As a negotiator, Ross became a believer in the forces of personality and technology.
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