“Great Decisions Series” presented at ICC starting Feb. 9

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The World Affairs Council of Western North Carolina is hosting this year’s “Great Decisions 2017” series, sponsored nationally by the nonprofit nonpartisan Foreign Policy Association. The series will be held at the Isothermal Community College Polk Campus, 1255 W. Mills St. in Columbus. Classes start Thursday, Feb. 9 from 2-4 p.m.

Feb. 9, Maria Moreno on Latin America

Given the diversity of this region there is ample opportunity for both continuity and change in U.S. policy. Relationships between Latin American countries and the U.S. have fluctuated and changed over the last few decades. Today, as many appear to be moving toward more centrist forms of governments, with added opportunities for shifts toward Cuba, Columbia, and Venezuela, the U.S. may be able to foster improved relationships with its neighbors to the south.

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“Latin America’s Political Pendulum” presenter is Maria Moreno, MHU professor of French and native of Venezuela.

Feb. 16, Jim Lenburg on South China Sea

Here is a case study in China’s attempt to achieve some degree of regional hegemony through its maritime claims of sovereignty and right-of-way in the South China Sea. The recent decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague rejecting China’s claims provides the U.S. with a solid ground for continuing its foreign policies in the region that focus on freedom of navigation and the prospect of lowering chances of military miscalculation, avoiding great power conflict in the region.

“Conflict in the South China Sea” will be presented by Jim Lenburg, emeritus professor of history at MHU with wide interests and experiences in China.

Feb. 23,  Rick Devereaux on Nuclear Security

U.S. nuclear security policy has shifted recently in response to a rebalancing of the world’s nuclear weaponry. The bipolar competition of the Cold War has given way to what has been called “the second nuclear age,” a multi-polar competition among existing and emerging nuclear nations. This has implications for the U.S. nuclear umbrella that has been designed to shield its allies, reduce crises, and encourage arms control, and prevent proliferation, especially to rogue states and terrorist groups.

“Nuclear Security” presenter Rick Devereaux is a career Air Force officer and student of DOD military strategy.

March 2, Larry Wilson on Saudi Arabia

The foundation of U.S.-Saudi relations has started to crumble. The Cold War is over, and with it the Soviet threat to Saudi oil fields. Similarly, Iraq no longer threatens those fields. America’s dependence on oil has lessened. Those changes combined with US objections to some Saudi domestic and foreign policies have called the relationship into question. Yet common interests—containing Iran, defeating Islamic terrorist organizations, and relying on the Saudis for regional leadership—may call for continuing the relationship as it now exists.

“Saudi Arabia in Transition” will be presented by Larry Wilson, president of Marietta College [Ohio], UNCA provost, founder of Zayed Women’s University in Dubai UAE.

March 9, Jenn Schiff on Petroleum and Foreign Policy

Economic and political change is afoot here. Earlier predictions of greater reliance on imported oil and natural gas missed the mark. Fracking and significantly increased U.S. energy production through alternative technologies has made America an energy superpower. This newly arrived position increases America’s leverage in energy pricing and trade, one that can assure allies, impose new sanctions, and strengthen trade negotiations using tools of cooperation and diplomacy rather than those of competition.

Jennifer Schiff, international relations director and political scientist at Western Carolina University, will present “US Foreign Policy and Petroleum.”

March 16, Julie Snyder on Trade and Politics

Perhaps no other area of the 2016 election highlighted the close link between domestic and foreign policy than “trade, jobs, and politics.” Frustrations over job losses and slow domestic growth have all been tied to international trade. Mr. Trump has threatened to “tear up” previous deals and impose tariffs on China, and to shift other aspects of America’s trade policy. If the U.S. changes its trade policies, what might be the risks to its current position in the global market, and what might become of its leadership in shaping global trade?

“Trade and Politics” will be  presented by Julie Snyder, former Commerce Department official who has wide experience in State Department trade negotiations and monitorings.

To register, call 828-894-3092.

– article submitted by Mike Gavin