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tv   Robert Kaplan The Good American  CSPAN  March 28, 2021 8:00am-9:01am EDT

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books and he's starting to get more engaged in them. >> watch this and other interviews with members of congress about the books they're reading at there are programs to look out for on book tv: television for serious readers. eric berger looks at the career of entrepreneur elon musk and on "after words" the washington post's joe be worth reports on america's effort to destroy chemical weapons in syria and mickey kendall argues that modern feminist women is excluding some women, especially women ofcolor . find program information act or consult your program guide. >> thanks for joining us. our guest is robert kaplan. rob is the author of a new book the good american: the epic plight of bacchus tony,
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the us governments latest humanitarian. i can't think of a person or book that better embodies and exemplifies the missionof the carnegie council and bob kaplan in this book . so thanks so much for zooming in to join us today . >> my pleasure joel. >> mostof you know about for his many books and articles on history, geography and culture . bob has traveled and reported from the most remote places on the map. his writing reflects on the human experience from poverty-stricken and war-torn countries to the most incredible landscape of the natural world. bob is well known for his political analysis for me and always most moved by his human centered approach. what it means tolive in a particular time and place . in this book bob has found a way to tell at least three stories. the story of bob gersony, a
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great humanitarian, us foreign policy during the cold war and after and his own story, the story of one analyst at a moment in time trying to make sense of the brutal consequences of power politics and the human impulse to respond in a moral way. this book is a real gift showing us the broad sweep of history and impact of a great if not well-known man. bob is going to kick things off with an introduction to the book and after that we will have some conversation and q&a. please use the chat function to submit your questions and we will take up those at the back end of the hour. >> thank you joel. thanks for the invitation to once again speak at carnegie ethics council. as i've been doing i think for about 26 or 27 years. this book is, it's a story
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about an epic biography of the greatest humanitarian you've never heard of. that's the whole point. he's only known for this book to an inside culture of the state department and the united states and or agencies for international development workers essentially and to some people in the cia, nationalsecurity council . people inside inside washington know all about him but to a larger group, even to the human rights community in new york, they've probably never heard of him or if they have to it's just been very incidental. and for one thing or another. it was a story too good to refuse to tell essentially and i in fact interrupted another book in order to break away and spend three years on this. imagine someone from a
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wealthy jewish family in manhattan of holocaust refugees, father did very well in business and the commodity trade who nevertheless not only did not go to college but did not graduate high school because he had a very mild reading learning disability that has since been cured essentially but which made it impossible for him to study in the usual way. and what did he do? he went into the commodity trade like his father which becomes crucial later on during his military and work and then joins the army, volunteers to go to vietnam and is awarded a bronze star for service in vietnam. think of this. a kid from manhattan who dropped out of high school with a bronze star in vietnam . and then after that to make a
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long story short he got his start doing refugee work during the great guatemalan earthquake of the mid-linking late 1970s and was discovered by usaid and even though he didn't even have to high school education, he began a career that would last over 40 years, working for the state department and usaid in one conflict and disaster zone in the developing world after another. we talk about storied great foreign correspondents who may have covered most wars and interviewed dozens upon dozens in each place. here's the story of someone who was not specifically a reporter but basically, that's what he did. who was literally everywhere. every foreign war and disaster area and interviewed not dozens but hundreds in each place and brought back
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his analytical reports to us usaid and made foreign policy a bit smarter and a bit more humane. sometimes dramatically so. a few examples of the kinds of things he accomplished. in 1984 he discovered a mass murder in central uganda in our region called the low arrow triangle. and he brought the news back to washington and the result was that it led to the collapse of the murderous regime of milton abu jay who succeeded idi amin and it brought to power someone who at the time five years ago was a beacon of light. he was educated, had a disciplined army, not move when they took over towns and also improve the standing of
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the united states in east africa. who had become a theme of gersony. if you do the right thing in a humanitarian sense you improve the american geopolitical position. in mozambique a few years later, southern africa during the, in the late 80s was a maelstrom of war. it was massive, epic cinematic war and in angola, in mozambique, the portuguese empire had collapsed and east and west forces were fighting over the carpets of the empire and the reagan administration was already to anoint the guerrillas in mozambique as recipients of military aidunder the reagan doctrine . gersony shows up in his typical fashion, interviews hundreds of refugees along the 1500 mile border of
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mozambique from south africa in the south near cans in a in the north. and then all through mozambique in the heart of the country and comes back and said they're a bunch of murderers and rapists, they have no political plan whatsoever and even were supporting another anti-communist guerrilla group mozambique is nothing like the group we're supporting an angle. the result, gersony comes home, briefs george schultz in his office with maureen ragan. very common for gersony to come back fromsleeping in a sleeping bag inthe field and briefing i policymakers . scholz goes to reagan , rommel was cut out of the reagan doctrine and the result of that is the mozambique civil war starts to wind down saving hundreds of thousands of lives. as a result of one man going around just asking peasants
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and refugees what happened to them. and putting it through his commodity trader,/accountants,/ mastermind analytical filter. bob gersony was not enraptured by causes. he was not a liberal arts major. he was very much a mastermind with an interesting commodity prices agriculture, the lifeblood of peasants who he spent his life in the developing world in. then there was rolando where a genocide of 850,000 people had just occurred. there was a new government in power and gersony goes up and down rwanda across the whole country interviewing hundreds and comes back and says yes what the new government has mass murdered 30,000. it's not a genocide like
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150,000 but it's a mass murder. this complicated policy to no end because the un and the us were foursquare behind supporting the new regime . the result was the us and un brought pressure to bear on the new regime and the killing stopped mainly because of one man and what he did. bob gersony solved the problem of vietnamese boat people who were being besieged on the high seas by pirates. he engineered an intelligence operation on the docks where the pirates congregated to tell their, talk about their exploits in dockside bars and through this intelligence operation, the problem was solved within three years. bob gersony was the first person to discover face-to-face and report about resistance army's. the lord's resistance army in northern uganda and human rights degradations they were reporting.
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it would only be 13 years after he filed a massive report on it that the social media would pay attention. he was that far ahead of the curve . and i'll give you just one fine final example of the many examples in the book. it's that we were spending billions of dollars on planned columbia to irradiate eradicate cocoa production in the farm fields from which cocaine is made but despite spending billions we had no idea if we were successful. bob gersony goes into the most dangerous parts of southern columbia, the parts occupied by guerrilla forces who are producing cocaine and with his fluent spanish walks into the field and asks farmers face-to-face, are you still growing coca in those fields? that's how he found out what billions of dollars could not do. bob gersony is a neurotic
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character, a neurotic jewish character right out of the soul bellow novel. if you've read all bellow novels you know all about bob gersony he spent his life in settings best described by joseph conrad. so there's an element of soul bellow, an element of dangerous tropical gloomy settings of joseph conrad. bob gersony exposed the illusion of knowledge where none actually existed. in this age of internet, of social media, of the digital video world we have this assumption that we know what's going on in me on mark. not just in the capital city but in thecountryside . we have an assumption that we know what's going on in ethiopia and all these places but you don't really know unless someone goes there asks questions and finds out
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cause it's only by being alone on the ground at all the nuances and subtleties have of a place come at you that you can bring back behind policymakers in washington, to warn about things ahead. i interviewed 100 people about gersony's career and they said he always found the truth no matter how inconvenient itwas . the truth that often nobody wanted to hear in washington but once they acted upon because he always had a way to show how human rights belong in a hierarchy of need of a superpower. of, you know, the united states is still a great power . it has interest. many of those interests are not immoral, they are immoral . they have to do with controlling sea lanes and supporting one regime over another and on and on itgoes . bob gersony was able to
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policymakers one-on-one and explain to them why human rights policy would help america's geopolitical position. that was the real genius. he could, he understood national interests very much. he was a vietnam veteran and proud of it. and he was basically and this will also sound weird among all the other weird things i've said about him is he was basically a conservative pessimist. not an ideological conservative. just a bit right of center pessimist who always thought of what could go wrong and because he always thought of what could go wrong, the worst things didn't happen because he warned policymakers in advance that if you don't do something about this , this will happen . he was like a genius at anxious foresight.
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which is a term that comes out of machiavelli, really. the best policy emerges from early warning. bob gersony was mike a human rights early warning system. he was the one person who made a difference. and it showed what can be donewith the american brand . and he operated at a time in the cold war, the late cold war and close cold war when the state department really worked. when you had neoconservatives working hand in hand with realists. when the policy battles that would come after the end of the cold war and particularly after 9/11 and after the invasion of iraq were very viewed. so that was much less ideological state department. you had people right of
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center, left of center but the center ruled in other words . and bob gersony during the high point of his career had the luck to work with george schultzwho just passed away the other day at age 100 . george schultz in his very person inculcated national interest and human rights. he was a cold war hardliner but he supported gersony's work in mozambique, in ethiopia and sudan. all over. he was very receptive to gersony's arguments of human rights, not only in africa but in central america and elsewhere so george schultz is like a minor distance character in this story and you see a side ofgeorge schultz you may not get elsewhere despite all that's been written about him in the last 48 hours . and finally i'll just say a book about history from the
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ground up. it's about the middlelevels of the state department. the assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretary's . diplomacy atthe ground level . we just had recently a great book, a great biography writtenabout james ingram the third . and that's about high policy, policy from the top. a look at this book is like a compliment. to what was going on at the bottom level among people you never heard. but accomplished great things in their very anonymous way 's thank you for the introduction. i have a couple questions just to follow up and key up the conversation and i wanted to start by talking about the book itself and we will get to gersony but for me the title of it was very telling
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and it had echoed so the title is the good american . as i think of it i was thinking of the echoes of the ugly american . and also the quiet american, graham greene. just to give you my interpretation. the ugly american is about arrogance and the arrogance of power. this was innocent in a way of america. i want to prompt you to say a little bit more. you've made a little bit more about when you say good, you're putting in a realist perspective. my interpretation which you meant by good was somethings you meant about awareness and the limits of power. there was self-knowledge in a way combined with pragmatism and empiricism, the american qualities of sort of problem solving but anyway, he seems
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to capture that. it was a sort of can do but also a sense of what the limits were . maybe you could say a little bit moreabout that . >> it was a very conscious decision to make the title the good american, not great. i say at the end of the book greatness involves a high degree of ambition and gersony was never ambitious except to get the truth out of each assignment. he never wanted to be an assistant secretary of state or anything like that . he just wanted to be out in the field like the best foreign correspondents of people who never want to come back to be foreign adversaries at the paper, they just want to die out in the field essentially so he was the good american in the sense that there is very
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rarely a greatpoem, there's a good poem, philip larkin wrote good poems . robert conquest wrote good poems. and gersony is a good man who was against the arrogance of america and in fact i'll give you an example . his whole methodology of interviewing people, was a weapon against arrogance. he always assumed that each peasant he spoke to was an expert at what they knew. they were an expert at what they had experienced and he had to find out their experience so he had to tap into their expertise. so the always treated them with great dignity and respect. telling them i need to learn from you. essentially, youdon't need to learn anything from me . and you know, therefore he was able to draw down for hours upon hours in each interview by flipping the whole thing of who have power
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in that conversation. so he was against innocents to because as i said, he was a conservative pessimist. he started in vietnam and in vietnam he fell in love with the books of the european american journalist and historian bernard faulk and bernard faulk predicted in his book that the americans would fail in vietnam just as the french had failed because of arrogance. because they didn't take the time to learn thecultural nuances of thesituation , of who exactly they were dealing with . so that bob gersony, made it his life work to replicate bernard fall essentially. he was against arrogance, against innocents and he was a good american, as opposed to a great american . >> let's talk about is
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following on that his independence as well. so he didn't work for the state department. officially. >> he wasn't independent but can you talk about this sort of pluses and minuses of in the system but not really in the system. >> he spent over 40 years as a private contractor for the us agency for international development and the state department. and occasionally for the united nations or for a relief charity that would hire him. so essentially he was a freelancer who had to be rehired for over 40 years in succession over and over again even though he always ruffledfeathers . didn't make people angry at him but made them very inconvenienced. he would come back with the kind of inconvenient information that would lead them to force people to
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rethink policy. and but because he was essentially not a staffer, not even a foreign service officer , officially speaking , he was knocked part of any fake. he was not part of any mindset. not part of any bureaucratic personality or mindset. and this allowed him to come back with counterintuitive truths. all the time. and it also made him more vulnerable. and he felt this vulnerability. so he had to be that much more, he needed that much more energy to make sure every, that the new assignment would not be his last. he suffered bouts of anxiety throughout his life that required medication. all because he felt insecure area and it was his insecurity that drove him. that drove each assignment. >> i was going to then turn
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it to you because in some waysyou are an independent operator . you live a life very similar in a way to bob gersony and i know that product part of the attraction to write about him but could you reflect a little bit in terms of your own experience and sort of independently operating and reporting and just how this all falls on you in terms of gersony's story. >> that's absolutely right joel. gersony and i have led parallel lives . we met each other in the sudan in a cheap hotel 35 years ago. during what was then a front-page news story. it was the great ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s and it was khartoum and sudan because that's where the refugees poured out into eastern sudan.
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and he was, i liked him immediately. he wasn't like the other journalists or aid workers. he was not volatile, he was not a conversationalist. he was a bit awkward, difference and over the decades , we constantly crossed paths with each other. and he was like me. he was a freelancer essentially, afreelancer of the spirit . if not technically always a freelancer. there had been times in my career where i had w-2 forms, staff jobs. built up tension points, that kind of stuff but essentially i was a freelancer area and in the same way he was. we often came back with unpopular truths. in that sense. and we always had to produce because if we didn't produce on each assignment there may not be, there may but not be another one so i very close to him. he was also like me out bit
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conservative. a bit of a pessimist. which attracted, which caused a mutual attraction. and so we were like brothers of the spirit in a sense. and also, he was very analytical. he spent his life with liberal human rights types, liberal arts human rights types in the developing world . he had a friend tony jackson who is a character in the book who gersony always joked , tony you're my ambassador to the left. because come with me on this assignment. you know how to talk to these people and tony jackson was a brick, he speaks fluent french,several languages, very outgoing idealistic, the opposite of bob but they were
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great friends . and so and yet the same day with myself.i've always been like ananalytical geopolitical sort . spending significant portions of my career and in fact overseas assignments with people who were of the opposite . who were more liberal, less analytical, more involved in telling human interest narratives. so to speak. in other words, i was interested in big forces and a lot of journalists are interested in telling the personal story. and in this book i flip it of course because i tell a personal story but there's a geopolitical angle in almost every chapter of this book. in order to set the stage for what gersony has done real. >> it's interesting because i was thinking about your book work and there's a part in this book where you say it repeatedly about how heworked with facts . notideology . and you're sort of interested
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in both but this is what you said about gersony, you said how this life is about how granularity in different places defeats all theories. >> defeats all isms whether it's neoconservatism, conservatism, realism or idealists because gersony believed in the uniqueness of each place. there was one us, usaid personnel. she was the director of usaid in ecuador. this is about 20 years ago and her name was the bondy arianna and she hired gersony to look at the border between ecuador and colombia and to see what was going on and she said to me, she said what i like about him immediately is he didn't say something like well, northern ecuador is like this place in asia for
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this place in africa. herespected the uniqueness of each place and when he spent weeks traveling through northern ecuador he said the east park is very different from the central part and we will need different solutions for each part . it was that kind of granularity where because i've discovered as a foreign correspondent sometimes the most unpleasant things you can do in washington is to tell peoplewhat you actually saw and experienced . because it flies in the face of their brand theories about theworld . so to speak, and that's another thing that attracted me to gersony. he's not a big thing person. he's a very granular person like what's going on here on the ground and what specifically can we do if anything to alleviate it. >> where do you think we are now? there's been a lot of discussion about the
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hollowing out of the state department and the devaluing of all thisexpertise and so on . what's your sense or do you think that as we sit here today, our country the united states has learned a lessonof the need for this kind of ground truth , informant driven facts or where are we? can we build that capacity into the system or do we have themeans to find the next bob gersony for people like him ? >> ..
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so that's kind of like the state department in usaid. because the drift downward actually began at the end of the cold war. once the whole u.s. foreign affairs bureaucracy lost a good deal of its focus because it didn't have one enemy to focus on, one ideological system to oppose. so already there was this gradual importance of state, of usaid, of cia, of all of this. the '90s were an era where we felt we were at the unique polar power, nobody could challenge us. it made as sloppy and a bit lazy. but it all of which side with the trump era. it was like the trump era was a real decimation of the state department in usaid but it's important to realize it started sooner in a more gradual way. also social media is a
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disruptive technology. it gives people the assumption that we don't need people out in the field. you can know everything by the internet or by following the twitter feed from this country or that took also e-mail itself has made it harder for diplomats at american embassies in foreign capitals to escape from the embassy and take a bus or travel around the country and file a cable about what they had seen. because e-mail change them to their desk because they're getting emails not only from their immediate superiors at statement from commerce, agriculture, all these departments who now because it's so easy to get in touch with a first secretary or a second secretary, just bombard them with questions. it's a matter of getting back to the basics in many ways.
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with state and usaid. and the basics are that cable writing. now obviously you do it on a computer, you file it, but it is historically called cable writing. it's like with the great print and typewriters of the day, used to them so wonderfully. it was best expressed on what used to be page three of the "new york times" where you didn't get the front page story but you got like a 1400 word story by one of their best correspondence about what's going on in thailand or what's going on in the african republic or something like that. it was fast dating even though was not a page one item. that's when we really learned about the world, and it's a matter of spiritually getting back to that. you know, discovering the importance of old-fashioned reporting, whether it's state,
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cia, usaid, or whatever. >> with that in mind what do you think about the future of humanitarianism generally as part of u.s. foreign policy? in the book you talk about how during the cold war era there was a certain logic to it, that strategy and altruism sort of went together in service of sort of anti-communism. then you talk about how that aid after the cold war, where is your sense of where we are now in terms of u.s. foreign policy? >> the cold war major humanitarianism both harder and easier than it is now. it made it harder because we would put up with great atrocities of the country in question with anti-communism or anti-soviet. that's where it made it hard. it made it easier in the sense that we cared about every country on the map because we were in a battle for influence with the soviet union.
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and influence meant having humanitarian aid programs, foreign aid. now it's different. now it's different but the crucial thing that has happened is that the world has become smaller because of digital communications. we are already more and more of the human community, a nervous, anxious, claustrophobic world out there. and because we are united by global media, reputational issues like a country's respect for human rights achieve more important. so while it's important to kind of compete with china and russia in the military sphere and other spheres, it's also better for us to promote humanitarianism because that gives us a leg up against these two autocratic powers. if we don't have humanitarianism baked into our foreign policy,
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then we are just following and one-dimensional realpolitik like russia and china are. >> i'm just curious. do you have some sense of optimism? i know you are a real -- perhaps a pessimist by disposition but what you're describing requires some degree of humility but also resolve. do you see elements of that in terms of as we think about the next post trump, you know, there's a sort of idea of a new internationalism of some way of -- >> i think various things. first of all, the biden administration will be a a vat improvement over the trump administration in this matter, no matter what happens. but keep in mind that the biden administration is not dealing with the america of the cold war or even the post-cold war period when the united states had a vast, dynamic and united and very robust middle class, which
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underwrote big foreign aid programs, a big navy and everything like that, so it acquiesced to however, to whatever our ambition was in the wider world. the america of today has a battered middle class that's divided up between a cosmopolitan upper middle, said it around the two coasts and university towns, and a lower middle drifting towards poverty which is alienated by any internationalist form of foreign policy. so it's a less united country than it was, and so it will be harder for the biden administration to serve up anything beyond rhetoric. america is not what it was. it cannot bring back civilian government in myanmar by
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snapping its fingers. or things such as that. but i still think because it's a smaller, more claustrophobic world where human rights violations get immediate attention in the news through social media and other things, that it will drive us to this, what i call, you know, inserting human rights high up in the hierarchy of needs of the u.s. foreign policy. >> we have a few questions that have come in so this will kind of go back, now drilled that a little bit. it's good because it will give a sense of the book in the really very rich examples that you have. have. i'm going to read one here. this one is about iraq and then i want to come to one about the balkans later. the first one is, this is from charles flynn. i realize you could not detail every assignment and others have written volumes about iraq, but
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i'm wondering what truth telling gersony did about iraqi reconstruction? >> yes, , there is a whole chapr on iraqi reconstruction in the book. it's not a big chapter, it's a small one. basically after the invasion of iraq, the postinvasion, the time of the iraq war was a failure on many levels. this book goes into the failure on the usaid level which he it doesn't get much attention in many of the books written about iraq but it does in this book. gersony is sent out to baghdad to find out why usaid failed in its mission to immediately be on the ground up and running with aid programs in aftermath of the invasion. and interviews in his typical style hundreds of people, comes back and then is sent back again to come up with ways in which it
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could be improved. so makes the second trip to iraq. he comes back saying it failed because the chain of command wasn't there. quite honestly, the aid community was not completely on board with the military authorities because they were not used to taking orders from generals and colonels. the aid community of like international operations as humanitarian operations like in the 1990s in the balkans, but iraq was different. it was a military occupation, no matter how you parsed it. iraq is dealt with in the book, and the conclusions that gersony came up with and which i share with the reader is that like vietnam where he discovered bernard fall, iraq was wrong from the beginning. but having been wrong from the
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beginning nevertheless, it could have turned out much better than it did had the right programs and the right people been in charge on the ground. in other words, if iraq was a disaster but it could've been much less of a disaster to the point where we would actually be arguing about whether it was worth doing or not. and try kicking back with all these recommendations, which were, in fact, implemented but it was too little, too late. remember, at the end of the day he was just one man against fast and personal forces. >> to go to another example, one i was very much taken with, was the description of his interventions in the balkans after the war, basically in terms of their resettlement issues in the late 1990s. the issue there was what was possible in terms of bringing
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people back to their homes. maybe you could say a little bit about gersony's perception of the peace agreement, what it called for, but also what was possible on the ground as he was interviewing the actual -- >> one of the aims about this book was to show you regions, not only obscure regions that you knew very little about in the first place, but regions that got a lot of news attention like rwanda, like the balkans, but show them in a different way than any other newspapers did. the balkans were like rwanda. gersony went in after the fact not before the fact. he went in just as the dayton peace accords, negotiated by the late american diplomat richard holbrooke had been initialed and were about to be implemented. this was the fall 1995.
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and gersony goes to bousquet, goes to croatia to bosnia, and then would spend three months going up and down bosnia interviewing not only refugees and displaced persons but aid workers within on the ground in war-torn bosnia for four years already. because remember the boston or started in force in about 1992 -- the bosnia war. and gersony doesn't get there until late 1995. the aid workers he's dealing with our people who stayed the course and what he called the rand corporation of humanitarian aid for bosnia. that's the kind of expertise he was giving. and what he discovered was the dayton accords were, they stopped the war, but the situation was so fragile it would not take much to restart the war and make dayton seem to
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have been a failure. so it was a fragile situation, number one. and some of what dayton recommended was impossible to implement at the moment. specifically dayton wanted minority return which is a fancy washington word, for instance, if you have a city, a village of 300 croats and the reform act muslim families, those four muslim families had to go home with the 300 croats and be accepted by them, have their school age children accepted by them and have nothing bad happened to them, get their home back because that's what dayton intended to do was to rip up this whole legacy of interethnic war in the region. and gersony after any viewing hundreds including human rights workers on the ground with a lot
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of experience -- after interviewing -- says minority return have to be postponed, that you'll just not be able to protect 24/7 minority family, you know, literally right after a four-year-old interethnic war that killed people in the most horrific way in which the embers of dislike and distrust were still so high. so gersony argued for majority returned, he most of people in refugee camps are majorities in their village. get them out of these refugee camps, get them resettle in their houses, build a community centers if the electricity started again, repair the roofs. in other words, give dayton some foundation so it doesn't slip back into war and vendor dayton a failure. and what you do that you could think about minority returns. in other words, his philosophy and not just in boston but
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elsewhere was don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good -- in bosnia. the good thing to do was get the majority back in place, to close in some of these refugee camps. eventually that's what happened. they built i think it was 2500 and some odd homes for majority returnees, and that led other aid agencies to kind of piggyback on usaid and provide electricity, community centers, all of that, schools, that kind of thing. that played a a role, i don'tt to exaggerate it, it played a role in keeping former yugoslavia peaceful. so that it did not slip back into war, and dayton, therefore, was a limited, remained a great limited success.
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limited in the sense that it stop the war in its tracks and it didn't continue on even if now 25 years later or so interethnic relations in the former yugoslavia are often not good. >> thank you for sharing that come sort of the details there of that particular example. what i want the viewers and listeners to get from this conversation is a sense of both this week, they geographic sweep of the epic life can really is an epic life of gersony in terms of the places he visited within the level of detail that he got into, we go everywhere from micronesian to the former yugoslavia. it's incredible. my question, bob, this is an age old question about generalist versus those with particular
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expertise in a language or an area, and as a journalist myself and i think you are a generalist, could you give us some reflections on that in terms of the strength and weaknesses of moving around from place to place, as bob did, , ad as you have pgh yes. bacher sony was both a generalist and an area specials because his specialty was central america essentially. he spent more years on the ground in war-torn central america that elsewhere and he was a fluent spanish speaker. he was a specialist but in ia larger sense he was a generalist. he had to like parachute into places and not spent the week there but spent four months interviewing hundreds of people. and i should say each of these interviews often lasted several hours. generalist is a quick study.
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has an analytical side. you know, can focus in on the most salient facts and relay u.s. interests or to the interest of whatever country he or she is representing. an area specialist spends his or her whole life about dealing with one country or one linguistic region or something, and sees all the nuances that a generalist often fails to make. what when it comes to policyy makers don't have time to listen to six hour briefings. about all the nuances. they need someone who they can trust analytically who could give them a bottom line. i had been a generalist because i have written books on various parts of the world, but in the course of writing a book i've had to delve into area specialty and interview a lot of area
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specialists. the best kind of generalist have feel for granularity in each place. bob gersony was a great journalist because when he started reading books about each place before he went there, he would read books by area specialists, by journalists, i travel writers, by academics who had spent their whole life covering one country or region. he tapped in area specialty, so that's the best type of generalist does. the worst kind is someone, and i am just, i am generalizing about generalists. someone in a big imperial capital who believes we should spread democracy or just do this
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because america's own, you know, historical experience, for instance, with democracy supersedes that countries own historical experience. gersony was always sensitive to other people's historical experiences. >> that's great. we are coming towards the end, just a couple more questions. just getting back to gersony himself and we will sort of in with this, but i'm trying to get the sense of what the thread that runs through the book and i guess my sense is did he feel that his client was always the united states of america, the government of the united states, or do you think, because he was so practical, right? he was almost like like a t in a way and as you said he has a great soul of a person but he had this of an accountant. but i just want to make sure i understood correctly that the
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client was the united states government in terms of what the governments capacity could be to deliver some humanitarian outcome. >> yeah. remember, in the case of rwanda, he had to my clients. he had usaid and the u.n. high commissioner for refugees. in other words, usaid hired him for wanda within loaned him to unhcr to actually carry out his investigation. -- rwanda. yes, he served the united states of america. he was very much a nationstate american in that sense. and he came back with facts and he believed that truth and facts could liberate essentially, that the was such a thing as truth. it's not just a world of competing narratives where you have your narrative and i have mine and went to tell each other our narratives. that was not gersony. try to believe there is a real
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truth here. you know, good and bad may be complex or they may not be. there may be good guys and bad guys. that may be more complicated than that but it was the truth. he was loyal to the truth and it brought back the truth to what was for most of his career the most powerful country in the world. >> so just to wrap up, bob, tell us about bob gersony now. can you sort of just, he's in retirement. maybe you could tell us about him and your relationship and have the book sort of came to be. >> yes, certainly. bob gersony now is, he is 76, i believe, and he lives in great falls, virginia, and he married a late because of all his traveling that he did. the plant of him and his wife to
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have perhaps one child, and they had triplets, believe it or not, and they are all great kids and they're all in college now, you know? because he's 75. they are in their second year of college. they all always celebrate te birthday, they were all in a r mitzvah together, same ceremony kind of. so that's bob gersony now and his wife cindy by the way was a humanitarian aid worker throughout most of your career, and she figures as as a charr in some of the chapters, like bosnia and in rwanda where she accompanies him. bob and i are great friends, but i didn't decide to do this book until about four years ago because i knew about bob's traveling and is anything of refugees and all of that and have the journalist in a war
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zone would interview dozens and he would disappear and come back weeks later having interviewed hundreds. i knew he was a special and unique but i didn't put altogether. some things you know but you don't know that you know, you know, essentially. it was one night four years ago fellow mutual friend of ours, gerry weaver, who is a minor character in the book by the way, jerry weaver passed away and pop and i decided to have dinner together at the cosmos club in washington, as it happened. i asked bob just for curiosity when he went to school. because all along i thought he'd gone to deal or harvard or someplace like that, because he is polished. spent his life working for state and usaid, and he said actually i didn't go to college. and then it all came out, that he dropped out of high school. i did know he had been to
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vietnam. and then it kind of hit me that this is a real story. this is a very unusual character, but i still didn't jump on it. i waited about four months and was mulling it over and figured good book ideas are not handed to you on a silver platter. you have to tease them out. it was only after i started on the book and started injuring dozens upon dozens of people at usaid, state, elsewhere, and each of them told me how extraordinary and reliable with information bob was, it was then that i decided to really pour myself into this book. >> great. it was a wonderful investment. we generally appreciate it. it's a great story and among its many virtues is telling the story of come as you put it so eloquently, somebody who labored in obscurity unknown, and still
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to this day is not seeking to be known or to be even an influencer, to use the current jargon. but i think it is a wonderful job of explaining so much history, so much geography. it's a great story, and thank you for it, really appreciate it. >> thank you, joel come to fore the carnegie ethics counsel for hosting me. >> thank you all for joining us. >> booktv on c-span2 every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding from both tvs comes from these television companies who support booktv as a television service. >> during a a virtual event hd by the commonwealth club of california, emigration in europe has led to increased sexual assault. >> we knew if we had allowed a
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large number of men, very young men to come in, you know, i'm guided, not socialized into the context they were coming into, that we were going to run into problems like this one, then the response itself where putting up with this is put on the women and is put on women in poor neighborhoods. i think that is, it really is just, it's outrageous, it's absolutely outrageous. so if you want more as you read the book you'll see example after example. i have spoken to so many women who say they will literally say i am not anti-migrant.
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they feel sorry for the people of syria, sorry for the people of afghanistan, they feel sorry for the people of somalia and elsewhere. they want to welcome them. there are so many volunteers in some of these european countries who want to do good things for people in difficult cases. most of them described how the streets streets of change, how their schools have changed. there's a continues assault on their bodies. how the authorities lead them to their cells because when they go to the city council to say look what's happening in my neighborhood, they just are dismissed. that is where russian trolls,
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and that's where the radical islamists come in and all other strange groups and extremists with an agenda because the mainstream don't want to do with these issues. >> to watch the rest of his program visit our website and search for ayaan hirsi ali or the title of her book "prey" using the search box at the top of the page. >> i am virginia prescott from georgia public broadcasting and i am welcome you today to this virtual author talk event from the atlanta history center. tonight we're talking with thomas c. holt about his book the movement movement"the african american struggle for civil rights." you can purchase the book directly from a cappella books. there's a link in the chat at the bottom of your screen. you can also link at the atlanta history center website and buy the book from there. we do all know the names of rosa parks and dr. martin luther king, jr., john lewis, thurgood


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