tv After Words CSPAN October 9, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm EDT
>> it was one of those things that you feel your way through as a reporter and there's a formula for it. you kind of reply on the judgment. a lot to say things about my supposed relationships with detective garcia. i won't go any further than that. [laughter] but there was a lot of that kind of talk about. >> there's nothing wrong with that either. >> there is a variety of services. the criminals knew the reality of the project and it was striking to me and funny that
there was more animosity. i learned a lot more about that when i went to gabriel high school. we had a long conversation and he told me i oversee people that go to the business and that's about it. so this is a principle. [laughter] [inaudible] the funny thing about cops is they want to tell you how much the criminals love them. they want to tell you i treated him well and then he came out of
[inaudible conversations] we hear from the former state department official mary thompson jones on some diplomatic cables interviewed by the former unde undersecretary r democracy and global affairs. >> you have written a powerful book and on the back it says mary thompson jones have used the trove of cables to provide a fascinating account of how
diplomacy really works from the bottom up. why did you write this book? >> guest: thank you for the compliment and the question. i've admired your career for a long time and in part, admiration was one motive and i know firsthand what they do and the release which was not intentional for the government and something that nobody had imagined gave a unique opportunity to see what the diplomats do in real time. they deal with world leaders many of whom are still reading and in place. it was an opportunity for someone who had been a diplomat and had the lived experience of serving in some of the countries which these were written to comment on them and try to make sense of them for the public at large. >> how long was your career and why did you wan he want to becoa foreign service officer?
>> i was hired in 1989 by the agency. >> i had ten years and then the other agency was folded into the state department and i continued with a diplomac the diplomacy oe state department and evolved into what ultimately became the deputy chief of mission for the embassy which was my last assignment in the foreign service. >> in my class many are going into the foreign service and it's interesting those that want to give into the service want to be a broad and make a difference. what motivated you? >> guest: the same thing that motivated a lot of m it one of y colleagues. of course a sense of patriotism with a desire to serve my country.
but also a desire to learn about the rest of the world to experience and take a deep dive into how others think about the united states. i was caught by the mandate of mutual understanding and the idea that we should go abroad to serve american foreign policy but also to bring home the viewpoints of foreign public that were living and working among and try to use that to a informed the u.s. foreign policy. >> host: explain a little bit about public diplomacy. i want to ask about that because it's interesting when the organization was melded into the state department. there was in fact a heavy deba debate, very controversial over the question should it be brought into the state department. some people said absolutely not because it should be independent and it would have a greater
impact if it was. on the other hand, then there was the issue of it should be in the state department because by bringing it and it is melded into the policy process. what did you think about that before we turned it into a book? >> guest: it was described as press and culture and a lot of us do work on it either gravitate towards media work and at the press conferences" debating contacts among the community that we are posted to and monitoring the media all the time and the cultural aspects which means bringing the best of the american culture to the rest of the world is a challenge because we have pop-culture and everyone thinks they know a lot about america and what they know is that often the best.
so there is an opportunity for us to deepen with the american culture is all about and one of the best ways to do this is to learn more about the foreign culture in which we operate. i love the meshing of the two that takes place when all goes as it should and we have an opportunity to deepen those layers of knowledge. >> host: it plays a crucial role in understanding of the society and also plays a role which isn't and hasn't been the traditional role of the state department and what the state department has focused on so i think the compliment is a crucial one indeed. >> guest: to g >> guest: to go back to the earlier question about the things that sets it apart from what is practiced in other countries is the imperative to reach over or across the heads
of state and government directly to the fore in public. and by four in public i really mean people. people from all walks of life and others that work in ngos, academia, people that are opinion leaders and nontraditional lines of work who never achieved notoriety in the holes of power but are influential in their own communities and their own life and to the effect of the diplomats not only public diplomacy practitioners but diplomats of any sort. i think it's imperative not only to do the traditional kind of diplomacy in which the state department has done since the beginning of the country's founding, but also to explore the boundaries of public diplomacy, push the boundaries of it, and to cultivate the foreign audiences and publics as well as the traditional context which is the bread and butter of
the traditional diplomacy. >> let's turn to the book. you laid out very well in the east chapters the tables. and you did it very methodically and i think what was very interesting is the fact that i don't think many people realized the scale and scope of what was covered because what was highlighted and featured, mostly the classified portion, and the classified portion was in the scheme of things tha but only compromised a small part. as you pointed out in the book there were a number of confidential also surprisingly large number of unclassified cables. let me first start with this. will you on november 28, 2010? >> guest: i was a diplomatic residents working in new england based on the fletcher school of diplomacy. and my job was to talk to
aspiring diplomats from across new england about what it's like to be a diplomat into the kind of things they deal with and how to become a foreign service officer. everyone is inspired to write this telegram but it had its moments in history and that is the way the foreign policy is made. some explaining to students, what is foreign-policy and where do they fit in, who are the stakeholders in the foreign-policy anand theforeigne apparatus behind it and what can you expect if you were to go to the consulate or embassy, what would that feel like, so that's what i was doing at the time. >> host: what was your initial reaction and when you learned of
the cable and the fact that they were released and what did you think the impact was? >> guest: shock, horror, disbelief like all of my colleagues and sort of racking my brain which is obviously the one that was at the top and the one that might embarrass us or undermine the u.s. foreign-policy. what had i appeared on, what with my name at -- appeared on but no longer working on the embassy but being based in new england as a diplomatic residents realizing that i would love to be part of the conversation, but i have a different job at the moment at my job is going to be to answer the questions from students and faculty and the public interested in the foreign service. >> host: you say in the book that the release wasn't
unprecedented in a certain way. there have bee had been other ts historically where there had been such releases of information but not in the same shape and form. it's part of the journalistic practice. this is noteworthy and it is the rule of julian a who was back in the news because of the comments of the unfortunate murder that took place in washington, d.c. a couple weeks ago. he had an interesting angle.
he was very suspicious and worried that there were underhanded dealings and that somehow publishing this is a sort of radical transparency and would prove that all of us were up to no good. they collaborated with the initial release of the cables and were surprised to find that in fact there were n were no otr dealings in the paper mostly written by mid-level officers going about their duties and with some zeal sometimes and interesting approaches with the writing style that wasn't bureaucratic and making efforts to understand the environments they had been posted. and i thought there was a lot of eloquence in that that he missed because of his own agenda.
so i part company with him in terms of thinking that there is a public service being performed here and that somehow there is dirt that will come to light. it's surprising. it's interesting but it isn't nefarious. >> host: it's caught my attention that in the book you did mention the guardian, and you also mentioned david sanger of "the new york times" and i even wrote down the quote where he mentioned that they were often eloquent and occasionally entertaining. it was very interesting these reactions. on the other hand, you have to be then i tell you the foreign minister who described november 28 as the september the 11th of world diplomacy. was it the september 11 as you described it doesn't sound like you view it as the same. >> guest: we survived. it's interesting that it wasn't
a one-off. we had the dnc scandal just a month or two ago and they will be a part of the government life and the speed at which the multiplicity that we communicate with each other now not only into cables but e-mail, text, social media, all of that is going to be a part of the body politic. understanding how to classify and adjudicate and how to know when something needs to be secret and when to share it is something i think is very much under debate. hillary clinton's e-mails reignited a lot of that. the volume is crushing. we have to find a new method to do this and classify things.
the officers right to cables and decipher the classification should be which means you are assuming a person would know whether or not something would be highly damaging or just damaging or possibly not damaging at all. that officer may not have sufficient information in which to make a judgment on that. and there is the long habit that the higher level profit classification the more likely you will have the readership heavily interested. >> host: there was another aspect that was addressed by people to react at the time and that was once trust is broken with foreign diplomats what was the impact and i was struck that you quote the defense secretary
and he basically says i heard these described as a meltdown and a game changer. i think they are fairly significantly overwrought and thandperfect as governments deah the united states because it is in their interest not because they like us or trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets. so, the question that comes to my mind is was trust broken because others reacted and felt that because of the relief, the damage that was done was there was trust broken in terms of the confidentiality o of kicks chans that took place. >> guest: there was some damage. i think that they had a point of view that was trying to calm people and their present level of hysteria.
one of the efforts that took place aboard "the new york times" published was to sit down with the state department officials and sit down and go through the tables and redact the sources that could be imperiled and this is something they very willingly engaged in and this was an effort that took place over several days before the relief and the the ordered reductions that were made. a lot of information and a lot of things were out of their depth arguably shouldn't have been. there's always a sense of trust that if you assure the source what you are telling his confidential you honor that trust and i think people will be less open.
we live in a global world in keeping secrets is harder and having the means to guarantee someone that their views will be kept confidential will be harder. does that mean people will be less candid? i don't know. my sense of human experience is people want to share their view and they are willing to get their viewpoint across. they post things on facebook and social media because they want their opinions to be out there and we are at a time platforms are changing which is of the time and we can't guarantee confidentiality and the people may be willing to take the risk and accept the fact.
>> host: one of the things i took note of is ambassador tom pickering who had a wonderful quote. in archaeology you cover the unknown and in diplomacy you cover the unknown. you had a silver lining you brought out wonderfully in this book and that is you basically say that it also was putting a spotlight in the window not only on their work but also as was cited by the eloquence of this writing, the analysis and assessments. there was also a silver lining to this occurrence. >> guest: i hope that there was a silver lining for the officers. this is a story of mid-level officers because they do the
writing and research that goes into making the table and there were so many great stories of not only mid-level officers. they were going in the news to be the descendents of the slave is in order to make information for this report in on their way to do this, they discovered all of this illegal gold mining operations that were happening and that were being run by brazilians and chinese. the country didn't have complete control of the best parts of the region where this is happening. and the officers ultimately did meet the people they hoped to
meet with and it was the first time anyone had met with them and i was charmed by some of the aspects of the story. this is why we joined the foreign service, to get out there and leave the capitol behind and see parts of the world like california, new york, and they did it and they didn't need any special skills. they had that sense of adventure and foreign policy and then provide the context to answer the question. talk about the book and as we go through the chapters let's start with the title and looking at
the embassy cables in american foreign policy disconnect. talk about the disconnect and what it is that you came to. >> guest: in the time period that we were looking at, they deal with the 2006 to 2010. that is an important data set that means we don't get into benghazi because it happened in 2012. 2006 to 2008, the last two years of the bush administration than we hathenwe had the first two yd the euphoria that is an interesting time in american diplomatic history so that is an important guideline. the disconnect was viewed by 9/11 and how could it not be.
this led to the aftermath of many of the panel commissions looking at america's relations with islam in the american world and what went wrong and how could it be fixed. not a lot served in the middle east and not a lot of scholars or people with on the ground experience who were informing those commissions com, and i thk that is a shame. there was a lot taking place in these embassies and consulates about what it is like to live in 9/11 in the country or in the muslim world. and i'm not sure that they were being read or that the voices were heard. there were embassies that were not part of the muslim world dealing with the anti-americanism and in some cases it was much worse than what was happening in the case
in point which the public opinion ratings and in terms of the popularity of the united states according to the global research were 12%. what happened in argentina, this had nothing to do with 9/11. where did things go so wrong by they had a lot of ideas and initiatives, but i'm not sure that they got a hearing. >> host: that is one of the recommendations you have at the end of the book is looking at the connectivity between the policymakers in washington and of those in the field and making sure that the voice in the field as well heard. isn't that one of the various chapters in that you do come out with a recommendation, one of the recommendations or appeals at the end. >> guest: yes, i am certainly not so idealistic that washington is waiting to hear from the mid-level career
diplomats. the foreign policy is as complex as it ever has been. congress is ever more interested in the foreign policy. it is but one of many. it isn't likely that the foreign service officers are ever going to direct foreign policy. there's a tradition that is unique to american diplomacy which policymakers almost look on the american officers.
when sent overseas, it's seen as people with clients who've gone over to the other side in lost. it comes from the mccarthy era and i think it's unique in the united states that we have this dichotomy. what we have to offer is important and certainly trustworthy and we need a voice. it was harder to have that voice because the transportation was more difficult but now you can
have secure videoconferences and it is easy to bring people to the table and that expertise is being lost. to me that is what the cables showed. i think that happens in republican and democratic administrations. there was no watershed moment when the obama administration came into office it was clear that they were being read before they had it, quite the contrary. it was kind of business as usual. >> i think that you raise an important point is that is that there is a balance needed. every administration that comes in will have its mission and its agenda. it's the experience and the analysis of those in the field.
to say that those are not factored into the operations and that's something you try to bring out here. you mentioned and impact momentt moments ago in the example that you gave in this cultural diplomacy and what actually can come out whether its historical or whether it's about the roots of the society. talk a bit about that and how public diplomacy factors into the cables that's where leaked. >> guest: there was a lot of
controversy at the time about what could be accomplished as war-torn as iraq was and still is and the bush administration made it a point to make iraq the largest in the world. there is the numbethere's the nn service officers available that could speak arabic and the effective and it's very small and soon turnover begins to be a problem and it became very hard to go the positions. they wondered isn't it also important to working 80. the administration very methodically set no its most important. it's our priority that we fully staff the embassies in baghdad. there was a lot of discussion
that became very public as i mentioned in the chapter and yet the evidence suggests they went willingly, wholeheartedly, energetically and enthusiastically to accomplish some impressive things even without the knowledge of arabic or an in-depth knowledge of the region but given the tools they have been given improvising giving out trying to relate to people. and it's one of the success stories and i understand it is hard to talk about and use the word success in iraq in the same sentence because things are still so very much up in the air. but the cables suggest a trajectory of officers who answered the call, were loyal, did as the administration asked, served in accomplished impressive things.
>> guest: you mentioned the assistant secretary of state for educational cultural affairs at the time and then you also mentioned the ambassador who came on the scene in iraq and how he really got things going in a wide variety of areas. the fulbright scholarships, the sister cities program, educational exchanges, and you cite the fact that in that timeframe actually and it shows the scale of this activity that was achieved and also under the challenging circumstances in iraq, but also as you are pointing out the rules of the foreign service itself and it was very striking, his mark on the period. we doubled the fulbright program and it became the largest in the world. we had 70 at one point in the
other programs as well to the english language teaching program and the fellows program. we did cultural programming. my colleagues put out theatrical programs and had standing room only crowds because they were hungry for normal life and cultural events and programs that were offered in their own language that they could relax and enjoy and that is an important part of diplomacy, to it's not policy-based but it's definitely about human outreach and cultivating the contacts and opening the space but the dialogues could take place once you've established the contact and make connections that is the foundational rationale for the diplomacy. >> you have a wonderful quote in here you have many of them but a wonderful one of the director ot the time of the bay of pigs is 1961 edward murrow.
if they want me in on the crash landings, i better be in on the takeoff. one of the criticisms is their only good at coming i coming ina hesitancy from the field of only having cables that will tell you things that you want to hear. what about the crash landed being factored in, talk about that. >> guest: it's hard to write describing failure. first of all it has to be cleared by the ambassador who may or may not want to acknowledge that it's taken place on his or her watch. nobody wants the bad news. but bad news happens. the bad news happens. a good example of that was the visit that was very activist under the secretary but she
wasn't always liked by the field coming at her visit sometimes hit sour notes. her penchant for introducing herself as a mother, as a christian to describe the post-9/11 u.s. foreign policy was offputting to the multicultural audiences. she tried to reach out to women in turkey, saudi arabia, places like that are culturally very different. and i think that she did not succeed, and i think the embassy was very circumspect in how it went about reporting back. in their defense, whenever you have a delegation coming into visiting, the delegation has the right so anything would have to
clear. you can see that they have some workarounds to describe not meeting with the public that the meetings with ministers. these are pro forma and nothing goes wrong with the minister. it's very rare for this to happen. she delivered a lot of english-language textbooks. that says so much because it's not saying the more important parts. or the embassies will resort to reporting on local media reports said the fact that in turkey you've had some rocky meetings and at the embassy wasn't able to describe those, but the local media did so that was a sort of workaround for them. >> guest: >> host: i know those are always very challenging. i know the ambassador and i know her intend was a noble one to try to in a down-to-earth way
impact audiences, and i think that it was a tough period when she took that on. you have a section on crises. let's talk about that because you have different crises you talk to the earthquake in haiti as reported in the cables and then in honduras. talk about the crisis diplomacy. one of the challenges here, what did they do or not do in this regard? >> guest: they shed a light on why the taxpayers ought to report overseas. anyone can go to haiti and take footage of the collapsed government ministries and the palace but as a shocking story the same in burma.
there were no means to send out the classified information. it's often in the crisis. they are innovative, creative, dedicated that they don't go home at 5:00 and they are intent on organizing and they understand the bureaucracy of the government. they get acquiescence in this and to sort of get in order of precedence so you don't seem to be covering things ahead into
the cables were just a remarkable blueprint. how do you stated that the team in the face of this overwhelming disaster if we lost in haiti and many foreign service nationals at the same time and of course hundreds of thousands lost their lives, to back debate. what do you do first? here's what the embassy did. was it right or could they have done better it's debatable but it's a case study. they dealt with the da they had into people they could reach. little by little they put haiti back on its feet. one of the most vulnerable in the western hemisphere that arguably never gets back on its feet but nonetheless, they put a plan into place remarkably early in the process and you can see
as they get more routine and detailed, less anecdotal you are no longer with the bodies running the streets of systemic issues that lost if they are starting up the factories at the end and they have the ports operating and functioning. it's taking less time to go over the land and it's kind of a testimony to the american can-do. but i've really enjoyed writing the crisis because the optimistic aspect. >> host: the one on burma had an impact becaushavean impact bo pointed out how it provided a blueprint for an open door for what unfolded later in the context because he had a closed-door policy in that kind of distinctions and this is a question about providing aid and
you also articulate how he is played out the kind of foundation that was laid for opening into burma. >> there is no question that we had an open into historical standing relationship as you pointed out we didn't have that in burma. what was remarkable is that the embassy chronicled so well the contact with people they moved the capital away. they were unaware of the extent of devastation and the damage ad very ignorant about what a wholesale humanitarian operation entails. they assumed it would bring water and supplies and that would be it.
they didn't understand it requires assessment and people working on the ground. if you are running a very authoritarian regime because the sticks down barriers and people rely on ngos and community structures and understand what the needs are, then they are walking around on the ground talking to people. as the embassy predicted, this exposed the general generals col that ultimately have a huge impact in the power which had been a great development. >> host: this is a very different situation over the two. say a little bit about that. >> guest: this is our own backyard which makes it less
exotic. this is a country that we know well. it's also a country with a troubled past and a history of american intervention. right next door we have daniel ortega coming an up not too far, venezuela, and the sense that the hemisphere is shifting into becoming much more leftist and anti-american. the president was unceremoniously deposed and i think there can be no question about it. but over a very ambiguous legal maneuver in which he was trying legally to obtain an office that wasn't in line in the in-line ie constitution at the time.
some americans particularly those that were afraid of the trend of chavez and others in the domino effect but it was probably a good thing because it allowed for the more conservative administration to come in and cut off what was clearly going to be the constitutional second term in office. others including the administration, president obama and secretary clinton declined as unconstitutional and a french democracy. they consciously kept our ambassador in place to deal with the de facto government at the time and try to work within the boundaries of the systems to reestablish the rule of law. fascinating because people of td all of the ambassadors. so he was one of the few that remain throughout the intensity of the reporting was almost the
same level of the intensity of the earthquake reporting hour by hour what's happening day by day the administration asked the colleagues to serve as a mediator in the process. he becomes a part of the reporting effort in what he thinks and who is saying what to whom. it is a fascinating book and that is the first 24 hours and what it means over the long term and how do you put how do you put them on track after such a long aftermath? >> host: he had a challenge before hand. you have a section on travel. one of the chapters that is very
surprising in a way that is surprising but not because anyone that knows the foreign service knows the most interesting are the ones when they are out of capital and you gave the example that give another example that shows the light it can make a difference it had an impact on policy. >> guest: central asia is one of my prints on this because someone discovered that truck stops are a great place to get information into this region as many denied for the diplomats particularly iran, turkmenistan is a border country, and the embassy realized at some point they could shut -- set up shop
and it became something of a listening post. it's fascinating. it is a workaround and the fact that people got out of their desks crowd of the embassy come out of the building and did what we are all afraid to do which is to go talk to the people and find out what's going on. you have to actually talk to real people. and the drama was fascinating. they found that garage band by speaking the yellow dog that achieved some degree of fame in the united states and then tragically as the musicians in the band were killed over a dispute that wasn't political. from guitars to video gamers.
there's another side to that and that is when the foreign service officers get out of capital and the security is in jeopardy and one must always be reminded that there are good stories but there's also those that are told because they are willing to put their lives on the line and to get out and they don't know what will happen next. interestingly enough they played to that fact as well as you articulate in the book. let me go to this section on frenemies, friends and enemies, the faces of diplomacy. one of the issues you try to tackle is o when american
interests and values come to conflict how do you grapple with that and i thin think there is a spotlight on that foreign-poli foreign-policy. >> guest: a lot has been written about the mubarak hugo chavez got the people that capture the headlines. and the question of do you continue to deal with the country you stop dealing with the country. how do you deal with the country when you don't like the regime and it is a perennial question in the foreign-policy itself with on a daily basis of course. hillary clinton has written a lot about this. hopefully w we can opt for democracy and individual freedom. but we don't always win. robert is a great example in power today in zimbabwe. the embassy wrote just
constantly and relentlessly his undemocratic street and human rights violation how he ran the country into ruins economically, the country that had been one of the bread baskets of africa and the more functional democracy at one point. and how the land reform gone wrong just tour the country apart. obviously, we don't deal with this but we want to hav wanted a presence in the country. we want to continue to talk to people who are going to attempt to challenge the regime and we have a mixed track record of encouraging people and it would be a case in point but other times you have to be careful we don't want to promise what he can't deliver and we want to stand for what we believe as americans but we can't be so
naïve as to simply turn our back on reality. >> to the personalities trump politics? >> clearly the frenemies chapter was fun to write because there were people waiting in the wings most americans had never heard of and there's some interesting characters out there and they come to power through interesting means so that when you see hugo chavez, he didn't come from nowhere. they had probably been reporting on him for decades before they ultimately rose to power. nothing should surprise us about this more. we rotate officers frequently, so it is a new experience.
for the officers but don't be antics in the inauguration but the philosophical question is one that is just absolutely essential to diplomacy and one that i wish would be debated in the electoral period because it is important to get out the nuances of the question if the american values versus realism and many people have written on this in great length and there are no easy answers but it troubles me a bit that it's kind of been swept off to the side and it's not part of what we are talking about these days when we talk about foreign policy. >> host: you have the jungle diplomacy and it seems you came to a conclusion that it often
points about the policy of bringing environmental concerns to the forefront even like the resistance of certain governments. isn't that one of your messages in that chapter? >> guest: i was astounded at the number into the wa and the y are set up and then up comes the hundreds. it was interesting how they chose to write about these because it isn't trivial. but there are international conservatory organizations that have amazing budgets and personnel and staff that are the crème de la creme of people with all of the education and
background to deal with these issues and when these organizations choose to set up shop and turn their backs on the government or they are frustrated with governments that don't seem to share their commitment and have the resources at their disposal without consent gives us pause. they do good work into the nature conservancy asset. who do they answer to and are the decisions in the interest of the country itself. this is perhaps the scope for another book or another writer or person that is interested in this. but this new generation is
passionate about wildlife and the environment and getting out of the indices and seeing the reality on the ground. costco that certainly came out. two other chapters, you had a chapter devoted to corruption and the issue of procurement and e. election and then you also have a chapter devoted to secretary clinton during her tenure and in the conclusions at the end. on those remaining chapters, let me ask in terms of corruption i would say that definitively, there is a service that they have performed and made certainly in terms of tracking elections. shed some light on that. i know as an observer how crucial it is to have that information before a observing for example. >> guest: they described the
atmospherics behind it as well as the technical obligations that constitutes free and fair. there are several months of reporting because the candidates need space in democracy to operate and they need to be able to advertise and have equal access to media. these are not a foregone conclusioconclusion in public pd the world. but in the anecdotes they describe as well where things go wrong anwould go wrong and how l officials would work to solve them was interesting and spoke to the human resourcefulness. the reality taking place in ukraine in the middle of winter.