January 8: Opportunities to engage with various speakers from around the city continued as the week closed out.
On Thursday, we visited the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), one of the premier national security think tanks in Washington, D.C. We heard perspectives from four different staff members on various security dilemmas, both ones currently facing the United States and those managed by former administrations. These speakers included co-founder and CEO of CNAS, Hon. Michele Flournoy. It was particularly refreshing to learn of their commitment to bipartisanship. Later in the afternoon, we heard from Hon. Theresa Whelan, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, who offered insight on various security threats, while also enlightening us on the organization of the Department of Defense. It was interesting to be able to compare the opinions and functions of the two different executive departments we have previously engaged with to those of the think tank. For as polarized as politics are claimed to be in the United States today, I found the explicit similarities in the opinions of our many speakers to be striking, if not encouraging.
Friday consisted of continued discussion of the six different grand strategies with Professor Oakes, as well as talks by two contrasting speakers. First, we heard from Jen Psaki, the outgoing Director of Communications for the Obama administration, who spoke at length about the various foreign policy decisions of President Obama. Later that afternoon, James Carafano, noted security expert and academic from The Heritage Foundation, introduced an alternative conception of grand strategy, and further explained his opinions on security threats. For those who have read my previous blogs, Mr. Carafano was the speaker I was most looking forward to hearing from, and he certainly did not disappoint.
The final speaker of the week was Christopher Mewett, who works as a legislative assistant on the Hill. Interestingly, during his talk, he primarily offered a skepticism of the concept of grand strategy. The final event of the week was a trip to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Having never been there before, I was amazed by the sheer breadth of aircraft and memorabilia they have on display, and appreciated the break from traditional academics.