Panel Nerds: Clyde Haberman and Jackson Diehl Face Foreign Land


Who: Jackson Diehl interviewed by Clyde Haberman
What: NYU’s Center for Global Affairs’ “Worldly Perspectives with Clyde Haberman
Where: The Center for Global Affairs
When: October 14, 2009
Thumbs: Up

At one point during his hour-long chat with Jackson Diehl, Clyde Haberman wished Diehl luck in forming a succinct response to his weighty question about a certain foreign conflict. Yet, that sentiment could have been attached to any number of Haberman’s questions during the night.

They began with Afghanistan. Diehl addressed the difficulty that Obama now faces with the war, as he’s vocally and ideologically committed to his counter-insurgency policy. With every American general pushing him in one direction, and his cabinet tugging him in another, Obama is virtually stuck. Diehl feared that the pressures might create a middle-of-the-road endgame that he says could be the worst choice of all, as it may put additional soldiers at risk.

Diehl cast aside parallels to the Vietnam War, arguing instead that there’s much more to learn from 1990s Iraq. The proposed solution in Afghanistan is to train the Afghani army to fight in America’s place. But Diehl contends that it’s not possible to train a new army that quickly, after all it took the 1990s Iraqi army four years to get into shape. If there was a delay like that today, it might allow the Taliban to run free.

Haberman wondered if public opinion will hold on long enough to see a resolution. Once he broached the topic of media attention and approval ratings, Haberman turned to the question to whether Obama’s staff is patient enough with reporters. Diehl says that while Obama’s team has obsessively phoned the Washington Post, he recalls President Bush’s staff doing the same thing when they first took over. Eventually, the Bush administration relented and recognized that they had to work with newspapers or jeopardize their public image.

Asked whether we’re seeing an Obama doctrine at work, Diehl said that it’s been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushing multilateral action as an overall strategy. As the conversation moved to the subject of Iranian containment, it was clear that each of these issues deserved an hour — if not more — of their own.

What They Said
“The Taliban have become at least as big a threat in the last few years as al-Qaeda, if not a bigger one.”
– Jackson Diehl doesn’t subscribe to Joe Biden’s foreign policy perspective

“I want to see these guys crushed, quite frankly.”
– Clyde Haberman likes his Afghani terrorists like we like our red pepper

“I’ve been covering foreign countries for many years now and we have yet to have any invasion that hasn’t been compared to Vietnam”
– Jackson Diehl finds comparisons to the Vietnam War unhelpful and inaccurate

“I’m sorry, you’re ahead of me. I was focused on Metrocards today.”
– Clyde Haberman response to an audience member who informed him about the most recent developments with the United Nations

“There are very aggressive people around the President. I don’t know if it’s Chicago politics or what.”
– Jackson Diehl says that the Obama administration spends lots of time trying to sway columnists’ opinions

What We Thought

  • We liked how Haberman expanded on points that the audience asked about. Some foreign policy depends on events from decades ago, and Haberman at times added the context that some questions needed.
  • Events at the School of Global Affairs feature refreshments afterward where panelists stick around to meet interested audience members. It’s also a great time for students at the school to network with other attendees. We wish more panels closed with invitations to stay and snack.

Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds don’t like…Competing Moderate Voice
We’ve seen it happen fairly regularly. Someone has a long statement to make before he ends on his question. Patience is hard to come by since we, and the moderator, have no sense of how long it’ll last. So the moderator cuts in, asking the audience member to phrase a question. When this happens, just ask your question; don’t compete with the moderator for the verbal space. It’s a Q and A, not a Crazy Rant and A. The moderator is only trying to keep it that way. Don’t fight him.

Have a tip we should know?

Filed Under: