- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

From the Director

| Summer 2011

“There are decades when nothing happens; and then there are weeks when decades happen.”  So Lenin once observed and as the impetus for the revolution that transformed Czarist Russia into the Communist Soviet Union, he had grounds for this insight.  In the spaces analyzed by those of us at the Belfer Center, more things seem to be happening more rapidly with greater impact on a broader array of American interests than any time in recent memory.

The Great Awakening across the Middle East has been the source of amazement and inspiration as well as apprehension. Americans in particular  cannot be, or even appear to be, indifferent to individuals claiming for themselves freedoms and rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our revolutionary Constitution declared to be an endowment from the Creator.  But the pace and diversity of events is unquestionably dizzying. For those of us whose worry beads and waking hours were already programmed to address other topics, the compelling claim for attention has been a stretch.  Moreover, the distinct nature of each of the nations swept up by the currents running through the region puts a premium on understanding better histories, cultures, ethnicities, tribes, and societies that resist being shoehorned into simplistic storylines.  The conversation among colleagues at the Center – Nick Burns, Meghan O’Sullivan, Joe Nye, Shai Feldman, Steve Walt, Tarek Masoud, Monica Toft, and a host of others – has been exceedingly lively.

The compound crisis caused by an earthquake followed by a tsunami, and the consequent damage to the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex in Japan has highlighted another dimension of nuclear risk.  Former Deputy Director of the IAEA Olli Heinonen, Senior Fellow Will Tobey, and Associate Professor Matt Bunn have been engaged with experts in the U.S. government, the IAEA, and other governments in attempting to analyze alternative futures, as well as draw lessons for the future.

At our International Council meeting in April, we were pleased to announce completion of the campaign to establish an endowed professorship in the name of the Council’s chairman, Jim Schlesinger.  The only individual who has ever served as Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense, and Director of CIA, Jim Schlesinger symbolizes indivisible links between energy and national security. The James R. Schlesinger Professorship of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy will assure that, in perpetuity, generations to come at Harvard will remain committed to advancing knowledge and teaching about these vital subjects.

We were happy to celebrate the reversal of 35 years of misguided policy when Harvard’s President Drew Faust announced the signing of a formal agreement with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to restore and reestablish the ROTC presence on campus.  For a School that itself bears the name of a Navy hero, this was a special treat.

Members of the Belfer Center community had long advocated this step.  In applauding President Faust’s leadership in acting quickly after the change in the law that made it possible for all qualified men and women to serve, I observed that too many Harvardians had forgotten the truth captured so well by George Orwell: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  Of course, today, many women stand ready as well.

The decades that it took the University to come to this conclusion reminds us of the similarities between Harvard and what Winston Churchill once observed about the United States: It always does the right thing—after exhausting all possible alternatives.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham. From the Director.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2011).