The Passport for August 2019

This is an online version of the monthly newsletter of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area (WACMB). You may click here to see other online issues or click here to reach the archive of recent issues in PDF format. 

Europe in Turmoil

Immigration.  Brexit.  An unraveling nuclear deal with Iran.  A populist surge.  Trade tensions. Climate change……  The European Union and Europe in general face myriad and sometimes overwhelming challenges.  Many believe the conflict between an old establishment and new challenges will define future European politics. Our guest, Dr. Isebill Gruhn, will examine the current issues, their political and economic consequences, and the prospects for the future.

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WACMB coordinates two ongoing discussion groups, which are free and open to the public. Each month, the group selects the topic for the following month’s discussion.

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WACMB In Profile: Fred Lawson

The World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area is full of interesting people who have done and are doing interesting things. WACMB In Profile will let you get to know some of them better.

If WACMB had an icon, it would be Fred Lawson. He has been involved with our organization for many years, including stints as president, board member, and discussion group facilitator. But there’s a lot more to Fred than WAC. Let’s scroll back to WWII, when he left the little town of Aledo, Illinois, at the tender age of 17 to enlist in the army. Starting as a private, he rose through the ranks in the European Theater of Operations, and went on to serve as an officer during the Korean War. After concluding his active duty service, Fred joined the Army Reserves, and continued his meteoric rise there, retiring as the Commanding General of the 91st Division of the Army Reserves. No surprise: Fred is in Fort Benning’s OCS Hall of Fame.

In the meantime, Fred had quite the civilian career. After earning degrees at the University of Illinois and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (where he was a Stanford Sloan Fellow), Fred went to work in the corporate world, where he – you guessed it – rose through the ranks. He was Corporate VP at Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp., and Senior VP at BHP, Ltd., the world’s largest multinational mining company. His work sent him to Jamaica, Sardinia, several sub-Saharan Africa countries, and twice to Australia, where he combined the two strands of his life by serving in the Australian Army Reserves, and where he was honored by being named to Who’s Who in Australia.

After “retiring” from the corporate world, Fred went to work as a private management consultant in organizational restructuring, financial management, strategic planning, management development, and industrial relations. When he’s not working, he’s volunteering with the Ft. Ord Alumni Association, the CSUMB Foundation, and, of course, WACMB.

Fred and his wife, Peggy, live in Carmel. They have two sons and two grandchildren, all of whom they enjoy seeing as often as possible. And we of the World Affairs Council very much enjoy all the time we get to spend with Fred!


Program Report: Larry Diamond

World-renowned Stanford professor Larry Diamond spoke at our July luncheon on the declining state of democracy in the world. The expansion of democracy during the “third wave” of democratization, which began four decades ago, led to a majority of the world’s countries being democratic for the first time in history. The democratic expansion continued until 2006, when it ground to a halt. We have seen a “protracted democratic slump” ever since.

Democracies tend not to die quickly, but rather change over time to illiberal democracies and then to non-democracies. Hungary and Turkey, for example, are well down the path of democratic reversal. Dying democracies tend to turn into “competitive authoritarian regimes,” which share some features of democracy, including elections, but their system is rigged to all but ensure that an opposition cannot win an election. The surprise win of the opposition in the Istanbul city elections so flummoxed President Erdogan that he called for a ‘do-over’ election, which also failed. Even competitive authoritarian regimes can sometime miscalculate.

The “12 Step Program for Autocrats” is similar around the world, and includes declaring media as the ‘enemy of the people,’ constraining the judiciary, intimidating civil society, taming the business community, undermining civil service and the intelligence community as agents of a ‘deep state,’ and taking steps to suppress votes and rig elections.

Diamond concluded his talk by noting the pernicious influence of Russia and China on democracy. Neither country wants liberal democracy to thrive, and both are taking steps to undermine democratic prospects.


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This is the monthly newsletter of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area (WACMB). Founded in 1951, the council is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization established to promote the presentation, discussion, and study of international affairs. WACMB is a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) organization, EIN-770301206. Contributions are tax deductible as permitted by law. WACMB sponsors monthly luncheons, discussion groups, and student scholarships.

Corporate and institutional support for the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area is provided by:

  • California State University Monterey Bay
  • Defense Language Institute
  • Monterey Peninsula College
  • Naval Postgraduate School
  • Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
  • Rancho Canada
  • Horan & Lloyd Law Firm

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