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Wilton Park Wrap-Up

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The Wilton Park experience was nothing less that outstanding for me, despite the fact that I suffered from lingering jet lag and a nagging cold for the entire week.

I was surprised to find myself as the only “pure” academic at the conference. There were other academics, but all had considerable policy experience. The majority of the attendees were policy makers, most from various NGOs and government agencies, and a few from military organizations. We had generals, serving and retired, from the US Army, French Army, Bundeswehr, and British Army, as well as a Royal Navy admiral. I picked the brain of the last for quite some time, on issues spanning from the Falklands War to piracy to the RN reaction to the attack on the USS Cole.

As I mentioned before, the discussions were held at a uniformally high level. There was none of the posturing that one normally finds at academic conferences; everyone seemed generally interested in being there. One participant expressed surprise that no journalists from the major defense news outlets were covering the proceedings, given that the future of NATO was being discussed by important folks. In the future, I don’t think that major foreign policy bloggers would find themselves out of place, assuming they could get someone to pay their way.

My one major complaint regards the weather. I don’t understand why conferences must be held during the nastiest months of the year, relative to their location. West Sussex in spring, fall, or summer would have been delightful, and I would have been able to climb up to Chanctonbury Ring without almost losing a shoe. The cold and damp probably played some role in the fact that nearly everyone at the conference had some degree of sinus congestion.

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