2018 Topics Spring Update

June 12th, 2018

The spring update to the 2018 Great Decisions topics is now available.

Select GD18 Spring Updates to read.

Letter from the President – Summer 2018

May 28th, 2018

Tucson Great Decisions is winding down the 2018 Winter – Spring Great Decisions discussions. Many of our group participants, including your president, have left the desert for the north. Tucson Great Decisions Association enters the summer with 23 sites offering Great Decisions discussions in the Greater Tucson region.  Moderators and participants in our discussion groups make Great Decisions the enjoyable program that it is. Discussion group moderators and your board are all volunteers.  All of us do this work because of our appreciation of the value of Great Decisions.  We are primarily retired persons, and lifestyle and health issues regularly bring changes to these leadership positions. We hope you will be open to stepping up to a moderator role or joining the Tucson Great Decisions Board in the coming year.  Please know that even those who are winter Tucsonans can take on these roles, as I have.

I am in Tucson from October through May and spend my summers in northern Michigan where I moderate a discussion group there as well.  I have only been participating in Great Decisions since 2008. In those ten years, I have learned a great deal about the decisions that make up the United States Foreign Policy. The non-partisan focus of the discussions gave me the confidence that I could safely share my views with people I did not know personally.  When I became engaged in the discussions, I learned how my personal attitudes and positions on the issues worked, and in many cases, how they differed from my fellow participants.  Dialog, such as that encountered in Great Decisions, has helped me frame a very different approach to foreign policy from when I began.  It also created an incredible bond with my fellow participants.  I hope that those of you who are currently participating in a Great Decisions group have had similar experiences. What I have found valuable is participation, being open to other opinions, and focusing on issues, not partisan politics.

Our Spring Event last month was a great success, with an enlightening presentation on the underpinnings of the media’s influence in the 21st century.  As a board, we are already planning the Fall Event.  It’s scheduled to be held on October 26th.  So, mark your fall calendars.  We’ll have more information on the speaker and topic in September. Topics for next year’s discussions will not be determined until late summer.  We will be communicating them when they are announced, so watch the website News for that information.

Have a productive and pleasant summer. We’ll see you in October.

Dick Kelbaugh

2018 Topics Winter Update

May 12th, 2018

he 2018 Topic Winter Update is now available at https://fpa.org/news/index.cfm?act=show_announcement&announcement_id=425  

To download the PDF, click GD18 Winter Update2

2018 Program Video Synopses

December 5th, 2017

Here are synopses of the videos for the 2018 Great Decisions topics

2018 Great Decisions Video Synopses

Pax Americana: The American Peace
The past 70 years has been the era of “Pax Americana,” a period of relative stability thanks to the influence and ballast provided by the United States.  But with Russian expansion and a rising China, how long can it last?

Russia’s Foreign Policy
To his detractors, Putin is an autocrat, crushing any threat to his power, while renewing Soviet-style expansionism.  To supporters, Putin represents Russia’s redemption as a global superpower  – and an alternative to the liberal democracy espoused by the West.  Great Decisions explores what drives Putin’s Foreign Policy.

 China: The New Silk Road
China is the second largest economy in the world, and it’s expected to bump the U.S. out of the top rank in less than a decade. Beijing is increasingly looking beyond China’s borders, toward investment in Asia and across the world.  What does China’s massive One Belt One Road initiative mean for America?

 The Media and Foreign Policy
The US has thrived on its vibrant and free press since the Founding Fathers first put the concept into law in the Bill of Rights as an important, independent check on power.  Now Foreign policy is tweeted from the White House and “fake news” has entered the zeitgeist, while social media is proving to be a double-edged sword.   What’s next for media and the free press?

 Turkey: A Partner in Crisis
Once seen as a model of democracy, Turkey may be slipping toward autocracy. Critics charge that President Recip Tayyip Erdogan used a failed coup d’état in 2016 as a means of consolidating power  –  power he says is necessary to secure the state.  Great Decisions producers traveled to Turkey to examine the relationship with this key U.S. ally.

 Crossroads: America’s Defense Strategy
The global power balance is rapidly evolving, leaving the United States at a turning point with respect to its level of engagement and the role of its military.  How does the military function in today’s international order, and what role should Diplomacy play in U.S. defense strategy?

South Africa: In the Shadow of Mandela
South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a democracy captivated the world in the early 1990’s.  While it remains the most advanced country in Africa, allegations of state corruption and huge disparities in wealth threaten its revolutionary dream.

Global Health: Preventing Pandemic
For decades, the U.S. has been a leader in promoting global health. But foreign assistance has fallen out of favor in some circles in Washington, they argue the U.S. should help America first. Is the golden age of global health coming to an end, or just getting started?

2017 Topics Fall Update

October 7th, 2017

The Fall Update on the 2017 Topics is now available from the Foreign Policy Association.

2017 Topics Fall Update

2018 Topics

September 20th, 2017

We’re pleased to announce the topics for Great Decisions 2018! Join us as we work together to understand today’s world issues. Find your nearest group in the Discussion Groups Tab. This year’s topics are as follows:

  • The waning of Pax Americana?
  • Russia’s foreign policy
  • China and America: the new geopolitical equation
  • Media and foreign policy
  • Turkey: a partner in crisis
  • S. global engagement and the military
  • South Africa’s fragile democracy
  • Global health: progress and challenges


The waning of Pax Americana?

By Carla Norrlof

During the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. began a historic shift away from Pax Americana, the liberal international order that was established in the wake of World War II. Since 1945, Pax Americana has promised peaceful international relations and an open economy, buttressed by U.S. military power. In championing “America First” isolationism and protectionism, President Trump has shifted the political mood toward selective U.S. engagement, where foreign commitments are limited to areas of vital U.S. interest and economic nationalism is the order of the day. Geopolitical allies and challengers alike are paying close attention.

Russia’s foreign policy

By Allen C. Lynch

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is projecting an autocratic model of governance abroad and working to undermine the influence of liberal democracies, namely along Russia’s historical borderlands. Russia caused an international uproar in 2016, when it interfered in the U.S. presidential contest. But Putin’s foreign policy toolkit includes other instruments, from alliances with autocrats to proxy wars with the U.S. in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. How does Putin conceive of national interests, and why do Russian citizens support him? How should the United States respond to Putin’s foreign policy ambitions?

China and America: the new geopolitical equation

By David M. Lampton

In the last 15 years, China has implemented a wide-ranging strategy of economic outreach and expansion of all its national capacities, including military and diplomatic capacities. Where the United States has taken a step back from multilateral trade agreements and discarded the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China has made inroads through efforts like the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). What are Beijing’s geopolitical objectives? What leadership and political conditions in each society underlie growing Sino-American tensions?  What policies might Washington adopt to address this circumstance?

Media and foreign policy

By Susan Moeller

State and non-state actors today must maneuver a complex and rapidly evolving media landscape. Conventional journalism now competes with user-generated content. Official channels of communication can be circumvented through social media. Foreign policy is tweeted from the White House and “fake news” has entered the zeitgeist. Cyberwarfare, hacking and misinformation pose complex security threats. How are actors using media to pursue and defend their interests in the international arena? What are the implications for U.S. policy?

Turkey: a partner in crisis

By Ömer Taşpinar

Of all NATO allies, Turkey represents the most daunting challenge for the Trump administration. In the wake of a failed military coup in July 2016, the autocratic trend in Ankara took a turn for the worse. One year on, an overwhelming majority of the population considers the United States to be their country’s greatest security threat. In this age of a worsening “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, even more important than its place on the map is what Turkey symbolically represents as the most institutionally Westernized Muslim country in the world.

U.S. global engagement and the military

By Gordon Adams

The global power balance is rapidly evolving, leaving the United States at a turning point with respect to its level of engagement and the role of its military. Some argue for an “America First” paradigm, with a large military to ensure security, while others call for a more assertive posture overseas. Some advocate for a restoration of American multilateral leadership and a strengthened role for diplomacy. Still others envision a restrained U.S. role, involving a more limited military. How does the military function in today’s international order, and how might it be balanced with diplomatic and foreign assistance capabilities?

South Africa’s fragile democracy

By Sean Jacobs

The African National Congress (ANC) party has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. But the party today suffers from popular frustration over official corruption and economic stagnation. It faces growing threats from both left and right opposition parties, even as intraparty divisions surface. Given America’s history of opportunistic engagement with Africa, there are few prospects for a closer relationship between the two countries. Meanwhile, a weaker ANC could lead to political fragmentation in this relatively new democracy.

Global health: progress and challenges

By Joshua Michaud

The collective action of countries, communities and organizations over the last 30 years has literally saved millions of lives around the world. Yet terrible inequalities in health and wellbeing persist. The world now faces a mix of old and new health challenges, including the preventable deaths of mothers and children, continuing epidemics of infectious diseases, and rising rates of chronic disease. We also remain vulnerable to the emergence of new and deadly pandemics. For these reasons, the next several decades will be just as important—if not more so—than the last in determining wellbeing across nations.


About Tucson Great Decisions (FPA.org article)

June 23rd, 2014

Click on this link to read an FPA  article about Tucson Great Decisions.  Its good to share our story nationally.


January 8th, 2014

FPA provides online supplemental content on every topic.  Check out the topic resources, featuring things like printable glossaries, blogs, a list of people to follow on Twitter, podcasts, recommended readings, books and organizations.


National Opinion Ballots ONLINE

January 8th, 2014

Remember to fill out your  opinion ballots!  The  National Opinion Ballot is available this year exclusively online. Now you can make your voice heard with just a click of a button.


Great Decisions Issues and Foreign Policy News Quizzes

March 18th, 2013

Are you interested in a “fun” way to check your knowledge of some of the foreign policy issues facing us?  If so, try this link to FPA’s Great Decisions quizzes.

Great Decisions Quizzes