The Hoover Institution hosted its inaugural International Seminar from June 18 to 26 on the Stanford University campus, where twenty-five government and private-sector mid-career professionals from like-minded democracies engaged fellows in conversations on a full spectrum of global policy issues. 

Led by Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow H. R. McMaster and National Security Visiting Fellow Nadia Schadlow, the Hoover Institution International Seminar (HIIS) is based on Henry Kissinger’s program of the same name at Harvard University, when he was a prominent professor there in the 1950s and 1960s.

According to Milbank Family Senior Fellow Niall Ferguson in his landmark biography of the former secretary of state, Kissinger, beginning in summer 1951, invited thirty to forty young leaders each year to the Harvard campus to, among other aims, create “nuclei of understanding of the true values of a democracy and of a spiritual resistance to Communism.”

As during the height of the Cold War, democracies today face threats from authoritarian powers, namely China and Russia, who seek to reengineer the international order to attain more political power, enrich themselves, and suit their ideological preferences. It is thus crucial for free and open societies to exchange ideas and think creatively about how to overcome shared challenges.

The proceedings were organized into four main topics: political, economic, military, and technological. Participants engaged Hoover fellows on various issues, including the value of capitalism to their respective societies; the strengths and weaknesses of globalization; and the importance of establishing strong deterrents given current threats posed by Beijing and Moscow. 

“The HIIS was a great Hoover team effort.  Our fellows and staff did a brilliant job and the seminar exceeded expectations,” said McMaster. “I am certain that HIIS will have a profound and positive influence on international cooperation among likeminded partners today and well into the future.”

“I don’t think there is another place in academia that could have hosted this seminar,” said Schadlow. “At Hoover there is a true appreciation for a diversity of thought and ideas. We also have a positive outlook on the great experiment that is democracy in America, and through this seminar we wanted to convey a set of ideas that our partners around the world don’t usually get to hear.” 

Participants, representing nations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, listened to presentations given by Hoover scholars, including Tad and Dianne Taube Director Condoleezza Rice; Shepard Family Distinguished Policy Fellow in Economics Kevin Warsh; Kleinheinz Fellow Tyler Goodspeed; Payson J. Treat Distinguished Research Fellow in Contemporary Asia Michael R. Auslin; Senior Fellow Larry Diamond; Senior Fellow Arun Majumdar; Senior Fellow Russell Berman; National Security Visiting Fellow Jakub Grygiel; and Visiting Fellow Matthew Turpin. Hoover Fellow Jacquelyn Schneider ran two war games, concurrently, both of which were centered on themes related to cyber operations. On the final day of the conference, Schadlow interviewed Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson, discussing what she called the “three Victors,” which captured Hanson’s corpus as a classicist, as a military historian, and as an analyst of domestic politics.

The seminar also included two additional components. One was called a “lunch deep dive,” in which Silicon Valley leaders were invited to provide their perspectives on technological innovation. In the other, participants were divided into two case study groups, led by Visiting Fellow Bjorn Lomborg on climate policy and Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy on how authoritarian regimes leverage advanced technologies to project power domestically and internationally. Assigned readings in preparation for the case studies, participants gave presentations at the end of the seminar and were encouraged to share their findings through professional networks in their respective home countries.

Watch testimonials from participants of the Hoover Institution International Seminar below:

Photo caption: Members of the international seminar pictured with three Hoover fellows who were formerly senior national security officials (left to right): H. R. McMaster, Condoleezza Rice, and Nadia Schadlow.
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