200 Days in the Life of the College

Thursday, November 11

Want a worst-case scenario? This professor has been there

By Redwan Saleh ’13

“Teams should strive for consensus in the face of danger, but in the absence of consensus, members are free to go their own way recognizing that they risk breakdown of the government or, in some cases, assassination or arrest.”

That dire warning is given to the students in the Semester in Washington Seminar taught by former U. S. Ambassador Edward Walker, Jr. ’62. Playing the roles of the world’s key decision-makers, free to make “individual alliances” within or outside their assigned teams, the students have been tasked to simulate a scenario involving the leaders of Iran, Israel and the U.S. as they deal with Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal. The exercise — based on one developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency — makes for an intense, focused day.

Walker, the Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Global Political Theory, brings his expertise and experience to Hamilton students each semester. “What I try to do,” he says, “is whet the students’ appetite to sustain a long-term interest in foreign policy and in what our country is doing in the world.”

Coming to the State Department through his service as an Intelligence Corps clerk for the U.S. Army in Germany, Walker never expected to spend his career working in Middle Eastern politics — or to study Hebrew and several Arabic dialects. From his first Foreign Service posting in Tel Aviv to “ducking firefights” in Beirut to serving as the executive assistant to Sol Linowitz ’35, personal representative of President Carter after the Camp David Accords, Walker says his own Hamilton experience with rigorous writing courses has served him well in having to brief “massive amounts of materials.”

After serving as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations, Egypt and Israel, Walker says, “I capped off my career as assistant secretary [of state] and decided it was time to move on.” That eventually led to his “posting” on the Hill where he had studied four decades earlier. “Over my six years of teaching at Hamilton, I have been deeply impressed with the quality of our students, their interest in the world and their ability to write better-than-acceptable prose,” he says. “We must be doing something right.”