How diplomacy saves American lives
Diplomacy is not always pretty and much of the work of diplomats is misrepresented and politicized but it is absolutely essential to keep the world at peace.
Ronan Farrow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who writes for The New Yorker and makes documentaries for HBO. He has been an anchor and reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, and his writing has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
He is the winner of a 2018 George Polk Award as well as a 2018 National Magazine Award in the category of public interest. He is also an attorney and former State Department official. Ronan Farrow is the author of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.
Ronan Farrow: There’s a lot of theater to old school diplomacy. Someone like Richard Holbrook; during the Bosnia negotiations at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio he had luggage delivered (prominently) outside of the doors of the American diplomats present so that the other side would think, “Oh no! The clock is ticking, the Americans are going to pull out.” And it was a complete feint, but it worked and it got people back to the table at a tough time in the talks. And diplomacy isn’t a dovish endeavor always, and in that case this was a state department official who was fully leveraging the threat of NATO strikes and doing a lot of saber rattling, a lot of larger than life bellowing and threatening and cajoling. Diplomacy doesn’t always look pretty or neat, but it is absolutely an antidote to and an alternative to military intervention. There are some fundamental misunderstandings about what diplomats do around the world and I think that’s been exploited by politicians of both parties to characterize these brave men and women as dusty bureaucrats who don’t get a lot done. In fact these are individuals who get very little pay to uproot their families and move them around the world and work in dangerous places specifically to ensure our security as a nation. And they do everything from screening the dangerous individuals that seek to enter the United States of America to brokering the high-level political settlements that hopefully can spare our service men and women from being thrown into the line of fire as a first resort every time we encounter a conflict. One of the consequences of sidelining diplomacy is you see a lot more of the work that was once the domain of diplomats coming out of the Pentagon and the CIA. You end up with the military industrial complex taking over the work of development. I served as a state department official in Afghanistan, for instance, and in that conflict, which was a particularly militarized setting—if you wanted to do just about anything, if you wanted to start a conversation with local leaders on the ground, if you wanted to build a well, you had to do it through the Army Corps of Engineers or through the various teams around the country—they were called PRTs, these provincial reconstruction teams where the military was stationed on the ground and had access to those communities. We have created a universe in which if you try to get something done through the state department or USAID you end up with a cumbersome, lengthy process where they put out a request for applications, you wind up with a contract with a huge contractor based out of Washington DC who then subcontracts three times, and then finally brings in people from outside of Afghanistan to build a well in a spot where the ground water is salty, and no one is going to use the well. We saw these kinds of boondoggles play out over and over again, and what I take away from that is that we have eviscerated the expertise and capacity on the diplomacy and development side, and we need to fix it. Not that we need to throw this out, not that the answer is running everything through the military—which totally, appropriately has different goals, is designed to effect change on the battlefield in a short-term tactical sense. We need a separate core of experts who know the regions and know the pressure points and are specifically tasked with looking at the long-term implications years down the line. I think one of the reasons that there is so much denigration of the diplomat in our political conversation is that the results of diplomacy do require patience and can be less immediate than things going “boom.” And I say that without any aspersion casts on things going boom and the brave men and women who dodge those explosions and are in the line of fire. But we need both, and both are important kinds of public servants. And Americans, I hope when they read this book and when they look at the history of diplomatic endeavor of recent American events they see that the diplomat deserves the patience that they need to be afforded—that if you give it the time and understand that the results might look imperfect and buckle down and say, “Okay, we’re going to keep talks going no matter how tough they get,” you very often end up with results and results that can save lives.
- Diplomacy doesn't always look pretty or neat, but it is absolutely an antidote to and an alternative to military intervention.
- There are some fundamental misunderstandings about what diplomats do around the world that have been exploited by politicians of both parties.
- One of the consequences of sidelining diplomacy is you see a lot more of the work that was once the domain of diplomats coming out of the Pentagon and the CIA, with negotiations dictated by the industrial military complex.
It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.
- The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
- The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
- Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.