CHARLES BLOW


Since George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon Martin, I have written about nearly every controversial police shooting of an unarmed African-American in this country. It has been wrenching. I have interviewed many of the mothers of these shooting victims, women who now call themselves “Mothers of the Movement.” There is an eerie similarity to their grief. There is the idea of being plucked from obscurity and made famous for the most morbid reason, the infamous deaths of their own children. There is the need to grieve but not the space to do so because you are now more a spokesperson than a mourning person. There is the transformational influence of the event that creates a mission for these families, families who almost always come from poverty and obscurity. These women, their stories and their pain fueled the pain of masses of Americans, particularly young African-American and a movement was born. This talk will explore the origins, impact and effect of the movement, how far it has come and how far it has to go.


Our responses to gun regulations and drug policy are not now, nor have ever been, wholly ideological. They have also been ethnocentric and class-based. The only whole race of people in America to have ever been in legal jeopardy of having their guns confiscated is black people. The KKK began as a gun-control organization to disarm black people in the wake of the Civil War, the first time black people were legally allowed to own guns. This is in part because of the terror white people had of black retribution. However, when black gun violence over the decades turned out to be mostly contained to black communities, attitudes about legalization and confiscation shifted. Something similar happened with drug policy. During previous drug waves, when the problem was thought to be disproportionately confined to minorities in urban areas, policymakers and the public seemed incapable of satisfying their thirst for stricter laws and longer sentencing. The drug use was viewed as criminal and pathological. Now that the newest drug wave disproportionately affects white people in rural areas, the national discussion is about a “kinder, gentler” drug policy that stresses treatment. These drug users are view with sympathy, as victims with a problem, not criminals. This talk will explore how seeing the same behavior through different lenses — legal, or not — depending on race and class influences mass incarceration.
 

MICHÈLE FLOURNOY


President Trump came into office in January 2017 vowing to adopt an “America First” approach to U.S. foreign policy. How has the Trump administration’s foreign actually policy played out in practice? Is there a coherent Trump Doctrine? And what are the implications for the United States over time? This interactive discussion will assess the President’s foreign policy to date, highlight key challenges and opportunities, and explore the longer-term implications of this administration’s foreign policy for U.S. interests, values, and standing in the world.


The invasion of Afghanistan. The war in Iraq. The surge in Afghanistan. The withdrawal from Iraq. The bin Laden raid. The Libya operation. The nuclear deal with Iran. The debate over whether and how to intervene in Syria. The response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Crimea. The lack of response to Russia’s meddling in the U.S. elections. The ongoing global counterterrorism campaign against the Islamic State and al Qaeda. What lessons should we draw from these and other seminal decisions since the 9/11 attacks about issues such as: whether and when to use military force, what makes diplomacy effective, the utility of economic sanctions, and how best to counter unconventional forms of warfare like cyber-hacking, fake news, and propaganda? Most importantly, how do we ensure that these lessons inform U.S. policy going forward?


Today, the U.S. military is the most capable fighting force in the world. But with the emergence of new competitors like a resurgent Russia and a rising China, the advent of new technologies and military capabilities, and increased competition in domains like space and cyberspace, we cannot take the U.S. military’s technological edge for granted, nor can we assume that it will be able to deter and, if necessary, defeat more capable future adversaries. So what kind of military do we need to protect and advance American interests in the future? What threats and challenges should drive U.S. defense planning over the next 10–20 years? And how should we prioritize our investments when resources for defense will not be unlimited?


Today, less than one percent of Americans serves in the U.S. armed forces. In addition, there are approximately 18.8 million veterans in the United States, but their demographics and needs are changing as the population of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War vets declines and the population of post-9/11 vets grows. Recently, we have seen both great successes and terrible failures in supporting our veterans. On the one hand, veterans homelessness has been reduced by more than 40% since 2009, millions more veterans have become eligible for health care, veterans report high satisfaction with the quality of medical care they receive, and the backlog of benefits claims awaiting processing has been dramatically reduced. That said, in some areas veterans experience unacceptably long wait times for care and some VA facilities have been investigated for falsifying records to hide these delays. How do we do better in keeping faith with our veterans in the future? What reforms are needed at the VA? What roles can NGOs, private companies, and universities play? And what more can we do to bridge the gap between our all-volunteer force and our society?
 

AMBASSADOR WENDY SHERMAN


South Korea, Japan and the United States have worked for years to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver those weapons. Is it possible to stop the North? Are they already there? Can they be approached as a ‘normal’ country or are they something else? What strategy do we have and what do we need? Where do China and Russia fit into the picture? Is a ‘bloody nose’ strike or broader military action a viable strategy? Given human rights abuses and the gulags of North Korea, is regime change possible? Based on Ambassador Sherman’s travel to and experience negotiating with North Korea, we’ll explore all of these questions and more. Understand the stakes for the United States and our allies and partners and explore the options ahead. Know if it’s time to build your nuclear bunker under your house or if there is anything any individual can or should do.


In 2015, the United States, along with all the other permanent members of the UN Security Council plus German and the EU negotiated a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran to stop Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. That deal has been under attack ever since. Should we have negotiated in the first place? Was it a good enough deal? Should it have covered Iran’s malign actions in the Middle East as well its nuclear program? How close are we to an Arab Persian war as Sunni and Shia Islam battle the future of a great religion? If the United States leaves the deal, what happens next? The lead negotiator of the JCPOA will answer all of these questions and more letting us learn how such negotiations happen, what goes on behind the curtain and how it might all turn out.


The world faces many challenges ahead and fractures in our societies from demographic changes, to climate change, cyber security, continued terrorism, urban/rural divides, wage gaps, rapid social change, globalization and trade, access to technology and health care, and a challenge to dignity that comes through work as artificial intelligence takes over … or not. We’ll detail each of these challenges and how governments, corporations and civil society are responding. We’ll not only illuminate the challenges but the opportunities and optimism that are found even among the fractures. As the cruise winds down, we’ll leave you with some hope.
 

GIDEON ROSE, PH.D.


What really drives American foreign policy? Some observers focus on the behavior and choices of a few key decisionmakers, primarily the president and his advisers. Other experts say domestic politics drives everything, and still others point to the influence of external threats and opportunities. Join Gideon Rose as he details and weighs the drivers of foreign policy, and learn how all these factors come together to shape events.


From the Founding onwards, the general goals of American foreign policy have remained constant, even as the details of pursuing them have changed. The greatest change occurred with the emergence of the so-called “liberal international order” following World War II, a system that has outlived the Cold War and continues to structure global politics and economics today. Take a look at the foreign policy legacy President Trump inherited and gain a deeper understanding of how he may interpret and act on it.


The Trump administration came into office with plans for a foreign policy radically different than anything seen in generations. Gideon Rose assesses how this policy experiment is progressing. Who has shaped the administrations policies, according to what principles? How has the administration dealt with allies, adversaries, and the world at large? How has it handled crises and regional hotspots and managed the global economy? Dr. Rose looks under the hood of President Trump’s foreign policy so that you get a sense of its current state and consequences.


The early months of the Trump presidency have shaken the pillars of the contemporary global order. The structure could hold, or it could come crashing down. But at this point, the most likely outcome seems to be something in between — an erosion of confidence in American leadership, an erosion and hollowing out of the global order, and a descent into a more turbulent world. Listen in as Dr. Rose lays out the issues that impact the outcome and pick up pointers to sharpen your observation of the unfolding international action.