Earl Anthony Wayne Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

U.S. Economic Policy after 9/11: Conversation with Earl Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State; December 13, 2004, by Harry Kreisler

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Working in the Foreign Service

What have you found after all these years in the Foreign Service? What does it take to do well what you do? You've worked in Europe, you've worked in the National Security Council, you're now working on economic matters in the State [Department]. What are the common modalities that students should understand if they're interested in going into this kind of work?

One aspect that's very important is understanding the factors that affect what your interlocutor can do -- what are the pressures, what are the resources, or the lack thereof, that he has or she has; and, also, thus, what is success for him or for her? To have clearly in your own mind that basis, and then see if there is a way that you can find commonality. If you can find that, try to work that way. Sometimes you have to be very creative to find that, and other times, once you understand the dynamics, you can pretty quickly see where you can go, and it's easier to find the way to get there.

The same thing happens within government. It's very important within a government administration to build a coalition behind a policy that you think can achieve America's objectives, and you try to do that. Similarly, often in working with others, what you're trying to do is to get a coalition to support the good outcome, in this case, for the United States.

You're suggesting what the books [also] tell us about foreign policy, namely that there are negotiations within the U.S. government in preparation for or side-by-side with the negotiation with foreign governments.

It often is; it depends. There's some policy where you know where you're going, there's complete consensus. Then, you're just getting the coalition of other countries together and you're trying to find that common ground. But there are others where you're debating the best way forward internally at the same time that you're working with your partners. That's a little bit more challenging.

You had a lot of academic training. What surprised you most as you rolled up your sleeves and did this work that the political science textbooks, the public policy textbooks, hadn't prepared you for?

You need to understand human dynamics, the dynamics of groups, the dynamics of pressures and interests within groups, and a lot of times our theoretical texts in political sciences don't do that satisfactorily. The one book that I did use a lot from my political science work previously was The Essence of Decision by Graham Allison, because it got you out of thinking that everybody was working rationally. It made you think about bureaucratic politics. It made you think about interest-group politics and the interaction of personality with that. That was very helpful for me as I looked at China, or as I looked at Europe, or any part of the world.

I had the opportunity, after about seven years, to go back to school, and I went to the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard. I took courses that focused on negotiations, on leadership, and on bureaucratic politics, because that's what I'd seen that I didn't quite fully understand in my first seven years. It proved extremely useful as I was then going forward and again engaged in negotiation with people both in Washington and also around the world.

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