REPORT: Interview with Professor Paula Doyle, GSSR Advisory Board Member

Professor Paula Doyle. Photo Credit: Center for Security Studies 

By Martina Hukel, Reporter

Thank you for being willing to sit down and meet with me about your role in GSSR’s advisory board. The Advisory Board is a new effort by GSSR. Could you explain in your words what this is and what hopes you have for it?

I was honored to be selected for the Advisory Board. We look forward to helping the GSSR editors and encouraging more students to submit articles. The editors have a heavy course load, and we can help them in a variety of ways. For example, if things become awkward among students who submit, review, select, and edit articles, the Board can offer expertise, review and offer diverse criteria-based frameworks, and serve as tiebreakers about the merits of various articles. We can suggest whether GSSR should consider “special topic” issues, and how to approach delicate peer reviews. Also, we can offer the GSSR team ideas on ways to solicit and peer review articles that contain technical content on topics like cyber, WMD, and artificial intelligence – especially given the range of experience we bring to the table. I am happy to share what I have learned as an intelligence practitioner, and I am confident the Board will provide enthusiastic mentorship for the GSSR editors.

I noticed you have had two publications in the past for the GSSR, one in the Review and one as a special edition, are you planning a third? If so, do you have a sneak peek on the topic you’d like to share?

So, my first publication was in a GSSR “special edition” following my participation on a CT (counter-terrorism) panel that SSP and St. Andrews University co-hosted in January 2017. When Bruce Hoffman decided to publish the proceedings from every panel, I simply submitted my remarks, which already were written and pre-approved by the CIA. My first publication, therefore, did not undergo the peer review process. My second one was driven by my interest in knowing how the selection and editing processes worked. I had been encouraging some of my students to publish their term papers. It was important that I be able to guide and inform them about the process and to tell them that it’s far more than just a submission – it’s a long-term editing process. As for what’s next, I will aim to publish more articles in the future because I think it’s important for Adjunct Professors to “shine their lights” as well as teach. I haven’t selected my next topic.

What drove you to study international relations and join the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer?

I didn’t have a straight path, but I think it was an interesting one. I am from a very small town in South Dakota; it has 33 people, and the closest town has just over 1,000 people. My parents divorced and my mother remarried a U.S. Air Force guy; after a few moves, we were stationed near London. Living abroad in a huge city was a whole new experience; I loved it. When the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom spoke at my high school graduation, I realized I wanted to be a diplomat. So, I studied international relations and international business. I needed 4.5 years to earn both degrees and graduated in December – the same month I took the Foreign Service exam, which at that time was given only in December. After passing the written and oral exams, I came on board and spent two tours in Latin America and one in Europe, where I learned and loved speaking Spanish. I transferred to CIA as an Operations Office in 1994, where I acquired regional expertise in the Levant and deep expertise in counterproliferation, cyber, and national security technologies. I led several Stations and HQS offices. The Agency and DNI Clapper asked me to be the Deputy National Counterintelligence Executive just before Snowden sprinted off to Russia. I ended my CIA career as one of three Associate Deputy Directors of Operations.

What was your favorite job/posting you had? What was your most challenging?

I don’t have a favorite, and that’s a common question people ask. I’m kind of wired to like everything so I never had a bad posting. All of them were interesting, educational, and had a lot to offer at each stage in my life. It was hard to be separated from my husband and kids, but we made it work. The most challenging position I had was being an Operations Officer, but I love a challenge and I truly enjoyed meeting people, learning languages, collecting information, and living and interacting with different cultures.

If you could change anything or pursue a different path (either totally different career field or just a different agency/position) in hindsight, would you and what would you change?

I wouldn’t change anything about my career path, but I am disappointed that the USG never figured out how to re-establish our embassies in Iran and North Korea. I understand the many policy reasons we did not do so, but not having embassies there robbed America of projecting her many strengths and values and keeping the lines of communication open. During the darkest days of the Cold War, we had embassies in the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain, and China that did incredible work. We sent Ambassadors home from dozens of places, but we kept diplomats, defense attaches, and intelligence personnel in place all over the world – in peace and in wartime. America always needs to see places with her own eyes and ears; not just through those of our closest allies. I hope your generation will be bolder.

For students looking to go into either State Department or CIA, what advice do you have for them?

I urge students to learn a country or region and know it well. Study Russia, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, China, India, and Pakistan. You cannot go wrong studying these countries and their surrounding regions. You don’t need access to classified information to learn about these countries, their histories, and the factors that influence their internal and external affairs. It’s important to be familiar with cyber, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counterintelligence, and global security issues, but these topics really do benefit from understanding the classified record. Any agency will teach you these topics and the associated tradecraft you will need to know. Deep subject matter expertise on criteria countries, regions, and languages is extremely helpful to get your feet in the door.

After you retired, what made you want to teach? And why Georgetown?

Well, picking Georgetown was easy – it’s the number one foreign service school and the number one security studies program in the world. So, of course, choosing the best was an obvious choice. As for teaching, I always loved learning and was interested in academia. While preparing to retire in late 2016, a CIA mentor encouraged me to talk to Dave Maxwell and Bruce Hoffman, who led SSP at that time. We hit it off. We discussed four possible course themes and settled on Turkey and the Levant. And here I am, two years later!

Is teaching different from what you anticipated? How so?

The classroom environment, smart students, and rich discussions are very much what I expected. My gratitude goes to Professor Arsenault for sharing her grading criteria – which I immediately adopted. I thought there would be more faculty interaction, but it is such a large program with over 90 adjunct professors that it is challenging finding the time and opportunities to collaborate. Though, after 30+ years of government meetings, I can’t say I miss those! Nonetheless, a personal goal of mine in 2019 to make an effort to collaborate with more faculty on a project, event, paper, or anything that helps make those connections.

You are currently teaching Turkey and the Levant, but what topic would you teach/research if given the opportunity?

It’s almost an involuntary reaction to dismiss this question because I love what I teach so much. However, if I could teach on another topic, I think I would pick Persia – ancient Persia, modern Persia, pre-revolutionary Iran, and more. As I mentioned, it’s so important for students today to learn the history of Persia and allow it to shape their approaches to future interactions in the region.

Finally, what general piece of advice do you have for students in this field to be successful? Or, alternatively, what is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you’d like to pass on?

I don’t know if it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever received, but it is definitely the most memorable one: “You may love your job, but your job will never love you back.” Here’s what I have learned. At most, you will find a job that excites and energizes you, and that enables you to make a difference. No matter how exhilarating, jobs won’t keep you warm at night, or take you out to dinner, or hold your hand when you are old. So find someone to love. Find a significant other, a partner, a best friend, a cat or dog. Work can provide a deep sense of purpose and accomplishment; relationships, however, bring you joy.

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