JOEL ROSENTHAL: Good evening. I'm Joel Rosenthal, President of the Carnegie Council. I'm delighted to welcome you to our conversation this evening with Ambassador Richard Solomon.
This is a very special event. Like our children, all our events are special, as Garrison Keillor would say. All are above average and each is special in its own way.
This evening's program is made possible by our New Leaders Program of the Carnegie Council. So thank you to all of our new leaders who are injecting new life and energy into our work, especially Anika Binnendijk, who is not here this evening but who helped to arrange Ambassador Solomon's visit, and to Derek Berlin, who is here—thank you for your leadership of the New Leaders Program. That gives an added burden to you and opportunity.
It warms my heart really to see new leaders at the Carnegie Council, young professionals who are taking an active interest in the life of this Council and its future.
It's also a special occasion to be welcoming the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace here to the Carnegie Council. The Institute is an institution that shares with the Council the mission of education for peace and the promotion of the peaceful resolution of conflict.
As we all know, the 20th century was the most brutal in human history. It gave us three world wars, counting the Cold War; the genocides of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao; ethnic cleansings in various forms; and all manner of brutal humanitarian disaster. And even the high point, the end of the so-called "good" war, World War II, ended with a catastrophic exclamation point, the use of the atomic bomb and the beginning of a nuclear arms race that would reach its climax with the adoption of the MAD doctrine, mutual assured destruction.
Yet the 20th century also gave us our first government institution devoted to peace, the U.S. Institute of Peace, led by our guest this evening. The task of promoting peace in a world defined by war may be overwhelming in scope, but its magnitude only confirms its importance. It is remarkable and noteworthy that for all of our country's necessary emphasis on war and defense, and all of the big budgets and big buildings and big weapons that go along with it, we now have an Institute of Peace to stand alongside our unmatched military strength.
First opened for activity in 1986, the Institute has become an important voice for ethics in U.S. foreign policy. Under the leadership of Dr. Solomon since 1993, the Institute has grown in size and influence.
This growth is symbolized by the beautiful new building that is being constructed right now on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Just prior to the event this evening, I went on to the USIP web site. You'll find on there an eight-minute video of the groundbreaking. It was inspiring to see it. I would recommend that to you.
In the new building, in close proximity to the Lincoln Memorial and to the sacred space of the memorials to veterans of Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, scholars, military professionals, political and community leaders will be working in new offices and meeting spaces of the Institute to explore ways to promote peace.
As Isaiah Berlin might say, quoting Immanuel Kant, out of the crooked timber of humanity the scholars and participants in the life of the Institute will use their minds to reflect on our national experience and fashion ways to a better, more peaceful future, if not perpetual peace itself.
It is heartening to know that this effort is being led by such an accomplished American diplomat and scholar who has devoted his life to public service and the power of ideas. You will see a list of Dr. Solomon's specific assignments and accomplishments in our handout. As you will see, he has held high government positions in both the National Security Council and the Department of State. So he speaks to us as someone who has firsthand experience working on the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.
Our topic this evening is a challenging one, and those of you who know the Carnegie Council know we only ask and answer the hard questions. The title is "Ethical Dilemmas in the Promotion of U.S. Human Rights Values."
As we know, ethics is frequently about making hard choices about competing claims. So I'm delighted that we have such wise counsel to help us think through some of the dilemmas and choices we have in front of us when it comes to human rights policy.
Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Ambassador Richard Solomon.
RICHARD SOLOMON: Thank you.
Let me just begin by saying that I'm here under some false anticipations. When Anika Binnendijk called me up and invited me to come up, I heard something about young leaders. And then, when I saw the publication of this, it was "new leaders." When I saw the invitation list, it was mature leaders. I see numbers of old friends and colleagues, mature friends and colleagues, in the room.
I hope I'm not going to disappoint our young leaders, much less our more mature leaders, with my remarks. These are remarks. This is not a formal presentation. Joel, your very nice introduction really set the path for a number of the points that I want to explore.
They begin with picking up on your observations about the remarkable and terrible history that was the 20th century. I really want to address my remarks to folks in the audience who are beginning, or in a stage of their career when they are looking for big issues to grab hold of, because we are today at one of the most interesting breakpoints in history that I think anyone who looks at history would say is truly remarkable.
I think we know the elements of what has changed dramatically in the last decade or two. We are in a time where the great confrontations between the nation-states has been replaced by a period where intrastate conflicts seem to predominate, where the United Nations and other international organizations are proving to be very difficult vehicles for dealing with some of the great challenges of our time, whether it's nuclear proliferation or dealing with the genocide in Darfur.
We can run through those issues: How do we strengthen weak and failing states that are being co-opted by bad actors who have a destructive agenda, the impact of economic globalization that is now roiling markets around the world, health pandemics, climate change, energy and water security? We have a totally different agenda than was the case not just a generation ago, but one could say even a decade ago.
Now, when I look back on this period and see it as a breakpoint, I relate it to my own experience. I have lived through three disjunctures in history, as some of the people in the room have. I do have a little more grey hair than some of you.
I was born the month before Japan invaded China in 1937. Virtually overnight, this country went from an isolationist posture into World War II, a major industrialized war—what we would perhaps refer to now as a conventional war. We had a very clear goal of unconditional surrender and fought for what now seems, given our experiences in Vietnam or now in the Middle East, a fairly short, four-year but very intense war that, as you commented, produced some very daunting outcomes, not the least of which was the development of nuclear weapons. But it was a war, of course, that targeted for the first time on a massive scale civilian populations, whether they were industrial work forces or the genocide of the Nazis. But, in contrast to the next two points I'll make, this was virtually an overnight transformation.
Then there was the Cold War. What is interesting, in contrast, is it took us over 15 years to figure out how to deal with the challenge of the Soviet Union, beginning let's say with the subversion of Czechoslovakia, then went through the Korean War, the Sputnik event, and then culminating in the Cuban missile crisis. We faced still a nation-state confrontation. It was a context in which we built a great international coalition and developed finally, over that decade and a half, policies that enabled both the international and domestic support to see us through the Cold War. That is the policies of deterrence and containment.
The third breakpoint, which really is a breakpoint—and I have commented on some of the major changes—we could say was 9/11. One of the things of the many that came out of 9/11 was the breakdown of the notion of deterrence. You can deter a nation-state, for all the reasons we could elaborate, but what do you do with suicide bombers? And of course, the great worry now, with the apparent breakdown of controls over the diffusion of nuclear weapons and related technologies, how do you deter people who are willing to go heaven in a great explosion? The challenge of keeping this weaponry out of their hands is a fundamental challenge to the international system. Of course, we're all focused on it just in the last day or two, given what was going on with North Korea.
So today it is not nation-states but super- or sub-national organizations, those driven by religious motivation, but also something that we hadn't really faced before in quite the way that we see it today, and that is the challenge of dealing with hostile mass publics. It is no accident that Osama bin Laden is still at large, protected by a population that identifies with him. We can look at all of the public opinion evidence that the United States does face tremendous public hostility on a broad front that, for example, makes it very difficult for leaders that we would like to work with in Egypt, in Jordan, in other Middle East countries, who do not have the public base of support to make peace.
We know there has been an evident failure of our so-called public diplomacy efforts. We can't seem to communicate with these mass publics. The bad guys, again, gain financial and political support, recruits, through this element in their political operations.
But beyond that this is where the international legal regimes that we lived with and the world lived with for several centuries now are breaking down. I guess if there is any final message I would leave, it is that I hope there are some young people in the room who want to pick up—is there a Hugo Grotius in this audience?—because we do need a new look, a recalibration of the laws of war and peace.
How do we deal with non-uniformed combatants? How do we deal with warfare that hides among this hostile mass public and tries to protect itself and is willing to incur casualties on civilians on that basis? How do we deal with the growing access to high-technology systems that enabled 9/11 to incur?
It's not just the unanticipated use of suicide plane drivers, but the use of the Internet. When I first came to the Institute, the Internet was just beginning. We thought it was a terrific vehicle for knitting together people in, for example, peace operations that weren't used to working together.
General Zinni called me in 1994 and he said, "Look, I've got these Marines who are trained as war fighters, but the Clinton Administration is sending them off on peacekeeping missions. I need to retrain them." "They need," said Zinni, "to work with the civilian NGOs, the humanitarian assistance organizations, and they don't want to work together, very different professional cultures and concerns about their different ways of dealing with the world."
We thought the Internet was a terrific vehicle for enabling these communities to talk to one another. It is, and it was a vehicle that did develop. But what we've discovered is the bad guys have learned to use the Internet for their malevolent purposes. Like almost any technology, it cuts both ways. How can we deal with these new technologies in a way that doesn't emphasize the destructive element?
The globalized economy again, putting us against other cultures with very different values. I think just a recent example was the sentencing of the soldier, Mr. Green, who had raped and shot to death a young girl in Iraq and her whole family, to life imprisonment without parole. The Iraqis couldn't believe it. In their value system, this man deserved to be hung.
We are dealing with issues where fundamental values are put on the line every day virtually by our dealing with the world. So we are in a period where, for legal and ethical reasons, we have to learn to adapt to this very different set of challenges. Let me just tick off a couple.
On the issue of dealing with weapons of mass destruction, one of the issues that the Bush Administration raised, and unfortunately our public debate has not handled well, is the issue of prevention versus preemption. Now, I'm not an international lawyer, but my understanding is that there is good legal grounds for saying that preemption is legit when you see the adversary geared up, ready to hit you, he's got his arm cocked and his weapon in his hand, that it is fair enough to hit first to defend yourself. But when you are dealing with an adversary that is not overt, that has enormous destructive power, can you afford to wait around? Our public debate has not clarified that distinction, and it really does need to be looked at, given the character of destructiveness of modern weaponry.
Intelligence: The two organizations that are struggling in our own country to adapt to this new international environment out in front are our military and the intelligence community. And again, we read in the paper every day—it's defined in terms of torture, but the issue is, again given the diffusion of this weaponry, you better know what is going on out there.
How do you make the world more transparent? One of the unfortunate things, having come out of an academic analytical background, is that so-called open intelligence, open information, really can tell you a great deal. If you listen to the CNN reports about North Korea, a very mysterious, isolated country, in fact you can tell an awful lot about what is going on there from reading their press. People do come out. It really isn't very mysterious.
How do we make the world more transparent, dealing with the kinds of security issues that the country faces?
How do we deal with undeclared, un-uniformed combatants? Again, we know our country is trying to grapple with Guantanamo, with the issue of the recidivism of some of the people who were let go. Now we have this almost embarrassing domestic issue of "not in my backyard" as they try to find ways of placing some of these detainees.
So our country—and, indeed, the world—is going through a really rending period of trying to adapt its ways of dealing with the world to these new issues.
And some remain in terms of our values. How do we deal with the fact that some of the governments that we want and for our security need to collaborate with are authoritarian, do not promote our kinds of values? Those issues, which we lived through during the Cold War period, are still very much with us. So in terms of human rights issues, we are in a time, as with our legal regime, where things have to be thought anew.
I was delighted to bump into an old colleague, John McAuliffe, who is with us today. We sparred through the effort to bring peace to Cambodia. Having been in an official position where we had to reconcile the objective of stopping the killing with the, I would say, equally important purpose of bringing the genocidal murderers, the Khmer Rouge leadership, to justice, it is a very difficult operational set of challenges.
When I first came to the Institute, I had us undertake two studies, which I am going to leave with you.
One was on the challenge of implementing human rights policy, because the tradeoff between stopping violence and bringing justice in various forms is an eternal challenge to anyone who is trying in practical terms to implement policy.
The way one of my colleagues, who some of you know, former Congressman Steve Solarz, puts it is: "In matters of values and human rights, the Ten Commandments are not the ten suggestions." So there is an absolute quality to people trying to implement policy. You can end up feeling very much on the defensive when you seem to be pursuing a policy that looks as if it isn't quite in alignment with one of the ten imperatives or, more broadly, with a sense of justice.
With the Cambodia settlement—again, John and I could have interesting exchanges—we tried to craft a policy that would both enable us to stop the fighting and bring the refugees back, and also a way of bringing the Khmer Rouge leadership to justice. A few minutes ago, John and I were noting that finally, almost 20 years after the UN-brokered Cambodia settlement, finally, over the foot dragging of the Hun Sen leadership, we are finally seeing a tribunal that is bringing at least some of the Khmer Rouge leadership to justice.
I was Assistant Secretary. I was confirmed, I think, four days after Tiananmen in 1989. So I had the joy of going up to the Hill and testifying about how to deal with a China that had just shot up its students and repressed public dissent before someone who actually has become a good friend and a supporter of the Institute, Nancy Pelosi.
We went back and forth about should we deny China MFN [most favored nation status] as a punitive measure after Tiananmen, with me making the argument: "Look, if you weaken the economic interaction and the prospects for China's development, aren't you creating a situation where human rights progress is likely to be impeded?" Obviously, that argument didn't carry the day at the time.
I must say I had to rub my hands together reading in today's paper how Nancy Pelosi is now in Beijing, has taken the human rights issue off the table in terms of what is now a different agenda, and she put collaboration with China on issues of climate change, global warming, at the top of the agenda, and, very specifically I think, told the Chinese she was not going to raise human rights issues in the provocative way she had done it some years earlier.
But again, in terms of promoting our values, when you have some horrific event like Tiananmen, the pressures to demonstrate to our domestic audience that we defend our values tends to override what would be, you might say, a more rational approach to issues.
I'll give you just another example. One of the more valuable tools in our efforts to encourage reform in the way that foreign militaries and police operate is our IMET, International Military Education and Training programs. In the cases of Indonesia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, we have cut off IMET training because the militaries in those countries were violating fundamental human rights norms.
Today, in particular in the instance of Pakistan, our military is at a tremendous disadvantage in not having had the opportunity to train with and work with the Pakistan military for at least a decade. And so a generation of officers in Pakistan does not have the human working relationships with our military. In terms of the problems we are facing trying to get that situation stable, given the challenges from al Qaeda and the Taliban, we are substantially hampered by that level of interaction.
Well, what do you trade off? Do you maintain relations with a military that is guilty of human rights violations, or do you try to maintain engagement in the efforts of hoping to initiate some reform?
So the rules of the game for international relations really require refurbishment, redoing. Again, that has been one of the areas that the Institute of Peace has focused on.
As my way of responding to some of the frustrations I've felt, our book, Implementing U.S. Human Rights Policy, does lay out a game plan that, in the absence of the very intense pressures that come after an event like Tiananmen, hopefully will make our policy more effective. That is the need to take a long-term perspective, to try to avoid situations where we engage in double-standard practices.
One of the things that was frustrating to many during the Carter Administration is we were putting much more pressure on our allies and friendly governments on their human rights performance than we were on some of the adversarial countries, creating a double-standard situation that was very frustrating.
Quiet diplomacy. How do we work with a government that wants to change? Here the Institute is about to publish an extremely interesting book, written by Richard Schifter and Anatoly Adamishin. These were two second-rank officials during the Reagan Administration who, under the leadership of the president and Secretary of State George Shultz, discovered that human rights issues suddenly were not an issue of confrontation, but where you had a reform-minded Soviet leadership that was willing to confront in a forthright way issues of abusive psychiatry, the repression of religious minorities, and a whole range of issues. Schifter and Adamishin have now written a book that will come out in another, I think, three weeks that details this dramatic transformation in the way the two countries who had been at loggerheads through the Cold War as a result of a change in leadership on the Soviet side finally faced up to these human rights issues and through diplomacy we were able to bring about very substantial change.
Now, some of the other issues that the Institute is working on I will just mention briefly:
Genocide prevention. I'm sorry David Hamburg wasn't able to make it tonight. But, as I think you know, the Carnegie Corporation—David [Speedie], I think you were involved in the really remarkable study that David ran on approaches to preventing political violence against civilians and genocides. We picked up on that and ran a commission, headed by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, that tried to operationalize a lot of those insights and created a framework by which the U.S. government hopefully would have greater early warning about plans for and the onset of efforts of deadly violence directed against civilians, and to bring to the attention, and hopefully the commitment, of the president an effort to intervene before genocide takes place. One of the ironies is, in some sense, you don't know a genocide has occurred until after either it is occurring or has occurred. Can you intervene before the violence has gotten to that point?
This gets to a longer-term purpose of the Institute. We are now developing a professional training program. One of our—we don't say it too loudly—purposes is to try to change the culture in the State Department so that at least some of the foreign service officers see themselves as conflict managers, as more inclined to look at and try to find ways of dealing with the internal conflicts that are part of the world that we now live in that can produce the horrendous violence that we see in Darfur, in the Congo, in other countries, and in that way be more proactive in dealing with this type of violence abroad.
Peter Ackerman is a very unusual man. His Ph.D. dissertation at Tufts was a study of what he called "strategic nonviolence." He did a series of about 60 case studies, beginning with Gandhi in India but running through the way that Milosevic ultimately was brought down by a nonviolent civilian movement, how to promote political change where you have oppressive authoritarian or would-be totalitarian governments.
Peter has done some remarkable, not just conceptualizing, but training, on how you try to bring about regime change by mobilizing and organizing mass publics in a positive sense.
One of the benefits of this approach, which again is much more interventionist/activist in support of political change than normally our foreign policy has encouraged, is that the outcome of these nonviolent civil resistance movements tends to be democratic governments. If you have a regime change brought about at the barrel of a gun, you are probably going to find the rulers rule with a gun. Whereas if you bring about change through mass public pressure that has been well organized, that organization will be sustained and is the basis for democratic politics. One of the things we are encouraging is training non-government civilian leaders in a number of countries to see this technique as a way of bringing pressure on repressive government.
Cross-cultural negotiating skills. One of the surprising things that I discovered some years ago is that the State Department does not train foreign service officers how to negotiate with foreign countries. They do train in how to negotiate in the interagency process to create a policy consensus.
This is an issue that I started working on when, as some of you know, I worked for Henry Kissinger for five years on the opening of China. Kissinger was shocked to discover that the Chinese weren't communist, in the sense that the way they negotiated with him wasn't his experience with the Soviet leadership. They were very Chinese.
Anyway, when I left the government I wrote a book on Chinese negotiating behavior. No one had really sat down and put it together that way. I tried to get the State Department to pick up that notion and do a series of studies. They didn't pick it up, just because they are organized to do different things.
Well, the Institute now has a dozen books—how North Korea negotiates, how the French negotiate, how the Russians negotiate. We are just about to publish a really interesting book on Iranian negotiating behavior, led by John Limbert, who was one of the hostages in Iran for 444 days. That book, I suspect, will turn out to be very useful at a time when we are trying to figure out can we use negotiations to deal with the government in Tehran.
And then, somebody asked me what my current project was. I am completing a book with a colleague, which is sort of the bookend of that series of cross-cultural negotiating behavior, which is a detailed study of American negotiating behavior. We got together about 60 foreign diplomats to tell us how we operate, because there is that old Chinese expression from Sun Tzu, "If you know your adversary and you know yourself, in a hundred battles you will be victorious." And so this is an effort to make our own people more self-aware, although I'm afraid the consumption of that book is going to be largely in foreign ministries. We're telling them how we do it. It isn't very complicated.
Let me just conclude by going back to this point about the need for our time to re-think the way, legally as well as operationally, we deal with the world.
I think one of the most promising developments that came from Kofi Annan during his tenure as UN Secretary General was the notion of the responsibility to protect (R2P). It is a notion; it isn't a law, it isn't something that thus far has been applied through the support of the P5, the UN Security Council. We know that President Bashir of Sudan was able to mobilize resistance against efforts to apply R2P in that instance. We can only hope that in the coming years that concept will acquire the force of law and the experience of practical application, because in my view it is one of the most interesting and promising efforts to break away from the constraints of the notions of sovereignty to create a more global context for the protection of human life and human rights.
Thank you again for your attention. I'll be glad to respond to any questions.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: We've lived in a nuclear age since 1945. What in your research and the research of others have you found that as a generality—and perhaps that is too simplistic—makes bad actors tick? In other words, we lived with possibly a bad actor during the Soviet Union years, you have been involved in North Korean negotiations, we have Iran in the background now. North Korea doesn't have to have a nuclear bomb in order to destroy South Korea. Seoul is ringed by nuclear plants within range of artillery which could create ten Chernobylsin ten minutes. So what do you really feel is their motive? What are the Iranian motives? Is it a national id, an ego, or what?
RICHARD SOLOMON: In a perhaps distorted way, I think the North Korean leadership has a very rational perspective on why they think they need a nuclear capability. This is less than half a country, with a nonfunctioning economy because of the really distorted policies of their leadership. They have no allies. The thriving South Koreans across the border have a reliable ally with nuclear weapons. The North Koreans have never trusted the Chinese or the Russians. During the Cold War period, they played one against another. So this is a leadership that feels very vulnerable.
Just ask yourself: If they didn't have this nuclear program, who would pay attention to these people? Would they have any leverage? You can play out what their future might look like. They are basically an outfit based around the Kim family that have boxed themselves in with an approach to managing the country and developing (or non-developing) their country that has totally failed.
About a decade ago, the Chinese made a good-faith effort to try to say to the North Koreans, "Come on, do what Deng Xiaoping does, open up your country and develop your economy and head off in another direction."
The North Korean leadership, and particularly the military, rejected it. We knew that Kim Jung Il sent his military leadership over to Shanghai. The Chinese thought, "Hey, they'll be wowed by all those buildings." The reaction of the leadership was: "The Chinese had Tiananmen. We don't want to see our population mobilized. For all the bad things that we've done, the situation would get out of control." I think that is their mindset.
I think they are trapped in a situation where they don't see a way out, and holding on to nuclear weapons in their view is the one way to protect themselves and to gain some attention.
In Iran, when the history is written, I am sure that the evolution of the Iranian nuclear program, as with Saddam Hussein's, came out of their war in the 1980s. It has acquired its own momentum and a constituency and now plays into the objectives and pretensions of the more aggressive leaders in Iran to project their country's power as a major player, certainly in their region.
My own sense is that the logic of the situation each of them is operating in makes it highly unlikely they will negotiate away their programs, which is why I feel we are probably in the most dangerous phase of international relations in terms of the prospect of war that could lead to a nuclear exchange than we have been since, let's say, the Cuban missile crisis.
Anyway, that's my parsing of those situations.
QUESTION: You talked a lot about transparency. Let's apply it to our own country. Are you in favor of, I'll call it, a commission of inquiry as to what took place in Defense and State and the intelligence community in the conduct of our wars since 9/11? And, if you are, what benefit do you think would accrue from it?
RICHARD SOLOMON: I knew she was going to really ask a zinger.
I think probably a commission of inquiry will be helpful. Our political system is still very divided about the outcome of the Bush election the first time around. I think that drives a lot of the situation. Were people lying? Were they distorting intelligence? I think it is probably healthy to get some of this out.
Now, if we can do it in a way that will not rip ourselves apart, which will keep us focused on the future challenges as well as trying to clarify the past, that's the challenge. If you can structure a process that tries to balance off those aspects, then I think it is healthy.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the changing nature of the United States in human rights policy implementation, our lack of cooperation with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the new Human Rights Council and recent developments with that?
RICHARD SOLOMON: We still have a fairly imperial mindset. The International Court of Justice—is that something we're prepared to subject our troops to?—and other instances where we don't really want to see standards applied to us. But on the whole, in my view, this country—and we're seeing it in our current debates—really does want to do right.
The agonizing over the issue of torture is, in my view, a good example of it. If you really look at the facts, our torture ain't nothing compared to what a lot of the detainees at Guantanamo would be subjected to if they were sent to their home countries. But we are caught there between not wanting to see them subject to that kind of treatment, but yet how do we handle them here? The point is we raise the issue and worry about it and debate it in a very intensive way.
So I feel that the country politically is well attuned to these issues and struggles to try to sort them out, even if we don't like to see ourselves subject to the kinds of constraints that other countries either are subject to or we impose on others. But on the whole, I think our country takes these issues very seriously.
QUESTION: Following up on that question, how much do you think our current U.S. president and administration incorporates cultural relevance into assessments, decisions, and policymaking?
RICHARD SOLOMON: One of the reasons that I did this series on cross-cultural behavior is because I think our sensitivity, if you like, or our awareness of these issues, is fairly limited. You often find it at the middle and upper-middle levels in the State Department, but not at the very top where you bring in lawyers—I don't want to put down lawyers—or others who at a very senior level have not been exposed to foreign cultures, for example. There are tremendous challenges in reconciling our standards and values. I gave the example of the sentencing of this one soldier as just one example.
One of our purposes is to try to highlight the cultural disparities in the context within which we operate in the world. It's a particular challenge.
I was trained in the study of something called political culture. I did studies in psychology and the study of various cultures on a comparative basis. I was at MIT. And then MIT did a terrible thing: they quantified political science, and this study of and specialization in different cultures went away.
My class in graduate school had specialists on Iran, on Indonesia, China, et cetera. That kind of analytical work is not highly regarded. You can't get a job in many universities with that kind of a focus.
So we are trying to compensate for that a bit and to make that a part of the world view of our foreign service people. But we do need the support of the academic community to do a lot of the groundwork.
If you look at our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's almost laughable. When brigades go out into the field, one of the most important capacities that they want in their operation are anthropologists. The anthropological society is rending itself—you know, "Are we contributing to death and destruction by having our academically trained anthropologists go and help the American military figure out how to negotiate with the local sheiks?"
So in some ways, the military that is dealing with the real world is focusing on this issue in important ways, but ways that raise difficult questions about values.
QUESTION: I'm interested to hear any views you might have on the role of business in U.S. foreign policy or international peace-building, for example, whether as a vehicle for foreign policy or as a catalyst or an influencer?
RICHARD SOLOMON: Finally I get a softball question.
One of the things that has become quite evident as we have worked with the government on, for example, Iraq reconstruction is there's a lot of criticism of USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] and the way they operate—big mega projects; they don't use local people, they bring in outsiders.
We established several years ago—this is why I'm glad you raised the question—a program on business and peacemaking and sustainable development. We are very fortunate to have as the leader of that program a gentleman named Raymond Gilpin. He came to us from the World Bank. We are now running seminars with the business community on how can you contribute to the reconstruction of this society; what constitutes sustainable development; how do you do it in a way that just, frankly, isn't in the AID classical pattern of these big bridge-building, road-building projects?
One member of our board of directors who has made an enormous contribution is Maria Otero. Maria has run—she is going into the government shortly—a micro-finance operation, called ACCION International. They did terrific work with micro-loans, where they really get development started at the local level with small loans so a woman can start a sewing business. You figure out what a couple of hundred dollars will do. So Maria encouraged us to get this program started.
We have only been at it for a couple of years, but I am very encouraged that it will add an interesting new dimension to our work, because no one normally thinks about "Hey, the business community, they're in there making money, they're not interested in development," but that's really not the case.
You have a follow-on to that?
QUESTION: If I'm allowed, because it wasn't meant to be a purely softball question. You are looking at the positive role that business can play. But business can have a hugely negative role, particularly in developing countries, which brings in issues of, for example, extraterritorial jurisdiction. So I was actually wondering if that's the kind of thing you have reflected on as well.
RICHARD SOLOMON: We look at all these issues. This is sort of "true confessions." We are paying for our building project in part with private-sector money. We are appealing to the business community.
We have had some very helpful support, for example, from Chevron. Chevron operates in Nigeria. We have programs of conflict resolution among different tribal groups in Nigeria. Now, it's good for business to have a stable operating environment. Dave O'Reilly, the head of Chevron, is a politically very aware guy and understands these dilemmas. We have learned a lot from him as well as getting support for our building by working with his operation because he does confront these dilemmas and wants us to do good because it's helpful to his operation.
QUESTION: I was interested to hear you talk about the work of Gene Sharp. I am struck to hear you explicitly say that his work as a tooler can be used in an interventionist way in getting at regime change. In recent years, you know U.S. officials have walked a very fine line between crediting the democratic uprisings that take place in the countries where some of this work has been disseminated and actively put into place. So I have two specific questions.
The legacy of some of those interventions is somewhat mixed going forward in terms of the way in which it has taken the wider foreign policy. To cut to the chase, how has the application of those ideas changed in light of the technological advancements that have taken place in the time since the majority of those examples, and how you see the organizing principles that were the basic thrust of those early efforts have really been disseminated in a way that is much harder to control now?
I've read in some places that Gene Sharp happened to be in China in the summer leading up to the protests in 1989. I'm curious if that's true as well.
RICHARD SOLOMON: You're asking very specific questions. I can't tell you whether Gene Sharp—my sense is he was not an agitator that provoked Tiananmen. I don't think the development of his work had disseminated quite that far. Sharp and Ackerman have set up the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. They are disseminating their work on their own basis. It is not done directly through the Institute or through the U.S. government. They run training programs for activists from Burma, from a variety of countries where there is repressive government.
You've asked the question that relates to is there a down-side. I'm not sure more specifically what you had in mind in terms of what might be the negatives of this approach. But from my reading of the case studies that Ackerman documents, (1) organizing civil resistance doesn't always work. It puts the organizers' lives on the line. But in a pretty large number of instances it has been an effective tool for going after really repressive government.
I suggest you check out the ICNC website or communicate with Ackerman and company, because I think they are pretty thoughtful people.
In my view, it's one of the more promising ways of dealing with this phenomenon that we see on the other side of the equation, namely, the hostile publics that support some of the more destructive trends that we see, particularly in the Muslim world.
QUESTION: We talked a bit before this started about the instance of Cuba, which is where I preoccupy myself now. We have a situation in which American policy, even in the Obama era, seems still a closed loop around human rights issues, no longer quite as rigidly conditional but still almost as conditional, that we won't really do the things that would help open up Cuban society unless first they do the things that we want them to do on human rights.
The irony of it, in particular in this case, is we suppress our own human rights, in terms of the right of Americans to travel, ostensibly in order to help them get their human rights. The question is how you break through that, and how you break through almost the self-righteousness, which says the way that other countries have to do what we want them to do before we can think rationally about what objectively might lead them to change the way they are?
RICHARD SOLOMON: Right. It is going to take, I think, national leadership to break things open.
A good example of the very practical work that the Institute does is helping people resolve property disputes. We have helped in Afghanistan set up little negotiating commissions where you have property disputes that are left over from all of the running back and forth of conflicts. The same thing in Iraq. These commissions provide a nonviolent vehicle for resolving these kinds of disputes.
I would say that's an important element of trying to resolve a lot of the issues related to the expropriations and the grievances of the Cuban émigré community.
Whether you can promote reconciliation dialogues on a broader basis is perhaps something that would be derivative of that kind of an effort. But often if you begin at a very practical level, you can make some progress.
QUESTION: Since you've alluded to your extensive experience working on the genocide situation in Cambodia, and you've obviously reflected on the genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust and other areas, and you've studied psychology—after all of this, can you give us some insight into why people will kill their neighbors, and then develop these extensive programs just to kill and kill and kill some more?
RICHARD SOLOMON: That is a very searching question. I myself have not done research on the ground, so I can't speak with that kind of detailed knowledge.
But one of the things that the Albright-Cohen study in its more detailed assessment comes up with is that generally it is leaders with bad intentions who are able to use ethnic or religious differences to mobilize populations. They promote a very well-organized, and unfortunately in many instances a pretty well-armed, kind of conflict, and in societies where otherwise the record wouldn't suggest there has to be that kind of violence.
You are getting at a very interesting question, which again I'm not qualified to answer, which is how can you take people—I mean we see this in many communities in Iraq, where Sunnis and Shiites have lived together for generations, and yet they were able to be mobilized against one another. How you make that breakthrough in a very destructive way is a very interesting issue. I just am not in a position to give you a well-informed answer.
JOEL ROSENTHAL: I want to thank you for sharing all these ideas with us.