Former United States Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter shared his experience as an official state diplomat in his Monday Nov. 4 lecture. This address, titled “Three Decades on the Front Lines: Tales of the Foreign Service,” served as the annual Roemer Lecture on World Affairs. Munter began his presentation by recounting his time spent stationed in Warsaw, Poland during its solidarity movement in the 1980s. From this experience, Munter learned that, in the case of independence movements, there must be “a sense of social responsibility” because the movement is “more than gaining freedom … It’s extending freedom to those who are not like you,” he said.
During his time serving as Department of State’s country director for Czechoslovakia, Munter witnessed the country split apart. In dealing with this schism, Munter said he learned it is possible to be partisan as a diplomat.
“You have to see in which way your priorities fit in with countries that are friendly to you and aren’t friendly to you,” he said. Finally, Munter addressed his most recent involvement in Pakistan. Munter focused on the foreign relations narratives of both the U.S. and Pakistan in relation to each other.
According to Munter, Pakistanis claim that Americans use and discard them based on U.S. interests. On the flip side, the U.S. claims that they “give [Pakistanis] money and support and then they lie,” he said.
“The narratives between us are comforting ideas that perpetuate bigotry,” Munter said.
In concluding his lecture, Munter said that, in order to build trust as a diplomat, it is “excruciatingly important to be honest.”
Prior to the lecture, there was a reception in the Fireside Lounge with about 20 students during which Munter spoke candidly with the audience about issues ranging from the capture of Osama bin Laden while Munter was an ambassador in Pakistan to the recent Pakistani elections and the ethics of drone usage in the Middle East.
Based on his experience in Foreign Service, Munter said that he wished Americans would “learn to listen” because “we don’t take time to understand how others perceive a common problem,” so we are unable to resolve issues “in terms that are credible” to other countries.