Who are we?
Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and is currently a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (that includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ambassador Dennis Ross is The Washington Institute's counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow. For more than twelve years, Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; he also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.
A scholar and diplomat with more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ambassador Ross worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. Prior to his service as special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton, Ambassador Ross served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. In that capacity, he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the 1991 Gulf War coalition. During the Reagan administration, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Ambassador Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton, and Secretaries Baker and Albright presented him with the State Department's highest award.
Question: What forces have shaped humanity most?
Dennis Ross: You know I have to tell you that when I was an academic, I was a big believer in the forces of history. You know nothing happens . . . It’s just these larger dynamics at play. And you know you’re at a certain stage of development. That explains why certain things are possible and not possible. And I must say after I began working and actually trying to negotiate, I became a much bigger believer that it’s the forces of personality much more than the forces of history. When you have strong leaders emerge who are driven by a sense that they’re prepared to achieve big things, or solve conflicts, that changes what’s possible at any given moment.
Sure there are dynamics created by technology. No doubt about that. The world is different today than it was. And we have instant communication, so we’re in a world that is much more connected than it ever was before. And yet, you know, we also see very traditional kinds of conflicts that take place in this globalized world. You look at a place in the Middle East, and we see the most modern of all places in terms of, you know, the instant communication and transmission of money for investment. And we see people who wanna be building everywhere. And we see people who wanna tear down everywhere. So these larger forces are affected by changes in technology; but they’re also affected by individuals and leaders who are prepared in a sense to take the cudgels and try to transform reality as we know it.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007
As a negotiator, Ross became a believer in the forces of personality and technology.
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