Greek ambassador speaks

Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns came to Carnegie Mellon to talk about “The Future of America’s National Security” last Tuesday.

Having played a leadership role in U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East and Asia and becoming one of the nation’s top career diplomats as undersecretary of state for political affairs from 2005–2008, R. Nicholas Burns offered a big-picture perspective of the country’s position on the world stage. Burns, former Ambassador to Greece and NATO, “reflects the intellectual culture we seek to create in the Institute for Politics and Strategy. In his many years in the state department’s Foreign Service and now as a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Ambassador Burns had become one of our nation’s top experts both in politics and strategy,” said Richard Scheines, dean of the Dietrich College for Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Ambassador’s lifelong trajectory supports the notion that one may start as an intern, following their passions in school, and through dedication and hard work, eventually be called upon to negotiate some of the most challenging issues in the world today. “Carnegie Mellon has such an incredible reputation as one of our leading schools for engineering and computer science, being on the cutting edge of our 21st century economy, but it does have to be balanced by an understanding of global policy and global affairs,” Burns said.

A great part of Burns’ message focused on international cooperation and the United States’ role as a global leader, in any metric devised. He drew attention to the United States having the greatest economy in the world, an incredibly innovative student population, and an insurmountable amount of political influence. All of this combined highlights the country’s responsibility to maintain the safety and security of its own borders, but also the rest of the world — “in a global age, if we’re not engaged as the leader of a coalition, if we’re nor helping other people, then we injure our own security as well as theirs” Burns said.

The elimination of boundaries brought on by globalization has not only stimulated the global economy, but has also transformed the way nations look at predicaments. Climate change is one of those. The future of clean energy jobs and high tech jobs will be born in universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Carnegie Mellon, Burns said, and it is that kind of forward thinking that makes the United States an indispensable and exceptional power when it comes to leading change. Transnational alliances are key to solving this problem. Reaching out to countries such as China or India, some of the world’s largest carbon emitters, and redacting a climate agreement are believed to be some of the most important things President Obama will do during his mandate. By mid-December, the first global contract on climate change will most likely emerge, where every country in the world agrees to a mandated level of diminished carbon emissions, on a schedule that will take us forward during the next 30 or 40 years.

Other important issues that cross oceans and physical barriers are the trafficking of women and children as well as organized crime rings and drug cartels. There are so many elements involved in finding solutions to these issues, all of which require an enormous amount of cooperation.

“Part of it is getting to the source of the issue beyond America, but the most important part is getting to the root of the problem in our own country, in the hearts and minds and insecurities of our own kids, who are dependent on drugs,” R. Nicholas Burns said in an effort to highlight the role education plays in the mitigation of several global problems. Nonetheless, the magnitude of these issues requires the support of not only several nations, but also several resources such as the military, every level of government, and also businesses in America.

“Think about what is at stake in the transnational domain,” Burns said. “We have to be out there, engaging other countries as a leader and fight these problems before they can assault us.”

The lecture marked the introduction of Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ new academic unit which will focus on the study of political science, international relations and national security. Under the direction of Kiron K. Skinner, who brings an enormous amount of scholarship, energy, and dedication to the enterprise, the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) will serve as a center for research, undergraduate and graduate education, and university-wide initiatives.