The Great Decisions program is a series of discussions on current international issues based on materials from the Foreign Policy Association.
The 2019 discussion topics are listed below. Topics for 2020 will be released in the fall. New groups will begin in January or February of 2020. The Great Decisions discussion series uses materials developed by the Foreign Policy Association, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization formed in 1918 to promote understanding of international affairs. Learning materials include a briefing book and a videotape set. Tapes are usually broadcast on the local cable access channel.
The Midland League has sponsored the Great Decisions program of the Foreign Policy Association for more than thirty years.
Refugees and Global Migration
Today, no countries have open borders. Every state in today's global system has its own laws and policies about who is permitted to cross its borders, and how they will do so. Who determines whether someone is a refugee or a migrant? How have different countries, including the United States, reacted to migration? How effective are the international laws, policies and organizations that have evolved to assist and protect refugees and migrants?
The Middle East: Regional Disorder
As the presidency of Donald J. Trump passes the halfway point, the Middle East remains a region in turmoil. The Trump administration has aligned itself with strongmen in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which along with Israel have a common goal of frustrating Iranian expansion. What will be the fallout from policy reversals such as withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accord and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? Does the United States see a path forward in troubled states such as Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq? Is the United States headed toward war with Iran?
Nuclear Negotiations: Back to the Future?
Nuclear weapons have not gone away, and the Trump administration has brought a new urgency, if not a new approach, to dealing with them. The President has met with Vladimir Putin as the New Start Treaty with Russia comes up for renewal in 2021, the first presidential summit ever with Kim Jong-un occurred to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and President Trump has decertified the Obama nuclear deal with Iran. To what degree should past nuclear talks guide future U.S. nuclear arms control negotiations? Can the art of the deal apply to stabilizing our nuclear future?
The Rise of Populism in Europe
Mass migration, and the problems associated with it, have directly abetted the rise of populist parties in Europe. Opposition to immigration was the prime driver of support for Brexit, it brought a far-right party to the German Bundestag for the first time since the 1950s, and propelled Marine Le Pen to win a third of the vote in the French presidential election. In addition to calling for stronger borders, however, these parties are invariably illiberal, anti-American, anti-NATO and pro-Kremlin, making their rise a matter of serious concern for the national security interests of the United States.
Decoding U.S.-China Trade
Though arguably the most advanced economy in the world, the United States still uses centuries-old numbers to measure trade. These antique numbers mangle understanding of the U.S.-China trade relationship, shrinking America's true economic size and competitiveness, while swelling China's. Bad numbers give rise to bad policies that ultimately kill U.S. jobs and cede market share to China. What other tools can the United States employ to counter China's unfair trade practices? There are several available, yet they remain mostly unused.
Cyber Conflict and Geopolitics
Cyber conflict is a new and continually developing threat, which can include foreign interference in elections, industrial sabotage and attacks on infrastructure. Russia has been accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential elections in the United States and China is highly committed to using cyberspace as a tool of national policy. Dealing with cyber conflict will require new ways of looking at 21st century warfare. Is the United States prepared to respond to such threats?
The United States and Mexico: Partnership Tested
The United States and Mexico have a long, intertwined history, with both countries prominently featured in each other's politics and agendas. The war on drugs, immigration and trade issues have taxed the relationship over the years. What impact will new leadership in both countries have on this crucial partnership?
State of the State Department and Diplomacy
During the Trump administration, the usual ways of conducting diplomacy have been upended. Many positions in the State Department have never been filled, and meetings with foreign leaders such as Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin have been undertaken with little advance planning. What effect are these changes having now, and how will they affect ongoing relationships between the United States and its allies and adversaries?
Become better informed by attending one of the Great Decisions study groups, coordinated locally by the League of Women Voters. Become part of a group that reads and hears what others have to say about important world issues. The Great Decision briefing books are hot off the press in November so the material is quite up to date. Discussion groups will begin in mid January.
New members are always welcome. You do not have to be a LWV member to join a group.
Groups set their own pace. Most begin in January or February and wrap up in March and April. The Great Decisions briefing book provides participants with analysis and resources for discussion. There is also a DVD series.
Participants can choose a group that meets for two hours on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, or Thursday evening. If these times don't work for you, consider gathering some friends and forming your own group.
Discussion groups will be announced in late fall of 2019. To sign up, form a group or for further information call Carole Swinehart, 636-7239.