Development should create healthier people, countries, Hamre says

John Hamre

This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the Wednesday, June 29, issue of The Chautauquan Daily

Rebecca McKinsey | Staff Writer

When he steps behind the podium today,

says the audience he’ll be addressing will be made up of the same type of people he tries to recruit every day to effect international change.

Hamre is the president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan, non-profit organization that seeks to change policy by providing ideas and strategies to government officials, international figures and members of the private sector. He will speak at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

“We’re now currently living in a global environment,” Hamre said. “Developments that occur around the world have a direct impact here in the United States. If we don’t understand what’s going on in these places, then we can’t do a good job in developing policy solutions here. We have to have knowledge based on direct conversation and experience.”

The proposed policy changes that leave CSIS, which began as a defense think tank in 1962, are based on research and analysis and are often crafted with the help of the very people who can implement them.

CSIS periodically calls on members of Congress to sit on commissions created for a specific policy change.

About eight years ago, CSIS invited Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist to sit on a commission that explored ways to improve care of HIV and AIDS victims.

“That became the starting point for actual legislation that was passed,” Hamre said. “I think it goes back to 50 years of accumulated credibility. The work we do here has tangible results. It shows up in legislation, and it shows up in policy.”

The efforts of that commission resulted in the creation of the United States President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief, which provides HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment resources across the world.

“This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum,” PEPFAR’s website states.

Despite the success of initiatives like the one that led to PEPFAR, Hamre says the ideas that originate at CSIS do not always bear fruit. He cited one example in what he described as the United States’ unbalanced focus on military power in lieu of diplomacy, or “the inspirational side of American power.”

CSIS conducted research at the onset of the war in Iraq in an effort to create new end results. The problem with past U.S. actions in countries such as Bosnia, Hamre said, was that the U.S. knew how to stop a war but not how to create a civil society.

“We provided a framework when we started going into the war in Iraq, but it became clear that’s not what (the U.S. was) doing,” Hamre said. “Sadly, I think (CSIS’) blueprint for what we needed to do should have been the blueprint they used, and it wasn’t. I think that slowed things down and made them more difficult.”

Hamre joined CSIS in 2000. Before that, he was the 26th U.S. deputy secretary of defense and a staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In the past year, Hamre’s work with CSIS has taken him to Japan, Korea, England, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

In today’s lecture, Hamre will focus on the importance of international development.

“The goal of development should be simple,” he said. “It should be to create healthier people, healthier communities, healthier countries. That’s an agenda that should be shared by liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, private corporations and the government. This is an agenda that should unite Americans, not divide them.”

Although Hamre has known about Chautauqua for years, this visit will be his first.

“I think the Chautauqua community is very much like my own community,” he said. “These are thoughtful, balanced people who are simply trying to find solutions to the world’s problems. The people at Chautauqua are like the people I try to recruit to change the world’s policies.

“It seemed natural to come here.”