Former Ambassador James Pardew, who helped negotiate the end of wars in the former Yugoslavia, will talk Feb. 2 at Kenyon College about how his insights apply to 21st century foreign policy, including the conflict in Syria.

The speech at 7 p.m. in the Community Foundation Theater in the Gund Gallery, 101½ College Drive, is open to the public.

Pardew, who later in his career was ambassador to Bulgaria, will discuss the nature of ethnic conflicts, drawing on his experiences on the front lines of U.S.-led efforts to stop religious and ethnic fighting and genocide in the Balkans.

Jacqueline McAllister, assistant professor of political science, invited the diplomat to campus when she interviewed him for research on the effect of international crime tribunals in Southeastern Europe.

The U.S., coming out of the Cold War with great power, learned pivotal lessons about resolving civil wars from the Balkan conflicts, she said. The country was slow to get involved in the wars from 1991 to 2001 that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, but President Bill Clinton’s administration was pressured to act as the conflicts wore on and genocide escalated. “From the United States’ failures and successes, we’ve derived a lot of lessons about how to handle conflict in the present day,” McAllister said.

With the Bosnian War, many parties fought over religious identity, and the U.S. at first took a hands-off approach, worried that the conflict was too vicious and that negotiators couldn’t solve ancient hatred over religion and ethnicity, McAllister said. “That’s very similar to what’s going on now,” she said. “The Bosnian conflict has a lot of echoes to the Syrian conflict.”

Pardew, appointed by Clinton and kept on by President George W. Bush, has the unusual distinction of having worked for the Department of Defense and the State Department, which often disagree. “Pardew was on the top diplomatic team for resolving all of these conflicts for the whole decade,” McAllister said. “He knew (former Yugoslav President) Slobodan Milosovic. He knew all the key players. He played a huge role.”

James Pardew Pardew

Staff report