Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

53rd Academy Assembly and Olmsted Scholar Panel

January 17, 2012

In October 2011, I had the opportunity to go down the road to the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs and participate in their annual foreign affairs conference, called the Academy Assembly. 2011 marked the 53rd running of the event, and in the past it has featured speakers and participants from the likes of Paul H. Nitze (1959) to Donald Rumsfeld (representing the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1970) to John Nagl (2009).  It was a great experience, not only professionally, in what really was my first opportunity to interact with some really bright cadets and also undergraduate students from various public and private universities across the U.S. who were delegates of their schools to the Assembly, but also personally, in that I had never really been any of our nation’s military academies before. While I was there I had a chance to tour the famous chapel (see a few of the photos I took at the chapel below (along with some other photos from the week) – really beautiful!), take a meal with the cadets (all 3,000 of them!), and stroll the grounds of what really is a fantastic location, situated hard against the front range of the Rocky Mountains overlooking Colorado Springs. I came away from the experience really impressed by the caliber of cadets at the Air Force Academy and hoping that I have a chance to visit again soon!

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My official duties at the Academy Assembly were threefold: first, moderate the discussions of  the several cadets and civilian delegates assigned to my roundtable. I believe there were about ten of us, in total, including me and the cadet who was assigned to guide me around the campus during the week I was there, Cadet Second Class Andrew Gallion. After each major event/speaker during that week, we convened a roundtable to discuss what we had just heard attempt to tie it in with the overall Assembly theme, “Power and Influence: Global Dynamics in the 21st Century.” Speakers at this year’s assembly (bios here) included Mrs. Gillian Sorensen, United Nations Foundation Senior Advisor and National Advocate; several Olmsted Scholars (include myself; more on this aspect below); Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton; Mr. Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation; USAFA’s own Dr. Schuyler Foerster, Brent Scowcroft Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Air Force Academy (I liked his presentation the best of all the week’s presentations – it was candid and realistic), and finally, Ambassador Christopher Hill, currently Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver (and previously U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Poland, South Korea, and Iraq, as well as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs from 2005 – 2009). All the roundtable discussions augured towards a final deliverable: a set of “findings” that distilled each small group’s several hours of discussion and debate on the issues presented into a short document complete with conclusions and recommendations.

The second thing was to participate in a special panel featuring all the Olmsted Scholars who came to the Assembly, which in 2011 totaled six (there were originally supposed to be seven of us, but one scholar had to cancel at the last minute). This was an inordinately high number of scholars, according to the scuttlebutt floating around the Assembly, so the organizers decided to devote an entire panel to our insights. We each had a chance to speak for a few minutes about some of the major issues facing our nation/region of study, and after everyone had a chance to speak, the floor was opened to the cadets and delegates for questions. By the miracles of modern technology, I have obtained for you a chance to watch the Olmsted panel in full, which runs about 1 hour and 6 minutes. There are some pretty interesting perspectives shared by the various Scholars on Turkey, China (x2), France, Russia, and, of course, Taiwan.

The final role of Olmsted Scholars at the Academy Assembly is just to interact with the cadets and delegates, and for the cadets in particular, be a resource for them regarding the Olmsted Scholar Program and service as a military officer in general. (Full disclosure: the Olmsted Foundation is one of the primary donors which fund the Academy Assembly each year.) This was perhaps the easiest role to fill – after all, it’s pretty simple to convey the sheer awesomeness of the opportunity available to young military officers to spend 3 years studying the language and culture of their country of choice, spending at least 2 of those years overseas and essentially “own your own program” to pursue a master’s degree and advanced language and cultural studies. The Olmsted Scholar Program is pretty well-known amongst the U.S. Air Force Officer corps, and, from what I saw at the Academy, also amongst cadets. Obviously, part of the reason past Olmsted Scholars such as myself are invited to these conferences (similar events are held annually at both the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy) is to help spread the word about scholarship to cadets who in a few short years will be in the eligibility window for the program.

Finally, the 28 October 2011 edition of Academy Spirit, the official newspaper of the U.S. Air Force Academy, carried a two-page spread about the 53rd Academy Assembly. You can see it here (html), or, if you prefer to read a “broadsheet” format, check out pages 8-9 here (PDF).

Bonus: on the final day of the Assembly, I had the opportunity to see the entire USAFA Cadet Wing put on a parade in honor of General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.), who was being honored with the 2010 Thomas D. White National Defense Award, the highest honor the Academy can bestow. You can see some of the photos from that event here.

On national service

January 3, 2011

We interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast… to bring you this worthwhile (but not exactly related to the mainstay of this blog’s focus) video of Matt Pottinger, formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in China, formerly a U.S. Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, now the Edwin R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations delivering an address to his high school last Veteran’s Day.

Pottinger graduated from the Milton Academy in 1991 and was invited back to speak nearly 20 years later.  It’s funny and a little bit interesting to see the emphasis he puts on how he was less than totally dedicated to his studies while a student there, particularly in light of his subsequent professional success both as a reporter for one of the world’s premier newspapers and as a military officer.

It’s an interesting speech to me on a number of levels – first, it’s clear that his story is not typical.  Rarely in the modern day do you see people leave behind rewarding positions like the one Matt had with the WSJ in Beijing to do selfless things like join the Marine Corps to fight, though Matt’s story is not the only one like this – even more well-known was pro-footballer turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman; and there are many more who are relatively more obscure, like the investment banker from San Francisco I personally know who, like Matt, joined the Corps for a single tour in wartime, but in his case it was as a “conscience-clearing” to justify in his own mind the ridiculous amounts of money he was making (he has since returned to investment banking after four years of honorable service that included a tour in Iraq).  We need more people like Matt and my investment banker friend who are willing to step up and serve their countries.

It is also interesting because of the outsize success that Matt enjoyed during his time in the Corps.  He served only 5 years, but accomplished more during that time than many officers can claim in a whole career.  For instance, he innovated the first Marine Corps female engagement teams (FET) in Afghanistan that took advantage of local perceptions about women that allowed female Marines greater access and trust in the local society than the male Marines they served with.  Unlike the male Marines, the female Marines were seen as OK to enter local households without necessitating revenge in the Pashtun honor society system.  Since the FETs were able to get inside the homes of locals, they could better collect information and also tell the locals about what the coalition forces were trying to accomplish, an information operations (IO) bonanza of the first order. (For more on FETs and IO, this recent piece in The Nation discusses the difficulties the Marines and now the Army are having in sourcing personnel for the FETs and more importantly discusses some of the limitations and problems in their use.  This master’s thesis (PDF) from a student at Marine Corps University discusses the need for improved intelligence support to information operations in the types of fighting and nation-building that the US is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Probably largely on the strength of innovating the FETs he was named the 2009 Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year.  He followed that up by deploying to Afghanistan for a second time, and this time around he co-authored (with two high-level intelligence officials also serving in Afghanistan at the time) an influential critique of American intelligence efforts there.  Entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan (recommended reading here at Facing China about a year ago) that advocated, among other things, establishing positions for officers whose jobs would be not unlike that of a newspaper reporter – traveling widely around Afghanistan to speak face-to-face with people on the ground, then taking the information they gleaned at the tactical level back to the headquarters to fuse it together to provide the “real” picture that was getting lost in all the layers of bureaucracy and in the overdependence on technical intelligence collection (no doubt his background as a reporter in China informed this recommendation).

I think Matt makes a good argument for the importance and value of performing national service of some nature – it by no means has to be in the military.  I wonder if through his appearance at his alma mater Matt was able to convince any young Americans of the significance and virtue of seeking service to the point that they resolve to take action.  Only time will tell.

As he says in the speech, Matt has now completed his service and is back at his first love – writing.  I know I am looking forward to what I am sure will be relevant and insightful contributions from him at CFR.

The video is about 40 minutes long, so if that’s too long, you can at least read the “Cliffs Notes” version of it here, in a news release from the Milton Academy.

Matterhorn

September 22, 2010

Long-time followers of this blog (all two of you) will already know that I like the programs the Pritzker Military Library has from time to time.  Located in Chicago, Illinois, the Library hosts authors of military-related books for talks about their works.  The most recent program I caught featured Matt Gallagher, author of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, one of the truest memoirs of the Iraq War I have read. (Side note: go check out Matt’s latest post on his new blog, Kerplunk, about an academic conference he recently attended – good stuff!)  I caught the podcast for that one, but on other previous occasions I have endured the often-painfully early wake-up calls required to watch the streaming video live as the event happens.  This time around, to watch author Karl Marlantes talk about his brilliant novel of the Vietnam War Matterhorn, I won’t have to get up early at all – thanks PML!

I read Matterhorn after seeing the high praise heaped upon it from various sources, including James Fallows of The Atlantic.  While I had little doubt that the book would be interesting to me – it’s about Marines and war, a couple of topics near and dear to my heart – I wasn’t as certain that the book would be able to live up to the hype.  Well, it did, and then some.  It’s been a while since I have read a book that I literally didn’t want to put down (especially when considering that some of my academic pursuits of late have included political economy and philosophy), but that’s how Marlantes’ novel was.  Marlantes himself was a Marine who served in Vietnam and started writing the novel soon after his service there ended.  More than 30 years later, the product is worth your attention.  Read the book, and if you haven’t yet, still tune in (or get the podcast) to see him talk about the book on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 6PM Central (US) time (7AM on Friday morning here in Taiwan – no problem tuning in for me!).  Read on for all the details.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/events/2010/09-23-karl-marlantes.jsp

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pritzker Military Library

610 N. Fairbanks Court, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
312-587-0234
Make a reservation

Member reception: 5:00pm
Presentation and Live Webcast: 6:00pm

Books are available for purchase at author events courtesy of The Book Stall at Chestnut Court. Library members receive a 10% discount.
As a young man, returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, he began writing an epic novel about the war he experienced and the way that combat changes people. More than thirty years later, his work is done.

Matterhorn draws from Karl Marlantes’ experience as an officer with the Marine Corps in Vietnam. The year is 1969, and 2nd Lt. Waino Mellas has been assigned to lead a rifle platoon of forty Marines as their company builds a fire support base in the mountains near the border of Laos. His platoon is full of young men who have been at war for years; Mellas, fresh out of college, is overwhelmed by his responsibilities as a leader and the dense jungle landscape that surrounds them.

As casualties mount, Mellas and his platoon fight through a series of conflicting missions – they are ordered to abandon their newly built base, the ordered to take it back from the North Vietnamese Army, and then ordered to abandon it again. While their commanding officers fight the war from a distance, little aware of how their decisions affect men on the ground, Mellas and his platoon endure sweltering heat, monsoon rains, and a growing sense of futility; they struggle to understand and trust each other, and they forge powerful bonds that will overcome fear, doubt, and loss.

Karl Marlantes was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals for his service in Vietnam. Matterhorn is his first novel. A graduate of Yale and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he lives in rural Washington.

A few more conferences…

May 26, 2010

It’s too bad I missed Willy Lam’s talk in Taipei a couple of weeks ago…

Willy Lam flyer

…but yesterday I didn’t have to do a thing and a good opportunity fell into my lap.  As a guest speaker in my Tuesday afternoon course on Cross-

Michael Ying-mao Kau

Michael Ying-mao Kau

Strait Relations and Asia-Pacific Security, Ambassador Michael Ying-mao Kau, PhD, Taiwan’s former representative to the European Union and Belgium (also former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and so forth), spoke on some salient issues related to the EU and contrasted them with the current situation in Asia.  It was an interesting talk.  He is very hopeful about the EU’s integration and sensitive to challenges it faces, including issues facing Turkey’s possible accession to the union and the near-trillion US dollar bailout for Greece.  Asia, by contrast, remains firmly entrenched in the throes of nationalism and nowhere near as robust a level of integration, consisting mainly of a very loose economic regime in ASEAN.  The unilateral use of force or the threat of force is still often times the preferred way to solve problems in Asia, something that Europe has moved beyond, at least in terms of relations internal to the Continent.

But that’s not all!  Also this week I saw a couple other flyers up announcing some upcoming events that look like they might be worth checking out.  These events are both in Taipei, put on by National Chengchi University.

Kau event poster

Kau event poster

The first one is next week, June 1 – 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday).  Here’s the full scoop:

Welcome to IDAS international conference on 6/1

◆Title: Stronger Nations. Stronger Relations: New Prospects for Asia-Pacific Regional Integration

◆Time: 08:30-17:30,2010/06/01(Tue),06/02(Wed)

◆Venue: 5F, International Conference Hall, General Building of Colleges, National Chengchi University

◆International scholars: Dr.TJ Pempel from UC Santa Barbara University, Dr. Benjamin Cohen from Berkeley University, etc.

◆The conference focuses on the following issues:

*Frontiers in Public Administration Governance: Leadership for the Modern World
*New IPE Challenges for Asia- Pacific Region
*Rediscovery of social and cultural development
*Evolution of Asia-Pacific Security and New Security Focus

◆Language: English

◆P.S.: We welcome all professors and students. Registration Required. Please register through the registration system before 05/28. Please see the agenda as the link below.

Acdemics .posted by IDAS.中文 列印

The second conference, on June 12 (Saturday), looks even better.  It’s the 3rd annual conference of the Republic of China Institute of International Relations and the event, which runs all day, is entitled, “Theory and Practice of Dialogue.”  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard Bush, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and current director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.  I haven’t been able to locate an English version of the conference’s program, but here’s the program in Chinese (it’s essentially a larger version of the photo just below this paragraph).  Lack of English publicity materials makes me suspect this event will be in Chinese, as opposed to the two-day conference next week, which explicitly indicates that it will be held in English (see above).

June 12 event poster

"Theory and Practice of Dialogue" International Conference Agenda

Finally, for those folks a bit west of here in a few weeks (DC-area), I would recommend trying to catch an event at the National Defense University on June 16.  The symposium’s title is “China’s Naval Modernization: Cause for Storm Warnings?” and it looks almost as if the entire faculty of the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) of the U.S. Naval War College will be occupying the place to put on the event.  They’ve gone as far as preparing a nice list of “read-ahead”-type items (PDF)for folks who are interested in attending.  Related to the Naval War College’s CMSI, just today Dr. Andrew Erickson, an assistant professor at the Naval War College, founding member of CMSI, and fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, released the first edition of a newsletter (PDF) written by him and another researcher called China Signpost.  The aim of the newsletter is to provide “high-quality China analysis in a concise, accessible form for people whose lives are being profoundly affected by China’s political, economic, and security development.”  That pretty much describes anybody in Taiwan!  The first issue concerns China’s reliance on petroleum and the authors’ conviction that China will continue to disproportionately rely on seaborne means of transportation to keep their oil supply flowing (despite what you might hear about China’s efforts to build pipelines to reduce their reliance on seaborne oil transport).  The authors go on to explore the naval security implications that arise from China’s continuing dependence on maritime transport for energy needs.  It’s certainly worth a read – as is everything else posted over at Dr. Erickson’s webpage, www.andrewerickson.com.  (See also the top of the blogroll on the right-hand margin of this page.)

See you at the conferences!

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Willy Lam in Taipei May 11, 2010

May 4, 2010

Wish I could go, but I have class all day.  Lam’s writings are often featured in the Jamestown’s Foundation‘s bi-weekly China Brief publication that Michael Turton writes about now and then at The View from Taiwan. (Incidentally, that is where I first saw that Lam would be in Taipei next week.) Here is one of Lam’s latest articles about Chinese Communist Party “sixth generation” leaders, from December 2009.  His presentation looks to be interesting and timely, about the pending power succession process in China that will culminate at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.  The CCP power struggle attendant to the 2012 Party Congress was actually mentioned today in one of my classes.  The signal to watch for – see who is appointed vice chairman of the Central Military Commission in the next year or two.  This person will probably be Hu Jintao’s successor.

http://www.ios.sinica.edu.tw/ios/E/?pid=255#2010.05.11

Topic:A Closer Look at China’s Elite Politics and Foreign Power Projection 【In English】
Speaker:Dr. Willy Lam (Akita International University, Japan)
Coordinator:Director Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao (Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica)
Time:May 11, 2010(Tuesday)2:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Location:Room 802, 8F, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica.

Profile :
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has started preparations for transition of power from the the Fourth to the Fifth Generation, which will take place at the 18th Party Congress of 2012. Will the younger corps of leaders be able to tackle growing contradictions within the socio-political fabric – and uphold the CCP’s “perennial ruling-party status” – in the absence of genuine reforms? Have corruption and bureaucratic malaise precipitated a crisis of governance? Can the Fifth- and Sixth-Generation leadership inject new ideas to arrest the decline in the party’s legitimacy and efficacy? For how long can the party rely on its control and security apparatus to bolster its somewhat tattered mandate of heaven? Or is it just that the party-state apparatus has become too big to fail?

Partly due to the fact that nationalism has become the most effective agent of cohesiveness in China, the CCP leadership has been projecting both hard and soft power to strengthen the country’s worldwide clout. What are the traits of China’s quasi-superpower diplomacy? Are the People’s Liberation Army generals getting more say over foreign and security policies? Will the PRC’s growing economic and military prowess feed the “China threat” theory? Will the increasingly adverse competition with the United States in areas including resources, trade – and outer space – affect regional and world stability? These and other questions will be discussed at the lecture and Q&A session.

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“The Good Soldiers” Author David Finkel at the Pritzker Military Library

April 28, 2010

Pritzker posterOn Wednesday, April 28, 2010, tune in to the Pritzker Military Library to see author David Finkel talk about his outstanding 2009 book about an Army battalion inside Baghdad as a part of “the surge” in 2007.  I wrote about Finkel’s book, The Good Soldiers, here at Facing China back in February after I finished it and I stand by my unqualified recommendation – you should read the book. (See also the short review I wrote at Goodreads.) I am planning to roll out of the sack VERY early tomorrow morning to watch his live webcast that will start at 4AM on Thursday in Taiwan, but like the Craig Mullaney talk I watched a while back, I’m certain it will be worth it.  In my opinion, these two books (Mullaney’s 2008 book The Unforgiving Minute and Finkel’s The Good Soldiers) are the finest accounts of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date. (Currently I am reading another highlytouted Iraq War book, Kaboom, by Matt Gallagher, but it is of a different vein than these two books – clearly the author takes a less serious approach to telling about his experiences, which is comically funny in places and works very well in his book, but makes it qualitatively different from either Mullaney’s or Finkel’s books.) I encourage you to point your chosen web browser to http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/events/2010/04-28-david-finkel.jsp at 3PM Central time (US) to see what the author has to say about this fantastic book and his long embed with the 2-16 Rangers that provided the basis for his reporting in the Washington Post and later the book itself.

I don’t know if it will come up in the talk (my guess would be yes), but one recently popular issue in the media that you can gain insight into by reading The Good Soldiers is the 2007 Apache helicopter shooting of Reuters reporters that WikiLeaks made such a spectacle of in releasing video footage of the event earlier this month.  I haven’t viewed the video footage because once I heard what it was all about, I knew that I already had a good idea of what happened from reading chapter 5 in Finkel’s book. (In conjunction with this, the Washington Post printed an excerpt of the relevant book section earlier this month, which you can read here.)

If you enjoy the live webcast or read the book and enjoy it, I encourage you to “like” David Finkel’s Facebook fan page for the book here.

[Photo: Pritzker Military Library]

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Americans in Southern Taiwan

March 15, 2010

Latest in the “things I want to check out” category in Kaohsiung – an exhibit at the Kaohsiung Museum of History about the American presence in Southern Taiwan from 1950 – 1980.  I am interested to see what kind of “footprint” there was here during that time, because I know that right now, the official U.S. presence is pretty small.

Here’s the press release from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT):

“American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan” Exhibit to Open at the Kaohsiung Museum of History from March 16 to July 4

PR-1017EDate: 3/12/2010

In cooperation with the Kaohsiung Museum of History and the America Center located at National Sun Yat-sen University, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Kaohsiung Branch Office is pleased to present “American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan,” an unprecedented museum exhibition which will be shown at the Kaohsiung Museum of History from March 16 to July 4.  An opening ceremony will be held on March 18 with the participation of AIT Director William Stanton, AIT Kaohsiung Branch Chief Christian Castro, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu and National Sun Yat-sen University President Yang Hong-dun.

The “American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan” exhibit features stories of U.S. interaction with southern Taiwan in a key era from 1950-80.  Utilizing historic artifacts, photos, taped interviews and documentaries, the exhibition gives the audience a broad overview of the American cultural, social, military and religious presence in Kaohsiung and southern Taiwan during that period and the impressions Americans and local Taiwanese had of each other.

The items on display include a personal note written especially to commemorate this exhibition from U.S. Representative Lester Wolff (retired), one of the principal authors of the Taiwan Relations Act.  Other unique items provide a rare glimpse into America’s multifaceted post-World War II economic assistance program in Taiwan.  The exhibition also highlights a host of fascinating artifacts, photos and documents from the long-ago U.S. military presence in southern Taiwan.

The Kaohsiung Museum of History is also proud to put on display for this exhibit an especially significant item acquired for its permanent collection – an antique karaoke machine with 30 vinyl records left behind by the U.S. Military Consulting Corps.  Decades later, the machine is still functioning well, and during the exhibition, it will play those vintage vinyl records to give visitors an authentic nostalgic sense of this unique and defining era in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

For further information about this exhibition, please visit the museum website:http://w5.kcg.gov.tw/khm.

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Don’t miss author Craig M. Mullaney at the Pritzker Military Library

March 8, 2010

Just a reminder for readers…it’s not related to the stated goals and objectives of this blog, but since I am such a fan of Mullaney’s book, I felt that I needed to give his upcoming webcast at the Pritzker Military Library a shout-out.  He’ll be speaking at 3:00PM CST on Monday March 8 (that’s 5AM on Tuesday here in Taiwan!) – don’t miss it!

http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/events/2010/03-08-craig-mullaney.jsp

Mullaney poster

Monday, March 8, 2010

It can take an entire life’s worth of experiences to form the balance of a single, unforgiving minute on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan.

Driven to excel by a demanding father, Mullaney graduated second in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After completing the grueling courses of Ranger School, Mullaney continued to the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, earning masters degrees in diplomatic and economic history. In 2003, Capt. Mullaney was assigned to lead an infantry rifle platoon along the hostile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the 10th Mountain Division. One haunting afternoon, in the midst of a firefight, his education would be put to the ultimate test.

In The Unforgiving Minute, Mullaney looks back upon his years of Army training, the books that inspired him, and the formative relationships of his life – from friends and mentors to his mother and father, as well as the woman who would become his wife. Where does a soldier find the strength to become a leader? What is the price of a salute? Following his return home, Mullaney served for three years on the history faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was charged with preparing young men and women to someday face an unforgiving minute of their own.

Craig M. Mullaney was appointed Principal Director of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia Policy at the Department of Defense in May 2009. He was previously the Chief of Staff for the Department of Defense Transition Team, and served as defense policy advisor for the Obama campaign during the 2008 presidential election. His military decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with “V” device, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Ranger Tab, and Parachutist Badge.

Pritzker Military Library
610 N. Fairbanks Court, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 587-0234

Presentation and Live Webcast – 3:00pm CST
Make a Reservation

Books will be sold at this event by the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, with 10% discount for members.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs speaks at NSYSU

December 2, 2009

Ambassdor Ding Mou-shi (L) and Dean Lin Wen-cheng (R)

Dean Lin Wen-cheng (R) introduces Ambassador Ding Mao-shi (L)

I said I would write about yesterday’s lecture if it was interesting.  I want to share a little bit about it.

First, I didn’t really do Ambassador Ding’s (丁懋時) background justice with my post yesterday (which I can partly attribute to writing it while mobile and not having access to his full bio at the time – what stood out when I read it initially was what I mentioned, that he was Taiwan’s representative to the US).  He’s done a lot more than that, including foreign service in Africa for over 10 years, was Taiwan’s ambassador to South Korea, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, and so forth.  You can read all about it here (link to a translated version of his biography on Wikipedia).  His experience in over four decades of foreign affairs work runs the gamut.

Which is precisely why he came to talk yesterday.  His talk mainly focused on the earlier portion of his career when posted in various places in Africa.  He spoke of the various noteworthy things in the numerous countries he worked in or traveled to, referring to Rwanda as the “land of 1000 hills” and mentioned that he saw vast rain forests in The Congo.

He also spoke of some of the challenges he faced, primarily linguistic.  I did not catch how many languages he speaks, but clearly his English is excellent and he is a native Chinese speaker (most of the lecture was in Chinese, but now and again he switched to English for a few words to describe things hard to express in Chinese).  He talked about how he was able to speak with the South Koreans in Chinese and in English.  I would not be surprised, due to the amount of time he spent in Africa and working on Africa issues (such as at working in the Africa Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the early 1970s) if he is also conversant in at least one of the African languages.

Ambassador Ding Mou-shi addresses NSYSU students

Ambassador Ding Mao-shi addresses NSYSU students

All this was essentially a “soft sell” for the foreign service.  Here was an elder statesman of Taiwan, talking to an audience of who could essentially be his grandchildren, about the good things that come from a career in foreign affairs.  He talked about the travel, about learning about other cultures and people, about sorting out language differences and learning foreign languages.  This type of experience will open your eyes to the rest of the world.

But he didn’t make it all sound like it was easy – far from it.  He explicitly mentioned that foreign affairs work is hard and that it is a high-pressure field.  About this, he expressed the sentiment that “hard work is good training.”

National Sun Yat-sen University has these types of lectures and events from time to time and as I am able to attend and discover relevant material, I will treat it here in the future.


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