The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship, with Bruce Jentleson
April 26, 2018
JOEL ROSENTHAL: Good evening. Welcome to the Carnegie Council. It's great to see you all.
Tonight's program has a special backstory, so I thought I would begin by telling you a little bit about it. 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie's death. The remarkable story of Carnegie's life—he lived from 1835 to 1919—is complemented by the story of his philanthropy, now 100 years running and as strong and as timely as ever.
Many of you in this room know that there are 22 Carnegie-founded philanthropies still in operation. This, of course, is not counting the over 2,500 libraries built with Carnegie funds. You can find the list of the Carnegie family of institutions in the program that has been distributed.
To commemorate this centennial moment, these institutions have decided to organize a series of programs to celebrate his legacy and to address the national and international challenges ahead. Carnegie institutions in New York—that's us—Pittsburgh, Washington, Dunfermline in Scotland, The Hague in the Netherlands, and elsewhere will sponsor events over the next 18 months highlighting different aspects of the Carnegie legacy in peace, education, and philanthropy. The series will culminate with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy award ceremony in October 2019.
Tonight we kick off the series, and we are delighted to do so in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, our sister institution here in New York City. There is a lot that I could say about the Carnegie Corporation, but it really boils down to a big thank-you, starting of course with Vartan Gregorian, who has done so much to revitalize all of the Carnegie institutions. Vartan's support has been inspiring and unwavering, and so it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to thank him publicly.
It is also a pleasure to thank publicly members of the Corporation board and staff, all of whom have become wonderful friends and partners over the years, especially former chairs Tom Kean and Helene Kaplan, chief of staff Jeanne D'Onofrio, International Affairs program directors Deana Arsenian and Steve Del Rosso, and many other members of the Corporation staff who are here this evening. We've been very lucky for your personal and professional support, not only on this program tonight but on many other ventures throughout the years.
Here on behalf of the Corporation is Deana Arsenian, the vice president of the International Affairs program, to say a few words. Deana, you've been a great champion of the Carnegie peace legacy, so it's a real privilege to be with you tonight. Thanks.
DEANA ARSENIAN: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, I'm not Vartan. Sorry. I know you wanted to see him. That would have been a real treat. I don't look like him, but I might sound like him, so there is something. He is really sorry he cannot be here today. He really wanted to. In fact, Jeanne, his chief of staff, said that he was almost thinking to join at the last moment, but he was not able to, so great apologies for that.
He wanted me on his behalf to greet everybody and to say thank you for joining us at this event. He also wanted again on his behalf for me to convey his gratitude to Bruce Jentleson for writing this book. I read the book, he read the book; it's a fantastic book. We hope that it will really catch the ear of the politicians as well as just the general public of today because there are so many lessons that should be learned from the 20th century.
On behalf of Vartan, again thank you, and I am looking forward to the conversation. Thank you.
JOEL ROSENTHAL: Thank you, Deana. We really appreciate that, and thank you, Jeanne, who is here in the front row, for organizing everything.
Before I introduce the moderator, I just want to say my own word of introduction for our speaker, Bruce Jentleson. Bruce, you are to me the model scholar, bridging the gap between policy and academe. Among your many accomplishments is your service on the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Council, and this gives me the opportunity to thank you publicly for all of that and for your continuing support.
I am now going to turn it over to our chairman, Steve Hibbard. Steve is especially well-qualified in Carnegie centennial history. Steve joined us on our visit to Dunfermline in 2013 and served as master of ceremonies for our 100th anniversary dinner in 2014. Here we are in the first chapter of the next 100 years, forging the future. No pressure. Over to you, Steve.
STEPHEN HIBBARD: Good evening. Thank you, Joel, for your kind words. Thank you Deana and Jeanne for joining us tonight, and for all the support the Carnegie Corporation has provided. It's an honor to co-host tonight's program with you.
It is also my great pleasure to welcome Bruce Jentleson. He is a great friend of Carnegie Council, as Joel said, having recently completed his term as a trustee and a vice chairman, and so it is especially wonderful to welcome you home. Bruce is a professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, where he previously served as director of the Sanford School of Public Policy. He is by anyone's measure a leading scholar of American foreign policy and has served in a number of U.S. policy and political positions. His career is impressively distinguished.
In Professor Jentleson and his new book, The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship, we witness the harmonious marriage of man and material in service of bringing greater practical understanding to the challenges of promoting peace, which was Andrew Carnegie's cherished goal.
Bruce is a great scholar. In 2015 and 2016 he was the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. He has been a visiting senior research fellow at Oxford University and the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London as well as a Fulbright senior research scholar in Spain. He also has been a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he is the recipient of numerous other awards and fellowships.
Not surprisingly, he has written a number of books, including American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century and The End of Arrogance: America in the Global Competition of Ideas. He has also published articles in numerous academic and policy journals and for leading online sites.
Beyond academic research and theorizing, Bruce has been active in the policy arena, helping to shape American foreign policy. We see that surface quietly several times in his book when he casually notes in passing his connection to important moments. For example, in his chapter on Yitzhak Rabin, a profile of the formidable Israeli general who became a peacemaker, Bruce recounts the morning of September 9, 1993. His boss at the State Department's Policy Planning Staff summoned him and showed him two pieces of paper hot off—if you remember it—the fax machine, and said: "We handle lots of paper every day, much of it less important than folks think in the moment. These two sheets, these two letters, are truly historic. Take a look."
The first was a letter from Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), recognizing the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. The second was a reciprocating letter from now-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, recognizing the PLO as a representative of the Palestinian people and confirming that Israel would commence peace negotiations. This exchange of letters was an important part of the Oslo Accords, which was in our lifetimes the most hopeful moment for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Bruce was there.
As the Rabin story indicates, in the early 1990s Bruce was on the State Department Policy Planning Staff as special assistant to the director and served on the U.S. delegation to the Middle East multilateral Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks. From 2009 to 2011 he was senior advisor to the State Department public policy director. In 2012 he served on the Obama 2012 campaign National Security Advisor Steering Committee. He also served as senior foreign policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore during his 2000 presidential campaign and earlier as a foreign policy aide to senators Gore and Dave Durenberger. Bruce has also served on various policy commissions including the Responsibility to Protect Working Group co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Illustrating that Bruce understands how critical it is to bring scholarship, knowledge, and expertise to bear on actually making foreign policy, Bruce is co-founder of the Bridging the Gap project supported by the Carnegie Corporation, which promotes greater policy relevance among academics.
That's the man, now the book. It is a wonderful mixture of history, sociology, psychology, and politics. He employs an analytical framework—he is a professor—and Bruce can describe that. That framework is designed to distill lessons from the past that can be of use to future leaders. His book is also good old-fashioned storytelling. It is an accessible collection of compelling stories about leaders who in the 20th century made a difference for peace.
His choices constitute a virtual all-star team of Nobel Peace Prize winners. Baseball fans will also appreciate the soft, qualitative sabermetric-like approach he introduces to evaluate how the leaders who he examines made pivotal decisions others likely would not or could not have made. He calls it "SARL" or statesmen-above-replacement-leader. This metric illustrates one major theme of this book: Individuals make a difference, whether a political elite or an ordinary citizen. We all need to take this lesson deeply to heart at this moment of history.
If it seems common-sense that evil leaders—Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Amin, you fill in the blank—changed history, somehow the obverse does not seem so obvious. Bruce's work shows that it should be. There is, as Bruce calls it, a "prescription for an alternate plot line where individuals can counter the impact of demagogic leaders who foment hatred and exploit identity politics." This is sorely needed medicine.
Think how far, for example, we have come in the United States. We began our national experiment with George Washington, who every schoolchild learns could not tell a lie. Our current president seemingly cannot help but lie.
We must not as a society, whatever our policy differences may be, lose sight in this ugly time that each of us owes a duty not to normalize uncivil behavior, not to allow the rule of law to erode, and to make ethics matter. This starts with each of us recognizing we can make a difference. It also requires courage.
The 13 case studies in the book are all tales of courage. In fact, an elevator review would say his book is a 20th-century global version of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. It is necessary for us, however, to internalize that "courage" is more than a label we apply to past actions by remote, now-admired leaders. These leaders took bold, committed action at great personal risk and often at great cost to pursue peace. Courage is necessary, but in reality courage is neither easy nor common.
Another powerful theme is how moral authority and ethical choices made the difference that allowed breakthroughs to peace. There is Nelson Mandela, who was able to bring his unique moral capital to bear to shepherd South Africa's remarkably peaceful transition from apartheid through reconciliation.
Moral authority is also present in the stories of, among others, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walęsa, and Gandhi, as well as Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, two ordinary women who founded Northern Ireland Women for Peace and helped end the Troubles, and whose decision one day simply not to accept continued violence is echoed today by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Here's the best part: These comments barely scratch the surface of Bruce's book with its wide-ranging scope and nuanced assessments. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Professor Bruce Jentleson to talk about The Peacemakers.
BRUCE JENTLESON: Thank you, Steve, very much. Very gracious, more than kind. Can we hire you as a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review?
There are really many thanks I want to express in starting. One is to the Carnegie Council, Joanne Myers for including me in your fabulous book series and Joel, not just for this event but for all of your leadership. Melissa, for your own wonderful and gracious and professionally capable way of making this and so many other things happen.
Thank you to my fellow trustees. I guess I'm not quite emeritus. I guess I'm in that interregnum now. I understand the rules here, they rotate off, but we'll see what happens by the end of the year.
Also, the Carnegie Corporation of New York. As was said by Joel, I have had a lot of work with the Carnegie Corporation for many years, both through this and though my own work. Please extend my best to Vartan. He is an extraordinary person, and the leadership he has provided, and to Deana and Stephen. Steve Del Rosso and I work very closely on Bridging the Gap and other projects. Thank you all for all of your support.
Lastly, my colleagues at W. W. Norton. It was a great team to work with, really just extraordinary editors and others.
We're on our rollout. We're not at the scale of Jim Comey in terms of rollout, but we did film an event last night with C-SPAN. Their new thing is to do it actually at bookstores, and we did a bookstore down in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I'll be doing a DC talk next week at the Wilson Center and a variety of others. One is scheduled in Chicago and probably some others, because as Steve indicated I really tried to write this book as a book that would be of interest to broad audiences. There is actually an audio version coming out as well, and I feel like it engages a lot of themes that I'd like to talk a little bit about tonight that would be of general interest.
Let me try to set the frame and the approach and tell a couple of the stories briefly as examples, but I'd really like to leave us time for comments and questions from folks who are here, so I'm going to watch the clock and try to give you a sense.
We can run through the title of the book. The "peacemakers" title is in fact consciously styled after John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage: global leaders, not American; foreign policy, not just domestic policy. It is about those who have made major breakthroughs on various aspects of peace, significant progress on issues long thought intractable—not full and perfect peace, that would have been, sadly, a very short and thin book—but I think that made the kind of breakthroughs for others to build upon and opened up issues that had long been considered not solvable in any way. Some have faced backsliding and backlashes, which we talk about in the book, but they really very much were and tried to be peacemakers.
In speaking about peace, as I think about it I break it down—and this is the way the book is organized—into five component dimensions. It starts with the rivalries among major powers, which throughout history have been the major cause of war and throughout history have been a crucial element in building peace. There are some things that are different about the 21st century, but I think it is fair to say that that still pertains.
The second section is really on building international institutions, and I particularly focus on the United Nations. In fact, one of the stories I want to tell tonight is about Dag Hammarskjöld as secretary-general.
Third, and Steve spoke to this, this notion of reconciling the politics of identity, the kind of politics both within societies—and when it is within societies it doesn't stay within the borders, it spills over—and among peoples—who I am, who you are, what the differences are between us and why that is a reason for me to kill you before you kill me—throughout history. But I think we live in a world today where we see a great deal of politics of identity.
Fourth is advancing freedom and human rights as an element of peace.
The fifth section is on fostering global sustainability. It is fair to say that if I was writing this book 40 or 50 years ago, it probably wouldn't have been something we thought about in this context, but I think it has become and needs to become fundamentally an element. We speak a lot of WMD, we all are familiar with that acronym of weapons of mass destruction. I talk in the book about EMD, environmental mass destruction. Add up the numbers, perhaps not with nuclear weapons totals, but with chemical or biological being out there. Or also DMD, diseases of mass destruction, the kind of global pandemics that can be major killers.
That is how we approach peace and peacemakers.
In terms of statesmanship, yes, there are presidents and prime ministers in the book, secretaries of state and foreign ministers, other national leaders, but I also broaden it. I have this notion that I talk about impact had, not position held. I include leaders of international institutions like the United Nations.
Then I include leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements who did for peace what governments were unable or unwilling to do. Again, a trend we see develop not exclusively in the 20th century—some of it goes back further—but I think it's fair to say that in the 21st century we are seeing and will see even more of this.
Leadership. There is the classic debate of "Do leaders make history or does history make leaders?" When I was in grad school—Michael Doyle and others will attest to this—when you studied international relations that is the individual-level analysis you're not supposed to get to. It's about processes, structures, institutions, and concepts like the balance of power and national interest. It is probably true that much of what happens internationally we can largely deal with and explain in those terms.
But I start the book with an epigram from Isaiah Berlin, which really is always a good idea when you're writing a book, to draw upon Isaiah Berlin: "At critical moments, at turning points, individuals and their decisions and acts can determine the course of history." I am really trying to look at that element.
I come down in the middle ground on this question of leadership. In addition to grad school, I spend a lot of time, as Steve said, inside the Beltway, and it's fair to say I spend too much time on personalities inside the Beltway.
So I have this formulation that I call the three C's, which is any leader—and you can apply this to the business world or any other—trying to make significant change faces constraints. They also may have conducive conditions. But within those there is a domain of choice that really is about the leader, and that is the argument that I try to make. It is taken from my passion for baseball. Since I am here, I can say that that passion tilts toward a team that plays about 100 blocks from here, although this is going out on the Web, and my Boston friends might not be real happy about that.
There is that wins-against-replacement-player statistic in baseball: How many wins does this shortstop contribute to their team compared to every other shortstop in Major League Baseball? The argument I make is this notion of the statesmanship-against-replacement-leader, that this individual made choices and pursued those choices that another leader in that position didn't do.
That leads to the who-why-how-what framework: Who were those individuals? Not getting too much into personality determinism, but what qualities can you see in them? Why did they do what they did? What was the vision that brought them to it and that they tried to get other people behind? How did they go about it? What were their political skills and what weren't they? Ultimately, what did they achieve and what didn't they? One of the themes of the book is that there is a lot to learn from where they did not achieve things as well as what they did.
Once you decide leadership is important—we were speaking earlier, you can walk into a bookstore and there are shelves of books on leadership, business leadership, higher-ed leadership, religious community leadership, political leadership. James MacGregor Burns, one of the leading scholars of leadership, called it "one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on Earth." Walter Isaacson, who has been a biographer of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and most recently Leonardo da Vinci, calls it "an elusive quality."
I did a quick Amazon search and came up with 191,637 books that had leadership in the title. The corporate world has spent over $14 billion over the past two decades on leadership development, yet 75 percent of the respondents to a study deem the programs ineffective. So there is a lot of fascination and frustration with it, and I don't profess to—in fact, the point is not to come up with a single formula but try to get a handle on what are some qualities as they relate to the particular issues that I am dealing with.
Lastly from the title is this notion of lessons. It is stories from the 20th century, but it is Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship. I want to just quickly read a passage from the Preface which tries to set this up and why it matters to the 21st century:
What can we learn from 20th-century statesmanship for the 21st century? For a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it seemed like the world was going in a positive direction. The Cold War was ending peacefully. Dictatorships were falling to democracy. Globalization appeared to be spreading the wealth. History was said to be over with world affairs so harmonious as to be downright boring.
And yet the end of the Cold War has not meant the end of war. U.S. relations with both Russia and China have grown tense and tenuous. That democratic wave has broken up on some rocky shores. Globalization has had losers as well as winners. History has come roaring back, its ancient hatreds fueled by modern venom. Climate change is speeding up. Global health pandemics are spreading.
Meeting these and other 21st century challenges has many dimensions. Some bottom-up solutions will be generated by the "people power" of protest movements. Others will be middle-out answers from science, technology, economics, education, and other fields, but much must come top-down from global leaders who are able and willing to be transformational, to break out of narrow tunnel-vision thinking and myopic focus on today but not tomorrow. . .
This was my thinking even before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. All along I've intended the book to draw lessons from 20th-century statesmanship to help shape and motivate the peace and security breakthroughs our 21st century era so crucially needs. Trump, as I come back to in the Epilogue, has made this all the more urgent. Others, such as Vladimir Putin, do as well. In so many ways we are at one of those "crucial moments, turning points" that Isaiah Berlin spoke to at which leaders will determine the next course history takes—for the worse or for the better.
It really is a book that has a present context but very much precedes that. Working with a good publisher, they come up with a very clever thing, so you'll see that at the ends of each of those five sections we say: "Okay, what are the lessons of this for 21st century issues?" not to point to this or that individual, but to look at what are the strategies for major-power rivalries or for building international institutions. They have this great technique where they shade them in gray, so you actually see them on the side of the books, and you may think it is photographs. But that sets apart all of those aspects, and then I come back to them and try to tie them up in the Epilogue.
The profiles in the book are a representative sample, not definitive. In fact, if we were really clever or if I was really tech-savvy, we'd have a social media game out there: Who would you put in it? I hope book clubs that read it will have their own conversations about that. Basically, they bring out the issues, and we can talk about others that might fit to the extent that you would like.
Let me just give you three example profiles to give you a sense for the kind of stories that are in the book. They will come from three of the different categories.
The first one is really Chapter One, Henry Kissinger, Zhou Enlai, and the U.S.-China opening in 1971 and 1972. Some of the caveats I have in the book for all the cases is that these are about particular peacemaking, they are not necessarily endorsements of the overall policies or activities of the individuals. To me, this was Kissinger at his best. It is by no means putting aside criticisms of Vietnam or a whole variety of other things, but it is really important to learn from things that we think we can learn from and not just write off. The same would go for Zhou Enlai and his role in repression in China.
There were some conducive conditions. There was this superpower triangle that was starting to take shape. We thought we could play off the Soviets a little bit against the Chinese. The Chinese also had serious issues and almost war with the Soviets that created some conducive conditions.
But there were an awful lot of constraints. Most of us in this room are old enough to remember "Red China." I start that chapter with an anecdote from a show that Walter Cronkite narrated in 1958, and it goes on with all these quotes not from him but from the correspondent about this terrible society and how it was even worse than the Soviet Union. We had a strong China lobby. If you had gone to Las Vegas in early 1971 and said: "Let's just say Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai try to make a breakthrough. What odds would you give me?" you probably could have gotten pretty good odds.
I had access to the declassified documents which give you memorandums of the conversations and a whole variety of other documentary records and histories written by scholars who are much more China experts than I am, biographies written of Kissinger, and I also got to interview Kissinger in January 2016 at his offices not too far from where we are tonight.
One of the things you get out of these interviews—you don't ask him, "Exactly what did you say in the second meeting?" but you get the color. As an example of that—I asked him about this because I read about it—I asked: "Could you tell me about the handshake?" His eyes lit up. Kissinger, when he first walked into the first meeting in July 1971—these secret meetings, which they had this great code name for, "Operation Marco Polo" was the name gave it—he put his hand out to shake Zhou Enlai's hand.
Some of his aides, who were China experts, knew what had happened back in 1955 at the Geneva conference which was dividing up Vietnam. John Foster Dulles was there, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov—he of the cocktail—and Zhou Enlai. Dulles shook hands with Molotov, and he refused to shake Zhou Enlai's hand. This was a real gesture of trust that was a crucial factor.
In one of his memos to Nixon, when they talked about this later, Kissinger and Zhou Enlai, he said, "I only saw Zhou Enlai get angry twice in our meetings. Once was telling me the story of the John Foster Dulles incident." You really get a sense of how important those elements are in relationships.
The other story was about James Reston, eminent columnist for The New York Times, who happened to be in China at that time doing some reporting. I think he was in Shanghai, and he was supposed to arrive in Beijing. Kissinger said, "It's secret, but I'm really worried if he comes here while I'm here, it'll be a problem." Suddenly an official in Shanghai told James Reston that his trip to Beijing would be delayed a few days. Then Kissinger said to Zhou, "Once he does arrive, please don't tell Reston I've been here or what we've talked about, or I'll have to ask for a job in your foreign ministry." The transcript notes: "Considerable laughter" on the Chinese side.
When you got down to the diplomacy and they worked through the issues, we went into these talks with one of our priorities being getting a lot from China to help us in Vietnam, and they went into it wanting to get a lot on Taiwan. We got less on Vietnam than we wanted, they got less on Taiwan than they wanted.
One of the things that becomes clear—and this is a broader lesson—is what helped them succeed was that they made the transactional serve the transformational. There was an understanding—in fact, at one point there is a quote from Zhou Enlai in which he says, "Only the settlement of fundamental questions first can lead to the settlement of other questions," which is the reverse of a lot of things we tend to think in diplomacy and maybe in business negotiations as well: "We've got to make these deals so I can see if you're really serious," and there are some things that you have to build up a sense of where the overall relationship is going in order to get the transactional, so there is a real interaction between the two that frankly goes against—I know from my experience in government and others, you go into these meetings, and people have the deliverables: "We got to go home with five deliverables, whether it's with an ally or an adversary." Particularly in adversarial relationships it is really the transformational that is extremely important. I want to come back to that in a second in terms of current application.
The second factor—I guess I'm into alliteration, so in addition to the three C's I have the three P's, which are the personal, the policy, and the political. All three of those elements were crucial to the breakthrough that happened here. Kissinger and Zhou Enlai spent in their first set of meetings, 17 hours of meetings, some with aides, a lot one-on-one with two translators; on the second trip four days, 10 meetings, 23 hours and 40 minutes. If you think about the scripted summits we have—and this is frankly every recent administration, the Obama administration, the Bush administration, the Clinton administration—the leaders meet and have their talking points and have their deliverables, and oftentimes that is about all that happens.
These discussions that they had, particularly when you're trying to build an understanding, ranged across everything from theories of history to a sense of a whole variety of perceptions. So what you saw at work here were personal relationships that were cultivated with trust and respect and collegiality that just can't be done in a strict negotiating session with just talking points. Policy was strategized. There were some of these conducive conditions to work with, but the policy had to be strategized. There were compromises needed on a transactional; neither side went into the talks thinking that they were going to the make the compromises necessarily that they did.
None of these, by the way, are only stories of two people because others come in. I just focus on the two that were really crucial. You had all three interacting for a successful breakthrough.
In another chapter I talk about Gorbachev and also Reagan's role. I probably give more credit to Reagan than most so-called "liberal" academics do, less than a number of conservatives do, but I focus particularly on Gorbachev and the role in the decision he played.
At the end of that section, I talk about what are the lessons for U.S.-China, Trump and Xi Jinping; U.S.-Russia, Trump and Putin. I make clear that I have my concerns, particularly about the U.S.-Russia relationship, and I don't profess to predict, but I try to lay out what comes out of these strategies of ways forwarding both of those situations that I think are actually within the bounds of being realistic and doable and that would really serve the interests of both sides.
One could take this to the upcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un summit. In fact, one of the things you do when you write a book is you start writing a bunch of op-eds, and I've got one that I think will be out in Foreign Affairs next week that is about the next story I'm going to tell, the Hammarskjöld story, and that I'm working on one that will really look at what one might think from this interaction between Trump and Kim Jong-un that hopefully will also get out. Then you have the little thing, "Author of recent book," and you have to get to the book.
Again, we talk about those a little bit more if you like, but I just want to fit in the two other stories. But that is how we proceed. The Kim Jong-un [summit] is not in the book. It wasn't in the cards when we went to press in late 2017, but the U.S.-Russia, U.S.-China are.
The second story I want to tell is about Dag Hammarskjöld. The title of that chapter is "UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld: The 'Secular Pope,' 1953-1961," which was a phrase that was used to describe him, the most effective secretary-general in the history of the United Nations.
When he was appointed in April 1953 as the second secretary-general, he was greeted by his predecessor Trygve Lie, who called the position "the most impossible job in the world." Despite Hammarskjöld's distinguished accomplishments and rapid rise as a Swedish diplomat—he was only 48—at the time he was dismissed by many, including Washington, as "just your average bureaucrat." Yet he would become the secretary-general who more than any other showed what a strong, assertive, and determined UN secretary-general can contribute to global peace and security.
Just two examples of that quickly: One, soon after he became secretary-general, there was a crisis between the United States and the People's Republic of China, who, remember, are not a member of the United Nations now, over American POWs (prisoners of war) who had been captured during the Korean War and who were being put on trial with life sentences based on Chinese military tribunal convictions for espionage. This was also at a time when U.S.-China tensions were running high in the Taiwan Strait, and the United States had just signed its mutual defense treaty with Taiwan.
Again, I don't want to go through all the details, but this was this untested secretary-general who stepped up, who worked the diplomacy despite U.S. opposition to even talking to those Red Chinese, and in January 1955—this is actually the first time a secretary-general had gone to any national capital to negotiate, let alone that of a non-member—Hammarskjöld goes to Peking and meets with Zhou Enlai. They have constructive talks. The issue is not resolved, and the talks continue. Let me pick this up also from the book:
The United States was not being particularly helpful. Political criticism raged. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles felt no one should be talking to those Red Chinese. Even more damaging was the April 11, 1955, assassination attempt against Zhou Enlai by the Taiwanese secret service with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assistance.But Hammarskjöld kept at it. As he set off for a vacation with friends on the Swedish coast to celebrate his 50th birthday (July 29), he got a message from the Chinese embassy in Stockholm wishing him a happy birthday and asking what gift he might like to receive. Release of the American prisoners, he responded sincerely, even if a tad facetiously.
Three days later a cable arrived from the Swedish ambassador to China, transmitting a message from Zhou Enlai:
'The Chinese government has decided to release the imprisoned U.S. fliers. This release from serving their full term takes place in order to maintain friendship with Hammarskjöld. Zhou Enlai expresses hope that Hammarskjöld will take note of this point.
Zhou Enlai congratulates Hammarskjöld on his 50th birthday.'
It was the combination of the shrewd statecraft of what they called "the Peking formula" and leader-to-leader personal rapport that had worked. A dangerous situation had been defused. This allegedly inconsequential international bureaucrat showed himself to be quite consequential.
Second quick example was the Suez Crisis in 1956. In October 1956 the invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel in response to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal a few months earlier brought together four dangerous geopolitical dynamics: the Arab-Israeli conflict, this being the second regional war since the failed 1947 UN Palestine partition plan; Third World nationalism, Nasser's Suez Canal nationalization being hailed in the colonial and ex-colonial world as a blow against European imperialism; the Cold War, Nasser having tilted to the Soviet bloc; and the United Nation's own credibility with two permanent Security Council members as part of the attack on another Member State. Pretty explosive situation.
We have a tendency to think when things get resolved, Oh, it couldn't have been so bad, but if you go back to the newspapers of the day, you see it was pretty tense.
Hammarskjöld worked the statecraft. Within days he had engineered the very first emergency special session of the General Assembly under a precedent called "Uniting for Peace," which empowered the General Assembly to act when the Security Council was paralyzed and to do so without being subject to Security Council permanent members' veto. By 64 to 5 a resolution was passed calling for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign troops, and empowering the secretary-general to take further action.
Eisenhower, unlike his secretary of state, was shrewd enough to see how the British-French-Israeli invasion was playing into Soviet opportunism. "The last thing we must do," Ike stated at a news conference, "is to disturb any of the delicate negotiations now going on under the leadership of Secretary-General Hammarskjöld. We must do nothing that could possibly delay its operations, impede them, or hurt them in any way." You can see where this is going for 21st-century applications.
The United States imposed pretty tough sanctions on Britain, and the two together within 10 days of the initial invasion—this UN-U.S. combination—got the British and French to agree to a ceasefire.
Given the already checkered history of Middle East ceasefires, there needed to be some mechanism for enforcement and stability. Working closely with the Canadian foreign minister and UN ambassador Lester Pearson, Hammarskjöld and Pearson developed a plan for a United Nations Emergency Force to fill this role. They did this pretty much from whole cloth. This was the very first UN peacekeeping operation. Pearson will win the Nobel Prize for this, Hammarskjöld will get a Nobel Prize later in 1961.
But there are practical questions: What about uniforms? Having a distinctive insignia would both help with the safety and be good for esprit de corps. This is where the blue helmets and blue berets came from. There wasn't time to place a large manufacturing order, so they got U.S. Army surplus helmets and painted them blue.
How to put together a force quickly and with acceptable composition? Answer: Draw troops from countries that were not permanent members of the Security Council. Since only the United States had the logistical capabilities to get them to Egypt expeditiously, set up an arm's-length arrangement whereby U.S. airlifts would move the UN troops to a staging area outside Egypt.
How to overcome Egyptian concerns about sovereignty? Hammarskjöld devised a formula that basically was acceptable to Nasser.
It is a great story. The crisis was defused. Let me just pick something out of my hat, and let me call it Syria, where the United States and Russia continue to be unable and unwilling to manage this conflict, let alone play roles in resolving it.
A little aside: In 2015 and 2016 I was involved with three other colleagues in doing some back-channel work for the Obama administration on trying to meet with the Russians on some possible ways of working together. We actually thought we were making progress, but we never fully tested it because our last meeting was in August 2016.
We actually met in a hotel in Prague. We were emailing the other day saying, "Is that guy wearing the Groucho Marx outfit in the lobby, was that Michael Cohen?" Just things you think of in retrospect.
In any event, the piece I am writing now for Foreign Affairs really makes an argument about why not empower Secretary-General Guterres to play a Hammarskjöldian role instead of being consigned to the sidelines just with statements like reiterating concern? There has been a U.S. special envoy, but it has not had the backing and authority to genuinely negotiate, to bring pressures on the parties.
It would never mean imposing fundamentally unacceptable terms on Washington or Moscow. Hammarskjöld didn't do that. At the same time as Suez, the Soviet invasion of Hungary happened. Hammarskjöld deferred largely to the Soviets there with an understandable acknowledgement of great-power politics.
But it actually could mean better options than either is capable of getting on its own. I have some reasons for thinking that this might be in the Russians' interest as well as the Americans' interest, but again we can talk about that as an offshoot of the book.
There is a larger argument about the ways in which if the United Nations is ever going to be effective, it needs to have a stronger secretary-general. I know the politics of this, I know what they are in China, I know what they are in Russia, I know what they are in the United States. But if you really think about it, it is really the major powers that would benefit most from having the United Nations more capable to do what they don't want to do and only the United Nations can conceivably do. It would by no means solve all the UN's problems, but I think there is something to be learned here that could be very beneficial, and I go into that in a bit of detail at the end.
Third story, different one: It's about a British lawyer named Peter Benenson, probably less well known in this room than the other folks I've talked about, who was the founder of Amnesty International. He was an odd duck. He had run for the House of Commons three times and lost. He was raised Jewish by his mother, who was a Russian Jewish émigré and had him involved in social and political activism in the 1930s against Franco and tried to resettle refugee children fleeing Franco and the Spanish Civil War as well as fleeing Hitler. He spent some time with Christian idealism and Gandhian civil disobedience. He kicked around in various causes. You can see that this is not someone who is programmed to found an organization.
He writes this op-ed in The Observer, a London paper, on May 28, 1961, called "The Forgotten Prisoners." They didn't use the word at the time and there was no Internet or social media, but it went viral. It was picked up by Le Monde, it was picked up by American newspapers and by newspapers around the world. What he talked about there is prisoners in three areas of the world: those who were political prisoners in Western countries, those who were political prisoners in the Soviet bloc, and those who were political prisoners in the then so-called Third World.
They founded Amnesty International in the months following. They set up this principle of the "rule of three," that the grassroots groups would always have to find three political prisoners to support, that they would only support political prisoners who were nonviolent.
In fact, in 1962 they refused to support Nelson Mandela because at that time he was in a violent stage with a group in South Africa called the "Spear of the Nation," and they ruled that it was too violent at that time. They obviously would support Mandela later on. By 1964 they had grown from 12 chapters to 400, which more than doubled by 1970.
The story is not just about Amnesty International, but it is how it really launched the contemporary human rights movement. I talk about how it seeded the human rights movement and over time has ceded leadership to others like Human Rights Watch and other groups of that sort.
By 1967, Benenson was kicked out of Amnesty International. He had the political skills, he came up with, or people around him came up with, the iconic image of the candle surrounded by barbed wire that again really struck a chord.
Why this article went viral, hard to say. People forget sometimes that Frank Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man started with a paper he presented at a University of Chicago graduate student and faculty seminar that somehow went viral at that moment and then led to all of these other things. There have been a lot of papers presented at faculty seminars that have not made much impact beyond the room, and there are a lot of communication consultants out there saying, "I got the perfect plan for you to get huge readership," and it doesn't happen. It is a really interesting person, idea, and moment theme that goes back to the Isaiah Berlin quote.
But Benenson's political skills worked great for getting the organization started and growing, but he was very impulsive, he had poor judgment, he didn't always see projects through to full fruition, he resisted accountability and went in by himself, and by 1967 he is out, and he is not associated with the organization until he dies in 2005. It is a different kind of person who provides the leadership and the idea but is not necessarily the same thing.
I deal with this in a number of other chapters as well. You take Lech Walęsa, as Steve mentioned, there is a chapter on him. He was a terrible president of Poland, but he was an extraordinary leader of the Polish revolution. Gandhi, had he lived, had he ever gone into government, I don't think he would have been particularly effective; that was Nehru.
What you try to get are different skill sets. We have a chapter here on Aung San Suu Kyi, which we call "A Cautionary Tale." I started on the chapter pre-Rohingya genocide issues, really about the leadership she provided from 1988 to 2015 to an extraordinary courage and resonance and personal capital she had to bring about the transition of Burma/Myanmar to at least a partial democracy.
Then there is the Rohingya genocide in which, by most accounts, she is at minimum complicit. She has not—and there are all sorts of analyses of these. Nicholas Kristof has written how extraordinary it is to see a Nobel Prize winner involved in this, some have asked for the Nobel Prize to be taken back. Actually, Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist who has as much experience as others, sort of got the best balance, where he said, "We in the West tend to demonize and lionize."
I was really concerned about this. My editor and I had a discussion last fall, and again I'll give him credit. He said: "You know, part of the point of the book is to draw lessons from both the strengths people have and their weaknesses. So let's work the chapter"—we worked it over a little bit more—"and make it a cautionary tale and tell both stories and try to make some sense of why they're in the same person. But they fit with your larger pattern of some leaders being skillful"—Gorbachev could not consolidate his power in his own country, but we and the rest of the world think he is one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.
Benenson fits that as well. In the 21st-century applications, the argument I would make there really is that the NGOs of the world have been and need to continue to play very significant roles in human rights. Of course, they can't make it happen, governments have to. Whatever nice things I had to say about the United Nations don't really carry over to the UN Human Rights Council. The reality of government policy, even our own, is that we have always balanced that between our principles and our power considerations.
Now you have human rights groups that have the technology. Much of what we know about the Rohingya has come both from journalists and from Human Rights Watch that developed the satellite technology to get the word out. While not letting governments off the hook, I really try to say that it is an increasingly important role in a lot of policy areas, but especially this one.
Let me just in conclusion and then open it up, just a little passage from the Epilogue where I tie all this together. I actually go back to John Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, which was written in 1956.
It is a very interesting passage. He writes:
For everyday life is becoming so saturated with the tremendous power of mass communications. . . Our political life is becoming so expensive, so mechanized, and so dominated by professional politicians and public relations men that the idealist who dreams of independent statesmanship is rudely awakened by the necessity of election and accomplishment." That is 1956, and they didn't have cellphone cameras and any of this or that.
I sometimes—again, we may all feel this, I know I feel this about my students. There is a presentism: "Oh, you know, it's so hard today. It's harder than it ever was," and a little bit of rose-colored view of the past. I use that partly to say it was hard then, too. There are some unique aspects of the 21st century in many ways, but I think we need to understand that it doesn't mean we can't solve our problems or learn from those in the past.
Then I talk about the leaders:
None of them were fully successful. Breakthroughs entail significant progress on issues long considered intractable. Further progress is made possible, but it cannot be guaranteed. Backlashes and backsliding all too often follow. In none of these cases, though, was what had been achieved negated.
I have never used the term "new Cold War." We have tensions among major powers that are actually classically historical. It is not global, it is not ideological, and we are not talking about hiding under desks like I had to do in elementary school because of the fear of nuclear war. I think that is an important distinction to be making and to have an understanding of why the ending of the Cold War, the values of that did not go away.
People don't just follow an individual. They also have to have something to believe in, the why. For transformational impact, this has to be more than an itemized list of proposals. There has to be a sense of convincing people of what is wrong with the present enough to be motivated to pursue a better future while offering reassurance against the risks and uncertainties of that future. Gorbachev failed to do that, Rabin in his own way failed to do that. Every leader we talk about, whether it is the Northern Ireland women, one of whom was a secretary in a Guinness brewery, there was this sense of providing the why.
The challenge of peacemaking has always been there. In every era. In every area of societal life. In every country. No question that it has been and continues to be difficult. But it has been and continues to be possible. And it has been and continues to be necessary. I hesitate to lapse into the now more than ever refrain. Suffice it to claim as much as ever. In drawing lessons from 20th-century statesmanship for our 21st-century global challenges, I hope to have contributed to motivating and shaping the breakthroughs our era so greatly needs.
I hope you enjoy it, find it a valuable read, and thank you very much. I would love to take questions or comments.
QUESTION: Bruce, when you started the book two-and-a-half years ago, did you start with the themes you ended up with? Did you surprise yourself along the way? How much nuance or broad thematic change did you encounter?
BRUCE JENTLESON: I started thinking about it a while ago. I actually start the book in the Preface with a partly apocryphal story of when I taught at the University of California, Davis, in the mid-1980s and asked students, "What do you think is going to happen?"
I would say one naïve one said, "Oh, the Cold War is going to end and end peacefully."
Another said, "Nelson Mandela is going to get out of jail and be president of South Africa through a peaceful transition."
I said, "That was really nice to be California dreaming and naïve." But it gets you thinking as you work on those issues. It was wrestling with these leaders and broader forces.
Steve mentioned the point about "bad guy" leaders. If you think about it, there is no question that Germany was going to be unstable after World War I, but the particular form it took had an enormous amount to do with who became the leader. Think about France after the French Revolution. Same thing. It was going to be unstable, but the form it took had a lot to do with Napoleon.
I started thinking about that and flipping it around and also the notion of how important breakthroughs are. A lot of foreign policy is transactional, and it needs to be. But so many of the strides that you need and that you start to see were like that.
I played with that theme for a while and was working on other projects. That theme stayed the same. The structure and other things developed over time. As I said to somebody before, it was my editor who came up with this five-part structure because I was throwing around these cases in different ways. So you just keep wrestling with it. You'll be working in your study late at night, and you think you've really got it, and you get up in the morning and look at what you wrote, and say "Who was the masked man who came to my study and wrote that awful stuff last night?"
It was a process. It was really the last couple of years when I had some fellowship opportunities at the Wilson Center at the Library of Congress to get relieved of a lot of my other responsibilities that I got into it, but that theme stayed the same. Some cases bounced around.
QUESTION: Michael Doyle.
Bruce, it sounds like a wonderful book. We political scientists often assume that history takes place without people, and clearly it takes place with people. I think your discussion of leadership is spot-on for ways in which at crucial turning points it makes a big difference.
My question has to do about the United Nations in particular. The question is: Can a UN secretary-general ever lead without a strongly permissive environment, that is, wherein the great powers and particularly in the Security Council either say, "Not our problem, you run with it," or "Yes, we have some sense of a common ground, but we can't do it on our own, somebody else has to do it"?
I ask that question particularly with regard to Syria. My former boss was one of the first attempted mediators there, and he eventually quit in frustration because he felt that he could not operate as a genuine diplomat because he felt his hands were tied. The Americans were saying: "You cannot talk to the Iranians. They can't be part of the discussion," and there is no solution in Syria without having the Iranians in the room. The Russians were saying: "You can't have Saudi Arabia involved," and without Saudi money there is also probably going to be no solution in Syria.
So my question is: On UN leadership, what is the scope of it? Can it operate outside of those constraints of "Not our problem, you deal with it" or "Yes, we want you to deal with it, but we don't know how to figure it out"? Can you go beyond that?
BRUCE JENTLESON: Yes, I think you're exactly right, Michael. There was an incident I talk about in the book where Ban Ki-moon called a Geneva conference on Syria, and he had invited Iran. He was told by John Kerry, "They can't be there." It is the exact opposite of Hammarskjöld's role in Suez.
The politics in the United States are not just Trumpian "America First." I think we know a lot of liberal multilateralists who still want the United States to run things as well as more conservative. But my sense is that whatever degree of prerogative you would trade off, it's not going to be great powers subservient to the United Nations in any stretch of the imagination. Even Hammarskjöld didn't do that.
But what you trade off in prerogative, you gain in the capacity for the UN secretary-general to achieve goals that are in your interest that you can't achieve yourself, and in fact are more in your interests than in the smaller countries of the world. I think this would fit China as well as Russia.
You get into what is politically realistic and what is policy realistic, and my sense is that we keep operating within the parameters of what is politically realistic and we end up with an ineffective United Nations. The SG (secretary-general), as you know, came to stand for "scapegoat." But that role is a really important one.
I think Syria is set up—I worked with Staffan de Mistura a bit, who was one of the successors, and he is a very interesting guy. He was actually quite skilled, but he didn't have the authority to really do anything.
Look where Syria is now, not only for the Syrian people, but there are a lot of things. There probably wouldn't be an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if there hadn't been a Syria in terms of the areas where it really developed its strength, all sorts of things that externalize to the region and the rest of the world the issues.
I think there is a core policy logic there that somebody else would need to figure out to sell it politically and Congress would give you this and that, but we're not going to ever have an effective United Nations unless we have a more empowered secretary-general. Syria is sitting there. For a while I thought it might help on Korea, but we've got whatever dynamic is going on. We still may get to a point where you need—and no secretary-general is going to go out there and do something that he or she thinks would be absolutely unacceptable to the United States and Russia. If they said, "Go do it, and by the way, here are the very narrow parameters," you might as well not have him do it.
The push I'm trying to make is to get us thinking about that because the first-choice option might be to fix this ourselves, and it hasn't worked. I just think it's the only way anything positive will happen in Syria, and after seven-plus years now of conflict there is an awful lot to be done.
The other problem at the United Nations was Kevin Rudd's commission most recently. A lot of things need to be fixed at the United Nations, and this wouldn't fix everything, but I don't think those things are fixable.
Like any organization you need to have a respected and empowered CEO. That is the argument there, and I try to frame it in a way that shows that I get the politics, but I really think it would be in America's—it's not a, say, "This is good for the United Nations", it's what American interests are as well as others.
QUESTION: I'm Jim Ketterer from Bard College.
I worked in Egypt in the time following the Egyptian Revolution, and as the optimism was fading and it was becoming realized that things weren't going so well, people kept on asking: "Well, where is our Nelson Mandela? Where is somebody to step to the fore?"
It seemed to me that the answer was there is no lack of leadership, there is no lack of quality among Egyptians, but that the regime that had been ousted knew very well the lessons that you're talking about in this book, and they were actively seeking to thwart it for decades.
In those kinds of circumstances, what sort of lessons can we draw on the development of new leadership and the ways in which a Nelson Mandela can come to the fore without having to spend decades in prison?
BRUCE JENTLESON: Yes, which is one of the amazing things about Mandela. One of our colleagues at Duke, who is one of our diplomats-in-residence, professor of the practice, Jim Joseph, who was U.S. ambassador to South Africa during the Mandela years, appointed by Bill Clinton. He is a reverend, he was active in the American Civil Rights Movement, extraordinary person, good friend of Barbara and I. I got to interview Jim about Mandela and really got some insights out of that.
I have Mandela in the book, but I also talk about he wasn't a perfect person. He didn't have a very good relationship with his own children and a bunch of other things, so we're not over-idolizing.
Part of the argument is, you're right, and this is one of the things that happens. If you cut off the capacities of societies to build leadership, to build alternatives, you get explosions.
When the Arab Spring happened, the so-called "Twitter and Facebook revolution," one of the things it showed and I think continues to show, those technologies around the world, that they are quite effective for protest and sometimes causing governments to fall. They can also be used by governments. They don't really carry over to effective governing in the same ways. Same thing, skill sets are one thing that don't carry over to the other.
One answer would be: "Well, if society would stop being so repressive it would happen." But then you have the Lech Walęsas who come out of nowhere. Even Václav Havel—we had a chapter in the book, but the book was getting long, so I had to choose between the two, and so that chapter didn't get in—was a playwright. There is a little bit of this person and moment that happens. Aung San Suu Kyi was out of her country all that period, was studying at Oxford and a bunch of other things.
Part of me thinks that Mandela is probably the only one in the book who I talk about that you could see some of these leadership qualities in him as a young man. I put it as sort of like Lebron James out of high school or Mozart at a young age as a composer, where you could see there was a natural leadership, and he had to go through a tremendous amount. Rabin was a gruff soldier. Benenson was a failed lawyer. Gandhi for the beginning part of his career was dressing up in fancy British wear.
That is my optimism, that some qualities are going to happen despite those. If that doesn't happen, then we are continually faced with the same issues that we have.
QUESTION: Celeste Ford.
I have two questions please. They might be related questions.
Based on your survey of leadership, to what degree do you see strengths and weaknesses in the current administration?
Thinking about the Carnegie Council's mission statement, "Ethics matter," do they really and to what degree?
BRUCE JENTLESON: Let me answer the second question second. A couple of passages I read and there are others here where I try to say this is not about Trump. I even talk about in the section on Trump and Putin: "I confess. When I was writing this in the fall of the 2016 I thought I was writing it for President Hillary Clinton and Putin." Not that that relationship would have been easy.
My honest answer is this thing I say to journalists when they ask me: "There have been presidents before that I disagreed with but never one that I thought was truly dangerous for the country and the world." I say that for a couple of reasons, without going into a long-winded laundry list.
Really it's about decision-making style. I teach a course, and we study different case studies of decision-making—the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, the beginning of the Vietnam War—and you see certain qualities that contributed to effective decision-making by presidents, by executives. One is being very deliberative and not impetuous. I don't think that quality is there.
Second is trying to get as much information and analysis and a range of opinions as you can inside the room. What Kennedy did in the Cuban Missile Crisis is what he did not do in the Bay of Pigs.
Third is when you're in a crisis, if you can, push the bounds of time out. That's what we did with the famous blockade in the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the Navy wanted to set it I think 250 nautical miles out, and Kennedy told them and McNamara told them you need to set it closer to the shore of Cuba so it would take more time for the Soviet ships, and the Navy said, "We've been doing it this way since John Paul Jones." He said, "Well, I don't give a"—whatever—"what you've been doing."
I don't see any of those qualities in the decision-making. I think that there are people on the foreign policy team who I know and respect as professionals that I disagree with—I know Secretary Mattis a bit, I've worked with him a bit—and there are others that I don't, and I don't totally agree with Jim Mattis on everything. I find it to be a very dangerous kind of decision-making just for foreign policy. We could go into other aspects.
The other part I have to say—when I teach my classes, I really am conscious of helping students learn how to think, not what to think, but they can go to my website and find a little. We were talking the other day about norms—and Steve mentioned this in his introduction—you really think about some of the core norms of society.
Not that presidents have been angels and not that politics aren't tough, but the notion of truthfulness. With Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War he got in trouble for the credibility gap, and we made a big thing: What he was saying didn't square with what journalists were telling was going on. So if the next president of the United States comes in and doesn't tell the truth 20 percent of the time? Or the attacks on institutions, whether it's the FBI or the judiciary or the Congress or the media.
I'll plug another book: How Democracies Die. It's a really interesting book, and they talk about the "guardrails of democracy." These are Harvard professors who have studied other democracies that failed, from Peru and Fujimori to the rise of Mussolini. I do worry about those a lot. I really do. I feel like I'm not strictly partisan when I say that.
I think ethics matter more than ever. In fact, the board here, and the work that Joel and his colleagues have been doing, you think about areas like climate change and the whole notion of sustainability is the ethics of what we owe the next generation as well as some aspects of the ethics between the developing and the developed countries. I think it matters a lot when you think about if there is a Korean war because there might be a threat against the United States, but hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would die in the first 36 hours, and what European societies are going through now with the rise of hatred and anti-Semitism.
I actually think ethics matter, and I think the programs—here is a little plug—I believe in it. That's why I've been involved with the Council. Trying to look at the ethical dimensions of different issues is extremely important.
I think that is where much of the private sector and the public policy sector have started to come together on some issues if not all. I think it really matters.
QUESTION: Brett Buchness.
You mentioned great leadership moments, and you specifically cited I believe Reagan and Kissinger as having a really great moment and then disagreeing with them thereafter. In your research did you come across any theme I guess you could say that after these great leadership moments leads these people capable of great leadership moments to not have them any more? And is ego at all a part of that?
BRUCE JENTLESON: On the major powers, it is this personal, policy, and political combination that I think really matters when you're trying to make major breakthroughs. Even in the Rabin/Arafat case—I actually did some work and interviewed Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, who is Yitzhak Rabin's daughter and was a deputy defense minister. I also briefly interviewed his sister, this amazing woman, all of about four-feet-ten, who still at about 80 years old was living on a kibbutz up in the North and was a teacher.
But when I got to know Dalia Rabin—and I had done some work with Yitzhak Rabin—I asked her the question once: "Do you think if your father had lived that Oslo would have succeeded?" She thought about it a lot, and she said: "You know, by the end he was getting somewhat frustrated with Arafat. But he believed that he still had some influence on the relationship."
Again, if you look at the data, terrorism had gone up in Israel in 1993 and 1994. A colleague of ours had developed a theory of "spoilers," that when the train leaves the station for peace, it's a greater incentive for those, including Israelis, that were going to try to blow up the train. But in 1995 the terrorism incidents were going down.
Then there is story about how Arafat was banned from the funeral, but he paid a shiva call on Leah Rabin, the wife. The American consul general—not to me but to another interviewer—told stories about that. I believe that they had the personal and the policy going, and they both still had the political issues.
One of the great tragedies of Rabin was that he had a deep animosity toward his own right wing that went back to the War of Independence. He was told to wear a bulletproof vest. He said: "How can I wear a bulletproof vest? It's Israelis."
Gorbachev was told by Jack Matlock, the ambassador, and by President Bush about some things they were worried about. He said: "Oh, don't worry. I've got it all in hand." Maybe you become more arrogant over time.
There are a lot of those qualities, but I was trying to use the Rabin example to show that we had these strains—when you have to major leaders negotiating, that to me is three things you really have to look for, the personal, the policy, and the political, that can make that moment.
Reagan resisted many of the hawks in his administration, Richard Perle and others, to try to pursue the relationship with Gorbachev. Again, that is the notion of that's what makes these moments so rare and sometimes so powerful.
QUESTION: I'm Michael Smith.
I have a question that in some ways follows up from the previous question, and that is about what you might call the durability or the fungibility of your lessons. In many cases, somebody behaves very well in one instance but doesn't follow the tenet you just described. Think of Kissinger and the wonderful remark he made about "follow the big questions first," but when he was negotiating the end of the Arab-Israeli War he became entirely transactional, didn't think about big questions at all, just talked about withdrawing troops. Is this a book about moments of leadership or is it a book about lessons of leadership?
BRUCE JENTLESON: I think it's both, Michael. The argument with Kissinger—I go into some detail about what his paradigm framework was. He was very much a great-power person, which is why he did what he did in Chile, Vietnam, etc. When it came to the great powers, he was back to his Ph.D. thesis on Metternich. The same things didn't apply to smaller actors.
Is it a moment? Yes. When you put them all together, to me it is a lesson about—that's why I call it the "major-power rivalry," so it's not about those others. In managing major-power rivalries, I feel like the lessons of Gorbachev-Reagan and Kissinger-Zhou Enlai carry over I think to major-power relations today. That is what I kind of get into in the last part of that.
The durability I thought you were going to get at was this notion of backlashes and backsliding, and that's absolutely right. A breakthrough is only a breakthrough. It means it has to be built upon, and all sorts of things have to happen. We elect an African American president, and we thought that was a breakthrough, and we saw it wasn't, either.
That is part of the frustration, that no matter how much you have a peacemaker on these issues that have deep and long histories, more work has to be done, you get the equivalent of spoilers on both sides who try to push it backward. Philosophically I think it's the nature of human progress and the lack thereof, but part of the argument is that even though they've done that, it hasn't taken away the significance and the foundation that those breakthroughs led, and I make the same argument in the Middle East chapter as well.
STEPHEN HIBBARD: On behalf of the Carnegie Corporation and the Carnegie Council, we thank all of you for coming out tonight. We appreciate it. We thank Bruce for the wonderful presentation and hope you all enjoy you evening. Please take a book as you leave. Thank you.
BRUCE JENTLESON: Thank you.