Former foreign diplomat Michael Armacost visited Aragon on Jan. 24 as a guest speaker to discuss the set topic of North Korea. Hosted by Aragon’s Model United Nations club, the hour-long event was held in the multipurpose room during flex and lunch, and followed a general Q&A format.
Armacost began his service in the government in 1969, when he was awarded a White House Fellowship, and continued to work in the foreign service for 24 years. During his career in government, Armacost served as undersecretary of state for political affairs, a member of the National Security Council and ambassador to both Japan and the Philippines. Later, Armacost also served as the president of the Brookings Institution and authored numerous books.
Senior Nick Hudson, president of MUN, said that he met Armacost during church, and thought that inviting him as a guest speaker would prove to be a great experience for not just club members, but for anyone interested in international affairs.
“Over Thanksgiving break, I went to church and happened to see him there, and I knew him from prior speaking sessions at the church they have occasionally — maybe once a year,” Hudson said. “And I asked him, ‘would you be willing to speak at my highschool’ and he said ‘yeah’.”
During the event, Armacost addressed several concerns regarding current American relations with North Korea.
“We don’t have much of a relationship with North Korea, and never had,” Armacost said. “We fought in the Korean wars … the war left a lot of ill feelings on both sides, so our relationship has been rather strained.”
Despite this, he still views deterrence and containment of North Korea as a manageable objective. He explained that the US had been able to contain and deter the North since 1953, so there is no reason why the US cannot continue the policy.
“[North Korea regards nuclear weapons] as a deterrence, and that seems to me that that’s its central function,” Armacost said. “So that doesn’t mean that we welcome the fact that they have nuclear weapons, but it does mean that you don’t have to have a lot of sleepless nights worrying that they’re going to use those weapons to advance in ways that would compromise our interests.”
In response to the rising concern over the President Donald Trump’s ability to strike other countries with nuclear weapons, Armacost believes that Trump would not use his authority rashly.
“He would require the cooperation of the Pentagon because I would think that given the consequences of a decision like that, we’d have probably the most active security discussion in history of the National Security Council,” Armacost said. “It’s not one of those things that a president can just do because he has the physical capacity to carry out the attack.”
In addition to addressing student concerns regarding North Korea and the current US administration, he also spoke about his personal experience as a foreign diplomat and recommended the career to those interested in foreign diplomacy.
“It’s a career I encourage all of you to think about,” Armacost said. “The new problems come up almost on a daily basis. I suppose, if you’re going to countries of little consequence and with governments hostile to the US, then I supposed that serving overseas can be a hardship. But if by in large you’re fascinated by challenging problems, there are plenty of those. If you’re interested in new people, you meet them all the time. If you’re interested in diplomatic relations between countries, it’s the best career available.”
In retrospect, Hudson saw the event as a success and would like to hold another guest speaker event for MUN in the near future.
“Attendance was higher than I expected, which is good because a lot of people heard about it and were interested,” Hudson said. “I think it was good that a lot of people had questions and were willing to ask Michael Armacost directly … Maybe we’ll do something in early May or late April, but that’s going to be a more closed setting. ”