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Pilgrim House

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Great Decisions

Programs are the first Thursday of the month from 7 to 8:30 pm October through May at Pilgrim House.

The Great Decisions Program at PH

The purpose of Great Decisions is to educate citizens about issues of importance to American foreign policy and to provide them with the information to form opinions about the topics covered.

Pilgrim House has held a Great Decisions Program since 2007. We have found Great Decisions to be a stimulating and provocative learning exercise, and we encourage others to join us.

Great Decisions is a dynamic citizen education and discussion program, sponsored nationally by the Foreign Policy Association and coordinated locally by the Minnesota International Center. Speakers are informed and interesting observers of Foreign Policy affairs. We meet the first Thursday of the month, 7:00 at PH, and invite all to attend.

Each year eight issues significant to the United States’ role in the global community are chosen for discussion. For 2017 these issues are:

  • The Future of Europe
  • Trade and Politics
  • Conflict in the South China Sea
  • Saudi Arabia in Transition
  • U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum
  • Latin America’s Political Pendulum
  • Prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Nuclear Security

All are welcome to attend.

Current Programs

October 5 - to be announced

Previous Programs

2017 Programs

May 4 - Prospects for Pakistan and Afghanistan

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?

Our speaker is M. Jay Shahidi. Originally from Iran, Jay Shahidi speaks from a personal perspective as well as from astute observation of today’s events in the Middle East. A board member of the United Nations Association-Minnesota and the American Refugee Committee (ARC), he is a frequent speaker in the community on peace and advocacy issues. With the United Nations Association of Minnesota, he has co-chaired their Landmine and Advocacy committees. Jay is co-founder and current President of the Iranian-American Society of Minnesota. A graduate of Minnesota State University-Mankato, he was awarded their Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award.

April 6 - Trade and Politics

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.

Our speaker Ambassador Ross Wilson is a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a visiting lecturer in international affairs at the George Washington University. Over the course of a thirty year career in the US Foreign Service, he served as American ambassador to Turkey in 2005-08 and to Azerbaijan in 2000-03. Elsewhere overseas, he held assignments at the US embassies in Moscow and Prague and at the US consulate general in Melbourne, Australia. In Washington, Ambassador Wilson was principal deputy to the ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the Secretary of State for the new independent states of the former Soviet Union in 1997-2000. He also served earlier as deputy executive secretary of the State Department for Secretaries James A. Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Warren Christopher; chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick; and chief US negotiator for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

March 2 - Nuclear Security

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?

Our speaker is Margo Squire, a career diplomat for thirty years with the U.S. Information Agency and the U.S. Department of State, serving in Munich, Moscow, Melbourne, Baku, Ankara and Washington, D.C. Among many posts in her distinguished career, Squire served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow (1986-90) and also as Director of the Press and Public Outreach Office in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (2003-2005). Squire was a decorated Foreign Service Officer and recipient of numerous meritorious service awards. She holds a B.A. in Russian Language and Studies from Dartmouth College, and a M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

February 2 - Latin America’s Political Pendulum

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.

Our speaker will be Bruce Campbell, Professor of Hispanic Studies at the College of Saint Benedict’s and Saint John’s University

2016 Programs

December 1 - Cuba and the US

The U.S. announced in December 17, 2014, that, after decades of isolation, it would begin taking major steps to normalize relations with Cuba, its neighbor to the south. The announcement marked a dramatic shift away from a policy that has its roots in one of the darkest moments of the Cold War—the Cuban missile crisis. Although the U.S. trade embargo is unlikely to end any time soon, American and Cuban leaders today are trying to bring a relationship once defined by antithetical ideologies into the 21st century Our speaker will be Rob Scarlett, our own in-house Foreign Affairs commentator, who has had business dealings throughout the world and was in Cuba in the 1990s.

November 3 - The Rise of ISIS

Born out of an umbrella organization of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) burst onto the international stage after it conquered Fallujah in December 2013. Since then, the group has seized control of a number of critical strongholds in both countries and declared itself a caliphate. Still, the question remains: what is ISIS, and what danger does it pose to U.S. interests?

Our speaker will be Gary Prevost, professor of political science and international relations at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Professor Prevost has been a frequent speaker at Pilgrim House Great Decisions programs.

October 6 - Shifting Alliances in the Middle East

We are fortunate to have Tom Hanson as our speaker this time - he is not to be missed! The topic is Shifting Alliances in the Middle East, Chapter 1 in your booklets.

From a proxy war in Yemen to an ongoing civil war in Syria, a number of conflicts have shaken the traditional alignments in the Middle East to their core. As alliances between state and non-state actors in the region are constantly shifting, the U.S. has found itself between a rock and a hard place. In a series of disputes that are far from being black-and-white, what can the U.S. do to secure its interests in the region without causing further damage and disruption?

Speaker Tom Hanson is a foreign policy consultant and a former career U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

During his career with the U.S. Foreign Service, his postings included East Germany, France, Norway, the Soviet Union, Sweden and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. He also participated in the opening of new U.S. Embassies in Mongolia and Estonia. He worked on the foreign relations committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and served as Director for NATO and European Affairs at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, D.C.

May 5 – Korean Choices

At the end of World War II, Korea was divided. The northern half of the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Soviet Union, the southern by the United States. Today, North and South Korea couldn’t be further apart. The North is underdeveloped, impoverished and ruled by a corrupt, authoritarian regime, while the South advanced rapidly to become one of the most developed countries in the world. With such a wide gap, some are asking if unification is possible, even desirable, anymore? Our speaker is Dr. Hangtae Cho, founding Director of the Korean program at the University of Minnesota. After completing his BA and MA at Korea University, Dr. Cho came to the University of Minnesota, where he earned his Ph.D. in Linguistics. For the last 19 years, he has led the University of Minnesota’s effort to establish its Korean program from scratch.

April 7 - International Migration

As a record number of migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea, seeking refuge in Europe, the continent is struggling to come up with an adequate response. Although Europe’s refugees are largely fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa, their struggle is hardly unique. Today, with the number of displaced people at an all-time high, a number of world powers find themselves facing a difficult question: how can they balance border security with humanitarian concerns? More importantly, what can they do to resolve these crises so as to limit the number of displaced persons?

Our speaker is Mohamed Idris, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), based in Minneapolis. Mr. Idris travels frequently within the US speaking about the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, and also regularly visits the Horn of Africa region to follow up on humanitarian projects. He was born in Eritrea and experienced refugee life during his native country’s war for independence. Mr. Idris holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s University (Minneapolis), a M.A. in Management from Hamline University (St. Paul), and is currently pursuing a doctoral program in leadership at the University of St. Thomas.

March 3 - The Future of Kurdistan

Kurdistan, a mountainous area made up of parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, is home to one of the largest ethnic groups in region: the Kurds. Now, most in the West know them for their small, oil-rich autonomous region in northern Iraq called Iraqi Kurdistan — one of the U.S.’ closer allies in the Middle East and a bulwark against the expansion of the so-called Islamic State. What does the success of Iraqi Kurdistan mean for Kurds in the surrounding region?

Ambassador Ross Wilson is a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a visiting lecturer in international affairs at the George Washington University.

Over the course of a thirty-year career in the US Foreign Service, he served as American ambassador to Turkey in 2005-08 and to Azerbaijan in 2000-03. Elsewhere overseas, he held assignments at the US embassies in Moscow and Prague and at the US consulate general in Melbourne, Australia. In Washington, Ambassador Wilson was principal deputy to the ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the Secretary of State for the new independent states of the former Soviet Union in 1997-2000. He also served earlier as deputy executive secretary of the State Department for Secretaries James A. Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Warren Christopher; chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick; and chief US negotiator for the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

February 4 - Climate Geopolitics

Climate change is a long-term problem affecting all countries. To what extent are international political solutions to climate change feasible? Will change more likely come from private actors and NGOs, rather than governments? It’s expected that the presidential election in 2016 will be one of the first ever to place an emphasis on these environmental changes. What can the next president do to stymie this environmental crisis? And is it too late for these efforts to be effective?

Join this discussion led by Professor Joseph Underhill, who teaches courses in Environmental Politics, International Relations, and Political Methodology at Augsburg College.

2015 Programs

December 3 - Syrian Refugees

Our December program on Syrian refugees is particularly topical this month. As Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other neighbors strive to accommodate the millions of Syrians, the risk of allowing Syrians to become dependent on emergency aid and forming a “lost generation” remains. Syrians have for a century welcomed over a million refugees from Armenia, Palestine, Iraq and other countries around the region. Now, thanks to a multiyear civil war, they are on track to become the source of the world’s largest refugee population in a matter of months. As Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and other neighbors strive to accommodate the millions of Syrians, the risk of allowing Syrians to become dependent on emergency aid and forming a “lost generation” remains. Ultimately, though, the safety of displaced Syrians rests with the whole international community.

Our speaker is Bob Carlson, a retired agribusiness consultant whose corporate experience included 20 years with Cargill, mainly in the oilseed processing division, as well as shorter periods with two other oil-seed processors. Worked in Egypt and China. Conducted consulting projects in Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.

November 5 - Brazil

Our Great Decisions subject is Brazil, whose economic expansion has elevated the country to a new level on the world’s stage. Brazil has changed from early 20th century dictatorship and state control to the world’s sixth-largest economy. Brazil has risen to new global prominence by drawing in investment, working on global issues ranging from climate change to peacekeeping, and hosting the 2016 Olympics. Deep divisions over how to tackle serious income inequality, weak civic institutions and poor regional leadership have held it back.

Speaker Robert Scarlett is President of Medical Equipment Exports, Inc., Senior Adviser to Clearwater Layline, LLC, Senior Associate at Grupo Avance, LLC; and former President of Smart Screen Systems, Inc. Rob has experience in global market development and international marketing, and is a founding director of the Brazil-Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

October 1 - Russia and the Near Abroad

If Putin’s Russia isn’t afraid to take an aggressive stance against Europeanization in Ukraine, what does that mean for the rest of Russia’s neighbors?

As calls for closer ties with the EU failed to be met, Ukrainians took to the streets in November 2013. As the movement later known as the Euromaidan, or “Euro Square,” pulled western Ukraine closer to its European neighbors, another powerful force threatened to tear away the country’s eastern half: Russia. Putin’s pushback against European expansionism has the West wondering: If Putin’s Russia isn’t afraid to take an aggressive stance against Europeanization in Ukraine, what does that mean for the rest of Russia’s neighbors?

Our speaker will be Ambassador Ross Wilson, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a visiting lecturer in international affairs at the George Washington University.

Over the course of a thirty year career in the US Foreign Service, he served as American ambassador to Turkey in 2005-08 and to Azerbaijan in 2000-03. Elsewhere overseas, he held assignments at the US embassies in Moscow and Prague and at the US consulate general in Melbourne, Australia. In 2010-2014, Ambassador Wilson served as director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, where he led the Council’s work on the former Soviet states, Turkey and regional energy and economic issues and organized the Council’s annual Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul.

May 7 - India Changes Course

For the U.S., change in India brings its own set of unknowns, heralding an age ruled by a prime minister new to national office and other policymakers who have been out of the public eye for a decade.

Fed up with corruption, dynastic policies and ineffective public services, Indian voters catapulted Narenda Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party to power in the country’s 2014 elections. For voters, Modi embodied real change and an India that wasn’t stumbling, but running, to greatness. But for the U.S., change in India brings its own set of unknowns, heralding an age ruled by a prime minister new to national office and other policymakers who have been out of the public eye for a decade. Now, the U.S. has to determine how to best secure its interests as India asserts itself on the world stage.

Our speaker is Dr. Arijit Mazumdar, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. He joined the Political Science department in September 2008. He teaches courses in Asian politics, comparative foreign policy and developing world politics and government. His research interests include comparative politics and international relations of Asia, with particular emphasis on India, China, Pakistan and Nepal. His book titled Indian Foreign Policy in Transition: Relations with South Asia was recently published by Routledge. His work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals and newsmagazines such as Asian Profile, Asian Survey, Contemporary Politics, Economic and Political Weekly, Himal Southasian, India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, Indian Journal of Political Science, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Strategic Analysis, and World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research.

April 2 - Middle East Sectarianism

How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?

Many of the current conflicts in the Middle East have been attributed to sectarianism, a politicization of ethnic and religious identity. From the crisis in Iraq and Syria to the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the struggle between Sunni and Shi‘i groups for dominance is tearing apart the region and shows no signs of abating. But for all the religious discourse permeating the conflict, much of its roots are political, not religious. How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?

Our speaker is Gary Prevost, professor of political science and international relations at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota, and is the author of numerous books and articles on revolutionary parties and social movements. He regularly teaches a course on the Politics of the Middle East and lectures often on Middle East topics for the Great Decisions program.

March 5 - Human Trafficking in the 21st Century

The U.S. and the international community have adopted various treaties and laws to prevent trafficking, but to truly understand and combat the issue, they must find the root causes enabling traffickers to exploit millions of victims.

Human trafficking represents a multibillion in international trade per annum and continues to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries. While undeniably a global phenomenon, the U.S., as one of the world’s leading human trafficking importers, bears a special responsibility to combat this practice. The U.S. and the international community have adopted various treaties and laws to prevent trafficking, but to truly understand and combat the issue, they must find the root causes enabling traffickers to exploit millions of victims.

The speaker will be Michele Garnett McKenzie. She is the Advocacy Director at The Advocates for Human Rights. She is responsible for policy advocacy and community and coalition engagement around The Advocates' priority issues, including human trafficking, refugee and immigrant rights, and diaspora community engagement. In 2011, Michele successfully led The Advocates' effort to pass groundbreaking legislation protecting sexually exploited youth in the State of Minnesota. Michele directs the Discover Human Rights initiative to engage U.S.-based social justice organizations in the human rights movement and the One Voice Minnesota initiative to build welcoming communities for all Minnesotans.

Michele joined The Advocates in 1999 as a staff attorney representing asylum seekers and immigration detainees and in 2003 began managing the asylum, detention, and walk-in clinic projects in addition to legal and policy advocacy relating to immigration. Prior to joining The Advocates, Michele was in private immigration practice and served as a law clerk for the immigration courts in Arizona and Nevada. She has served an adjunct clinical faculty member of William Mitchell College of Law and the University of Minnesota Law School. Michele serves on the national leadership team of the Immigration Advocates Network and on the advisory committee of Sarah’s...An Oasis for Women, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet housing women in transition, and has previously served as chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Human Rights Committee and the national steering committee of the Detention Watch Network. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is admitted to practice in the State of Minnesota.

February 5: U.S. Policy Toward Africa with speaker Tom O'Toole

This is the first program of our 2015 season:

How can U.S. policy live up to its promise and values while securing its interests in the region?

Africa is in the midst of an unprecedented transformation. The continent is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it’s become a draw for foreign investors from across the globe. After the “Obamamania” of 2008 died down, though, the realization that Obama wasn’t going to overturn, or even prioritize, U.S. Africa policy kicked in. Still, the U.S. has promised to promote “strong institutions, not strong men,” and to favor good governance and healthy economies over profit. How can U.S. policy live up to its promise and values while securing its interests in the region?

Our speaker will be Tom O'Toole Professor Emeritus at St. Cloud State University. As a scholar and teacher, he is the recipient of four Fulbright awards, a Wenner-Gren, and a Danforth. He is knowledgeable in Comparative History, Global Studies, Interdisciplinary Social Science. O’Toole served in the Peace Corps, worked on a health care project in rural Haiti, and was the first director of Minnesota Studies in International Development. He also taught in the Semester at Sea of the University of Virginia, and has traveled in Cuba, Africa, and Latin America. He has written widely on democracy, the environment from a global perspective, and Africa. He holds a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, an MA from the University of Minnesota, and a BA cum laude from St. Mary’s College (now University) in Winona. He has numerous publications, including at least 18 books listed in the Library of Congress catalog, and has studied with Dr. Lansiné Kaba, a renowned scholar on Islam.

2014 Programs

December 4 - Islamic Awakening with speaker Mary Curtin

The aftermath of the Arab Spring has resulted in unforeseen changes in the political landscape in many countries, especially regarding the role of Islam and democracy. How have the countries in the Maghreb reacted, including Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began? Is U.S. foreign policy adapting successfully to all of the changes in the region?

Our speaker will be Mary Curtin, a retired Foreign Service professional.

November 6 - Israel and the US with speaker Gary Prevost

Modern Israel’s struggles with the Palestinians have turned what was meant as a safe haven for Jews into the center of a decades-long conflict. The U.S. has stepped in as Israel’s ally due to the two countries’ shared values, providing years of unparalleled military and diplomatic support. But now those ties are being tested. The Arab Spring, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, failed peace talks, and Israel’s own decision to give Washington the cold shoulder have put new strains on the 65-year-old “special relationship.”

Our speaker will be Gary Prevost, professor of political science and international relations at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

October 2 - China Foreign Policy with speaker Bill Davnie

China has gone to great lengths to emphasize the "peaceful" nature of its meteoric rise. Yet few dispute that China is the dominant regional power in Asia - and in recent years Beijing began to flex its muscles regionally in order to advance its strategic interests. What does the rapid rise of this new superpower mean for other countries in the region, and are there potential points of conflict with the U.S. as it "pivots" to Asia?

Our speaker is one of our popular regulars, Bill Davnie. He served as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State from 1981-2007.

May 1 - Energy Independence

In a government with fixed resources, should the U.S. encourage more traditional fuel production or invest in the young technology of renewable resources?

Energy independence, by taking the bargaining chip of oil dependence off the table, would be good for American foreign policy. But the very technological advances that make independence possible have created a dilemma for lawmakers. In a government with fixed resources, should the U.S. encourage more traditional fuel production or invest in the young technology of renewable resources?

Our speaker will be David Bartlett, Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategic Management and Organization, Carlson School of Management, who is an internationally recognized authority on economic development in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states. He received his Ph.D. and B.A. from the University of California, and his M.A. from the University of Chicago.

April 3 - Food and Climate (chapter 6 in the book)

The U.S. is getting ready, but can it lead the way to climate reform?

Even as a sixth of the world’s population suffers from chronic hunger, a changing climate threatens to wreak havoc on already insecure and vulnerable populations. As food and water become scarce and once fertile land becomes barren, the U.S. finds itself faced with new challenges in securing the globe. The U.S. is getting ready, but can it lead the way to climate reform?

Our speaker will be Roger Salway, President of Post-Harvest Technologies Ltd, a privately-funded company addressing the yield and productivity of cereals indigenous to Africa by adapting basic, mechanized agricultural technologies developed in Asia and The Americas. Roger is also a Senior Advisor to SAM India, a private public partnership designing and building facilities to produce food for seriously malnourished children in India. He is a member of the White House Business Council. Roger’s corporate experience includes more than 10 years with Deere & Co. Roger graduated from the University of Manchester.

March 6 - Turkey

As the clashes between secular and religious groups and the recent protests in Taksim Square show, the soul of Turkey is still very much up for grabs.

Turkey: a nation at a crossroads, a bridge over an ever-growing chasm between the East and West. Turkey’s first Prime Minister Kemal Ataturk envisioned a modern, democratic nation-state built on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire with strong ties to Europe, not the Middle East. But as the clashes between secular and religious groups and the recent protests in Taksim Square show, the soul of Turkey is still very much up for grabs.

Our guest speaker will be Tom Hanson, one of our favorite presenters. Tom Hanson currently serves as a Diplomat in Residence at the Alworth Institute for International Affairs at the University of Minnesota – Duluth. He is a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer whose postings included East Germany, France, Norway, the Soviet Union, Sweden, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. He also participated in the opening of new U.S. embassies in Mongolia and Estonia, worked on the Foreign Relations Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and served as director for NATO and European Affairs at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, D.C. Currently Mr. Hanson is active with the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations and the planning group of the Upper Midwest chapter of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a member of MIC’s Great Decisions advisory committee, and a frequent Great Decisions speaker. He also contributes to local media, and is a board member of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (U.S. Foundation), the International Leadership Program at St. Thomas University, and the Cultural Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Minnesota - Duluth.

February 6 - U.S. Trade Policy

America’s foreign policy tools are not limited to sanctions, treaties or military campaigns – they also include the sales pitch. The logic behind this pitch, or “economic statecraft,” is simple: promote the benefits of democracy and the free market. In so doing, the U.S. will gain valuable and stable partners, both in business and in diplomacy. Now, as China and other emerging nations battle the U.S. for global influence, Secretary Kerry will take the reigns as a free market matchmaker.

Rob Scarlett, our in-house Foreign Affairs commentator, will discuss his involvement with the Caux Round Table (CRT), an international network of experienced business leaders who work with business and political leaders to design the intellectual strategies, management tools and practices to strengthen private enterprise and public governance to improve our global community.

2013 Programs

December 7 - Intervention

The responsibility to protect doctrine has become central to modern humanitarian intervention. When should the international community intervene? Why did the West rush to intervene in Libya but not Syria?

Our speaker will be Gary Prevost, who is professor of political science and international relations at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota and is the author of numerous books and articles on revolutionary parties and social movements, including, most recently, “Social Movements and Leftist Governments in Latin America: Confrontation or Co-optation?” He regularly teaches a course on the Politics of the Middle East and lectures often on Middle East topics for the Great Decisions program.

February 7: Egypt

How can the United States address the challenges of a weak economy, homegrown terrorism and nuclear proliferation? What threats and opportunities are presented by the ascendancy of China and by regime change in the Middle East?

Our speaker will be Robert Carlson, an independent agribusiness consultant with Cargill and other oilseed processors, who lived and worked in Egypt several times, most recently conducting a consulting project in October 2010. Between stints in Egypt, he worked for a year in China. He has a BA degree with a major in biology from Carleton College.

March 7: NATO

How has NATO agenda evolved since its inception during the cold war? With its military commitment in Afghanistan winding down and a recent successful campaign in Libya, what are the Alliance present-day security challenges?

Our speaker will be Mary Curtin, who worked as a U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer from 1986 to 2011, serving in five overseas assignments and in Washington, D.C., to help shape and implement U.S. foreign policy. Throughout her career she kept a focus on how the U.S. could help promote democracy and human rights through bilateral and multilateral efforts. Was Political Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the European Union from 2008-2011, planning U.S.-EU cooperation in promoting global peace and security, especially in promoting democracy and peace in the Middle East.

April 4: Future of the Euro

How did the 2008 global recession contribute to the development of the euro crisis? The health of the euro affects and is affected by the state of the global economy. How can European Union leaders prevent the collapse of the common currency?

Our speaker will be Christa Tiefenbacher-Hudson, who has served as Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Minneapolis since 2010. Her responsibilities include promoting German-American relations and providing assistance to German and American citizens in matters related to Germany. She received the Ambassador’s Friendship Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, and is a member of the advisory board for the Center of German and European studies at the University of Minnesota. She holds a master’s degree in history, literature, and linguistics from the University of Stuttgart, where she also taught German.

May 2: Iran:

Suspicion and a troubled history have blighted U.S.-Iranian relations for three decades. How can the United States and Iran move forward? Is the existence of Iran nuclear program an insurmountable obstacle?

Our speaker will be Jay Shahidi: Originally from Iran, Shahidi speaks from a personal perspective as well as from astute observation of today’s events in the Middle East. A board member of the United Nations Association-Minnesota and the American Refugee Committee (ARC), is a frequent speaker in the community on peace and advocacy issues. With the United Nations Association of Minnesota, he has co-chaired their Landmine and Advocacy committees. Is co-founder and current President of the Iranian-American Society of Minnesota. A graduate of Minnesota State University-Mankato, he was awarded their Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award.

October 3 - Myanmar and Southeast Asia

October 3 will be our first event for the fall, and we have the great good fortune of having Tom Hanson, a retired Foreign Service Officer, as our speaker. Tom is probably the premier foreign policy observer in the Twin Cities, and you won’t want to miss this one. The topic will be Myanmar and Southeast Asia: The West has welcomed unprecedented democratic reforms made by Myanmar government. What challenges must Myanmar overcome before it can fully join the international community? What role can it play in Southeast Asia?

November 7 - China in Africa

What interests govern China’s engagement in Africa? Should China’s growing emphasis on political ties and natural resource extraction inform U.S. relations with African nations?

Our speaker will be David Bartlett, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Strategic Management and Organization, Carlson School of Management.

He is a partner at Bartlett Ellis LLC in Minneapolis, and is the holder of faculty appointments at Vanderbilt University (U.S.), Yerevan State University (Armenia), and the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (Uzbekistan). Has over 20 years of experience in consulting, research, and teaching on international corporate strategy. Is the author of the Edward A. Hewett Prize winning book, The Political Economy of Dual Transformations: Market Reform and Democratization in Hungary. In addition, has written numerous articles on global manufacturing, foreign trade and investment, and global finance. Is an internationally recognized authority on economic development in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states. He has received a Fulbright Scholarship and a Salzburg seminar fellowship among other scholarly awards. He received his Ph.D. and B.A. from the University of California, and his M.A. from the University of Chicago.

Topics for 2012 were:

  • Middle East Realignment
  • Promoting Democracy
  • Mexico
  • Cybersecurity
  • Exit from Afghanistan and Iraq
  • State of the Oceans
  • Indonesia
  • Energy Geopolitics

December 6: Indonesia

Having emerged from authoritarianism in the last 15 years, Indonesia has made remarkable strides politically, economically and socially. Yet the new, democratic Indonesia is still a developing country facing considerable challenges. How can Indonesia continue its path of growth, reform and prosperity? What is Indonesia’s role in the global community?

Our speaker will be Bill Davnie, who served a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State from 1981-2007. Postings included Hong Kong, Thailand, USSR/Russia, Tajikistan, Lithuania and Finland, as well as four months in Baghdad in 2007. Prior to the Foreign Service, researched Islam and taught for one year in Indonesia.,

November 1: Mexico

Mexico’s border with Central America, as well as the border it shares with the U.S., has been a pathway for people, goods, crime and contraband in both directions. How can Mexico address these trans-border challenges? What is the future of Mexico’s relations with its northern and southern neighbors? How will Mexico’s foreign relations affect its domestic politics?

Our speaker will be Rob Scarlett, President of Medical Equipment Exports, Inc., Minneapolis. Senior Associate, Grupo Avance, LLC; Former President of Smart Screen Systems, Inc., Chisholm, Minnesota. Since 1999, also doing business as Hunter Scarlett Consulting - serving as director and part-time officer for start-ups and smaller manufacturing companies in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

October 4: Exit from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ten years after September 11, 2001, the U.S. is winding down its military commitment in Iraq and slowly pulling out of Afghanistan. What exit strategy will help Afghanistan and Iraq build stable democratic nations? How can the U.S. continue to achieve its counterterrorism goals? What is the role of the U.S. in the future of the Middle East?

Our speaker will be Richard Remnek, a retired investment executive and a former academic. He served as program director of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Affairs and lectured locally on Russia, Eastern Europe and international security. He holds a B.A. in history from Brandeis University, an M.A. in Russian Area Studies from The City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. He has published and lectured widely on Russian foreign affairs and international security issues.

May 3: State of the Oceans

The world’s oceans are essential to life on earth, and are tremendously sensitive to global climate change. What are the consequences of climate change on oceanic factors like biodiversity, sea levels and extreme weather systems? How can the U.S. and its international partners address the emerging challenges to this shared resource?

Our speaker will be Thomas O'Toole, Professor Emeritus at St. Cloud State University. As a scholar and teacher, is recipient of four Fulbrights, a Wenner-Gren, and a Danforth, Knowledgeable in Comparative History, Global Studies, and Interdisciplinary Social Science. Served in the Peace Corps, worked on a health care project in rural Haiti, and was the first director of Minnesota Studies in International Development. Also taught in the Semester at Sea of the University of Virginia. Traveled in Cuba, Africa, and Latin America. Has written on democracy and the environment from a global perspective. Holds a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, an MA from the University of Minnesota, and a BA cum laude from St. Mary’s College (now University) in Winona. Has numerous publications, including at least 18 books listed in the Library of Congress catalog. Studied with Dr. Lansiné Kaba, a renowned scholar on Islam.

April 5: Middle East Re-alignment

The Middle East: A Really New Middle East?

The popular revolts and upheaval of the Arab Spring have radically changed the face of the Middle East. What lies ahead for the Middle East’s transition to democracy? What are the prospects for the governments that have held out in this new order? With many longtime U.S. allies ousted, how will the U.S. recalibrate its relations with the new regimes?

Tom Hanson is a foreign policy consultant and a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer. Currently, serves as program secretary of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations, adviser to MIC’s Great Decisions program, and Diplomat in Residence at the University of Minnesota –Duluth. Is also a Board Member of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (U.S. Foundation) headquartered in Minneapolis. During his career with the U.S. Foreign Service, his postings included East Germany, France, Norway, the Soviet Union, Sweden and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Also participated in the opening of new U.S. Embassies in Mongolia and Estonia. Worked on the foreign relations committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and served as Director for NATO and European Affairs at the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, D.C. Holds Master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the Geneva Institute of Advanced International Studies in Switzerland, and the National School of Administration in Paris, France, and received a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota. Is active in a local Great Decisions group.

March 1: Cybersecurity

The securitization of cyberspace has caused a sea change for both governments and the private sector, faced with new threats, new battlegrounds and new opportunities. Faced with challenges such as international cybercrime and authoritarian control of networks, how will the U.S. and its democratic allies approach the cyber frontier? How does this new domain figure in U.S. strategic interests?

Speaker: George Welles

President of Imaging Futures, Inc. and Allargeo Ltd. both with offices in Minnetonka, MN and Ireland. Has led numerous seminars on future technologies in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Has been providing consultation and presentation services for his own clientele since 1989. Works with the leadership of many Fortune 500 companies and is engaged in several projects involving national security. Was a professional journalist for 13 years. B.A. in Journalism from the University of Minnesota, where he is now a Senior Fellow. Active in a local Great Decisions discussion group.

February 2: Energy Geopolitics

The energy markets have been shaken by the instability of Middle East oil and the vulnerability of nuclear power. Moreover, developing countries like China are becoming bigger energy consumers, while energy producers like Russia see the opportunity to widen their influence. In this changed landscape, how will the U.S. energy needs affect its relations with other nations?

Speaker: David Bartlett

David Bartlett is a partner at Bartlett Ellis LLC in Minneapolis. He is the holder of faculty appointments at Vanderbilt University (U.S.), Yerevan State University (Armenia), and University of World Economy and Diplomacy (Uzbekistan). Has 20+ years of experience consulting, researching, and teaching on international corporate strategy. Author of the Edward A. Hewett Prize winning book, The Political Economy of Dual Transformations: Market Reform and Democratization in Hungary. In addition, he has written numerous articles on global manufacturing, foreign trade and investment, and global finance. Internationally recognized authority on economic development in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, and other scholarly awards. Received his Ph.D. and B.A from the University of California and his M.A. from the University of Chicago.

December 1 - Rebuilding Haiti

The January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti struck a country already suffering from widespread poverty and underdevelopment. Did this natural disaster inadvertently provide an opportunity for reassessment and planning a new Haiti? With presidential elections looming in early 2011, what can new leadership bring to restore the country?

Our speaker will be Sam Usem: A senior project advisor in Haiti with the St. Paul nonprofit, Compatible Technology International (CPI). Was in Haiti the month after the earthquake of January 12, 2010 and worked with partner NGOs to increase Haiti’s agricultural capacities and produce lifesaving nutritional products for malnourished children affected by the quake. He lived in Israel multiple times from 2003 to 2008 and while there interned with a member of the parliament and worked as a paramedic on the border with the Gaza Strip. Served as the Director of International Development Projects for the Global Studies Student Association while studying at the University of Minnesota and was in charge of project logistics in Honduras, focusing on sustainable farming practices. Has a B.A. in Global Studies with concentrations in Governance, Peace and Justice Studies as well as Population, Migration, Identity Issues from the University of Minnesota. Sam has traveled to Haiti eleven times in the last year.

This meeting will also include planning for Great Decisions in 2012.

November 3 - The Caucasus

The countries and regions of the Caucasus all have strong national identities but have long lived in the shadow of their larger neighbors: Russia, Iran and Turkey. How does this influence the Caucasus of today? How do the region energy resources play into its relations with the outside world?

Our speaker will be David Bartlett, Senior Lecturer at the Carlson School of Management.

David Bartlett is a partner at Bartlett Ellis LLC in Minneapolis. He is the holder of faculty appointments at Vanderbilt University (U.S.), Yerevan State University (Armenia), and University of World Economy and Diplomacy (Uzbekistan). Has 20+ years of experience consulting, researching, and teaching on international corporate strategy. Author of the Edward A. Hewett Prize winning book, The Political Economy of Dual Transformations: Market Reform and Democratization in Hungary. In addition, he has written numerous articles on global manufacturing, foreign trade and investment, and global finance. Internationally recognized authority on economic development in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, and other scholarly awards. Received his Ph.D. and B.A from the University of California and his M.A. from the University of Chicago.

October 6 - Responding to the Financial Crisis

The kickoff of our second-half 2011 Great Decisions program will be 7:00 pm, Thursday, October 6. This time the topic will be ‘Responding to the Financial Crisis’.

As an immediate response to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, governments around the world stepped in to bail out troubled private banks deemed TOO BIG TO FAIL, underscoring the interdependence between private and public finances. With the recent euro zone crisis, what have we learned so far and is it possible to ensure that future crises will not occur?

Rob Scarlett, our resident Great Decisions speaker and international businessman, will be our speaker. Please join us for a stimulating discussion. The next program will be November 3: The Caucasus. The countries and regions of the Caucasus all have strong national identities but have long lived in the shadow of their larger neighbors: Russia, Iran and Turkey. How does this influence the Caucasus of today? How do the region energy resources play into its relations with the outside world? Our speaker will be David Bartlett, Senior Lecturer at the Carlson School of Management.

May 5 - U.S. National Security

U.S. national security priorities were expanded after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to include waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, tightening border security, pursuing cyber threats, halting nuclear proliferation and attempting to snuff out homegrown terrorism. How has the U.S. national security agenda evolved since 9/11? In what ways will this agenda shape the American way of life in the future?

Speaker Richard Remnek is a retired investment executive (Kemper Securities and Piper Jaffrey) and a former academic. Served as program director of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Affairs and lectured locally on Russia, Eastern Europe and international security. For several decades prior to arriving in the Twin Cities, held professorial and administrative positions at the University of Memphis, Virginia Tech, Georgetown and the University of California, Berkeley. He also held several research appointments at the Center for Naval Analyses, the U.S. Air War College and the U.S. Army War College. Holds a B.A. in history from Brandeis University, an M.A. in Russian Area Studies from The City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University. Has published and lectured widely on Russian foreign affairs and international security issues.

April 7 - Sanctions and Nonproliferation

Sanctions have been created to curb nations in violation of international law, especially agreements concerning nuclear nonproliferation. How successfully have sanctions been applied against past violators? Is there any chance sanctions can curtail North Korea and Iran from continuing to develop nuclear weapons?

Our speaker this time will be Bill Davnie, a former Foreign Service Officer in the U.S Department of State from 1981-2007. Postings included Hong Kong, Thailand, USSR/Russia, Tajikistan, Lithuania and Finland, as well as four months in Baghdad in 2007. Stationed in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union and emergence of Russia; in Tajikistan during a UN-brokered peace process; in Lithuania during that country’s entry into NATO and the European Union; and in Finland during its EU Presidency.

March 3 - Germany Ascendant

Germany has emerged from both the financial crisis and the euro zone crisis as the dominant economic and political power in Europe, in particular setting the tone for dealings with Russia, Eastern Europe and Iran. How important is it for U.S, interests to enhance relations with Germany, and how should the U.S. react when German and U.S. interests fail to align?

Our speaker will be Richard Virden, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer with four decades experience in Europe, Asia and South America. Has also taught at Georgetown University, the National War College, the Humphrey Institute of the University of Minnesota and his alma mater, St. John’s University. Graduated from St. John’s University and the National War College and did graduate work at George Washington University

February 3 - China with Speaker Tom Hanson

China’s influence is growing, along with its military expenditures. How will this growth affect China relations with its neighbors and with the U.S.? Will China expanding military and economic power affect traditional U.S. roles and U.S. alliances in East Asia? How will countries like Japan, South Korea and India respond?

Tom Hanson has a unique ability to illuminate current foreign policy tensions in their historical context. He currently serves as Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Minnesota – Duluth. He is also Program Secretary of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations, active with the planning group of the Upper Midwest Association of Foreign Service (AFSA), and a member of MIC’s Great Decisions advisory committee and frequent Great Decisions speaker. He is also a Board Member of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (U.S. Foundation), a newly-founded organization headquartered in Minneapolis.

December 2 - The Persian Gulf

Now more than ever, the Persian Gulf region offers many difficult challenges to U.S. policymakers. How will Obama direct appeal to Arabs and Muslims impact U.S. foreign policy in the region? What will the fallout of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq be? Can the U.S. and its allies prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons?

Speaker: Gary Prevost

Gary Prevost is professor of political science and international relations at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. He is a widely published scholar who regularly teaches Middle East politics and has presented Great Decisions programs on a variety of Middle East subjects for the past decade. Holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. This will be his third visit to Pilgrim House Great Decisions.

November 4 - Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution

U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that military force alone cannot ensure peace in all conflicts. How can the U.S. successfully integrate the tools of peace building into its statecraft? At what point do poverty, disease and climate change threaten national security? What role can non-governmental actors play in supporting government led efforts?

Speaker: Ellen Kennedy

Interim Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota and founder and executive director of World Without Genocide (formerly Genocide Intervention Network - Minnesota (GI-Net MN). World Without Genocide works to protect innocent people at risk; prevent genocide; prosecute perpetrators; and remember those whose lives and cultures have been destroyed. Kennedy is a sociologist and has taught at the University of St. Thomas, Carleton College, the University of Minnesota and at many colleges and universities overseas. Her academic background includes doctorate degrees in both Sociology and Marketing from the University of Minnesota; an M.A. in sociology from the University of Minnesota; and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.

October 7 - Special Envoys

Special Envoys can help bring attention and diplomatic muscle to resolve conflicts and global challenges but they also bring with them their own special problems. Will the Obama administration reliance on special envoys increase the ability of the US to deal with major international issues or complicate our diplomatic options??

Our speaker will be Bob White, a columnist on foreign affairs and national security for the Star Tribune, 1993-2003. He was editorial page editor for 11 years.

Please join us in the kick-off the second half of our 2010 foreign policy discussions.

May 6 - Global Financial Crisis

The topic next time deals with the global financial crisis that began in late 2007. It revealed major deficiencies in the regulation of markets and institutions, all of which came perilously close to collapse. Emergency measures to prevent a full collapse of the global financial system have led to mixed results. How will governments and the world community respond to this challenge?

Our speaker will be Hector Garcia, who spoke with us previously on the subject of Mexico. Mr. Garcia is CEO of MEX-US Global, international investment/marketing/trade and intercultural relations consulting services. Earlier worked as VP International & Domestic Emerging Markets for Wells Fargo Private Client Services. Has served on Boards of state, national and international organizations, which promote greater understanding among groups and nations and has received recognition for contributions to the community. He has presented his views on international and intercultural relations in articles published in the United States and Mexico and conferences in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United States

April 1 - Europe’s “Far East”: The Uncertain Frontier

The expansion of NATO and Western Influence deep into Eastern Europe has provoked a sharp backlash in Russia. Should the U.S. challenge Russia’s interests in its ‘near abroad’, or back off? Russia policy of maintaining a sphere of influence in former Soviet satellites has been challenged in recent years by movements against pro-Russia regimes. Russia has pushed back by cutting Ukraine natural gas supply and intervening in Georgia campaign in South Ossetia. Will Russia regain its traditional leadership role in the region?

Our speaker will be Todd Lefko, President of International Business Development Council, an import-export firm, with homes in Minnesota and Moscow, Russia. His weekly articles appear in Rossiske Vesti, a Russian political newspaper. Has taught urban affairs and sociology at the University of Minnesota, and political science, international relations, political philosophy and public administration at other Minnesota colleges. Has lectured at Universities in Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Has a B.A. and M.A. in Public Administration and coursework for his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota; has also studied at Harvard University and the University of Manchester, England. Worked in villages in Jamaica, Mexico and Guatemala.

March 4 - Global Crime, with Rob Scarlett as our speaker.

Transnational Crime

Criminal trafficking in drugs, arms, forced labor and counterfeit products pervades, and, some fear, could undermine our globalized, cyber linked economy. From the booming sex trade in Eastern Europe, to online fraud syndicates in Africa and the drug cartels of Asia and Central America, crime is becoming increasingly organized and globalized. How can countries better protect citizens seeking the benefits of a globalized world from being exploited? What international actors can effectively fight global organized crime?

Rib Scarlett is a member of Pilgrim House, and just completed a tour as President of the Minnesota International Center. He travels widely with his business activities, itemized below, and has always given us unique insights into foreign affair activities.

President of Medical Equipment Exports, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. Senior Associate, Grupo Avance, LLC; Former President of Smart Screen Systems, Inc., Chisholm, Minnesota. Since 1999, also doing business as Hunter Scarlett Consulting - serving as director and part-time officer for start-ups and smaller manufacturing companies in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. Some examples are: Regional Vice President, Business Development, Vubiz.com, Toronto, Canada; Senior Consultant, VanCor, LLC. Newport Beach, CA; Business Cultures Consultant, FGI/Window on the World, Inc.; CEO, Duratech USA, Inc.

February 4 - Halting Atrocities in Kenya, with Jim Dorsey as speaker.

Post-election rioting in Kenya in December 2007 brought pressure on Nairobi, from international and regional diplomats, to end tensions and avert bloodshed on a massive scale. What lessons can be learned from the intervention in Kenya? What does it mean for the UN emerging responsibility to protect doctrine?

Jim spoke with us a couple of years ago on his legal representation of one of the Guantanamo detainees, and I’ve asked him to give us an update on his client’s status, as well as other aspects of the Guantanamo situation. As a lawyer, has handled human rights cases for the ACLU, the MCLU, the NAACP, and a death row inmate in Louisiana. A founder of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, has conducted human rights investigations in South Africa, Mexico and Nicaragua. Mr. Dorsey and several lawyers at his firm, Fredrikson & Byron, currently represent an Algerian detainee in Guantanamo Bay. In addition, he has represented Fair Vote Minnesota in a case involving the constitutionality of Minneapolis' new instant run-off voting system. Received a B.A. from Yale and served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps. Graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law.

2010 Topics

  • Special Envoys
  • Preventing Genocide
  • Global Crime
  • U.S.-China Security Relations
  • Global Financial Crisis
  • Russia and Its Neighbors
  • The Persian Gulf
  • Peace Building and Conflict Resolution

2009 Topics

The U.S. and Rising Powers

Since the end of the cold war, the U.S. has emerged as the world’s predominant power. However, in the 21st century some rapidly developing countries have become increasingly influential. Who are these rising powers? Will their emergence change the global balance of power? How will the U.S. react?

Afghanistan and Pakistan

New found hopes for stability in Iraq have shifted the U.S. military focus back to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of the most volatile border regions in the world. What impact will this renewed interest have on the two states as well as on U.S. defense strategy?

Energy and Raising Economy

Rising energy prices, driven by instability in key producing regions such as the Middle East and increasing demand from developing countries, are affecting the global economy. What are the potential consequences of huge wealth transfers to oil-exporting states? Are there any realistic alternative energy scenarios on the horizon?

The Arctic Age

As rising temperatures alter the landscape of the Arctic, creating new challenges and opportunities, how prepared is the U.S. to deal with these changes?

Egypt in the 21st Century

Egypt has long played an important role in the Arab world while maintaining a strategic relationship with the U.S. With elections scheduled for 2009, how will Egypt deal with serious domestic issues, ranging from Islamic radicalism to food shortages? What factors will influence the path of this regional heavyweight?

Global Food Supply

Global prices for food staples have risen dramatically, resulting in protests and unrest around the world. What factors are driving prices up, and can they be tamed? What will the political fallout be for governments that fail to act, and what role can global institutions play?

Cuba after Castro

Since Fidel Castro handed over the presidency of Cuba to his brother, Raul in early 2008, signs of greater economic openness have led to much speculation. Will Raul seek to reopen ties with the U.S.? What role will Cuba American exiles play in shaping a post-Castro Cuba?

Universal human rights?

As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 60th anniversary, events in the Balkans, Sudan and Myanmar continue to challenge its idealism, while raising new questions about the prospects for humanitarian interventions. Do human rights transcend national borders and customs? Is the definition of human rights changing?

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