Great Decisions 2023

As announced in the January 2023 issue of The Passport, WACMB is pleased to present the 2023 Great Decisions program beginning the first week of February (see topics below). Produced by the Foreign Policy Association of America, Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. The program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.

As usual, WACMB will offer two groups: one solely through WACMB, and one in collaboration with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at CSUMB. Both groups will be moderated by Boyd Haight and Linda Dilger. Each group will meet eight times for two hours, with an optional master class lecture for the first 30 minutes.

WACMB Great Decisions Group will meet virtually each Monday from February 6th to April 3rd (except February 20th) from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. If you have not already done so, please register in advance by sending an email to discussiongroup@wacmb.org. Once registered, you will be sent Zoom links for each session.

WACMB/OLLI Great Decisions Group will meet each Tuesday from February 7th to April 4th (except February 14th) from 3:30 to 5:30 PM. Please register in advance online at https://olli.csumb.edu/courses/.  Registration opens on January 19th at 10:00 am. Once registered, you will be sent Zoom links for each session.

The Foreign Policy Association produces a Great Decisions Briefing Booklet. The Booklet costs $35 plus shipping (or $25 for ebook version) and is required for those in the program. It can be ordered online at https://www.fpa.org/great_decisions/index.cfm?act=show_material&product_id=16882 or by calling the Foreign Policy Association at 1-800-477-5836.

2023 Great Decisions topics (see short descriptions at https://www.fpa.org/great_decisions/?act=gd_topics):

Week 1:  Energy Geopolitics
Week 2:  War Crimes
Week 3:  China and the U.S.
Week 4:  Economic Warfare
Week 5:  Politics in Latin America
Week 6:  Global Famine
Week 7:  Iran at the Crossroads
Week 8:  Climate Migration

Discussion Group January 9, 2023: Ethiopia

Our first discussion group meeting of 2023 will be on Monday, January 9th at 5:00 p.m. PST via Zoom with the topic of Ethiopia: Understanding the Conflict and the Prospects for Peace, following on the December 19 luncheon presentation by Colonel Bruce Sweeney.
The Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan, is one of the world’s most conflict-prone and fragile regions. This strategic area has been immersed in conflict in one form or another since 1974. In addition, both protracted conflict and climate-driven drought have also propelled widespread famine of crisis proportions in the Horn of Africa.

Known as the “cradle of humanity, Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. With Africa’s second largest population, Ethiopia represents a melting pot of ancient cultures from the Middle East and Africa. Following a past wracked with military rule, civil war, and catastrophic famine, Ethiopia emerged as a major power in the Horn of Africa during the 21st century, enjoying rapid economic growth and increasing strategic importance within the region. The economic growth of Ethiopia in recent years has been stunted with the outbreak of conflict in the Tigray region in 2020, and the rise of food-insecurity in response to grain shortages caused by the Russian-Ukraine War. Recently, a ceasefire appears to have been established in Ethiopia and peace talks have started, allowing food aid to be delivered to starving people in the Tigray region of the country.

Some questions to help guide our discussion:
1.  What is the basis for conflict in the Horn of Africa, and particularly in Ethiopia?
2.  What is the prognosis for the latest peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea?
3.  What are U.S. interests in Ethiopia and more widely in the Horn of Africa?
Some suggested resources are provided as background for our discussion, starting with the WACMB luncheon lecture (A), general background (B), and in the context of the current conflict the US-Ethiopia-HOA relationship (C and D) and the prospects for peace in the region (E and F).
A.  Ethiopia: Understanding the Conflict and the Prospects for Peace. WACMB luncheon lecture on 19 December by Colonel Bruce Sweeny, podcast (41 minutes) at https://www.wacmb.org/member-resources/, password: Gibraltar
B. Ethiopia: East Africa’s Emerging Giant. Council on Foreign Relations, 4 Nov 2020 at https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/ethiopia-east-africas-emerging-giant
C.  A Perspective on the Ethiopian-U.S. Relationship After a Year of Conflict. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, U.S. State Department, 1 Nov 2021 at https://www.state.gov/a-perspective-on-the-ethiopian-u-s-relationship-after-a-year-of-conflict/
D.  The US risks losing its influence in the Horn of Africa. Here’s how to get it back. Gabriel Negatu, The Atlantic Council, 11 Jan 2022 at https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/the-us-risks-losing-its-influence-in-the-horn-of-africa-heres-how-to-get-it-back/
E. Still Far from Peace in Ethiopia. Brookings Institution, 1 Feb 2022 at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/02/01/still-far-from-peace-in-ethiopia/.
F. Ethiopian civil war: parties agree on end to hostilities. The Guardian, 2 Nov 2022 at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/02/ethiopian-civil-war-parties-agree-truce-to-end-hostilities

Discussion Group – 2022 wrap and looking toward 2023

This year the WACMB discussion group had nine discussions on Great Decisions 2022 and seven discussions on topics in follow-up to WACMB luncheon lectures. A complete list of the 16 discussion topics covered in 2022, as well as the 27 topics in 2020 and 17 topics in 2021, is available here.

Our first meeting of 2023 will be on Monday, January 9 via Zoom on the topic of “Ethiopia: understanding the conflict and prospects for peace”, in follow-up to the luncheon lecture of December 19th. We intend to invite the four students who attended the luncheon to participate in the discussion. A message with background reading and discussion questions will be circulated by January 2nd. If you would like to join the group, please send a message to discussiongroup@wacmb.org.

After that we will embark on Great Decisions 2023 starting Monday February 6th. A separate message message will be posted in January on how to sign-up and purchase your booklet.

Wishing you all the best in the New Year.

Boyd Haight and Linda Dilger
Moderators

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 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?