Harpur Featured Stories
by Eric Coker
Ricardo René Larémont’s international expertise will likely take on even greater significance now that he has been appointed nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“It’s a place where people who do scholarship can have an impact on policy, especially foreign policy not only in the United States, but on the other side of the Atlantic,” the Harpur College professor of political science and sociology said of the nonpartisan think tank.
The Atlantic Council was established in 1961 to promote trans-Atlantic relations and help shape policy choices.
“Its primary focus is on enhancing, maintaining and improving relations between the United States and countries across the Atlantic,” Larémont said. “It is a think tank that has had an enormous impact on foreign policy and public policy.”
The Atlantic Council is led on an interim basis by Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel preceded Scowcroft as chairman. Past council members include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
The council, which in recent years has expanded to include the Middle East and North Africa, features 10 programs and centers that work to advance the organization’s mission. Larémont serves as one of five fellows on the Africa Center, established in 2009 to help transform U.S. and European policy approaches to the continent.
Larémont’s work focuses on North Africa and the western Sahel, a section of the continent that covers Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mauritania and northern Nigeria. As a leading expert on political Islam and civil/military relations in the region, Larémont has served as a consultant to the U.S., British, French and Moroccan governments, the United States Special Operations Command and the European Union in Brussels. He testified before Congress in 2011 about Muslim extremist groups in North Africa and in 2013 wrote a book about the regional effects of the Arab Spring titled “Revolution, Revolt, and Reform in North Africa.”
“I’ve lectured in all of these (areas), so the council decided that it was probably time for me to join them,” he said.
As a fellow, Larémont receives a one-year appointment, subject to renewal. He will attend Atlantic Council meetings and policy discussions at its Washington, D.C., headquarters or connect with his colleagues via Skype. Larémont is also expected to write opinion pieces and be available to media.
“(The Atlantic Council) gives you access to key decision-makers on the questions of foreign policy,” he said. “You are involved in high-level policy discussions. … Obviously, big decisions are going to be made by the president and the National Security Council, but you are consulted in terms of policy formulation.”
J. Peter Pham, who Larémont called “a high-level thinker on foreign policy,” is the director of the Africa Center. Pham, who co-wrote the 2013 book “Somalia: Fixing Africa’s Most Failed State,” has appeared as a commentator on numerous TV news shows and print outlets.
Larémont also praised the work of fellow Gerard Prunier, an expert on the eastern Sahel. Larémont and Prunier both consulted with the European Union on a project to develop policies to improve living conditions in the Sahel.
“I suspect Peter thought that because I work in the western Sahel that I would complement what Gerard is doing,” Larémont said. “There are few people who equal Gerard in terms of knowledge of the eastern Sahel.”
Larémont will continue analyzing the effects of the Arab Spring. He has been asked by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to consult with its members on the issue.
Another immediate challenge for the region, Larémont said, is a possible Syrian civil war in which the United States, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are lined up in support of Sunni insurgents, while Russia, Iran and Hezbollah back the government in power.
“That’s a major conflict that all of us in the Atlantic Council are going to be involved with in terms of helping to resolve,” he said.
For Larémont, the Atlantic Council appointment shows how Harpur College and Binghamton University can make a difference across oceans and borders.
“You want to have scholars who are making an impact both in the academic community and in the larger world of trying to solve problems,” he said. “Ultimately, the University cannot just reside within the academy. The University must be in the business of trying to make a difference in the ways that people live.
“I believe the University wants some of its scholars playing a role in the larger public arena — bringing ideas to the solutions of real problems. Whether it’s engineering, medicine, political science or artists, all of the members of the Binghamton community can talk about how to use their expertise and gifts to transform reality. I think it needs to be transformed and improved.”
Last Updated: 3/26/14