Passport for January 2020

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. 

How to Prevent a Dictator from Using Chemical Weapons: Lessons from Syria

In his presentation to the World Affairs Council, Dr. Jeff Knopf will describe how the United States government and its allies, seeking to deter CW attacks and to compel Syria to give up its chemical arsenal, eventually turned to strategies that rely on coercive threats. These efforts continued across the Obama and Trump administrations, eventually leading to two rounds of air strikes against Syria. Dr. Knopf will assess the outcome of US efforts in Syria, and will draw lessons from that case to support the use of coercive strategies more generally to combat the use of CW.

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WACMB coordinates two ongoing discussion groups that address a new current topic each month. The sessions are are free and open to the public.

On January 13, 2020 the topic for the WACMB Discussion Group at MPC will be Global Challenges for Food and Agriculture, addressing issues like: Where do we stand in meeting the fundamental need for food both in the present and future?  How should the international community respond to the challenges of assuring that people have adequate food?

On January 27, both of the WACMB Discussion Groups will begin the annual Great Decisions series, which is produced by the Foreign Policy Association of America and is the country’s largest discussion program. The program, which runs for eight weeks, provides background information and policy options for some of the most critical issues facing us each year. WACMB presents this free program at both of our regular discussion group locations: Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the Ryan Ranch location of California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).

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Program Report: Covell Meyskens

At our November luncheon, Professor Covell Meyskens of the Naval Postgraduate School spoke on “The Rise of China: Past, Present, and Future.” Covell covered the basic formula for China’s rise to prominence – economic development but without concomitant democratic development – and how its rise and muscular foreign policy have impacted its neighbors. On average, China experienced 10 percent annual growth from 1990 to 2010. But Covell also argued that today, China’s ambitions are rivaled by its challenges. While China remains committed to its Belt and Road Initiative to connect it to Europe across Asia, and has a growing high tech sector, it also has a massive government debt born of its extensive infrastructural projects. It also has debt from increasing its defense expenditures 10-fold over the past 20 years.

Through its economic growth, China has created a middle class nearly as large as the entire population of the United States. It is an open question whether this middle class will begin to demand democratic rights, particularly as the economy slows. There is already evidence that China’s middle class is demanding action to ease choking pollution in Beijing and other cities.

China remains dependent on foreign trade, on which 20 percent of its GDP depends, which is a high level for a large country. It is keen to limit the ongoing trade war, if possible.


Members’ Luncheon Price to Increase in the New Year

Wedgewood Catering, the food-service provider at Palo Corona Park HQ, has increased its luncheon prices for 2020. Unfortunately, in order to avoid losing money on our luncheons, WACMB must pass that increase along to our members. Therefore, the members’ rate for the luncheon has been increased to $33, effective immediately. The rate for guests will remain at $40. We hope you will agree that the value of our luncheon programs is more than worth the price increase!


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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