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Amb. John Negroponte discusses national security and diplomacy at IWP

On May 4th, Ambassador John D. Negroponte lectured at The Institute of World Politics. The lecture, titled “Current Issues in U.S. National Security and Diplomacy,” was covered by C-SPAN. Ambassador Negroponte is currently a research fellow and lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. In his career, he has held the offices of Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, and several ambassadorships on behalf of the United States.

Ambassador Negroponte began his lecture by describing the history of U.S. diplomacy.  After recounting the early years of establishment and expansion of the nation, Ambassador Negroponte labeled the year 1870 as the point in which the United States became able to assume the role of a worldwide power. It was also the year in which the United States registered the world’s largest Gross Domestic Product.

The Ambassador contended that the United States did not translate this economic advantage into international influence until 1918, the onset of American involvement in World War I.  He noted that this forty year gap is of particular relevance today as we consider the role of China in the world. As China is projected to become the world’s largest economy in a relatively short time span, how long will it be until it translate its economic advantage into a dominant international influence? While the Ambassador did not attempt to make a prediction on this matter, he said that there may come a day when such events will take place.

Ambassador Negroponte recounted the leadership role the United States assumed during the remainder of the twentieth century, including strategies utilized during World War II and the mentality and crises of the Cold War.

In considering American diplomacy and security issues in the modern context, Ambassador Negroponte warned of the lopsided approach to national security into which the United States may fall. As non-state actors have drawn most of the attention of our security establishment, he fears that issues may arise due to American passivity regarding the emerging power centers of Russia and China.

The Ambassador also offered his prediction for the future of the United States. He believes that regardless of the roles to be played by emerging powers, the United States will weigh in heavily in the international affairs of the twenty first century. 

One of the key reasons he highlighted is the unique nature of the American workforce: “We have a lot going for us. We are a resilient, inventive, and creative economy. This is the envy of the world.” He shared that in his work at Yale, he hosts many foreign nationals in collaborative projects. The first question asked by his guests is routinely: “How do I teach the Silicon Valley mindset? How do I foster entrepreneurship?”

In conclusion, Ambassador Negroponte said that he envisions a participatory future for the United States. Our involvement will not be performed in the same manner as the twentieth century; rather, it will be done via collaborative methods with our allies. “We shouldn’t shirk that responsibility,” he said. “It’s an obligation on our part to continue to try to play a leadership role in foreign affairs.” 

This event was sponsored by the Center for Human Rights and International Affairs, a project of IWP and Good of All.