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On Tuesday, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs hosted a discussion forum titled “Assessing U.S. Diplomacy Two Decades After 9/11” featuring one of America’s most distinguished former diplomats, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. 

Executive Director of International Security Studies Ted Wittenstein, who moderated the forum, introduced Crocker as a “legendary foreign service officer,” further adding that he would be “hard pressed” to identify another American diplomat with such deep experience in the Middle East. Crocker served as a U.S. ambassador six times over a foreign service career spanning 37 years. He was also a Jackson senior fellow at Yale and served as dean of The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. 

The event was centered around the development of U.S. diplomacy over the last two decades. Wittenstein began the discussion with the question: “To what extent did 9/11 fundamentally change U.S. diplomacy?”

“As we’ve seen in recent conflicts — Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan — these are tangled, political military affairs, where both components, as well as intelligence, have to be present and have to work together,” Crocker said in an interview. “We did not do that traditionally and I did not do that at all in the early phase of my career. That is going to be the situation going forward for dozens and dozens of years more.”

As an outspoken critic of the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan this year, Crocker also discussed some of the challenges America faces in the region, such as a possible resurgence of Al Qaeda. 

Crocker said that President Joseph Biden cannot “pretend the issue [in Afghanistan] does not exist,” arguing that “the need for American diplomacy has never been more acute.”

“We have an obligation to deal with the emerging humanitarian crisis,” Crocker told the News. “That’s the first imperative within Afghanistan, to be sure that innocent Afghan civilians do not face extreme hardship in this coming winter.”

The second half of the forum was a question and answer session with the audience, with Crocker fielding questions both over Zoom and in person.

Joe Boland ’23, who attended the event in person, asked Crocker about whether the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could be characterized as upholding a promise to end a decades-long war, rather than a situation that could lead allies to question their long-term commitments with the U.S.

Crocker responded by stating that the execution of the withdrawal has not given any confidence to allies.

“I think most important is [Crocker’s] analysis of the impatience within the political sphere of the U.S. for foreign entanglements,” Boland told the News. “I would continue that it’s an impatience within the voters. It’s a scary development that decisions in international foreign policy are made by the average voter.”

In an interview following the talk, Wittenstein also highlighted the Jackson Institute’s many opportunities for students who are passionate about foreign policy, such as their courses, research programs and speaker events.

“It was a really great perspective. As someone who is interested in foreign policy, it is amazing to hear from someone who has been at a lot of decision-making tables and who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Isha Dalal ’22, another attendee. “Professor Wittenstein and Ambassador Crocker did a great job at thoroughly answering [the questions] and making sure that they hit on both current and past foreign policy objectives.”

Crocker told the News that he felt “privileged” to have been a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute.

Emphasizing the growth of the program since he first joined, Crocker stated that the Jackson Institute is quickly becoming the “preeminent foreign policy school.” The Jackson School for Global Affairs is expected to open in fall 2022, becoming the University’s first new professional school since 1976.

“Early in the [senior fellows] program, my first time in 2012 and 2013, you could feel it then there was something new, not just on this campus, but new in the way public policy was being taught and conceived of by Jim Levinsohn,” Crocker said. “Today you see the fruits of the foundation he laid — the rite of passage from being an institute to a full-blown school here at Yale speaks to what he has achieved.”

Crocker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2009.

MIRANDA JEYARETNAM
Miranda Jeyaretnam is the beat reporter covering the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and developments at the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS for the YDN's University desk. She was formerly the opinion editor for the Yale Daily News under the YDN Board of 2022 and wrote as a staff columnist for her opinion column 'Crossing the Aisle' in Spring 2020. From Singapore, she is a sophomore in Pierson College, majoring in English.
ALEX YE
Alex Ye covers endowment, finance and donations. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a first year in Timothy Dwight majoring in computer science and mathematics.