Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Burns’
Please listen to the five segments of “Diplomacy Under Fire”.
“When I worked in the state department, we made the decision to put diplomats into the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s an entirely different proposition than serving in Rome.”
– Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns
The cocktail parties and communiqués of traditional diplomacy are giving way to counterinsurgency and crisis management missions in places like Iraq and Colombia. American diplomats are now required to serve in both embassies and embeds. But the Foreign Service is short on folks with the language and technical skills to fill these modern posts. Add to that a bureaucratic State Department short on funds and slow to adapt and you end up with the 82nd Airborne as the face of American foreign policy to the world.
Big names, big issues!
This past week the HD had the pleasure of meeting with the US Ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman, and the former Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns. A write-up on the Burns lecture/meeting is forthcoming but let us turn now to cigar touting, pint pouring “Big Lou”:
On Wednesday moring the Ambassador sat next to the HD as he spoke on a whole host of issues in the Ambassador’s conference room of the US Embassy in London. Of course Embassy staff took a picture so the HD will be sure to post the photo (with the necessary redactions) as it becomes available.
Jokingly, the Ambassador claimed that London was a hardship post and that anyone who worked here deserved combat pay. On LSE, he said a family member attended there for a year and that it was a great place to meet people (“Saudi princes”) and particpate in rambunctious lectures. “Then they lock you up for six weeks” (Summer Term).
On interning in the Political section, he nodded and said “politics is a blood sport here”.
A self-proclaimed “Anglophile from way back”, he said his job was 80% substance, 15% dress up (putting on a fluffy hat and meeting with the Queen) and 5% sleep.
Commenting on the recent Northern Ireland violence, he said that people are tired of killing each other and that they care about jobs. That was a throwback to what the HD has always been saying about the Troubles in Northern Ireland— it was never about religion and was always about economics. Religion was the cover and economics was the underlying theme. But with the parades of Orangemen and the resulting violence, the Ambassador said “everyone drank too much which tends to happen in Ireland.” He also spoke briefly on the new austerity budget and the cuts facing Northern Ireland.
The Ambassador has had roughly 12-14 meetings with the Muslim community in the UK on counter radicalization. Hey, somebody tell them to contact the Quilliam Foundation!
On his preparations for becoming Ambassador to the UK: first he said yes to the President after “flunking retirement”. He was already an Anglophile but that “nothing can prepare you”. “It helps to have life experience” (he was a banker) but that it is mostly “on the job training”. The Foreign Service Institute puts on a two week crash course for all incoming ambassadors where he met the Secretary of State, major management players, and “the spooky guys of the CIA”.
On the Special Relationship: the media are constantly try to attack the Special Relationship and put down the US or the UK. Examples include Obama removing the Winston Churchill bust. What the media didn’t mention as prominently was that he was replacing it with a bust of Abraham Lincoln who had much more of an effect on his life. In addition, in regards to the BP oil spill, he said it wasn’t a country to country thing. This was a case of country to corporation. “When you are in the pub with your counterparts, remember the special relationship”.
On private sector vs. public service: working with government employees, he was stunned at the quality and competence of those in the Foreign Service. (Maybe he had really low expectations!). Public service careers don’t give you a lot of money, but does provide for a nice living and it’s a good life expereience. You gotta love what you are doing. The ambassador gets the same briefing as the President and “knows things I wish I didn’t know”.
On law school (the Ambassador attended Washington University in St. Louis): “In your first year, look to your left and your right. One of you won’t be here.”
On working at an investment bank: “In your first few years it’s 100 hours a week and less money per hour than someone who flips burgers”.
On coalition government: told the president that it was the best thing that could have happened because it would be 3-5 years of stability. The alternative was paraylsis and snap elections a few months later. With a 70 vote majority, Cameron has flexibility and the ability to “give in to the coalition” when it is politically convenient. He likes both Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg. He works with them often but that “it is curently a honeymoon period right now”. The Ambassador will be traveling to DC next week when PM Cameron is meeting with President Obama.
On newspapers: “The newspaper here are WILD”. Everyday he reads the Financial Times (for finance), the Telegraph (equivalent of Republican perspective), the Guardian (equivalent of Democratic perspective), WSJ, Daily NYT (“Don’t ask how I get it or how much it costs to be delivered to me”).
Political diplomats told him to read the Sun as it is most read newspaper in the UK with 3 million people reading it. “CRAZY… The political diplomats told me ‘DON’T LOOK AT PAGE 3!'”. He also said “Daily Mail… crazy”. The HD has been reading the Sun ever since THIS STORY.
This post is UNCLASSIFIED.
Ambassador Nicholas Burns is speaking at the LSE on Tuesday the 13th at 6.30pm on the “Global Challenges for Europe and America” (so basically the global challenges for America… The HD kids, he kids, he just makes a little joke).
He is speaking again at the House of Commons the following day on “The U.S. Perspective on Afghanistan and Iran”. Both events are not to be missed! The HD will be rolling with his usual entourage so be sure to holler if you see us! As Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department, Ambassador Burns was the third-ranking official after the Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of State.
ADDED: Be sure to skip lunch and catch Marc Sageman speaking (quote: “Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there’s nothing for us there.”) on “Understanding Terror Networks- The Turn to Political Violence” at the House of Commons on Tuesday the 13th at 1pm! If you can’t skip lunch, read his book at your desk! The HD has been led to believe that Juha will be in attendance. His academic specialty is political violence so the HD looks forward to some festive questions!