As one of only two guest lecture series during the academic year, the Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS) is expected to offer students a window to the world. It prides itself on generating a substantive discourse on the most pressing issues of the day, aiming to “inspire the next generation of leaders in the Baltimore community to think analytically about issues, learn from innovation and consider the persisting problems that we must face and overcome in a rapidly changing world.”
The Symposium’s mission is surely an important and noble one. The only problem is that it has already set itself up for failure. The next three speakers to take the stage at Shriver Hall — Liz Cheney, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Paul Bremer — hardly represent the type of “prominent global leaders” who will provide students with innovative ideas or offer them any constructive dialogue.
Instead, FAS is introducing students to an advocate for torture, a mouthpiece for Wall Street and a “diplomat” who managed to dash the hopes of Iraqi reconstruction while destabilizing an entire region almost single-handedly.
On the FAS website, Liz Cheney is heralded as a “specialist in U.S. Middle East policy” who is tirelessly committed to the noble causes of “empowering women” and “supporting political, economic and educational reform” in the Middle East. But what the biography fails to mention is that Cheney is also tirelessly committed to the cause of torture. The daughter of the architect of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Cheney denies that waterboarding is torture and ceaselessly affirms its legality.
Just below Cheney’s biography, Andrew Ross Sorkin is promoted as the founder of DealBook and as the talented journalist who is a “leading voice about Wall Street and corporate America.” But in many ways, Sorkin is a “leading voice” for “Wall Street and corporate America.” One of DealBook’s leading sponsors is Goldman Sachs, a company which Sorkin has been loath to criticize. In fact, he’s often jumped to its defense, exonerating Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and arguing that the bank didn’t attempt to profit off the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007.
Paul Bremer is billed as a “recognized expert in counter terrorism” who was “charged with beginning [Iraq’s] political and economic reconstruction.” But this supposed “recognized expert in counter terrorism” actually derailed Iraqi reconstruction by fueling a terrorist insurgency. In 2003, Bremer became the de facto Governor of Iraq, ruling by decree. Against the advice of U.S. and Iraqi officials, he disbanded the Iraqi military, single-handedly laying off 400,000 young men trained in the art of killing.
Bremer led Iraq down a path to instability from which it has yet to recover.
Contrary to the picture FAS attempts to paint of these three speakers, they ought not to be entrusted with the sacred duty of molding “the next generation of leaders.” To herald them as models whom we ought to follow is to set us all up for failure. By soliciting their help in molding the future, FAS is only setting us back in history.