By Shane Eric-Eugene Hensinger
Master's candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Note: Josef Korbel School Dean Tom Farer, pictured at left, who is retiring as dean, sat down with Shane Hensinger to share his thoughts about his pending retirement and the future of the Josef Korbel School as well as his own plans. This is an edited version of the interview.
SH: I'd be remiss in starting the interview if I didn't ask you what your opinion was of the Israeli raid on the Comoran-flagged vessel, Mavi Marmara, which left from Turkey and bore aid for Gaza.
TF: I've taken the position that the continued and indefinite occupation of the territories seized in 1967, in a war which I also concluded was a defensive war in line with the United Nations charter and so not illegal as a matter of international law, is, in fact, illegal. It was the continuing occupation and the form that it took, and the settlements particularly, which led to my view that, as an occupying power, it is the legal and moral obligation of Israel to do as little as possible to change the status quo in the territories.That means allowing self-government and not introducing new population into the territories and preparing the way for the self-determination of the people in the territories. Israel, I believe, still exercises de-facto control over Gaza and that implies obligations to the population. The blockade, the embargo, does seem to me a form of collective punishment.
Therefore I feel that this challenge of what I feel is a gross violation of human rights in Gaza (the Israeli blockade) was certainly morally justified. And one could argue, depending on one's view of the severity of the boycott, and considering there are other alternatives Israel could use -- re-occupying Gaza or allowing a U.N. Security Council multinational force in Gaza, that as long as there are alternatives, the current Israeli embargo cannot be justified in my opinion and humanitarian attempts to resist that embargo and bring assistance to the people of Gaza seem to me within the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The Israeli government certainly isn't exercising its responsibility to protect so others had the right to attempt to do so.
So I believe this attack on the ships was inconsistent with international law and should be condemned and sanctioned.
SH: What kind of sanctions do you feel would be appropriate?
TF: Economic sanctions, which I think could be very effective, because Israel is deeply integrated into the global economy and there are many Israelis who disagree with the current policies; so those who don't agree with those policies but are averse to challenging them, if adversely affected by an economic boycott, might then bring pressure on the government to reconsider its policies.
SH: Hasn't that been the hope in applying sanctions to a number of countries from Zimbabwe to Iran? And yet those same policies have been ineffective in getting those states, and others, to change their own policies?
TF: Israel is a democratic government and that's the difference right there. It's a state unusually integrated into the world economy. So the fact that sanctions have not worked effectively in other countries, poor countries, or those under the control of ruthless security services, as in the case of Zimbabwe, doesn't mean it wouldn't work in the case of modern, democratic countries. Nothing is for sure but at least it's readily distinguishable.
SH: You had another trip to Turkey so you've been a regular visitor to Turkey recently. Can you tell me about your most recent trip?
TF: The conference was called by the foreign minister of Turkey, a remarkable man, an intellectual who was a professor. One of the most impressive public officials I have ever met. It was a singular meeting introducing a foreign minister with a very audacious foreign policy, very creative, who invited intellectuals, both Turkish and foreign, to come together and assess his foreign policy. I had never heard of that happening before. It takes a great deal of self-confidence, confidence in yourself and confidence in your policies, to do that. There were some extremely interesting people there, the former foreign minister of Mexico (Jorge Castañeda), the former foreign minister of Iran and quite an eclectic group of people. An unusually satisfying meeting. The former foreign minister of Mexico agreed to become a member of the international advisory board of our Sié Chéou-Kang Center and to come here and to speak and visit with faculty and students.
SH: Well that's a real coup for the school and for you as well.
TF: I thought it was and also an eminently worthwhile trip.
SH: How are you slowing down? Or is your workload slowing down in preparation for the arrival of a new dean?
TF: It certainly hasn't decreased. It's particularly intense right now. We're in a search for a new chair for the Sié Center. I am working with Peg Sanders to develop the Sié Center, to prepare for its first big event, which will be the summer long-term strategic planning seminar for rising stars in the diplomatic and security services of pivotal countries. We're creating the advisory board for it. And the daily life of the school goes on -- there's fundraising, there's budget, there's marketing -- all the things an academic CEO does.
Afterward, I get a year off and I have research assistants who will be assisting with my next book, which will be on discourse in Washington, D.C. during the period of terror in Latin America in the late '70s and early '80s. That will be my main project but I will still be helping with the Sié Center and when I return I will resume my position as a university professor teaching a course on grand strategy for fellows of the Sié Center as well as various other classes.
SH: What do you see as the biggest changes from when you first walked into the school as dean 14 years ago.
TF: Size is one. The MA program is more than four times larger. In my second year, which was really the beginning of the transition, we only had 50 MA students. This year we'll have about 235. So it's more than four times larger. And in the undergraduate program we had more than 80 majors at that time, we have more than 300 now. That's a huge change and quality has increased coincidentally as well -- that's a change. When I arrived we were beginning the transition from a Ph.D. culture to the culture and curriculum of a professional school of international studies. It took a number of years but I think we completed that transition and now we're engaged in the process of continuing refinement. We had very few skills courses -- courses that really prepared people to add immediate value to an institution when they graduate from the Josef Korbel School. Now we have 30 or 40 of those courses, courses such as the funding of non-profits, quantitative analysis courses, project development and evaluation and many more. And those provide students with skills that they can immediately apply. And it helps them to get jobs as well.
Of course there's no greater skill than critical thinking, lucid writing and speaking, and I believe we provide those as well. And we still have the strong theoretical core, which is necessary because you need ideas to organize your thoughts and process data -- we'll never get away from that and we haven't.
The faculty is larger, the tenure-track faculty has gone from about 17 to 26. We now have clinical professors and lecturers, senior lecturers and a number of people we call adjuncts but, really, they are integral parts of the school. So if you take the teaching faculty as a whole, it has more than doubled. We have degree directors who counsel students and, perhaps more importantly, are constantly reviewing the requirements for the program. The staff has increased in size and is a wonderful staff.
And student groups. We have about 10 student organizations and we provide some funds for all of them. That is a very important change. It provides a lot of new additional life to the school.
Fund raising as well -- I think before I arrived at the school we raised $75,000 per year, now we raise more than $1 million per year. That's an important change and the Korbel Dinner is part of that. It's not just a fund raiser, it's also a profile raiser -- it underscores the eminence we have achieved.
SH: I wanted to ask you about the dinner this year, where Condoleezza Rice is being honored. You've been quite clear, in your book and other writings and speeches, about the shortcomings of neo-conservatives. One of our eminent graduates, if not the most eminent graduate of our school, is a prime architect of the policies of neo-conservatism -- many of the policies of which the vast majority of students at this school are in opposition to. She carried out a foreign policy that many of us felt was a complete failure and that implicated the United States, our military and our intelligence services in illegal acts. Now we're awarding her for these things
TF: Not "awarding." We're "recognizing" her achievements.
SH: Many of her actions and policies were the exact things we're taught not to do in our classes at this school. There is this dichotomy of the school recognizing someone whose policies you yourself spoke out against very strongly at the time.
TF: I don't think she's a neo-conservative, I believe she's a realist in the Kissinger mode. I've criticized him too. If you look at her writing, before 9/11 she was definitely within the Kissinger/Scowcroft mode -- "We have interests, we pursue those as best we can and we don't want to waste scarce resources." After 9/11, I would say she certainly acquiesced in policies that seemed driven by a neo-conservative view of the world. Bush changed, too. He certainly sounded like a traditional conservative during the primaries and the campaign. Condi certainly didn't openly oppose those policies, I think it's easier to say she went along, that she was unsuccessful in reconciling the views of the State Department under Colin Powell and the Defense Department under [Donald] Rumsfeld.
I'm not trying to justify that -- I'm trying to describe how I perceive it. I know people who feel she was a total disaster as National Security Adviser, in part because the National Security Adviser is supposed to bring to the president the views of all parts of the government and to reconcile conflicting views between different cabinet members and she either didn't try or completely failed to do that. Many people feel she was better at secretary of state, more benign. Basically her moves coincided with those of the president. Whether she was influencing him or executing his policies -- I don't know.
The fact that we are honoring her does not equate with honoring the policies she supported.
SH: Doesn't it though?
TF: Well it could be interpreted that way but I don't think it does. Certainly in my mind is doesn't. And other members of the school have spoken and written very critically of those policies. But she is an example of a graduate who, through effort and ability, rose from modest circumstances to high office and did her duty as she saw it. I think she was very wrong but I think she was always a rather conservative person. And one of the good things about honoring Condi is to show that, despite the preferences of much of the faculty and students, political preferences, this is still a place receptive to the widest possible range of ideas. I mean -- it's not receptive to fascists, but students who think of themselves as conservatives should feel totally welcome here.
I think it's important for the school to be a place where ideas are tested and examined critically.
SH: She is a prominent graduate and she had held offices within government many students at this school aspire to. But at the same time she advocated for or didn't oppose policies that have caused enormous damage to this country's ability to carry out its foreign policy. Illegal things -- things such as torture and rendition. And now it falls to us, as the foot soldiers of foreign policy, to begin the work of repairing this damage while she's at Stanford University. It puts us in an uncomfortable position.
TF: Her career isn't over. She's writing her memoirs as well as book on her upbringing. But she represents many things and one is the possibilities life holds.
SH: In 10 years where do you imagine the school?
TF: I think change or development at the school is likely to be incremental. We're not going to grow substantially because we've reached what is likely to be our maximum limit on students, without that source of new resources [the growth of new students] we're going to have to raise money from donors -- and that is a more difficult process. I think that needs to be an important emphasis of the next dean and with the assistance of our unparalleled fund-raiser here, Jennifer Thompson, I think whomever comes in will really have to concentrate on that area.
I see further development of our international connections, more foreign visiting professors, more opportunities for our students to spend time abroad. We have partnerships now with schools in Turkey, Russia, Spain and China, which is a good start. But that needs to be developed further.
I see those two areas -- develop overseas connections and raise more money for faculty and student scholarships, and maybe scholarships first -- because it's an expensive school.
SH: Thank you for your 14 years of service, Dean Farer. It's been an honor getting to know you and I hope you continue to be involved in the school in the future.
TF: It has been an honor serving here.