The Dean, The Dude, The Legend…
Yesterday was a pretty rad day at the Korbel School. Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies (JKSIS) and former US Ambassador to Iraq (2009-2010), Christopher Hill, came to address students and staff for the first time this academic year and a stuffy ex-diplomat he is not.
Not surprisingly, Dean Hill is an entertaining and informative speaker, who has an obvious personal as well as professional commitment to his role as chief overseer of the State of Affairs at Korbel today. His address touched on matters related to academic life at Korbel (including an update on some of the big names from public life that he is going to bring to the School to talk to us in the near future), as well as his views on a number of issues in foreign policy and diplomacy today. He even suggested that he wants to teach a class in the Spring, to the obvious glee of a number of students.
To the amusement of all, Dean Hill opened up his dialogue with students by talking about how Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s book, “In My Time”, which was released earlier this year, “disparages” him and other former officials.
“If you see the former Vice President’s book at an airport, turn it upside down, backside up. That’s the same way I left it,” he told Korbel students and staff, to much laughter.
(Though I haven’t read the book, Cheney is said to have criticised the nomination of Hill as Ambassador to Iraq by President Obama, due to his perceived “lack of experience” in the region, and was also critical of Hill’s previous work dealing with nuclear issues in North Korea during the Bush Administration).
With that, here’s a little summary of some of the main points of interest from Dean Hill’s address:
ON POLITICAL BIGSHOTS COMING TO KORBEL….
In late fall, Former Secretary of State, Gaddhafi heart throb and most importantly, Korbel alum, Condoleeza “Condi” Rice is going to come to speak to us, and maybe even do some “workshops”.
On that note, while I don’t think it would be her first choice, when else but as Condi walks up to the mic at that event would be a better time to play this awesome tune from my youth: The “Condoleeza song” otherwise known as “The Energizer: From her lips to God’s ears” by punk band, Against Me!?
Yeah? You with me? Vote below!
Not only that, but General George Casey, another former Korbel Grad and Army Chief of Staff from 2007 to earlier this year is also being lined up for a showing at the school. Suggestions on possible intro tunes for his talk also welcomed.
Add Former Secretary General of NATO and EU Foreign Policy Chief, Javier Solana and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (after whose father, US educator and diplomat Josef Korbel, the School is now named) into the mix and it seems that Dean Hill is certainly keen on sharing the benefits of his extensive network with the School this year – and this is just the start!
ON THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AND ITS IMPACT ON AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AND DIPLOMACY….
My journalistic habit got the better of me, and I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to ask Dean Hill a couple of questions about his views on Wikileaks and the impact that the Economic Crisis, which we seem to be now headed further back into thanks to the disastrous situation in the Eurozone, has and will have on American foreign policy and diplomacy.
Dean Hill did not mince his words on either count, telling us bluntly that both developments have very negative consequences for policy and diplomacy.
On the subject of the economic crisis, he said:
“I am concerned about how it affects foreign policy. I never heard Iraq or Afghanistan mentioned once in the Republican debates we’ve had recently. And on the Democratic side there seems to be even less commitment to stay in a long war. There seems to be a kind of unholy alliance forming between the Republicans and the Democrats towards not supporting foreign policy initiatives. ”
Dean Hill suggested that this can be seen in the fact that there is discussion underway on cutting the sacred cow of the American budget: Expenditure on the military.
“When you see the military budget coming under pressure you can see there’s a real concern from the American people about these wars.”
Dean Hill added that he has concern for how budgetary constraints may impinge upon embassies ability to influence affairs in other countries going forward using “soft power”.
“There are three ways you can get people to go with your policy. Firstly they can be so thunderstruck by the force of your ideas that they will agree to go along with you. Secondly there is coercion – war or invasion, or economic sanctions – but that sometimes doesn’t work so well either. And thirdly you can say ‘Please support us, we will have a better relationship.’ And you can build schools and so on. I am worried about that third option.”
“If Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, goes in there, wagging her finger (and cannot back it up with inducements in the form of commitments to help the country financially) you are getting to the point where they’ll say ‘Thank you very much, we have an appointment with the Chinese. And the Chinese don’t ask questions…”
“How are you going to get schools built in Afghanistan when you can’t afford to build schools in Colorado? It’s going to be a tough trade off,” he said.
“It’s done a lot of damage. Your job as a diplomat is to establish the level of trust where people will tell you things.”
Criticising not only the release of the leaked US Cables by Wikileaks, but also the publication of them by the New York Times and other newspapers, whether with names redacted or otherwise (Hill suggested that by publishing the material the NYTimes had engaged in “trafficking of stolen goods”) the former diplomat related the story of how Iraq’s Human Rights Minister had put herself at risk to let he and the embassy know about an illegal detention site in Iraq.
According to the Dean, the US then organised a mission and went in and shut it down. The successful operation and how it had come about was subsequently made public by Washington (something Dean Hill suggested he was not best impressed about either). Dean Hill suggested that it is these kinds of pieces of information and the benefits that accrue from them that could be lost in light of the Wikileaks creating the impression that sources identities and comments will not be held in confidence by the US.
“If America can’t be seen to keep its mouth shut we have a problem,” he said.
“We’ve got a problem, we’ve got a procedurist issue and we need to do some damage control.”
ON USING GRAD SCHOOL “WISELY”
“You should have anxiety over how you are selecting your courses. This is not Frisbee 101. This is not undergrad.”
Dean Hill noted that if a person came to him as a State Department representative with their degree transcript, he would be looking to see this person made the best of their grad school opportunity.
That is, the primary benefit of coming to Korbel to obtain a Masters degree is not simply to obtain a Masters degree, but how you structure it and how well your classes support your career interests and not just your curiosity.
“You are going to go out into a job market that has some problems. We want you to have you prepared,” he said.
The Dean advised all students get to know the Office of Career and Professional Development, which is located within the Korbel School.
ON A MASTERS PROGRAM VS. A PHD…
“A professional Masters program is aimed right at the jobs market. A PhD is aimed at the academic job market. We like to think that 90 credits later in a professional MA program you’ll have everything you need. It’s not that we’re trying to give you what you need to start you on the bottom rung of the career ladder, we’re trying to give you the education and training that will serve you all the way up that ladder. We really believe you can have a really good career with a professional MA.”
ON INCREASING INTERNATIONAL STUDENT NUMBERS…
At the moment there are 402 MA students at Korbel, around 12 -14 PhDs and almost 400 undergraduates who take classes at the School. Of this year’s incoming MA quota, there are 16 international students (that includes me, by the way).
Dean Hill said that he and Student Admissions Director, Brad Miller, are keen to see that percentage increased and have had “lots of meetings on strategy” in relation to how to go about doing that. Whilst suggesting he is not keen on seeing the level of internationalism now evident in some other schools of international studies where as much as 50 or more per cent of students come from abroad, JKSIS would like to have a percentage “somewhere in between what we have now and that upper number.”
“We need to do more,” he said.
So if you are an international student thinking about coming to Korbel… apply soon! They want YOU!