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A Fireside Chat with Eric Schmitt

April 14, 2022
12:00 pm
- 1:00 pm



Fleishman Commons, Sanford School of Public Policy
201 Science Dr
Durham, NC 27708 United States
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Event Sponsored By

Polis: Center for Politics

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Ambassador Sapiro and Eric Schmitt on stage

Polis Distinguished Fellow Ambassador Miriam Sapiro hosted Eric Schmitt, a senior writer at The New York Times, for a fireside chat. At the New York Times, Mr. Schmitt covers terrorism and national security issues. Mr. Schmitt has won three Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Russia. He is the co-author, with Thom Shanker, of “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.”

Sanford Student Voices: A House of Cards in Foreign Policy

Foreign policy has been likened to a game of chess: one in which major geopolitical actors anticipate each other’s’ moves and strategize accordingly. But New York Times columnist Eric Schmitt described recent foreign policy crises similar to those in Ukraine and Afghanistan as a house of cards: one in which shaky assumptions about the geopolitical landscape severely undermine the effectiveness of international relations and strategizing. When powerful world leaders miscalculate the conditions necessary for their success, the consequences can be devastating.

Headshot of Chloe Nguyen
Chloe Nguyen (PPS ’24) is majoring in public policy and psychology. She is passionate about understanding how intergroup psychology affects politics, with a focus on political polarization and racism. At Duke, she has conducted research on how to promote better political discourse on campus and has worked with formerly incarcerated people to assist them with re-entry into their communities.

This was the insight Schmitt offered on April 14th during a discussion about his career reporting on foreign policy challenges with Ambassador Miriam Sapiro about Ukraine, Afghanistan, China, and journalism, presented by Polis, the Center for Politics at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

As a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Schmitt eloquently weaved historical and contemporary insight about international conflict together to answer many of the questions Americans have about the major foreign policy disasters of today.

As someone who is not particularly well-versed in the complexities of foreign policy, I found his insight particularly illuminating. When Putin invaded Russia and the United States pulled out of Afghanistan, I could not help but watch and wonder, How could this have happened?

Schmitt’s insight demonstrated that these crises were caused by geopolitical miscalculations and intelligence failures which created a shaky foundation for foreign policy execution. As a result, major powers like the United States and Russia had their plans easily toppled by unforeseen challenges and changing circumstances. Given that the United States and Russia are two of the world’s most influential global powers, the idea that they could make such catastrophic mistakes was frightening. But it was also illuminating: how else could we improve our foreign policy moving forward?

Amb. Sapiro began by asking Schmitt about the pressing foreign policy topic on most people’s minds: Ukraine and Russia. Why was Putin’s strategy failing?

Click here to read her full reflection.

Additional Resources:

Polis Distinguished Fellows AY21-22: Ambassador Miriam Sapiro
Polis Distinguished Fellows Program