Foreign policy dynamics are changing, State Department diplomat Eric Rubin told about 30 students and faculty Monday night at University Hall. Rubin is the Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the State Department, and specializes in transnational threats. He visited campus as part of the American Studies Program’s series on United States foreign policy and the Iraq war.
Rubin explained that the backdrop for the issues confronting America and the world has changed since the start of the 20th century.
“Fundamentally, what we’re looking at is a loss of predictability,” Rubin said.
The key challenge facing diplomats, he said, is that the United States and other countries can no longer trust the rationality of other leaders or assume that they share common interests.
“In reality there is no one adversary we can declare war on,” Rubin said.
He called phrases like “the enemy” and “the war on terrorism” outdated and not applicable to the current situation.
Rubin also mentioned countries that are unable to control their borders due to new communication technologies like the Internet. Those countries pose problems for diplomats attempting to thwart the efforts of warlords or infiltrate drug markets.
“As we look ahead at shaping our foreign policy, we have to be creative,” Rubin said.
He emphasized the need for a flexible, transnational response to threats. He cited a recent meth ring bust as an example. The methamphetamine production ring connected raw material suppliers in China and India to middlemen in Mexico and labs on the west coast of the U.S.
Rubin acknowledged concerns about U.S. relations with the United Nations and about America’s willingness to work within diplomatic boundaries.
“There’s no substitute for the international community when it comes to solving these [transnational issues],” Rubin said.
Rubin was open about the challenges of diplomacy.
“As we try to deal with these new international threats, with the globe getting messier, less predictable, and less structured, we’re also going to have to deal with the rise of regional powers … that don’t necessarily share the same interests and who don’t necessarily agree with us,” Rubin said. “And sometimes [they] have a vested interest in not reaching an agreement with us on these issues.”
Rubin stressed the need for more creativity, flexibility and better communication between nations in order to solve the world’s biggest issues using effective diplomatic means.
After he spoke for about 30 minutes, Rubin tackled questions from students and faculty. Topics included strategies for curbing international issues beyond the removal and prosecution of leaders, the decline of U.S. influence and favorable foreign opinion, the war in Iraq, the new dangers and threats facing the modern world and the amount of influence that the State Department holds in U.S. foreign policy.
The series continues on February 12 when Iraqi journalist Huda Ahmed will speak about her experiences in the media. Other future speakers include decorated New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins Dexter Filkins, and US Marine reservist Captain James Haunty.
Reactions for those who attended…
Associate Prof. of English Jay Grossman:
Steve Venick, Weinberg senior:
Sarah Wald, Weinberg sophomore: