Please join us for a Casual Conversation with classmate Paul Pillar on Sunday, April 28 at 3 pm Eastern.  Paul will speak with us at the suggestion of classmate Bill Stableford.  Bill also offers the following link to an article about Paul that appeared in the “Dartmouth Alumni Magazine”: .

Here is an article recently published online written by Paul: .  

His faculty entry at Georgetown University: .

And, finally, Paul has supplied the following narrative bio and description of what we are to speak with him about:

Classmate Paul Pillar has had a career that has confronted—first as a public servant, and later as an academic and independent analyst—some of the more troublesome and consequential aspects of the making of U.S. foreign policy.  Joining the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst in 1977, he had a 28-year in the U.S. intelligence community.  Among his senior positions, he was executive assistant to the director of central intelligence as the Soviet empire was collapsing and the Cold War was ending, and was deputy chief of the counterterrorist center at CIA during part of the 1990s.  He will be sharing some highlights and lowlights from his experiences.

A focus will be on the years 2000-2005, when in the final assignment of his intelligence career he was the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, responsible for managing assessments of the intelligence community as a whole on political and economic developments in those regions.  This was the period in which the George W. Bush administration sold and launched the Iraq War, with the selling of that war representing one of the bigger breakdowns in the relationship between intelligence and policy, and in the orderly making of foreign policy.  Paul will relate some personal encounters from that period, involving interactions with the executive and congressional branches and the way intelligence agencies got swept into public controversies regarding the war.

After retiring from government service, Paul joined the faculty of Georgetown University, teaching in its School of Foreign Service.  Since retiring from teaching, he has continued to write frequently about U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.  Most of his current work appears in The National Interest, where he is a contributing editor, and Responsible Statecraft, published by the Quincy Institute, where he is a nonresident fellow.

Much of his writing flows in part from his public service.  This began with his doctoral dissertation and first book, Negotiating Peace, which was partly inspired by his experience as an Army officer helping to execute the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam—an experience mentioned in an earlier Casual Conversation.  Following his work as a counterterrorist official, he used a sabbatical at the Brookings Institution to write Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy—which, due to the fortuitous timing of it coming out a few months before 9/11, made it onto the Washington Post bestseller list.

A series of subsequent books has explored the pathologies of making foreign policy and the subsequent detriment to U.S. interests.  The episode of the Iraq War furnished much of the material for Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform.  The central argument of that book is that the biggest decisions in U.S. foreign policy, including going to war, depend less on careful consideration of intelligence and other evidence than they do on whatever preconceptions that policymaker bring with them into office.  A later book, Why America Misunderstands the World: National Experience and Roots of Misperception, describes how America’s exceptional status as a superpower unlike any other nation tends to warp, with policy consequences, the views that policymakers and publics alike have of the outside world.

Our discussion will focus more on the subject of Paul’s most recent book, released last fall: Beyond the Water’s Edge: How Partisanship Corrupts U.S. Foreign Policy.  The intense partisanship that has poisoned so much domestic policymaking has similar ill effects on foreign policy.  A look backward in U.S. history—which has seen times with comparably intense partisanship that was overcome, as well as periods of bipartisan cooperation that seems unthinkable now—helps to understand the roots and nature of the current intractable variety of partisanship and the damage it has done to U.S. foreign relations.

The usual rules apply.  Let me know if you want to join next Sunday, April 28 at .  RSVP by Friday, April 26, at the close of business.

See you then.

Arthur Fergenson

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