June 1, 2012 - News
Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Honors Karl Eikenberry
Former US ambassador to Afghanistan is one of four recipients of the 2012 Centennial Medal, bestowed for lasting impact, vital contributions
At a ceremony at the Harvard Faculty Club on May 23, 2012, the Centennial Medal — the highest honor awarded by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — was given to Karl Eikenberry, the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
The Centennial Medal is awarded each year to a select group of Harvard University’s most accomplished alumni. Centennial Medalists are Graduate School alumni who have made fundamental and lasting contributions to knowledge, to their disciplines, to their colleagues, and to the world at large. The medal was first awarded in June 1989, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
At the award ceremony, the Graduate School’s interim dean, Richard J. Tarrant, read a testimonial to Eikenberry’s accomplishments and leadership. Following is a slightly condensed version of that testimonial.
Karl Eikenberry, for your wise and brave leadership in enormously challenging times and places, we are proud to award you the 2012 Centennial Medal.
The Soldier-Statesman: Karl Eikenberry, AM ’81, regional studies–East Asia
Karl Eikenberry, who served as US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011, is the “very model of a modern soldier-statesman,” says Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, with a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Eikenberry, a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, is now the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford. He had a 35-year career in the Army, retiring as lieutenant general in 2009 when President Obama tapped him to lead the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.
His involvement with that country has been long and deep. Prior to becoming ambassador, he was deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, where he was heavily involved in the mission in Afghanistan, and regularly traveled there. From 2005 to 2007, he guided military efforts on the ground as commander of US-led coalition forces, and earlier, he served as US security coordinator and chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Kabul, where he aided efforts to establish and strengthen the Afghan army and police force. “Karl was given extremely difficult assignments in Afghanistan,” says his Harvard mentor Ezra Vogel, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus. “He has, under trying circumstances, provided assistance to the Afghan government and Afghan people and leadership to Americans in Afghanistan.”
Over the course of his career, Eikenberry served in key strategy, policy, and political-military positions, including as director of strategic planning and policy for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, as defense attaché at the United States Embassy in Beijing, and as the Defense Department’s senior country director for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia.
In addition to his master’s degree from Harvard, Eikenberry was a National Security Fellow at the Kennedy School. He earned a second master’s in political science from Stanford, and he has an advanced degree in Chinese history from Nanjing University in China. His wide curiosity and astute grasp of the history and culture of the Far East, the Middle East, and international politics are revealed in his numerous articles on military training and tactics, history, and Asia-Pacific security issues. When he was appointed ambassador, Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that it was “Karl’s experience as a soldier-scholar” that would prove crucial to fostering the kind of strong civil-military relationship required to enable good governance to take root and hold. Mullen added, “He knows the enemy, he knows our allies, and he knows himself.”
Since leaving Afghanistan, Eikenberry has written and spoken about the ethical dilemmas of war, political use and misuse of military deployment, and the need for military accountability. He has also become a leading voice in a conversation about the relationship between the economy and our national security.
“Integrity, service, honor, commitment, decency, intelligence. Karl Eikenberry embodies what it means to be an American patriot,” says Stephen Krasner, the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations at Stanford. Indeed, Eikenberry’s service and achievements have earned him the highest military and diplomatic honors, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star.