through strength and wiles, is laughable. Syria is just one of two countries outside the former Soviet Union where Russia has a military base (the other being Vietnam, and its naval facility there, at Cam Ranh Bay, has shrunk considerably). His annexation of Crimea has proved a financial drain. His incursion into eastern Ukraine (where many ethnic Russians would welcome re-absorption into the Motherland) has stalled after a thin slice was taken at the cost of 3,000 soldiers. His plan for a Eurasian Economic Union, to counter the influence of the west’s European Union, has failed to materialize. His energy deal with China, designed to counter the west’s sanctions against Russian companies, has collapsed.

Source: Slate – Desperate in Damascus

Regardless what is really happening, Syria gives Putin a distraction from the situation in Ukraine.

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The New Berggruen Institute Builds Bridges

Ideas matter, and philosophy, too–according to the new Santa Monica, California-based think tank. Using the expected tools of “prizes” and contests the Berggruen Institute plans to do something novel. Employ the power of philosophy to promote cross-cultural understanding.

You could say that they are taking the long view.

In November 2013, the council held a meeting with the senior leadership of China, including President Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi, Mr. Berggruen recalled, began the meeting by citing China’s 5,000-year-old culture.“He started the whole discussion not with short-term political or policy issues,” Mr. Berggruen said, “but by sort of saying: ‘Listen, before we have a relationship, you have to understand who we are. We have to start with understanding and respect for very different views of the world.’ ”Bridging conflicting views, Mr. Berggruen said, is at the core of the center’s mission. “We want to find solutions, not just underline differences,” he said. “We want to come up with new ideas.”

Source: Nicolas Berggruen Wants to Bridge the East-West Gap – The New York Times

Notable names who have lined up to be a part of this include Jared Cohen, Amy Gutman, Mohamad A. El-Erian, Daniel Bell, Juan Luis Cebrian, Ernesto Zedillo, and Arianna Huffington.


Kissinger the Freedom Fighter – WSJ

A new book by Nial Ferguson makes that case that Kissinger was an “idealist”, of sorts. Is his book, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, credible?

As Kissinger observed, there was something unforgivable about the way the “protest movements [had] made heroes of leaders in repressive new countries,” oblivious to “the absurdity of founding a claim for freedom on protagonists of the totalitarian state—such as Guevara or Ho or Mao.” The student radicals failed to see that they were living through a fundamental transformation of the postwar international order. “The age of the superpowers,” Kissinger announced, “is drawing to an end.”

Source: Kissinger the Freedom Fighter – WSJ

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WWHD = What Would Holbrook Do?

We still look for leadership when major security crises beg for diplomatic prowess–and Richard Holbrooke cannot be forgotten. Stephen Sestanovich suggests the following lessons:

  1. America should never be on the sidelines
  2. Paint a big canvas
  3. Dont’ shy away from nation-building
  4. Diplomacy reflects facts on the ground — change them if you have to
  5. Muscle your friends as well as your enemies
  6. You get one bite at the apple — so take a big one

How do you deal with difficult people–even the “devil“?  Holbrook was especially good at this conundrum, as noted in no. 5:

The Clinton administration’s star negotiator knew that getting to yes involved a lot of cajolery, a lot of charm—and a lot of confrontation. He could be shameless when it came to buddying up to the bad guys. His principle seemed to be that there was nobody you couldn’t do a deal with, and he included criminals like Slobodan Milosevic. The good guys were surprised by how rough he was prepared to be with them. The Dayton peace talks ended well because Holbrooke gave the Bosnian Muslims an ultimatum: If you don’t sign the agreement in one hour, we close the talks down for good. His handling of the Pakistanis was equally unsentimental. An aide compared his treatment of difficult allies to therapy for psychologically abused children: “You don’t focus on the screaming and the violence—you just hug them tighter.”

via What Would Richard Holbrooke Do? – Stephen Sestanovich – POLITICO Magazine.

Read more from Sestanovich–who is the main speaker in today’s Kennedy Center CFR Conference Call on US foreign policy:

  1. Stephen Sestanovich, “Maximalist,” Alfred A. Knopf, February 2014.
  2. Stephen Sestanovich, “The Price of Pulling Back From the World,” New York Times, February 9, 2014.
  3. Stephen Sestanovich, “What Would Richard Holbrooke Do?” Politico, December 9, 2013.
  4. Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2013.
  5. Barry R. Posen, “Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2013.


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Booklist | ‘Wilson,’ by A. Scott Berg

An idealist whose vision of a “League of Nations” failed in the Senate–Woodrow Wilson proved to be a canny politician in a fascinating time.

Despite these tendencies, he managed much of the war effort brilliantly, delivering a surprisingly effective army of more than two million men to France by the end of 1918. The United States stumbled onto the world stage a full-blown colossus, turning overnight from the world’s largest debtor nation to practically its sole creditor. Arriving in Europe to negotiate the peace, Wilson was greeted with an ecstasy no American president had ever matched, hailed as the savior of mankind.

via ‘Wilson,’ by A. Scott Berg – NYTimes.com.

In this NPR article the author reveals his access to new Wilson papers–and explores the changing role of the U.S. president, the monumental decision to enter WWI, as well as his vision for global governance:

“The vision was, and still is, a mighty one, I think, which is that there ought to be an almost Arthurian Round Table. There should be a kind of international parliament at which every country could sit. And, in fact, if there’s some problem breaking out somewhere in the world, they could discuss it pre-emptively, and everyone would agree not to go to war until it has been discussed. And if the discussions did not work, there would be a notion of collective security. That is to say, they would all contribute to a kind of army that would, in essence, police the world when necessary. And this was a real idealistic vision, no question about it.”

Update:  After a fireside chat on the book Maureen Dowd writes about his mastery of Congressional relations, dating habits, racism and other foibles of his times.

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Diplomats Have Been Dropping Their Pens and Waving Guns – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

In this discussion, “Foggy Bottom and the Fog of War” several observers explore what is gained or lost when the secretary of defense takes a back seat to the secretary of state in pursuing military interventions.

  • Should we follow Samantha Power’s lead and “weaponize human rights?”
  • Do career incentives for the use of force skew Washington policy for the worse?
  • Did Presidential dysfunction, resulting in the marginalization of Sec State Colin Powell undermine the Powell Doctrine–limiting the use of force except for in extraordinary circumstances–as Christopher O’Sullivan notes?
  • Is the State Department as an institution incapable of designing, owning, and implementing strategic? Should we have a stronger, better developed diplomatic core, as Kori Schake suggests?
  • Do you agree that Vietnam is the “anti-diplomacy” example, where DOD tried (and failed) to be diplomats, under Robert S. McNamara’s leadership.  (This notion is illustrated in the brilliant doc, The Fog of War.)
  • via Diplomats Have Been Dropping Their Pens and Waving Guns – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.
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Would Machiavelli Have Drawn a Red Line? – By Rosa Brooks | Foreign Policy

Not hard to see why this is trending on foreignpolicy.com–a contemporary discussion on the master political tactician, applied to U.S. diplomacy.

Somewhere along the line, this seems to have changed. Today, many of our senior-most diplomats (and I include the president in that general category) seem to substitute shrillness for suavity, hectoring intransigence for erudition, and prissy pomposity for persuasion.

The examples are too numerous to cite, but take that peculiarly popular word “unacceptable” (as in, “That is unacceptable to the United States”). The number of things the United States finds “unacceptable” is equaled only by the number of things it “will not tolerate.” And that is to say nothing of the multitude of “red lines” and “lines in the sand” that U.S. officials draw on a regular basis.

via Would Machiavelli Have Drawn a Red Line? – By Rosa Brooks | Foreign Policy.


For Buffett, the Long Run Still Trumps the Quick Return – NYTimes.com

He is the master of his domain–and he doesn’t like the short term (or shorting) that he sees in trading today.

Mr. Buffett, 82, is famous for investing in companies that he sees as solid operations and essential to the economy, like railroads, utilities and financial companies, and holds his stakes for the long run. The argument that the markets are better off today because of the enormous amount of liquidity in the stock market, a function of quick flipping and electronic trading, is a fallacy, he said.

“You can’t buy 10 percent of the farmland in Nebraska in three years if you set out to do it,” he said. Yet, he pointed out, he was able to buy the equivalent of 10 percent of I.B.M. in six to eight months as a result of the market’s liquidity. “The idea that people look at their holdings in such a way that that kind of volume exists means that to a great extent, it’s a casino game,” he said. Of course, unlike many investors, he plans to hold his stake in I.B.M. for years.

via For Buffett, the Long Run Still Trumps the Quick Return – NYTimes.com.


My Secretary of State – NYTimes.com

Forget about Benghazi for now.  What is the key objective that the next US Sec State, our diplomat-in-chief, needs to accomplish?  Thomas Friedman presses the case for an educator and for moving Arne Duncan over from Dept of Ed:

Let’s start with the obvious. A big part of the job is negotiating. Well, anyone who has negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union, as Duncan did when he was superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools before going to Washington, would find negotiating with the Russians and Chinese a day at the beach. A big part of being secretary of education (and secretary of state) is getting allies and adversaries to agree on things they normally wouldn’t — and making them think that it was all their idea. Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.

A big part of the job of secretary of state is also finding common ground between multiple constituencies: Congress, foreign countries, big business, the White House, the Pentagon and the diplomats. The same is true for a school superintendent, but the constituencies between which they have to forge common ground are so much more intimidating: They’re called “parents,” “teachers,” “students” and “school boards.”

There is a deeper point here: The biggest issue in the world today is growth, and, in this information age, improving educational outcomes for more young people is now the most important lever for increasing economic growth and narrowing income inequality. In other words, education is now the key to sustainable power. To have a secretary of state who is one of the world’s leading authorities on education, well, everyone would want to talk to him. For instance, it would be very helpful to have a secretary of state who can start a negotiating session with Hamas leaders (if we ever talk with them) by asking: “Do you know how far behind your kids are?” That might actually work better than: “Why don’t you recognize Israel?”

via My Secretary of State – NYTimes.com.

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