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Great Decisions 2017 Briefing Book
Descriptions from FPA's
Decisions web site
1. The Future of
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?
Issue 2. 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.
Issue 3. 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.
Issue 4. Saudi Arabia
By Lawrence G. Potter
As Saudi Arabia struggles to adjust to
the drastic decline in oil revenue, Deputy 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
Saudi Foreign Policy: a new activism
Notes by Andy Ysalgue, Fall 2017
A new activism:
The rise of sectarian politics:
. The new more muscular foreign policy is inspired by the regional
turmoil and a fear that the Riyadh can no longer rely on the U.S. for
. Since the overthrow of Saddam, Iraq has no longer been been a
counterweight to Iran, and for the first time, that country's
government has been run by Shi'a
. Iranian support of Shi'a militias now play a significant role in
. In December 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan warned that if new Iraqi
government fell under Iranian Influence, a "" crescent "" of Shi'a
movements would result, threatening Sunni government . This fear is
especially salient in Saudi and Bahrain, which have substantial
populations that they fear Iran will manipulate.
War of worlds:
. Many analysts conclude, however, that fears of a rising "" Shi'a
crescent "" are misplaced. For one thing, the Shi'a community is not
unified but divided, with many clerics competing for leadership
. In September, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif,
wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Let us Rid the World of
Wahhabism "in which he blamed the ideology for instigating terrorism
throughout the middle east.
Sponsors of global jihadism
The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that "" Saudi
rulers' refusal to offer a simple verbal apology (for the Hajj
incident) was indicative of their ultimate impudence and
He went on "" the stampede demonstrated that this government is not
qualified to manage the Two Holy Mosques."
. The greatest concern of the U.S., and the hardest one for Saudis to
refute, is that the state's vigorous export of Wahhabi ideology has
served as the rationale for jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS
. Since the time of King Faisal, Riyadh has vigorously promoted Islam
abroad, always in the Wahhabi version
. Although considerable evidence exists about ISIS adopting Saudi
textbooks, the Saudis have rejected accusations that their religion
has radicalized foreign Muslims and negatively impacted the moderate,
tolerant Islam that exist in many countries, such as Indonesia."
Issue 5. 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.
Issue 6. 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.
Issue 7. 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?
Issue 8. Nuclear
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