I received the sad news from ever-on-the-ball Domani Spero this morning. Jared Cohen has left the building.
Inspector Javert had his Jean Valjean. Captain Ahab had his great white whale. And I have had @Jared as the object of my relentless pursuit - well, more like, my mild cyber heckling. Perhaps it's for the best that @Jared has moved on now, before I become further obsessed with his destruction.
Cynics will be tempted to see @Jared's career move as just the latest swing of Washington's busy revolving door between government and industry:
Most disturbingly, more and more leading practitioners of "21st century statecraft" at the State Department are jumping ship and leaving to work for the very CEOs they have just been escorting around the globe. See Katie Stanton's departure to work for Twitter and Jared Cohen's announced departure to work for Google -- the two career moves that, in my opinion, did not get the level of public attention that they truly deserve. (In all fairness, Stanton came to the government from Google -- but I think this only strengthens the overall argument about the mostly invisible revolving door between Silicon Valley and Washington).
And, of course, there is no shortage of acts and blurbs by American diplomats that take a completely uncritical attitude towards Silicon Valley. Jared Cohen once again is a case in point: from his decision to reach out to Twitter during the Iranian protests to his statements ("Facebook is one of the most organic tools for democracy promotion the world has ever seen" -- quoted in David Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect), much of what he does and says fits the pattern that seasoned observers of U.S. foreign policy would easily recognize.
They have a point. But I see it as the fated matching of man and mission. @Jared was born to be The Google Idea Man. You can see his genius in the way he described his new job:
FP: Going forward, tell us about your future work at Google.
JC: I am going to be director of a new division at Google called Google Ideas. And it's basically a think/do tank. Much of the model for it is built off of my experiences on the Policy Planning staff. It's not designed to be, "Let's pool all of Google's resources and tackle global challenges."
In the same way Policy Planning works by bringing together a lot of stakeholders in government, out of government, and across different sectors, so, too, will Google Ideas do something very similar. And the range of challenges that it may focus on include everything from the sort of hard challenges like counterterrorism, counterradicalization, and nonproliferation, to some of the ones people might expect it to focus on, like development and citizen empowerment.
What I'm interested in is the SWAT-team model of building teams of stakeholders with different resources and perspectives to troubleshoot challenges. So the reason I say it's a think/do tank is you need a comprehensive approach to think about and tackle challenges in different kinds of ways. In government, we used to refer to a "whole of government" approach, meaning work with multiple agencies to leverage ideas and resources; Google Ideas will take a "whole of society" approach.
So @Jared's new gig is a “think/do tank” where he will provide the thinking about tackling a wide range of hard challenges, and the doing part will be provided by ... some guy in a lab coat, I guess. That really isn't clear. But it will all be super, and awesome, and will involve lots of exclamation points and emoticons, I'm sure.
Now I shall reduce my sails and turn back to Nantucket.