General Stanley Allen McChrystal headlined the first event of the spring Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS), entitled “From the Front Line to the Bottom Line,” last night. President Ron Daniels and approximately 600 students were in attendance.
“My first goal was to show students that when they consider things in the world, they can consider them not only from their natural perspective, but try to consider the perspective of the other. The second thing is, relationships matter. It’s not about a mathematical equation. It’s people and groups that have relationships, and we can’t forget that,” McChrystal said.
McChrystal is a retired four-star general who served in the United States Army for 34 years. He took on the role of Chief of Staff of Military Operations in Afghanistan in 2002. Throughout his later years in service, he pioneered the United States's effort to fight terrorism on a global scale.
Students who attended McChrystal’s speech were greeted by a group of protesters voicing their own views outside of Shriver Hall.
This group, primarily consisting of graduate students, was protesting drone warfare and Hopkins’s participation in the research of drone warfare weapons.
Known as a Luminous Intervention, the protesters were held back by caution tape and were respectful of the event.
Willy Blomme, a PhD student in political science, participated in the protest.
“This is part of an ongoing campaign we have to raise awareness on campus about the fact that Hopkins is involved in drone research. So we decided to come out to this event because McChrystal himself has spoken out about drone research," she said.
He elaborated upon the mission the protesters aimed to reach by attending the presentation last night.
“Our goal is to raise awareness that drone research is being done on campus. We believe that drones are illegal, wrong and are reckless to be using. This is not an objection to McChrystal at all. It is more just an opportunity to raise awareness,” she said.
Students were given flyers about the use of drones as they entered Shriver Hall. McChrystal, however, did not address the issue of drones until asked during the question and answer portion of his speech.
“I’m not against drone warfare completely. I think it’s another tool that modern nations have to have. But what we have to understand is that every time you do anything in the world, there is a reaction to it … You have to understand how much resentment you can build up, even though you think you might be doing something that makes sense … I’m not going to stand up and say that everything America has done in the last twelve years has been wrong, because it’s not,” McChrystal said.
After the formal speech, McChrystal spoke on the subject of the participation of Johns Hopkins in drone warfare research.
“I believe America needs high technology. I’m not familiar with the details of research here. But America needs it. What we need to do though is use it carefully,” McChrystal said.
During his speech, McChrystal spoke about the broader picture of global relationships.
He did not speak specifically about his time in service, nor did he discuss counter-insurgency. He first spoke about the environment that we face on an international scale.
When analyzing the history of U.S.-Iran relations, General McChrystal pointed out that the story could be told from two very different perspectives.
“You have to understand that they have a perspective that they bring, and they act on that perspective. Sometimes it’s better informed than ours, sometimes it’s not, but it’s real. And what we see, which is the challenge, in fact can be very different,” he said.
The next part of General McChrystal’s speech was focused on relationships. His belief is that international relationships need to start on a personal level.
“Our place, being a part of groups, is going to be critical in the future as it has been in the past. But it’s going to be more important. The relationships between leaders, traditional leaders, national leaders, is going to matter. We are also going to have relationships with people who aren’t national leaders and we wouldn’t have expected … It doesn’t mean good, but it means an exchange of ideas and interaction … It’s relationships with individuals, and with small groups, and when those are pulled back together, they aggregate into towns and cities and countries and continents, and that is a lot to think about,” McChrystal said.
At the end of his speech, McChrystal posed various issues for students to consider, including the instability in Pakistan, Afghanistan in 2015, what defines power in the 21st century, the Syrian Civil War, Iranian aspirations and many other pertinent issues.
These issues prompted many of the questions asked during the Q&A.
After his speech, McChrystal signed many copies of his recently published book My Share of the Task: A Memoir.
“It’s a leadership book, but it’s about not theoretical leadership. It’s practical leadership. I was a college student, and I went all the way up to a career where I learned a lot of hard things and I learned a lot of good things. I think that they will get a sense of walking that journey,” he said.