Belfer Center Director Graham Allison
From the Director
Author: Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School
In the space of just over a year, Harvard President Drew Faust righted two old wrongs. In March 2011, she engineered the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps to Harvard, after Congress agreed to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law. Then, last month, Faust ended the 40-year estrangement of Henry Kissinger from Harvard.
The former national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations had not returned to the campus for a public event in four decades. A rift that had remained between Kissinger and the Harvard faculty and students who had protested his policies during the Vietnam War left many scars.
With two decisive gestures, Faust has, in effect, declared the end of the Vietnam War at Harvard University—nearly 40 years after the last American troops withdrew in 1973. She called Kissinger one of Harvard’s legendary alumni.
I was honored to play a small role in this détente, moderating a roundtable discussion with Kissinger at Sanders Theatre on April 11. We were joined by Joe Nye, my colleague and former Kennedy School dean, and Jessica Blankshain, a Kennedy School doctoral student.
A couple of gray-haired protesters still wanted to put Kissinger on trial. But I was struck by the rock-star reception Kissinger received from the overflow audience, mainly Harvard undergrads for whom Vietnam is a history lesson. The students questioned Kissinger, who is now 88 years old, firmly but politely, and afterwards crowded toward the stage to have him autograph his new book about China, recalling the breakthrough Kissinger achieved with China in 1971-72.
Several members of the Belfer Center International Council were in the audience, our annual meeting having just concluded that day. Also attending was Professor Niall Ferguson, Belfer Center board member who is Kissinger’s biographer. We are pleased to welcome Ferguson’s wife, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prominent Somali-Dutch scholar and politician, who joins the Center as a fellow this spring.
In March, Kissinger and I were in Seoul as guests of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who asked us to a “long lunch” to discuss plans for the second Nuclear Security Summit. The Belfer Center assembled an impressive body of research and policy proposals for summit-goers on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism. Matthew Bunn, William Tobey, Olli Heinonen, Marty Malin, Simon Saradzhyan, Eben Harrell, and Ben Rhode took the lead which we featured on a new website called the Nuclear Security Summit Dossier.
Spring also brought European political experts to the Center. Nicholas Burns’ Future of Diplomacy Project hosted former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the Kennedy School as Fisher Family Fellows. They shared the stage at a JFK Jr. Forum and gave master classes. Nick also hosted the Great Negotiator Award with Belfer Center faculty member Jim Sebenius of Harvard Business School. The award went to James Baker, the former secretary of state who brokered so many agreements in his career.
With all this intense work on past and present foreign policy challenges—including an off-the-record briefing for General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the Belfer Center remains actively engaged in the debate about the U.S. role in the world.
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