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Knight Center Foreign Policy seminar part I

Grim and I attended a Foreign Policy seminar as Fellows of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland. We had the privilege to hear from many luminaries on a number of vital issues facing all of us. This is the second fellowship I have done w/ the Knight Center and Blake Powers (Laughing Wolf) has done two as well. Both have featured tremendous speakers and almost unprecedented ability to question them at length. The facilities and hospitality were also first rate and we enjoyed socializing with the many interesting journalists who attended. You can see the archived footage of the live streams for most of the sessions here.

The opening session was Emerging Powers - Moisés Naím, editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy magazine. He spoke mostly about the shift of influence among the established powers and who the main rising powers were. He also discussed the implications of the recent financial crisis on the health of the world as a whole and he seemed to feel that many countries and areas have already emerged from it. He felt the US was lagging somewhat due to fact that much of the crisis was caused by the over exposure of our markets.

The dinner speech that night was Global Trends and ChallengesJohn McLaughlin, distinguished practitioner in residence, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and former CIA Director. He talked about demographic trends and how there was major growth in under-developed countries which obviously lack infrastructure and how that could lead to larger migration from those to developed countries with aging populations and good infrastructure. He also noted that there were a number of areas where governance was ineffective and stability sorely affected. These include the Horn of Africa as well as the obvious trouble in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater. He also noted that China and India had become major players in the global marketplace with China even developing a blue water navy to allow it to project power as well as protect it's trade lanes.

The next day covered social media and I will discuss that in a separate post. Following that we went on a morning trip to the State Department and had a chance to question Ian Kelly, a State spokesman on Smart Power. He was somewhat responsive, but all in all fairly typical of someone in his role; he volunteered little that wasn't common knowledge. Then we had a rep from the Public Diplomacy group who was woefully non-communicative. Grim is incubating a post about him, so I will refrain for now. All in all the State Department was a waste of time.

After lunch we caught a breath of fresh air from two gentlemen discussing the Iranian nuclear program. David Albright is President of the Institute for Science and International Security and Patrick Clawson is Deputy Director for Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They were a study in contrasts with the studious and thoughtful Albright seemingly entertained by the animated and entertaining Clawson.They were both deeply informed and informative, and we all walked away smiling about one of the most horrifying threats we currently face.

Clawson led off by noting that the Obama administration had made many overtures to the Iranians sending letters and offering talks and had really managed to change one thing completely, who was to blame. As far as progress he noted that exactly none had been made, but now instead of the US being to blame Obama had turned the tables. But then he pointed out that got us no closer to stopping their program. Albright gave an overview of the technical aspects of the program and that they had solved most of the issues that could stop them from building a bomb. When I asked him, he said the consensus was they were about 12 months from exploding a bomb once they made the decision to do so. He added they could have one on a long range missile in an additional 6 months.

Clawson introduced me to a new term when discussing the potential Israeli response to a potential Iranian nuke, "Cutting the grass" as in pushing the problem further into the future if that is all you can do. He believes that is their likely action if they believe a bomb is imminent i.e. as much of a strike as they can muster. Neither of them believed that any regime of effective sanctions could be mounted as the Russians and Chinese are too deeply tied economically to them to allow that to happen. This was an excellent session and I may expand on it later.

That day ended with the gender issues rep from the US Institute for Peace and she was a perfect caricature of the entire peace, conflict resolution, sweetness and light, milk of human kindness industry. I don't impugn her motives or goals, I just saw her as someone not even willing to sing kumbaya as someone could be offended. She spoke so softly and passively that it seemed she barely propelled the words out of her mouth where they fell on the table and scattered into their component letters having made no impact at all, as desired. The only entertaining moments came when former CNN Pentagon rep, where he had a supporting role in my shot across their bow, and current Military.com blogger Jamie McIntyre snapped out of the daze she had put him in to ask if maybe her Institute should put it's new HQ in the open space in the middle of the Pentagon for ironic effect. The other was when a Humphrey Fellow from Afghanistan noted, in a discussion about oppression of women by Islam I began, that his Father told him about seeing Muslim women in Kabul during the 70's wearing miniskirts.This led me to a new rallying cry "Bring back the miniskirt-loving Muslims". 

More to come.

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