Kralev talks diplomacy, foreign policy
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 08:10
Nicholas Kralev, renowned journalist and author of the new book “America’s Other Army,” last night delivered a speech in the ASEAN Auditorium at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
His speech, entitled “The U.S. Foreign Service: Behind the Scenes of American Diplomacy,” provided an overview of his longtime coverage of American diplomacy and how it has evolved into the present day.
Before beginning his presentation, Kralev requested a moment of silence for the four American diplomatic personnel killed in Libya last month.
“It’s unfortunate that only at a time of tragedy does the media choose to recognize members of the Foreign Service,” he said.
Kralev then described how politics has influenced his life from a young age, especially when he experienced the climax of the Cold War in his native Bulgaria.
“At first, I wanted to become a theater director,” he said. “However, I saw that because of politics, the real theater was occurring in the streets, where so many people gathered to express themselves at this time. So I decided to become a journalist, so that I could document all of this firsthand.”
Kralev described how this career path led him to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, tenures at The Washington Times and the Financial Times and travels with numerous diplomats and U.S. Secretaries of State, including Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton.
He addressed three basic questions that summed up the relevancy of American diplomacy — “What is diplomacy in 2012? Why should we care about diplomacy? What do U.S. diplomats do?” −− and claimed that these were actually three of the questions that the diplomats he has spoken to have had the hardest time answering concisely.
While criticizing a number of American diplomats’ past actions, including those of Cameron Munter, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Kralev recognized the wide variety of skills which are required of successful diplomats. His list ranged from effective governance of their regions to handling critical negotiations with other statesmen.
“Is there any other profession that requires all of these?” Kralev asked the crowd. “I couldn’t think of one. They’re literally expected to be able to do everything.”
Kralev stated that, while U.S. diplomats have never all seen eye−to−eye, there has been increased consistency in their general aims over recent years. This trend has emerged particularly in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the Iraq War, as the U.S. has heightened its efforts to bring security and stability to other nations around the world.
“Since [Sept. 11], there’s been an agreement amongst Republican and Democratic administrations about international interests,” Kralev said. “Before [Sept. 11], that wasn’t the case.”
Kralev also distinguished between traditional and transformational diplomacy. He claimed that the United States has adopted the latter policy more frequently in recent years when dealing with issues such as providing meaningful foreign aid and ensuring effective governance by foreign administrations.
“It’s basically about changing the world through Foreign Service to make your own country more secure,” Kralev said.
Kralev closed his speech by addressing what he termed “diplomacy’s identity crisis,” a phenomenon which he believes has become especially severe in the 21st century.
He argued that the notion of what makes a “good diplomat” has become overly ambiguous in recent years, claiming that many diplomats have been hired without a thorough background in international relations and without a clear sense of the skill sets they need.
As a result, the role of U.S. diplomacy has become rather ill−defined, he said.
“Ultimately for me, if you don’t know what kind of service you want in 10 years, how can you know the skills which you will need, the people you should recruit and how you can properly train them?” Kralev asked.
After the lecture, Kralev told the Daily that he felt satisfied with the audience’s reception of his speech and felt that Tufts’ Fletcher students were the ideal audience for his presentation.
“It was an obvious choice for me to come here,” Kralev said. “Clearly people here are interested [in my subject matter] because they might soon be in the Foreign Service schools themselves. Most of them stayed for the full hour−and−a−half and asked very insightful questions at the end.”
Several members of the audience were impressed with Kralev’s approach to the subject matter.
“I thought it was a very interesting perspective on foreign service,” Stephanie Petersen, a first−year student in the Fletcher School’s Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) program, said. “It’s refreshing that someone looked at how Foreign Service is structured and how it operates. It’s very valuable for someone who’s not in the State Department.”