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.

 

2016 Topics Fall Update

October 11th, 2016

The fall update on the 2016 Great Decisions topics is now available.

Go to http://www.fpa.org/news/index.cfm?act=show_announcement&announcement_id=406&utm_source=GD+Online+31&utm_campaign=diplo&utm_medium=email 

Or get the PDF 2016-topics-fall-update

2017 Topic Synopses

September 29th, 2016

Here are brief synopses of the 2017 Great Decisions Topics.  

 

The future of Europe: By Andrew Moravcsik

The outcome of the United Kingdom referendum on EU membership sent shockwaves across the globe. It even caught British voters by surprise. The European Union has helped secure peace in Europe for the past 70 years. Now it faces an uncertain future. Amid a refugee crisis, lingering financial recession and the constant specter of terrorism, unity seems more imperative than ever. But the Brexit vote underscores the complexities of integrating an extremely diverse continent. What will post-Brexit Europe look like, and how can U.S. foreign policy adapt?

 

Trade and politics: By Jeremy Haft

The U.S. political mood toward trade has gone sour. One need look no further than the 2016 presidential contest for the popular narrative: trade means that China wins, at America’s expense. But do the numbers support that conclusion? The metrics used to gauge economic strength—Gross Domestic Product and balance of trade—have not kept up with the realities of modern manufacturing. Obtaining an accurate picture of U.S. economic stature requires a critique of those numbers. Only then can the U.S. develop appropriate policy solutions for the challenges at hand.

 
Conflict in the South China Sea: By Bernard D. Cole

The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China its most vocal claimant. Beijing’s interest has intensified disputes with other countries in the region in recent years, especially since China has increased its naval presence. Despite rising international pressure, including an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China staunchly defends its policies in the region. Preventing tensions from boiling over is a matter of careful diplomacy.

 
Saudi Arabia in Transition: By Lawrence G. Potter

As Saudi Arabia struggles to adjust to the drastic decline in oil revenue, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman attempts to boldly transform the country and shift more power to the younger generation. At the same time, many countries such as the U.S. point out the lack of democracy, women’s rights and human rights in Saudi Arabia, and blame its promotion of Wahhabism, an extremely conservative version of Islam, for creating jihadists. Bipartisan criticism of Saudi Arabia is rising in Congress. Both countries need each other, but they are at a crossroads in bilateral relations.

 

U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum: By Jonathan Chanis

What is the effect of U.S. petroleum security on foreign policy? For 45 years, the country has alternated between periods of energy security and insecurity, sometimes able to wield petroleum as a useful instrument of foreign policy, sometimes not. Despite the so-called “energy revolution,” the U.S. today is by no means disentangled from foreign dependence and global trends. In order to be successful, policymakers must recognize both petroleum security circumstances and patterns in the relationship between petroleum and foreign policy.

 

Latin America’s political pendulum: By Michael Shifter and Bruno Binetti

The pendulum of Latin American politics is swinging rightward once again. Yet as the “pink tide” recedes, the forces of change have more to do with socioeconomics than ideology. Dramatic economic and political crises have coincided in countries like Brazil and Venezuela. Still, the final result for Latin America may be the emergence of centrist, pragmatic modes of governance, and with them, opportunities for the U.S. to improve relations. The new administration must look beyond the neoliberal model of the 1990s, and develop an approach to relations fit for the 21st century.

 
Prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan: By Austin Long

Major internal conflict has plagued Afghanistan for four decades. The U.S., for its part, has conducted military operations in the country nearly continuously since 9/11. Today, war with the Taliban persists, and tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan have gradually deteriorated. As his time in office drew to a close, President Obama limited further withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The incoming administration has a choice: will it maintain the status quo, completely reverse the Obama administration drawdown or withdraw completely? Does the U.S. face a no win situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

 
Nuclear Security: By Todd Stephen Sechser

Nuclear nonproliferation was a top priority for the Obama administration. While the Iran Deal was a diplomatic victory toward this end, major threats persist from both state and non-state actors. Countries like North Korea, Russia, and India and Pakistan continue to challenge nonproliferation efforts. The possibility that terrorists will carry out an attack using a “dirty bomb,” made from captured nuclear materials, looks increasingly real. In a fractious world, which way forward for U.S. nuclear security policy?

2016 Topics Winter Update

March 21st, 2016

The Winter update for the 2016 Topics is now available from Foreign Policy Association.  Go to the following link to view. In addition to this update, the Resource pages on www.FPA.org have been updated to include the more recent news and issues.

Winter 2016 update

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.

NEW RESOURCES ON GREATDECISIONS.ORG

January 8th, 2014

This year, FPA is providing more online supplemental content than ever. Check out the new topic resources, featuring things like printable glossaries, blogs, a list of people to follow on Twitter, podcasts, recommended readings, books and organizations.

VIEW TOPIC RESOURCE PAGES

National Opinion Ballots now ONLINE

January 8th, 2014

Remember to fill out your 2014 opinion ballots!  The 2014 National Opinion Ballot is available this year exclusively online. Now you can make your voice heard with just a click of a button.

COMPLETE BALLOT

Does “R2P” apply to the Syrian Intervention Question?

August 28th, 2013

There is a lot of rhetoric on the news and in congress regarding how we should respond to the situation in Syria.  Much of it focuses on this as an internal US action. Is this simply an unjustified internal US action or is it justified under “R2P”?

Should the US intervene based on the UN “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P)  policy, even though the UN seems unable to achieve the Security Council consensus needed for action?

What should be the process?

Please leave comments in reply to this blog.

 

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