When you talk to people in U.S. embassies about their visitors, they tell you it’s nonstop officials from other departments in their own governments. It’s not the diplomats or the citizens, but the agriculture minister, the transportation guy, the finance person. They’re all coming to share information and get some project under way.
The people I know who get this shift faster than anybody else are military leaders. Their international networks have been extremely valuable in stabilizing parts of the world. For example, when India and Pakistan almost came to nuclear blows in 1999, U.S. General Anthony Zinni was able to reach out to his contacts in both places. And that was vital. More recently, some military leaders have been upset with the Bush administration’s policy of cutting off our International Military Education and Training [IMET] program from countries that support the International Criminal Court.
S+B: What happens when, at the military level, there is a lot of connection and exchange of information — and then the countries go to war with each other?
SLAUGHTER: Even a disaggregated state can be pulled back in pretty quickly if need be. And obviously when relations get tense, everybody tends to come back under central direction. But the flip side is, when things go bad with a particular country, we can still have good relations with people there.
For example, as the second Iraq war began, in 2003, the Americans were furious with the French and Germans. Yet I remember talking to the German minister of justice, who said that his ties with [then] Attorney General John Ashcroft had never been closer. They were communicating regularly about the Hamburg cells and other evidence about al Qaeda’s activities. Libya and Sudan are examples of difficult countries where this type of small-scale cooperation is a real asset. And when dealing with difficult countries, we need to deploy all the assets we have. Maybe we talk to one country about environmental issues and to another about finance. Yes, this approach will make life more complicated. But I’d rather be cooperating with a difficult country on something, at least.
The Multisector Career Path
S+B: Where else do you see networks taking hold?
SLAUGHTER: Interestingly, we see it with our students. One of the first things I tell our master in public affairs [MPA] students is that the career path in government has changed. Most of them will hold multiple jobs. They should think about the issues they’re interested in — whether human rights, the environment, HIV/AIDS, energy, or geopolitics — and then pursue those issues in the private sector, the government sector, and the nonprofit sector, with maybe 10 or 15 years in each sector. Only if you move among them do you meet the people and learn the culture of all three sectors. And only then can you bring all three groups together to work on these issues.
That’s a big change. In international relations there used to be a 30-year, one-job career model. Now the U.S. State Department has a hard time getting the people they want because our best students don’t want to work in one organization for 30 years, and they have spouses with careers, who aren’t going to follow them around the world. Instead, you have people like one of my star students from Harvard Law School, Suzanne Nossel. After graduating, she worked under Richard Holbrooke at the U.S. Embassy to the United Nations. She then worked for Dow Jones, and is now the chief of operations at Human Rights Watch. Both government and nonprofits now want people like her, with experience, skills, and contacts in all three areas. This type of multifaceted career fits with the sort of dynamic movement that these students see for themselves, and with the networks that they want to build.