Note: This lecture, or speech, by retired Ambassador Chas Freeman, is easily the most important item I have circulated this year, or last year, for that matter. It shows his usual eloquence, skillful analysis, pointed relevance, broad coverage, and good humor, all the while telling us how far we have gone wrong. I commend it to your reading and further distribution to your colleagues and friends. Bob Keeley
Why Not Try Diplomacy?
Remarks to the University Continuing Education Association
March 28, 2008, New Orleans, Louisiana
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
I want to speak to you this afternoon about diplomacy as an element of statecraft. By now most Americans recognize that we are in a bit of trouble both at home and abroad. What is to be done? Is diplomacy a better answer than the use of force?
The late Arthur Goldberg, who was both a Justice of our Supreme Court and Ambassador to the United Nations, observed that "diplomats approach every issue with an open ... mouth." A colleague and friend of mine, who served as Ambassador to China, once told me that "a diplomat is someone who thinks twice – before saying nothing." They set a high bar for a public speaker on diplomacy as an alternative to militarism, but I am willing to attempt it.
Americans believe in military power, and the United States has never spent so much on it. Internationally, given our diminished political standing and the collapse of the dollar, military prowess may be our only remaining comparative advantage. We certainly behave as though we think it is.