The Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) hosted its 32nd annual Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) Symposium this past weekend in ASEAN Auditorium. The theme of this year’s symposium was “The World of Tomorrow: Order and Chaos in the 21st Century.”
Sophomore Leif Monnett, a member of EPIIC’s six-member planning committee said that members of the planning committee settled on the theme, given both the contentious 2016 presidential election and ongoing international security concerns.
Monnett led EPIIC’s panel on climate change. He noted that planning EPIIC and selecting speakers was a valuable experience for the student organizers.
“Overall, I think that we all learned a great deal about putting on a symposium,” he said. “It’s certainly been a very positive experience.”
Twenty-First Century Security: Challenges and Opportunities
University President Anthony Monaco opened the EPIIC symposium on Friday by welcoming attendees from countries across the world, including Brazil, China, Ireland, Russia, Israel, Singapore and South Korea, as well as 40 cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Following Monaco’s introduction, sophomore Jackson McGlinchey presented James Stavridis, dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and keynote speaker, with the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award.
Stavridis approached the changing global atmosphere from a military perspective, speaking about hybrid warfare, cyber attacks and specific situations in countries like Syria, Russia and North Korea. Stavridis said that the United States is currently gridlocked, both physically and psychologically, but he asserted that isolationism is not the solution.
Stavridis concluded by stating that only a strong combination of soft power and hard power will effectively eliminate 21st century problems.
“We’re very good at launching missiles,” Stavridis said. “We need to get better at launching ideas.”
Climate Change: Threats to International Stability
EPIIC’s first panel discussion on Friday focused on the future impacts of climate change on cities, populations and government security interests. Among the panelists were Fletcher Professor of Practice in Science Diplomacy Paul Berkman, Civil and Environmental Engineering Research Professor Paul Kirshen and David Titley of Pennsylvania State University’s meteorology department.
Berkman, a coordinator of Pan-Arctic Options, spoke about climate change in a human context. He argued that humanity has only recently entered a phase in which people are discussing interplanetary conflicts and also talked about the importance of building common interests among nations.
Kirshen, the academic director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab at University of Massachusetts Boston, discussed climate adaptation. He specifically discussed scenarios for the Nile River in Egypt, the impact of weather on farming in Burkina Faso and incremental climate change readiness in Boston. In addition, Kirshen examined the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations and advocated for social resilience in Boston.
The event continued with a discussion led by Titley on the interconnections among global issues and the political concerns of climate change. He further delved into the security implications of melting ice in the Arctic and the United States Department of Defense’s strategies for combating these potential sources of conflict.
Identity, Integration and the Future of the Nation-State
Panelists discussed the existence, significance and future of nation-states in a discussion on Friday afternoon. The speakers were Harvard University Lecturer Yascha Mounk, Texas A&M University Communication Professor Randy Kluver, Princeton University Ph.D. Candidate Benjamin Sacks, Head of the International Policy Department at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Michael Bröning and Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the U.S. Department of State Farah Pandith (F ’95).
Sophomore Eva Kahan introduced the panel with a discussion of Plato’s views on justice and republics and commented on the ever-changing nature of nation-states. Each panelist then drew on their individual specialty to reflect on the future of nation-states.
Mounk explained that, when people experience economic anxiety, they tend to cling more tightly onto existing political entities. He predicted that for the foreseeable future, nation-states will continue to exist but nationalism could be a political roadblock.
“The big political challenge of the next 10, 15 years is how to domesticate nationalism in a way that stops it from turning nasty and use it as a tool to give people the feeling that they remain in control of their lives and their collective fate in the age of globalization,” Mounk said.
Kluver underscored how domination of communication platforms can have political significance. He explained that global channels of communication have remained relatively unchanged for the past few centuries and showed a series of maps depicting trade routes and cyber connectivity to illustrate this.
“What we see is the emergence of two separate worlds defined by communication platforms, not defined by ideology,” Kluver said. “A society that is defined by its technological networks makes us rethink our issues of political identity.”
Sacks took a geographical stance on the issue, discussing borders and boundaries. Sacks talked about the fact that borders are typically not well-defined, citing the U.S.-Mexico border as an anomaly. As nation-states try to impose rigidity on poorly-defined borders, tension and conflict can occur, especially as factors other than geography, like zones of influence or the domination of radio frequencies, are in play.
“The precise border is less important than the perception of a border,” Sacks said.
Bröning talked about the emergence of populism in Europe. He cited the failure of the political establishment to consider views different from their own, as well as the enormous role that migration has played in the roughly forty elections in Europe last year.
“The success of the populists is really the failure of the established parties,” Bröning said.
Pandith was presented with the Robert and JoAnn Bendetson Public Diplomacy Award by sophomore Minh Dinh.
Pandith spoke about the identity crisis affecting Muslim youth worldwide. She explained that groups like Al Qaeda target young Muslims looking for answers on the Internet, and she spoke about the necessity of providing counter narratives. Pandith advocated for ending the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ ideology and called on the audience to consider Muslims in defining American identity.
“People are owning their own space,” Pandith said. “They’re redefining what it means to be American. I would ask you to own that space too and understand why that identity of who you are — not just the Muslim identity — matters.”
The panelists then fielded questions on topics including new medievalism, the dangers of technology, free speech, sovereignty and religious radicalization.
Keynote: The Shape of Things to Come
Juan Enriquez, the managing director of life sciences venture capital firm Excel Venture Management, was awarded the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award. Enriquez then gave a presentation on synthetic genomics and the difficulties associated with regulating scientific discoveries.
Enriquez argued that old biology had been reactive, whereas new biology is proactive. As a result, he said, humanity is entering an era of intelligent design, in which life forms will be programmed according to human specifications. According to Enriquez, governments often do not react at the same speed as scientific innovation.
He further discussed the constant change within nations and explored the possibility of the United States gaining or losing territory in the future. Enriquez attributed this prospect to internal division, pointing to the current distribution of wages, education cuts in some states and a broken system of governance.
The End of the Liberal World Order?
Friday’s events concluded with a panel discussion on the liberal world order, which panelists argued is currently under threat. However, some disagreed on the extent and severity of those threats. The panelists were Northeastern University Professors Mai’a Davis Cross and Nikos Passas, Joachim Koops from the Institute for European Studies and Victoria Zhuravleva from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
Cross began the discussion by asking whether or not the European Union (EU) will be able to lead the liberal world order, along with potential strategies for accomplishing that task without U.S. backing. She said that some scholars are pessimistic of such an outcome because of internal strife within the EU. However, Cross argued that crises have actually strengthened the European cooperation project.
“I have argued … that actually [crises] do come to shape European integration and they actually provide an impetus or a catalyst for more political will to move forward,” she said. “Rather than serve as genuine setbacks, they actually help European integration.”
Cross backed her claims with EU responses to the United States’ invasion of Iraq, the 2005 EU constitutional crisis and the current Eurozone crisis with Greece. She concluded by expressing her hope that the liberal world order will persist.
“Just to sum up, I’ve argued that the liberal world order is indeed being tested right now. I think a large reason for this is the election of Trump,” she said. “Probably if Hillary Clinton were elected we wouldn’t necessarily be having a panel asking this question of the end of the liberal world order … there is some hope stemming from Europe.”
Koops expanded the conversation to populism within the U.S. and EU. He discussed what he called the “pendulum effect,” or oscillation of liberal views in the general population, pointing to German right-wing extremism, as well as widespread disagreement among Eastern European nations about refugee assistance.
Koops claimed that the core of liberalism has been put into perspective because of the rise of illiberal sentiments, and the potential of Russian cooperation with right-wing parties in the West.
“For the first time I think the light, the focus and the concentration of what is there to be lost is pretty clear for all of us now. I think we all share the analysis,” Koops said. “I think the defense of values that we saw not only as self-evident but something also defines ourselves, our identity, our approach to politics and policy-solving is under threat but worth defending.”
Zhuravleva continued the conversation on the United States, but argued that the question of the liberal world order should not be centered around the US. She proceeded to argue we are in an era of transformation.
“To my mind, it is not American leadership we should worry about,” Zhuraleva said. “It is about conflicts that are in the sense of the liberal world order.”
Passas ended the session by discussing the EU’s bailout of Greece in the context of corruption. According to Passas, German and French financial institutions profited from the crisis and the majority of bailout funds did not stay within Greece.
“The bulk of the money went to bail out the French and the German banks that took the risk, but speaking of unnatural selection of who lives and dies, they were assisted. They were the ones bailed out,” Passas said.
He argued that creating transparent and honest institutions is the best way to sustain government.
“When we fight against corruption we have to fight against institutional lack of integrity and lack of accountability as well, otherwise all other kids of policy initiatives will fall down,” he said. “There is nothing sustainable without integrity and accountability.”
The Future of Diplomacy
In a Saturday EPIIC panel, speakers addressed problems in foreign policy and systemic changes to the diplomatic world. Speakers included Head of the São Paulo Office of Foreign Affairs Rodrigo Tavares, UMass Boston Professor Padraig O’Malley, Philippe Leroux-Martin from the U.S. Institute of Peace and Ambassador Daniel Feldman.
Feldman, the top-ranking State Department official for Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Obama administration, highlighted the decreasing prominence of diplomacy in international affairs.
“There has been a general downgrading of the role that diplomats play, I think very much against our core national security interests,” he said.
The other speakers went on to discuss the influence of information technology, the emerging relevance of cities in conducting diplomacy, and the foreign policy implications of the new Trump administration.
Keynote: Nicholas Burns and David Sanger
The EPIIC Symposium’s keynote conversation on Saturday featured New York Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns.
The keynote event was heavily attended. Students from the military academies, the Fletcher School and elsewhere filled the audience to learn about America’s changing foreign policy and emerging world conflicts.
Senior Denis Bravenec was the event’s moderator. He opened the discussion with references to President Donald Trump’s administration and the undefined nature of modern American foreign policy. Bravenec’s first question, which was centered on the perspective and actions of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, was addressed to Sanger.
Sanger said that the idea of an “America First” foreign policy, for which Trump has advocated, worries other countries, even though they expect the president to put the interests of the United States first.
“What [foreign leaders] worry about is that it’s a short-term view of American interests and that the longer term view is one in which your strength, your force is multiplied by your ability to work with others,” Sanger said.
Burns pushed back against the perceived decline of American power.
“The United States is not fading, not as a world power, by any metric that you care to judge power,” Burns said. “The United States is unassailably the most powerful country in the world, and I think objectively will be for the next 30 or 40 years.”
Burns also described current issues that the United States will have to deal with during the Trump administration, including an evolving Europe, an emboldened Russia, a weakened Middle East, the Syrian refugee crisis and negotiations with China.
The conversation then turned to Russia, its relationship with the United States and its recent actions.
“[The United States tried] to see if we could go integrate Russia with all of Europe and ultimately find a different purpose for NATO,” Sanger said. “[But] Russia had to define itself in opposition to the West rather than define itself as a participant in the Western experience.”
Sanger went on to comment on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and the fact that the United States did not anticipate this in spite of previous Russian maneuvering in other countries’ elections.
“Our failure of imagination was understanding that it would happen here, that they would take this across the Atlantic and actually try to use these same techniques to delegitimize the American electoral process,” Sanger said.
In his closing remarks, Burns left the audience with a view of the foreign policy apparatus of the Trump administration as a cabinet divided.
“You have two radically opposing views in the administration, and it’s going to be a fight for the soul of this administration,” Burns said. “If he wants to be successful, I think he needs to embrace the traditional Republican conservatism in foreign policy … but for the career people, your job is to serve and serve faithfully and loyally and do your best and give your best advice.”
Future Imperatives for American Foreign Policy
The final panel of the EPIIC Symposium featured a number of speakers who addressed pressing issues in American foreign policy. The Saturday night panel showcased diverging perspectives regarding America’s global hegemony seventy years after the end of World War II.
The panel featured Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow, Institute for European Studies Director Jose Maria Beneyto, Carnegie Endowment Nonresident Fellow Steven Feldstein and Center for European Studies Visiting Scholar Alexander Görlach.
Feldstein expressed the importance of the United States maintaining a dominant role on the world’s stage.
“The U.S. is indispensable until we decide to willfully give that up,” Feldstein said.
In contrast, Bandow said America’s foreign policy dominance may have limits.
“The U.S. has to decide whether it wants to maintain primacy at all costs,” Bandow said. “Do we really believe that we can forever impose our will on nuclear-armed countries that have far more at stake?”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Sacks. The article has now been updated. The Daily regrets this error.