Discussion Group December 5, 2022: Liberalism and its Discontents

Our next discussion group meeting will be on Monday, December 5th at 5:00 p.m. PST with the topic of Liberalism and its Discontents, following on the November 14 luncheon presentation by Francis Fukuyama.

Classical liberalism is in a state of crisis. Developed in the wake of Europe’s wars over religion and nationalism, liberalism is a system for governing diverse societies that is grounded in fundamental principles of equality and the rule of law. It emphasizes the rights of individuals to pursue their own forms of happiness free from encroachment by governments.

Renowned political philosopher Francis Fukuyama spoke on this topic at our November luncheon. He drew upon his new book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, to discuss how liberalism has been pushed to new extremes by both the right and the left in recent decades. The result, he argues, has been a fracturing of our civil society, placing our democracy in increasing peril. He touched on how this profoundly affects our current political discontents, from immigration to the invasion of Ukraine.

Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy, also at Stanford. A political scientist, political economist, and international relations scholar, Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues in development and international politics.

Some questions to help guide our discussion:

1. Why is liberal democracy important and what are the alternatives for organizing society? What are the implications for individuals and social groups?

2. Why has there been a shift away from liberal democracy toward more authoritarian regimes in varying degrees (e.g. China, Hungary, India, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela) and populism (e.g. France, Italy, USA) in the past decade?

Two sets of suggested resources are provided as background for our discussion:

First, Francis Fukuyama’s viewpoint, in three presentations

A. Liberalism and its Discontents. Francis Fukuyama, WACMB Luncheon Lecture on 14 November 2022. Podcast (31 min) at https://www.wacmb.org/member-resources/, password: Gibraltar

B. More Proof That This Really Is the End of History. Francis Fukuyama, The Atlantic, 17 October 2022, at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/francis-fukuyama-still-end-history/671761/?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

C. “It’s a different kind of world we’re living in now”—Interview with political scientist Francis Fukuyama. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 November 2022, at https://thebulletin.org/premium/2022-11/its-a-different-kind-of-world-were-living-in-now-interview-with-political-scientist-francis-fukuyama/#post-heading

Second, three critiques of Fukuyama’s viewpoint.

D. Free & Uneasy. Richard V. Reeves, Literary Review (UK), March 2022, at https://literaryreview.co.uk/free-uneasy

E. The End of History and The Last Man and Liberalism and Its Discontents. Pierre Lemieux, Université du Québec, in Cato Institute – Regulation, Fall 2022, at https://www.cato.org/regulation/fall-2022/fukuyama-interesting-books-some-baggage

F. Francis Fukuyama Plays Defense. Krithika Varagur, The New Yorker, 25 May 2022, at https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/francis-fukuyama-plays-defense?utm_source=onsite-share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker


Discussion Group news October 2022 – Great Decisions

Latest news and updates on the WACMB discussion group.

1. Great Decisions 2022 follow-up

The Foreign Policy Association (FPA) has published a three-page update (as of 9/15/22) on four of the GD 2022 topics (Outer Space, Climate Change, Russia and the U.S., Biden’s Agenda). You can read the update at https://fpa.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/Fall%20Update%202022.pdf.

The upcoming Academic World Quest (AWQ) competition includes some of the GD 2022 topics. For those of you who purchased the GD 2022 booklet, please consider donating your used booklet to WACMB for use by AWQ students. You can drop off your booklet at an upcoming WACMB luncheon (give to Linda or Maria), at the WACMB office (479 Pacific St., Suite 5A, Monterey), or by contacting us at discussiongroup@wacmb.org to arrange for a handover. Thank you!

2. Great Decisions 2023

Get ready for Great Decisions 2023! The eight topics announced by FPA are: Energy Geopolitics; War Crimes; China and the U.S.; Economic Warfare; Politics in Latin America; Global Famine; Iran at a Crossroads; Climate Migration. You can find brief descriptions of the topics at https://www.fpa.org/great_decisions/?act=gd_topics. We plan to hold the GD 2023 discussions every Monday from February 6th to April 3rd (except Feb 20th), so mark you calendars. Information on purchasing the GD booklet will be provided in due course.

3. Discussion Group Meetings in November and December 2022

We will hold our last two regular discussion group meetings of 2022 on Monday, November 7th (Economic effects of the invasion of Ukraine) and Monday, December 5th (Where is democracy going in the world?). As usual, separate messages will be sent to you a week before each meeting with the Zoom link, background material and discussion questions.

Discussion Group October 3, 2022: Russia and Ukraine (based on recent WACMB luncheon lectures)

Our discussion group meeting on Monday, October 3rd at 5:00 p.m. PDT will consider the topic of Russia and Ukraine based on three recent WACMB luncheon presentations.
We will consider some of the issues raised by the speakers, such as:
1. The near-term prospects for Russia and Ukraine in the context of what Russia wants from the invasion and the current state of the conflict, including recent Ukrainian advances, the status of Russian and Ukrainian military forces, recent Russian domestic reaction to the conflict, and Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons.
2. The global economic effects of the invasion and how the international community is addressing these challenges, particularly in relation to energy and food.
3.  The longer-term political impacts of the conflict, including the reasons that political and military support is being provided to Ukraine.
Here are recordings of the three WACMB luncheon lectures on this topic.
Russia’s War on Ukraine – The Honorable William B. Taylor, US Institute of Peace and former US Ambassador to Ukraine – WACMB Luncheon Lecture September 21, 2022.  https://youtu.be/ZNaMHT_rpeI
As the war between Russia and Ukraine enters its seventh month, causing serious destruction on many levels, the world struggles to find a resolution that will settle the conflict and ease the disruption it has caused globally. Ambassador Taylor uses his “boots on the ground” experience in the region to review what may be the world’s most unsettling military and humanitarian event since World War II. He discusses the present situation and analyze the near-term prospects for Russia and Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor has just returned from Ukraine which makes his presentation especially timely.
The Global Economic Impact of the Invasion of Ukraine.  https://youtu.be/kJyYzsG0CDQ 
Prof. Robert Rogowsky, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and Georgetown University – WACMB Luncheon Lecture August 30, 2022.
While the world’s main focus since the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has been the tragic human toll and the destruction of Ukrainian territory, the war is also causing a major disruption of global economies. Professor Robert Rogowsky discusses the ripple economic effects of the invasion, including the impact on global supply chains, cost increases, product shortages, and catastrophic food shortages. He also discusses how the international community is addressing these challenges.
Russia and its War Against Ukraine.  https://youtu.be/et2b0HR0JwM
The Honorable Steven Pifer, US Ambassador to Ukraine, 1998 – 2000; Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University – WACMB Luncheon Lecture April 29, 2022.
Russia’s relations with the West and with its neighbor Ukraine have grown increasingly difficult over the past decade. What does the Kremlin want in general, and what drove it to launch a major invasion of Ukraine in February 2022? Our speaker Steven Pifer explores these questions and what the future may hold for Russia and Ukraine.

Discussion Group August 29, 2022: Global perspectives on current U.S. foreign policy

U.S. foreign policy, which is primarily determined and led by the President in consultation with Congress, is in constant flux due to domestic political considerations as well as developments overseas. The approach of the current administration is “foreign policy for the middle class,” which ties U.S. diplomacy to peace, security and prosperity at home while trying to strengthen the multilateral international order. Recent surveys of international opinion (Pew Research Center, Eurasia Group) show that, while the United States and American democracy continue to be viewed positively in general, the U.S. loses esteem in China and is viewed less favorably in countries which are treaty allies of the United States.

To discuss:

1. What are the fundamental factors driving perceptions of US foreign policy by other countries and their people?

2. Why do the perspectives US foreign policy by other countries and their people matter?

3. In this context, how can the US advance its current foreign policy agenda to address regional and global issues such as the war in Ukraine, shifting alignments in the Middle East, the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of climate change, and the risk of nuclear conflict?

The following resources provide background for our discussion:

A. International Attitudes Toward the U.S., NATO and Russia in a Time of Crisis, Pew Research Center (June 22, 2022) at https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2022/06/22/international-attitudes-toward-the-u-s-nato-and-russia-in-a-time-of-crisis/

B. International opinion of Joe Biden in 6 charts, Pew Research Center (July 25, 2022) at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/07/25/international-opinion-of-joe-biden-in-6-charts/

C. Democracy’s Promise: International Views of America in the Biden Era, Eurasia Group Foundation (June 2022) at https://egfound.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Modeling-Democracy-2022.pdf

D. Future Foreign Policy: Global perceptions of the United States, A discussion with Caroline Gray of the Eurasia Group Foundation about how foreign publics view the United States and its foreign policy (June 16, 2021, 37 minutes) at https://youtu.be/u8r6ellISLY?t=420

E. The conundrum facing America’s allies is how to cope with a great imperial power in decline that is still a great imperial power. The Atlantic (August 8, 2022) at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2022/08/europe-america-military-empire-decline/670960/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

Discussion Group July 18, 2022: Ukraine and Russia – Why the West vs the Rest?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is in its fifth month. The invasion is illegal – it violates the territorial integrity of a UN member nation, and it goes against the norms of the post-war liberal international order. The nations of the world are not united in response to Russia’s aggression; while Western countries have condemned the invasion and imposed sanctions on Russia, many non-Western countries have not. Yet the war and the reaction to it are causing significant economic and social impacts worldwide. To discuss:

  1. What are the political and economic dynamics that have led nations not to call out Russia for its invasion of Ukraine?
  2. What can the US government do to convince “fence-sitters” that they can balance their own interests with the American and European drive to isolate Russia?
  3. What could be the long-term effects of the different sides taken by countries (i.e. support Ukraine, neutral, support Russia)?

The following resources provide background for our discussion:

Discussion Group June 6, 2022: Challenges for Germany

We are pleased that Dr. Carolyn Halladay will join us, following on her presentation at the WACMB luncheon of May 26th on The Changing World of German Politics. Dr. Halladay is a Senior Lecturer in the Center for Civil- Military Relations and in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. An historian and a lawyer, Dr. Halladay’s academic focus is on contemporary Central Europe.

The following resources give an overview of the current political and economic challenges facing Germany:
A. How has the war in Ukraine changed German politics? May 5, BBC Briefing Room podcast at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0016xw1 (29 minutes)
B. Russia, Energy, and the German Economy, a conversation with Michael Heinz, Chairman and CEO of the BASF Corporation, about the impact of the current crisis on the Germany economy, hosted on May 27 by the American Council on Germany, at https://youtu.be/SAnijq85sKg (58 minutes)
C. ‘Worst crisis since the second world war’: Germany prepares for a Russian gas embargo, April 21, Financial Times at link
D. Gerhard Schröder, The Former Chancellor Who Became Putin’s Man in Germany, April 22, New York Times at link
The following questions are to help guide our discussion:
1. How has the new coalition government affected Germany’s policy options for dealing with the current regional crises?
2. Germany has a complex relationship with the countries of Eastern and Western Europe; how has this affected its past and current economic policies?
3. Germany has made deliberate decisions and investments/disinvestments in energy production and acquisition over the past several decades; where does it go from here given the uncertainty of Russian energy supplies?

Discussion Group May 2, 2022: China, Taiwan and the United States

The following resources give an overview of the topic for discussion – China, Taiwan and the United States:

A. Cross-Strait Relations: How the China-Taiwan conflict could intensify U.S.-China competition, WACMB luncheon talk of March 28 by NPS Professor Christopher Twomey, one hour video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/O0ItEBBM1Tk?t=365 (please do not share link with others).

B. China-Taiwan Tensions: What’s Behind the Divide by Josh Chin, 6 April 2022 in the Wall Street Journal at https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-taiwan-tensions-explained-11646894687?st=67ul94cvfme5y8v&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

C. China Is Not Russia. Taiwan Is Not Ukraine by Andrew Scobell and Lucy Stevenson-Yang, 4 March 2022 at the US Institute for Peace at https://www.usip.org/publications/2022/03/china-not-russia-taiwan-not-ukraine

D. China and Taiwan: A really simple guide to a growing conflict, a BBC fact sheet at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-59900139

The following questions are to help guide our discussion:

1. Why is Taiwan important for China and for the U.S, and how can these competing interests be reconciled, if at all?

2. What are the implications of recent shifts in the U.S. policy of ambiguity toward Taiwan, especially through closer military cooperation?

3. What are the implications of the Russia-Ukraine conflict for China-Taiwan-US relations, and what are the risks of a military conflict over Taiwan?

Great Decisions 2022 Discussion Groups Continue

As announced in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of The Passport, WACMB is pleased to present the 2022 Great Decisions program, which is produced by the Foreign Policy Association of America (FPA). This discussion series begins on Monday, January 31st for nine weekly meetings on Monday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:30 PM via Zoom. The first thirty minutes of each meeting will be an optional Master Class lecture on the topic followed by group discussion starting at 4:00 PM. The schedule of topics is provided at the end of this message.

The program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. WACMB will offer two groups this year: one solely through the WACMB MPC Discussion Group, and one in collaboration with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at CSUMB.

Registration has already begun for the WACMB Great Decisions Group via the WACMB MPC Discussion Group. There are still some places left; if interested please register by sending an email to WACMB at info@wacmb.org. Once registered, you will be sent a Zoom link for each session. This year, the MPC discussion group will be moderated by Boyd Haight and Linda Dilger.

Registration for the OLLI Great Decisions Group opens on Thursday, January 20, at 10:00 am, at https://olli.csumb.edu/courses/. Once registered, you will be sent Zoom links for each session. This group will be moderated by John Hetz.

The Foreign Policy Association produces a Briefing Booklet to be used with the Great Decisions program. There are two ways to obtain the booklet.

  1. Order the booklet directly from FPA at https://www.fpa.org/great_decisions/index.cfm?act=show_material&product_id=16874 or by calling FPA at 1-800-477-5836 The booklet costs $35 plus shipping
  2. Purchase a Kindle-compatible e-booklet from Amazon for $24.99 at https://www.amazon.com/Great-Decisions-Foreign-Policy-Association-ebook/dp/B09PQ94Y63/
WACMB 2022 Great Decisions Schedule on
Mondays from 3:30 to 5:30 PM
  • January 31: Changing Demographics
  • February 7: Outer Space
  • February 14: Climate Change
  • February 21: no meeting (Presidents’ Day)
  • February 28: Russia and the U.S.
  • March 7: Myanmar and ASEAN
  • March 14: The Quad Alliance
  • March 21: Industrial Policy
  • March 28: Drug Policy in Latin America
  • April 4: Biden’s Agenda (MPC group only)

Discussion Groups – November 2021

WACMB runs two regular discussion groups: one offered entirely through WACMB, and one offered in partnership with the OLLI program at CSUMB. If you are interested in attending a discussion group, please send an email to info@wacmb.org to indicate your interest. Come join the conversation!

WACMB/OLLI Discussion Group

Now that the 2021 Great Decisions discussion series has ended, the OLLI Discussion Group will take its usual seasonal hiatus until the fall.

WACMB Discussion Group

On Monday, November 1, the WACMB Discussion Group will address the topic of Global Supply Chain Disruption. This subject has been much in the news lately and has affected just about everyone. The Discussion Group will meet on Zoom from 4:00-5:30 pm.

Meetings will continue be held online via Zoom through the spring and summer, and will move to in-person meetings once it’s been determined that such meetings can be done safely.

The WACMB Discussion Group is facilitated by Judith Glickman and Boyd Haight. If you are interested in participating in the group, please send an email to info@wacmb.org and let them know. Come join the conversation!

Discussion Groups – September 2021

WACMB runs two regular discussion groups: one offered entirely through WACMB, and one offered in partnership with the OLLI program at CSUMB. If you are interested in attending a discussion group, please send an email to info@wacmb.org to indicate your interest. Come join the conversation!

WACMB/OLLI Discussion Group

Now that the 2021 Great Decisions discussion series has ended, the OLLI Discussion Group will take its usual seasonal hiatus until the fall.

WACMB Discussion Group

On Monday, September 13, the WACMB Discussion Group will consider the topic “Russia – The United States – Ukraine: Where Do We Go From Here?” The topic ties into Ambassador William Taylor’s August 15 Quick Take on the same subject. Find additional information on the topic in a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder. The Discussion Group will meet on Zoom
from 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Meetings will continue be held online via Zoom through the spring and summer, and will move to in-person meetings once it’s been determined that such meetings can be done safely.

The WACMB Discussion Group is facilitated by Judith Glickman and Boyd Haight. If you are interested in participating in the group, please send an email to info@wacmb.org and let them know. Come join the conversation!

Schedule is also shown in the WACMB Calendar block nearby. To add a reminder to your personal calendar, click the desired session to expand it and click "copy to my calendar" at the bottom of the listing.