Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard University visited POLIS this week. He spoke to a large group of PhD students and staff on the theme of relations between academic International Relations and the world of policy, before going on to St. John’s College to give the annual Hinsley Lecture, held in honour of Sir Harry Hinsley who both founded the Centre of International Studies (now part of POLIS) and was Master of St. John’s. The lecture is run jointly by POLIS and the College, and attracts interest from across the University.
This year’s title was ‘Follies and fiascos: why US foreign policy keeps failing’. Professor Walt argued that while there have been periods of considerable wisdom and success in US foreign policy, notably 1947-50 and 1988-1992, the years since the end of the Cold War have been largely characterised by hubris, distortions from domestic politics, and a dysfunctional foreign policy-making machine. His eloquent delivery, and responses to a vigorous set of exchanges in the discussion session which followed, held a big audience’s attention throughout. It was a memorable occasion, as indicated by the long queue of students wishing to speak with Professor Walt afterwards.