Academic and Higher Education Webinars

The CFR Academic Webinar series for students, formerly Academic Conference Calls now in Zoom webinar format, provides a forum to interact with CFR experts and scholars and join the debate on foreign policy. Hosted as a separate series, CFR Higher Education Webinars offer timely conversations for college and university leaders, administrators, and professors on global issues affecting higher education, featuring CFR fellows and thought leaders.
  • Renewable Energy

    Meghan L. O’Sullivan, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Jeane Kirkpatrick professor of the practice of international affairs at Harvard University, leads the…
  • Global Governance

    Esther Brimmer, James H. Binger senior fellow in global governance at CFR, leads the conversation on governing the global commons.
  • China

    Thomas Graham, distinguished fellow at CFR, and Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg fellow for China studies at CFR, lead the conversation on China-Russia relations. FASKIANOS: Welcome to today…
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Tarek El-Ariss, James Wright professor and chair of Middle Eastern studies at Dartmouth College, and Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black distinguished professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, lead the conversation on navigating academic discourse on Israel and Palestine. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you’d like to share it with your colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Tarek El-Ariss and Susannah Heschel with us to talk about navigating academic discourse on Israel and Palestine. Tarek El-Ariss is the James Wright professor and chair of Middle Eastern studies at Dartmouth College. Susannah Heschel is the Eli M. Black distinguished professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College. And they teach together a class at Dartmouth called “The Arab, the Jew, and Constructions of Modernity.” So, with that, I’m going to turn the conversation over to them to talk about how they teach this class, and how they’ve worked together to address discourse on Israel and Palestine in Dartmouth, and best practices, as we all think about how to discuss these issues. So, over to both of you. Thank you for being with us. EL-ARISS: Thank you, Irina. Just to backtrack a little bit on the idea of the class, and our collaboration, I’m originally from Beirut. I’m trained in philosophy and literary studies. And I grew up during the civil war. And what we’re going through right now is extremely difficult to watch, to engage in, but this is something that we need to do. And this is something that I’ve been very interested in thinking about. And I just wrote a book on the subject, called Water on Fire: A Memoir of War, which really starts in Beirut, what was then called West Beirut, and ends in New York on 9/11, where I was actually teaching a course on the Middle East at NYU. And specifically on that day, I was teaching a course—a class on Islam. And needless to say, that these crises, these catastrophic events that happen from the region that I’m associated with, where I come, has been really fundamental to the way I think about scholarship, to the way I think about pedagogy, the way I think also about teaching and the community building that I think is really fundamental for the conversation today. So, I just wanted to kind of situate that within that context. And how do you think and deal with these questions? And how do you incorporate them? And where does the personal scholarship and the pedagogical engagement come, and so on? My work has been really dealing also with the question of the universal and the questions of the Enlightenment tradition. I mean, this is very important, and questions of modernity. Also wrote on the subject in the context of Arab modernity, in the context of what’s called the Nahda, or the nineteenth century Arab renaissance, and which is this kind of engagement with European modernity. So, this question of the universal, or the experience, of the European enlightenment tradition and how it kind of affects different parts of the world, how it allowed us to understand questions of human rights or questions of the universality is also at the core of this conversation here, and also of my intellectual training. So, this question has been really fundamental. I’ve also been interested in how a lot of these Arab intellectuals and scholars went to Europe in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and how they experienced this modernity. And that is not just simply an intellectual experience where they’re thinking about the ideas of the West and trying to translate them or reject them or accept them, but it is also an embodied experience. It’s also—I’ve been working on this question of the somatic, on the affect. And my work has also been, again, tracing this question of the universal of modernity to also think about it in the context of the digital age. And my last book is called Leaks, Hacks and Scandals. It’s on digital culture and the Arab Spring, and also digital culture that’s transforming some of our concepts of writing, political protest, community, the public sphere—all that is associated with that kind of eighteenth century that has been reverberated and had major influences across the region. So, I think I just want to kind of trace that genealogy. I think it’s important to also see where we come from and what are the things that have shaped a little bit our work, and where we have come, and then how we end up collaborating and also teaching this course that you mentioned. HESCHEL: Thank you, Irina. My name is Susannah Heschel. And, as you mentioned, I am chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. And my work together with Tarek stems in part from my academic scholarship. Also, perhaps from the experiences that I had growing up. I grew up in New York City and my father was a Jewish theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel. And he was involved in the civil rights movement, in the Second Vatican Council, and the movement against the war in Vietnam. And those were important experiences for me on many levels. For one thing, the civil rights movement and Dr. King made me fall in love with the Hebrew Bible. But, it was also an example for me of how to talk to people from another community, from a completely different environment. When I saw my father and Dr. King, and their relationship, or my father’s work with Cardinal Bayet at the Second Vatican Council and so on, I learned something about how to function in this world when you’re talking about very difficult, very painful issues. My own scholarship looks at Germany. And, in fact, I’m in Hamburg, Germany right now on a research fellowship at the Maimonides Institute. And I’m interested—my first book was a study of a Jewish historian in the nineteenth century in Germany who wrote an important book on the Koran showing parallels between Judaism and the Koran. And then later, he did work on Jewish rabbinic texts and the influence on the gospels, the New Testament, and Christian origins. So, I was interested, as you see, in how Jewish studies overlaps or interacts, and creates a synergy with other kinds of fields. And that continued with a book I wrote on Nazi theologians who supported Hitler. So, the question of how does the academy respond to political crisis, to fascism in this particular case? And now I’m working on another study, on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam. But again, about interactions. I’m in the department of religion, as well as in Jewish studies. And the work that we do together, Tarek and I, on campus, has become very important for both of us, and also for our students. We teach the class together, the Arab, the Jew, and constructions of modernity. And we have a wonderful collection of students with different kinds of backgrounds—Palestinian, Jewish, from all parts of the world. And we try to create an atmosphere in the classroom of community and engagement with one another. We want the students to see themselves as working with us to do academic investigation, discussion, analysis. So, it was in that context then, that on October 7, when I was hearing the horrible news, I got a phone call from Tarek. And his voice sounded as horrified and devastated as I felt. And we planned two forums on campus that week of faculty—open to students, faculty, everyone. And the response was overwhelming. Far more than I expected. I think what was important—we can talk more about those forums—but I just want to say that we sought to model for the campus how we speak to each other, what kind of a tone we take, even in the midst of a crisis. Four of us from Jewish studies and Middle Eastern studies, we speak with respect, of course, with dignity. But, also, in doing that, we modeled for the students. So, they asked questions that were sometimes difficult to hear. But they asked respectfully, politely. And so going on from there, we’ve established a series of dialogues. And we find that in our work together, having two professors teaching courses on difficult topics creates a much better atmosphere in the classroom. It unites students. It shows students how to talk to each other, even when they disagree, to have the dialogue taking place right there. So go ahead, Tarek. EL-ARISS: And the idea, we also have—we’ve worked—this is my seventh year at Dartmouth. So, this is really—we’ve been working a lot together also on inviting people and trying to bring different programs and departments to sponsor events, to bring authors, to bring filmmakers, so also there is—even to bring a rock band. We brought Mashrou’ Leila at some point to Dartmouth right before COVID hit. (Laughs.) And so, I’m coming to New York to see Hamed Sinno’s concert at the Met this weekend. So, this is—you also have to create a community within the classroom and outside of the classroom. And maybe Dartmouth, also the—where it is located, the size, also the resources, I mean, there are differences. Not every place has the same culture, or the same abilities, and the same—but this is our experience. And this is what we worked very, very consciously on building, is that we need to create this community that operates—that connects to culture, intellectual processes, learning, music, that brings all these bodies and different departments and programs together in an interesting way. And this is also what we teach. And we have Ezzedine Fishere, my colleague, who co-teachers, a course, with Bernie Avishai in government on the politics of Israel-Palestine. Susannah was teaching in the fall a course on 1967 with a colleague, also who works on Arabic literature, Jonathan Smolin. And the administration has been very receptive and encouraging to these kinds of models that allowed us to come up with these courses and bring different disciplinary backgrounds. Like, I come from literature and philosophy. And Susannah comes from religion, and so on. And bring these different backgrounds also that are cross disciplinary and that open up the subject matter in an interesting way. And our course, I mean, this is also where our research overlaps, is this question of the nineteenth century, which is very interesting in this part of the world—eighteenth/nineteenth century—is how Jews and Arabs deal with this question of modernity, which I think is very important. And because this is the question, also, of language, how Hebrew becomes modernized/standardized, how Arabic becomes standardized, how you rethink questions of community, questions of political institution, writing genres, but also how certain issues that deal with questions, for instance, of racism and xenophobia and antisemitism—begin to influence or affect some of these relations. And I edited an anthology on this question, where you have a lot of—called The Arab Renaissance—that we teach texts from it. And you have all these Jewish intellectuals from Beirut, from Cairo, engaging with the Dreyfus affair in 1894 to 1895. I mean, the Dreyfus affair is a huge global scandal at the end of the nineteenth century. And you have Reuters cable for the beginning—the beginning of mass communication—media. Technology that are starting. So, people in Beirut are reading what’s happening in Paris to Dreyfus as the cables are arriving. So, then you see these questions. And then you have Zola, you have this Jewish woman from Beirut, Esther Moyal, who’s writing about Zola and how Zola is defending Dreyfus in his famous article, in J’Accuse…!. So, you also have solidarity among Muslim scholars saying: Where is the French universal now? I mean, where are these human rights and equality and fraternity of the French Revolution in the face of this xenophobia, antisemitism that’s coming out of France? So, it’s also interesting to create genealogies. Like, how do we connect the genealogy from Zola, through Beirut, through Esther Moyal, to the intellectuals speaking truth to power, to Foucault, and Sartre, and Edward Said? And how do you kind of bring different narratives to the students that expand, also, our understanding of what’s happening in the Middle East, and the kind of perspective of conflict? So, I think when October 7 happened, the students were part of the community thinking about these things in multiple ways, in diverse ways, and students coming from different backgrounds. HESCHEL: Yes. I would just to add to that, that it’s important for me, as the chair of the Jewish Studies Program, that we have alliances with the different departments and programs on campus, many different ones. So, I want courses that we teach in Jewish studies, but that are cross listed in African American studies, in sociology, history, religion, and government, and so forth, women’s studies. That’s very important to me. And not only because of the alliances that we can create, and in some sense reproduce what Tarek was just talking about in the Nahda, but also because this sheds light on aspects of Jewish history, of Jewish religious thought, that we wouldn’t otherwise recognize. We see, for example, the parallels between Jews coping with European modernity and Arabs coping, in very similar ways. And also, being horrified at some of the same things. So, the construction of our identities has some parallels. There’s a way in which teaching this class also demonstrates to students that there was a very different trajectory from what one might imagine, looking back from today and all of the conflicts and terrible events and catastrophes that are going on, even at this moment. But to see that there was something else that was blossoming. It didn’t last, but it may come back. And that also is an important element here, to give our students some hope. And to show them, also, that the situations, the conflicts that we look at, are terribly complex. So, we tell the students, don’t look for a simple narrative. Try to learn to hold onto complexity, something that can’t be unraveled easily. There is no bad witch and fairy godmother, bad guy and good guy. Don’t divide the world that way. That just exacerbates the polarization that’s affecting all of us. See the complexity. And look at the future. Imagine, optimistically, what you would like to see in twenty, thirty, fifty years. How can we get there? What are the roadblocks? What do we need to do? What can you, students, do? What problems can you tackle and overcome so that we can achieve something? Too often we are so mired in the present that we don’t think about the future. And we have to offer our students that possibility and encourage them to think about a better future for themselves. EL-ARISS: And this is—pedagogically, it’s really very important, especially now. When I look at the pictures coming out of the region, I mean, I’m devastated. But how do I deal with this devastation? And how do I transform it? Do I bring it to class as is? Because I feel like I always—I also write on monsters and really kind of dark things that are happening in the world. But also my cynicism and my sometime despair—I feel like when I’m in the classroom, I also have to give hope. I can’t also just bring it as it is to the classroom. I feel like in front of them, I want to be hopeful. I want to—and I do it organically. It is not almost by design, but it is almost something—because I feel like I owe it to that generation also. And this is also kind of a question about where our personal research and what we teach, how they come together, or they might differ. And how thinking pedagogically also is very important, especially in these moments of crisis. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. I want to go to the group for questions and comments, and then we can continue the conversation. (Gives queuing instructions.) So, the first question we’re going to go to Mark Tessler. Q: This a great discussion. And I hope I can ask a question to each of the speakers to push a little bit. The end of the nineteenth century that Tarek has been talking about is really an important period. And he did a good job of describing it. But, it’s in the context of a region where there are centers and peripheries. And, I mean, I went to school in Tunisia, and I would say that’s part of the center, surprisingly. Egypt is the center, but Tunisia was not too far behind. But Palestine was the periphery. And it wasn’t totally untouched, but relatively speaking change was much less and much slower. And there’s an analysis by a number of Arab scholars, one of them was my professor a long time ago when I went to grad school, that this—I hesitate to use the word backwardness—but this relatively unchanged circumstance in Palestine, with a traditional inward-looking elite not really interested in the kinds of changes that are taking place in Egypt with the reopening of Ijtihad and so forth. And so, the argument is that that’s an important part of the story about why Palestinians fared so poorly in the context of their emerging confrontation with Zionism. And so, I cover this period a bit in my own course on Israel-Palestine. I forgot to say I’m at the University of Michigan, where I teach about the Middle East. And so, it’s interesting to think about this period and the larger implications that Dr. El-Ariss has been pointing out, very significant. But, if we kind of see what does that mean for Palestine, the story is going to be quite different. If I could ask a quick question, I’ll try to be brief, to Professor Heschel. And I read your father’s work, and glad to know a few. This is a really interesting story as well, in how the two people are struggling together to—I’ve done some writing on this myself earlier in my career—to find their way, to not lose their identity, to balance tradition, but to be of the modern world. This is not so much about Israel-Palestine, but this is an important story. But if we focus on, in particular, North Africa—and this would apply to Egypt to some extent, as well—this meant for the Jewish populations of those societies less of an alliance in the service of a joint struggle that they’re both engaging in, and more—it gets mixed up with colonialism. The Jewish elite, and to some extent, the Jewish masses becomes very European in their orientation. And so as we look to the evolution, the story isn’t quite as happy as—both of these peoples have common concerns. They’re facing them at the same time in history in response to the same stimuli from Europe. And, my goodness, the dialogue between them is enriching. And we have examples of that. But, I would say that it isn’t—and for at least the Maghreb, where there are half a million Jews—it’s not the most important part of the story. This quest for modernization in the end doesn’t build alliances with the Muslims in those countries. There are exceptions, but as a generalization. But rather, puts them if not politically—and sometimes it is political—but at least culturally on the side of the Europeans. And the divide between the indigenous Jewish population and the indigenous Muslim Arab population actually grows. So, just a few things to—food for thought. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Tarek, let’s go to you first, I think. EL-ARISS: Yeah. I mean, Mark, I think it’s a—I also need to push back against your comment. (Laughs.) But, I think it’s obviously a more complex story. I mean, a lot of the Palestinians are also studying at the Syrian Protestantn College in Beirut, a lot of Lebanese from out Lebanon are in Cairo founding Al-Ahram. So, the way you locate cultural development or Nahda, but the way you define center and periphery, I kind of—I contest this binary. And I think it’s a much more complex picture. And you have the movement across that region. I mean, you have also people who are writing in exile in France. You have people who are in Russia studying a lot of Lebanese Greek Orthodox, for instance, and Palestinians. So,  we  need to think territorially, but also in terms of that region itself as kind of engaging with these questions of modernity in interesting ways. And of course, it’s a complex relation to modernity. I mean, there is a pull. There is a rejection. There is a fascination. But if you look at it as a whole comprehensively, you see those kind of movements that we try to capture in our class. HESCHEL: So, Mark, of course I know who you are, and I know your work and admire it greatly. And far be it for me to—(laughs)—answer the questions that you yourself write about. I’d just say that of course I agree with you. And we—in our class—when we do talk about these issues, we range from everything from Jessica Marglin’s work to The Rabbi’s Cat. And I think one of the big problems we focus on is the Crémieux Decree, and that has larger resonances, in fact; the significance—the political significance of something like that, how that is to be evaluated and how something like that actually recurs throughout the course of Jewish history with often very dire consequences that you pointed out. So, thank you for the comment, and thank you for your work. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, a written question from Alison Brysk at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s a professor of global governance. She appreciates your model but has had different disturbing experiences teaching contemporary poli-sci, and IR, and human rights classes on a very politicized campus. My whole agenda is universalism, context, international humanitarian law for all sides. But, about half of my students are simply locked into preexisting identities and convictions and will complain when I try to present a basic range of perspectives and evidence on roots of the conflict. Do you have any suggestions for the beleaguered public university when students experience humanistic history as hate speech? I don’t know who wants to start. HESCHEL: Go ahead, Tarek. EL-ARISS: This is something we also struggle with. I mean, this question of the universal; come back to it. That’s, of course, the critique of the universal as Eurocentric, as only covering or being framed along very specific political lines that exclude the other or that does not represent people who might come from, to come back to Mark’s term, the periphery in some way, whatever that periphery is. But again when you are thinking about conflict, how do you work outside of that framework? I mean, this is also the question. So how—we need it in order to think of a community of—we need to think of—do the critique of universality, but also take the good things, because we also have human rights. So, how are we going to talk about human rights? How are we going to talk about things that matter for everyone that we all need to care about and be mobilized if we only situate forms of identity or rights in the particular, and the particular that is defined in very specific ways? And I think there should be teachable moments like, OK, you don’t think—let’s ask the students or let’s organize teach-ins about, what do they mean by certain terms? I mean, I think we use terms and concepts really without knowing what they truly mean, or what their histories are. I mean, we are at the university. This is the place to actually engage and say what this kind of humanism or universality that is seen as Eurocentric and exclusive in many ways, then what is its history? How—did it not also influence the way people in that part—in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, different parts of the world where they also think of themselves as modern subjects and as claimants to particular rights and traditions, and so forth? So, I know where we are. I mean, I understand the, kind of, current moment. But, how do we try to bring it to a level where, OK, what do you mean by this? Ask questions. Listen, but then ask questions, and open it up to a conversation. Maybe the class is about something else, but maybe because of the crisis, the class has to pivot or shift to a different moment that deals with a particular event that is unfolding in the world. HESCHEL: But let me just add that I understand a hundred percent and have experienced it, too. My sense is, first of all, students are very lonely. Identity—that kind of insistence on one’s own identity—is a very lonely position to take. Students will end up saying: You will never understand what it feels like to be me. And that needs to be challenged. It may be, I will never understand you and your identity, but I can help you understand yourself better. I can help you accept relationships with other people, and even be loved by other people. So, there have to be ways to open up and not end with the declaration of identity, and that is a problem. I also would say that a lot of students have a very strong sense of injustice, and I admire that and appreciate it. But, sometimes they get into a state of despair over it, and we need to make sure that we can lift them up and not let them sink into a hole of despair, but to talk in more concrete terms about what they can do and make it a viable engagement with injustice—overcoming injustice. So, those are just a few things. There’s so much more to say about it. But we both have experienced this, and we’re with you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question from Margaret Lewis, who’s at Seton Hall University. Q: Thanks so much. I’m both a professor and an associate dean, so I think about this from several angles. So, I wanted just to think more broadly about navigating the academic discourse. It’s one thing to do that in an intimate course setting where you know the students, they know you. But, I wonder if you have thoughts, both about how to create community conversations or spaces outside of a class when we do have a situation that emerges—for example, not just one we’re having now, but go back to Freddie Gray or anything that’s really rocked our students. And then maybe separately, but if you have thoughts about university messaging, the emails that our students expect us to put out after events and the extent to which those are helpful. And, if so, how to craft them in ways that: Is it expressing care just for the students? How do we try to bring in different stakeholders to give us language that will work across different stakeholders? Any of that would be hugely helpful as we all navigate this. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Tarek, or— HESCHEL: Yeah. I’m not sure it’s a single answer that will address every institution because there are important differences. You say you’re at Seton Hall, which is Catholic, and it’s a different culture on campus. I’m familiar with that; I actually lectured there a few months ago. In terms of the statements, I found that the outrage over many university president statements puzzling initially. And then I realized, I suppose, people were psychologically/emotionally so devastated that it was a displacement, and then a lot of argumentation arose over the precise language of statements. I’m not sure if statements are the way to address emotional devastation or catastrophe. And the statements that were quite formal in the language, or politically oriented, perhaps that wasn’t the way to do it. I’m not sure—I haven’t been an administrator—exactly how to formulate it, but I think that’s—in those kinds of moments, that’s what people are looking for, some sense of support. I also think it’s important at the convocation in the fall—Tarek and I were discussing this earlier—for the university to make its message clear, the mission: What are you supposed to be doing here, undergraduates, at this university for the next four years? This is what we want to offer you. And then, at some point later on, have the students write something. What they’re looking for because the only essay you have from them really is for the admissions. And once they arrive, it would be good to hear from them: What do you want to get out of these four years? What do you want from your classes, from your professors, and so on? And then finally, I’d just say that the atmosphere in the classroom is very important—friendly, happy, a joyous atmosphere throughout the semester—to keep the students together as a group having a good time, feeling that they’re there for each other, forming a community. We find that very important when we’re teaching a class that can, in fact, give rise to terrible conflict. We want to avoid that. So, we bring cookies. We have an open door in our office. We have conversation. So, again, the atmosphere. Tarek, go ahead. EL-ARISS: Yeah. No, and I think also we need to rethink, I mean, outreach. We also go to the students. We go to different religious groups, different houses. I went. Susannah went. We go also into their own spaces. We don’t just organize the event and say come; we go to them. And when we bring people—we’ve organized a couple of forums and we brought some people from outside, and we said—we organized breakfast with the students. We have organized places where the students also feel comfortable. And it’s very important, this question of space and you going to them. And they, then, are hosting you on their own—their own dorms or their own whatever—houses and so on. I think that’s very important. And also, the administration is not—the more I think about it, it’s not one thing. It’s not like the administration is this abstract thing, like a tower in the middle of campus that’s—I mean, I’m also the administration. Susannah is also the administration. I mean, my office is open to these students. They come. I listen to them. Some of them are not happy with the way things are going. I comfort them. I sometimes transmit their messages to higher-ups and say this—and who ask me, actually, how are the students doing? And I say, I met with so-and-so, and he said this, or she said that. And also, I have say, okay, I have this kid that said, you’re going to run the Arabic Club this term, or you’re going to help me on this research dealing with these questions, because I also have the ability to recognize some of the things they’re struggling with. So, the administration, we have to—or how the university responds—has to be rethought, and also support organic processes that are already happening. Who among the faculty are in conversation? What can the administration do to give them more support, to highlight more what they’re doing? So, I mean, we’re seeing some efforts that are coming from high up, from the top down; like, OK, we’re going to have a task force and start dialogue. But, I think it’s important that the administration responds to what faculty are doing and supports it. So, support these organic processes, these community-building processes that, I think, are much more effective and are more likely to produce results than some sort of, kind of a, let’s bring a consultant and tell us what we have to do, and then form this committee, and then make everyone go through more drills about how to be a good citizen in this university. I don’t think that is effective. I don’t think it’s effective in—also in other contexts that we’ve been experiencing on campuses. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take a written question from Mark Diamond which is—I think follows onto this, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles: Could both of you share your thoughts about academic freedom on college campuses, especially as it relates to discourse on Israel and Palestine? When, if at all, is student or faculty discourse on campus out of bounds and poses a threat to others in the university? HESCHEL: Well, I can’t address the legal issues. I know that each university has a set of standards and so forth, and they may well vary. I know one college president of a Catholic university told the students: You may hold a prayer vigil, but you may not hold a demonstration. And that was that. So, that I don’t think happens everywhere, but that was one example. What is out of bounds? What’s out of bounds is, I would say first of all, people who don’t know very much about the topic that they’re addressing or screaming about. So, I begin with that. I was talking to some colleagues about this. Don’t teach a course if you don’t really know the subject or limit the course to what you know. I would encourage students who are deeply concerned about a political conflict to take courses on that conflict to get some background. We also encourage our students to think about what they can do in the future. Making a demonstration on a college campus is exciting, but actually, it can be more important to work for a political candidate, for example. To do canvassing and do work for an NGO, or come to Washington and be an aide at a congressional office. So, pointing that out to an 18-year-old is sometimes very helpful. Telling them that they can actually do something very concrete and powerful—not just on the college campus, but on the national level of politics. And then, I would say, yes, in terms of the kind of language and out of bounds, that’s really our point of our work. We wanted to demonstrate to the campus how to have a dialogue that’s respectful, that’s polite—even if we disagree—and that we talk to one another at a university in a way that’s different from the kind of conversation one has at a restaurant with your friends. We also emphasize that there’s a distinction between private and public. I may have some pretty strong views that I tell my family or my close friends—I’m not going to tell the whole world. That would be highly inappropriate. I think faculty need to be professional, and so do students. Once you’re in a university, you have to be a student. That’s a particular role, an academic role, and that, also, should be outlined to students when they’re admitted to the university, or at the fall convocation. Professional behavior is something we expect from everyone—from a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, an electrician. I don’t want vulgar, sexist jokes when I’m consulting a physician, for example. And I don’t want a certain kind of language from faculty colleagues. So, these are basic standards of behavior that I think have been eroding in recent years, and we need to come back to them. EL-ARISS: Yeah, but we also understand that the university itself, the education and mission and the university as an institution, is no longer correspond to the model that we also study, or the Humboldt model, or the creation and the formation of the national subject. So, there is also something about the university itself that is shifting in terms of use, I mean, people say, if you also look at statistics about what people think of higher education in the U.S. and so on. So, there is a lot of questions about the university. What is the university? I mean, a lot of kids come to the university, they already know more than we do about a lot of things. They have technology on their side. Some of them are making money from apps that they created, and they talk to their parents, and they say is it really a good investment or not? So, also, we have to acknowledge that there is something about the university that—the humanistic tradition and the liberal tradition—that perhaps is no longer functioning in the same way that we imagine it to be. And we need to take this challenge seriously. And is the green a place where you take your students when it is nice out if you are in Ithaca or Ann Arbor—(laughs)—in April or end of April to do the class outside because you are missing the sun, or is the green a place of protest now, or identity affirmation. So, there are real fundamental questions about the university, and about our mission, and about our classrooms, and it’s not an either/or, it is not either this or that. How do we kind of bring the community into a space of negotiation where I understand that this is what the students are feeling right now, and they are angry, and they want to express themselves in an embodied fashion, and really do something about the world because we also expect them, when we ask them to apply how they are going to change the world. So, we also set them up for it. And so, we need to have a conversation about that. This is a moment of crisis, but it’s a moment of self-reflection that I think is really important to have—every university needs to have it, and it could have been some other crisis unfolding. But, I think this is an opportunity to ask these questions and have these conversations among—and Susannah was just we were talking today that we should have these conversations about—with faculty, with colleagues, cross-generationally, what do people think, how are they teaching, how do they come to the subject that they come to, what are their assumptions, what is the point of the classroom? Is it the political platform? Is it the place of intellectual inquiry? How do they come together? So, these are important questions I feel like, and this is the moment to ask them and engage them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Heidi Lane. Q: Thank you very much. The question I have relates to things that I don’t actually experience in professional military education, but I have in teaching in universities like Dartmouth. And the question is, what do you think Dartmouth, or universities in general, should be doing to help faculty like yourselves engage in this kind of open, trust-building course? That’s the first question—because that really is a pressure that I think a lot of universities and administrators are feeling and navigating that for their faculty is maybe even as difficult as the relationship between the faculty and the students. That’s the first thing. And then the second question is, how do you change your model when you are teaching in, let’s say, an open session that’s like a lecture that is not part of the course? Because it’s one thing to build that trust within your class, within maybe twenty or so students over a semester, but it’s another thing to apply that same model when you are going into an open session and maybe even people from outside the campus are coming. So, thank you. HESCHEL: Those are big questions—thank you. There’s much to say. I’ll just say briefly, so on October 9, Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. my phone rang. It was the dean of faculty at Dartmouth calling to tell me that the president of Dartmouth—who was new, Sian Beilock—had asked her to get in touch with me because the president wanted to have dialog on campus. So, too often, I am afraid administrations aren’t really aligned with their own faculty. They don’t know who is teaching what, or who has what expertise, and they don’t turn to faculty in moments like this. And I actually—I’ve seen that happen after October 7 at times when I thought why didn’t the president call the faculty? Get the faculty, who are the ones working with students, to set up the kinds of forums that we held. I think it would have been very helpful. There is sometimes not a close enough relationship at some colleges and universities between administration and faculty, and faculty can actually help a great deal since we’re spending every day with the students in the classroom. So, that’s one thing. I think another issue is, when we hire faculty, we have to make sure we are hiring people who are willing to engage in dialogue. Who are willing to sit down and talk to people, or teach with people, from other programs, people who have different backgrounds with whom they may disagree. If they are willing, and enthusiastically, willing to do that kind of teaching, then I say bravo, hire them. But, those who are unwilling—that’s a problem at a university. If we aren’t talking to each other as faculty, then the institution is going to fall apart. We need to have that engagement; that includes in the sciences, the biologists and the geologists talk to each other. So, we have to foster that and make that an imperative, actually, a criterion for faculty. Are they engaged with one another? Are they open, willing to talk? There is more to say, but Tarek, you go ahead. EL-ARISS: No, I mean, basically recognize where there are efforts and where there are conversations—productive conversations—and see how you can support them; support them financially, support them logistically, get assigned space, fund—I mean, we’re lucky, really. We’re really lucky, I mean, in many ways, to have each other, but also to have an administration that was very receptive and very supportive, and said, what do you need? How can we help you to continue to do this? And that was very important. And they understood that, and they recognized—they knew us but we were kind of, I would say, a bit under the radar, and there is a new administration and new kind of leadership. So, again, it’s like, immediately they recognized that, OK, they are doing something, and what can we do to support it? How can we make it grow? How can we—and they continue to do that. And we took the initiative. We also went on a retreat to think about courses, to think about people we want to invite. So, I mean, I think it’s important that you have an administration, who are on the ground—(laughs)—are talking to faculty, who have their hand on the pulse and see where these collaborations are, and then try to figure out ways where—again, the changes are not coming from some cookie-cutter model that’s coming from the outside and being imposed on the campus, on the faculty, but actually—I mean, I’m a literary critic, and I always tell the students read the text; like do a close reading. So, do your close reading and see what is happening, and then from there, you move to the theoretical. No, don’t impose the theory on the situation, but rather let it come out of what is happening on the ground. And I think—so, this requires this different administrative direction from what we’ve been witnessing, which is bringing people from outside and training us in all kinds of ways to be better teachers, and more humane, and so on. And that’s taking the place of a lot of the things we do like the humanity especially—(laughs)—which is supposed to be doing that. So, recognize and build these infrastructures of support by recognizing what is happening on your campus, and the particularity of your campus, and your student body, and your geographic location. HESCHEL: What Tarek is trying to emphasize is that what’s important for the college is teaching that engages students in a dialogue, that brings students from different positions together, that that’s what should be recognized as the most important innovation in teaching and the most important thing for the future of the college and for the students, and not the size of the classroom, let’s just say, yeah? FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Karen Jackson-Weaver who is associate vice president of global inclusive faculty engagement and innovation advancement at NYU, and she also comes as a former dean at both Princeton and Harvard Kennedy School. So, she thanks you both for the important framing of your collaboration in the work you’ve done at Dartmouth. My sense is that the kind of sophistication and complexity that Professor Heschel mentioned that is very much needed is missing in academic discourse and in many conversations taking place on college campuses. Do you have any suggested guides or resources that you can share, which have been useful in the Dartmouth community and elevate the discourse in a meaningful way? HESCHEL: Look, that’s a great question, and it’s going to be waking me up in the middle of the night because I’m going to think of some things to tell you. But I would just say that I come to this because I wrote book about a Jewish scholar writing about the Jewishness of the New Testament, Jesus in the context of Judaism, and so on. Abraham Geiger was his name—and how the Christians responded to his arguments—very negatively, very critical—and he responded to them, and so on. So, there was a kind of engagement that I analyzed very carefully, something primarily from the late 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, and that gave me a way of sort of understanding the subtlety of arguments, how they were perceived in the moment. So, that trained me to look for things like this, and I think that’s what I bring to this kind of situation: this way of trying to engage in—yeah? EL-ARISS: Yeah. I mean, my simple answer would be us. (Laughs.) But, we’ve actually been working on coming up with some dialogue, reflections on dialogue, or some resources that might—about this because this is also something that we’re thinking about—not about what we’re doing, but also as some sort of values that I think are important, not just for us, for our campus, and for the different constituencies on our campus who want to engage in this, who want to organize events dealing with these questions. So, I think eventually we will develop something, but this is not—I mean, really, we were just doing our normal work and—(laughs)—working on the—( HESCHEL: Yeah, but I would say that we understand that fields develop by engaging with different disciplines, with different theoretical models. That’s how we move ahead in a field. So, I would say, first of all, to any faculty member, think about how your field has developed and what has generated new ideas. What’s made it exciting is to engage with others; not to simply hide in its own corner. OK. FASKIANOS: OK, I’m going to go next to Stephen Zunes, with the raised hand. (Pause.) Yeah, we can hear you. Can you hear us? Q: OK. How about now? EL-ARISS: Yes. HESCHEL: Yes. FASKIANOS: Yes, we can. Q: OK, hi. I’m Stephen Zunes, University of San Francisco. I’ve been teaching Israel and Palestine for over thirty-five years now, and there’s been a big shift in, sort of, the assumptions that students come in with. I mean, when I first started teaching, pretty much every student was familiar with the Israeli narrative, but not really aware of the Palestinian narrative, so I had to bend over backwards to make sure they knew that, as well. Today, if anything, it’s the other way around. It’s been quite striking, the shift—generational shift. I mean, maybe because the larger percentage are people of color. These people—this is a generation where black lives matter, indigenous rights—whereas our generation where the nationalism was a progressive force, and many of us saw Zionism as a national liberation movement for Jews. Nationalism seems more of a reactionary force to today’s youth of the Eastern Europe, and everything else, and Israel is seen more as a colonial settler-state. And, I was wondering, since it appears you all have been teaching this for a while, too, I was wondering if you’ve noticed similar shifts, and how you might have adjusted your teaching in light of this. EL-ARISS: I think—I don’t know, I think a lot of our students come—they don’t know a lot about this, and maybe this is where we are, or different campuses. I mean, there are some students who know and who are engaged. But I think what we try to do is that we try to kind of give them the longer history of this, so take them back to the eighteenth century, nineteenth century, and to see where they ended up—so not to kind of focus—like, we have colleagues who teach, like, Israel—the politics of Israel-Palestine and focus on the contemporary conflict, so they are more—(laughs)—they can tell you more about what the students say about those particular narratives. But, the students who come to us really don’t know anything beyond like the contemporary conflict if they know anything. So, we try to take them to places that really are uncharted—Damascus affair, the Dreyfus affair—I mean, Max Nordau on early Zionism. I mean, so texts that are foundational—and then they take politics of Israel-Palestine, and then they engage it, and they have a different understanding. So, we try to do the kind of earlier work to open up those narratives, so we’re not just simply pro-Palestinian, or pro-Israeli, or outside of these just simple binaries. We kind of take them even to open a wider horizon. HESCHEL: I would just add that I think—I’ve also noticed what you’ve noticed. There seems to be, also, just a wide rift generationally on these political issues and on many others as well, of course. And what I found in the course that I taught together with Jonathan Smolin in the fall on the 1967 war, sometimes called the Six-Day War, students came in and they thought they knew something—on both sides, by the way—but it turns out they didn’t. So, that’s one thing—to show students what they don’t know; that what they know is only a drop in the bucket, and there is so much more. Also, to show them that whatever you think there is something new that comes in that actually contradicts that assumption because there is so much evidence coming from so many different parts of the world—because it’s not ever really about just Israel and Palestine; it’s about nearly every other country one can think of, from the United States to China. So, the complexity is something. And then another—finally I want to say, sometimes students come in and they are looking for somebody to blame. That’s something important for us to address. This is not about blaming one side or the other, and sometimes, for example, yeah, one side is bad and one side is good. Sometimes both are bad. And when both are bad, I tell them. Even someone who has committed a terrible crime, don’t you still care about that person that is still a human being, who should be treated with dignity? So, let’s keep that in mind as well. Let’s remember that even those who do terrible things, nonetheless, these are human beings. There are reasons for it. Let’s figure that out, let’s see what we can do about it. But, don’t just dismiss it and say, oh, well, they’re terrible; let’s walk away—so to keep the students engaged all the time, to show the complexity, to show that it’s more and more and more complex, involving so many different groups, and not try to reduce it to bad guys, good guys, this one is to blame, this one is the innocent. Nobody ultimately, in politics, is innocent, and nobody is a hundred percent guilty. They become interlocking as we know, and they are doing that dance. What was the line about Fred Astaire danced with—who was it? Not Jane Crawford—Ginger Rogers, but she did everything he did but backwards and wearing high heels. So, there are ways in which each side influences the other, and we have to think about it in those terms as well. They are not separate from each other. So, those are some of the ways we try to overcome the biases that they walk into the classroom with, and we ask them sometimes, how has your mind changed in the last few weeks of the course? Every few weeks ask them that. What changes here when we bring you this document, or this fact that you didn’t know about? And hopefully they will experience the class as something uplifting and exciting, and that they will know that they are coming away as a different person with so much more knowledge. So, thanks for the question. FASKIANOS: And with that, we are at the end of our hour. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get to all the questions, raised hands, but I can say that I wish I were at Dartmouth and could take your class. (Laughs.) So, maybe perhaps you should do it and have it be available online to a broader group. I don’t know. (Laughs.) It’s a thought. Thank you very much, Tarek El-Ariss and Susannah Heschel, for this wonderful hour. We do appreciate it. And to all of you for your questions and comments. And we encourage you to follow us at @CFR_academic on X and visit,, and for research and analyses on global issues. And we look forward to your continued participation in CFR programs. So, thank you again. (END)
  • Globalization

    Shannon K. O’Neil, vice president, deputy director of studies, and the Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America studies at CFR, and author of The Globalization Myth: Why Regions M…
  • Education

    Jenny Lee, vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona, leads the conversation on U.S. international academic collaboration and how U.S.-China tensions are affecting higher education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Jenny Lee with us to discuss U.S. international academic collaboration. Dr. Lee is vice president for Arizona International, dean of international education, and professor of educational policy studies and practice at the University of Arizona. She is also a fellow of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Lee formerly served as a senior fellow of NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, as chair for the Council of International Higher Education, and as a board member for the Association for the Study of Higher Education. And she has also served as a U.S. Fulbright scholar to South Africa, as a distinguished global professor at Korea University, and as an international visiting scholar at the City University of London, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. So, Dr. Lee, thank you very much for being with us for today’s topic. I thought you could begin by giving us an overview of current trends in U.S. international academic collaboration, especially looking at what’s happening with our relations with China. LEE: Sounds great. Well, thank you for the opportunity, Irina. It’s a pleasure to be here and to speak with you and all those listening right now. I’ll speak for about ten or so minutes, and then open it up and engage with the audience. Hopefully, you all have some good questions that will come up during my remarks. So, clearly, we’re entering a very interesting and somewhat uncertain chapter in how we understand the role of higher education globally. So I will begin with some general observation so all our viewers are on the same page. Now, first and foremost, the U.S. is mostly at the top when it comes to the higher education sector. Most of us already know that the United States houses the most highly ranked institutions. And this allows the country to be the largest host of international students and scholars from around the world. According to the latest IIE Open Doors report published a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. attracted over a million students from all over the world. And we’re almost back to pre-pandemic levels. We also host over 90,000 scholars. And the primary purpose for them being here is research, for about two-thirds to 75 percent of them. These international scholars, as well as international graduate students, contribute significantly to the U.S. scientific enterprise. The U.S. is also among the leading countries in scientific output and impact, and the largest international collaborator in the world. In other words, the U.S. is highly sought because of its prestigious institutions, drawing top faculty and students from around the world. And with that comes the ability to generate cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs which further secures the U.S.’ global position in academia. At the same time, of course, we’ve seen China’s economy rise significantly as the country surpassed the United States in scientific output, and more recently in impact as measured by publication citations, and is outpacing the U.S. in the extent of R&D investment. Chinese institutions have also made noticeable jumps in various global rankings, which is a pretty big feat considering the fierce competition among the world’s top universities. What we’re witnessing as well are geopolitical tensions between the two countries that have impacted the higher education sector. While these two countries, the U.S. and China, are the biggest global collaborators—and they collaborate more with each other than any other country—they’re also rival superpowers. As global adversaries, what we are witnessing as well is increased security concerns regarding intellectual theft and espionage. I’m going to spend some time summarizing my work for those who are not familiar to provide some further context. I and my colleagues, John Haupt and Xiaojie Li, also at the University of Arizona, have conducted numerous studies about U.S.-China scientific collaboration. And what we’re observing across these studies is how the scientific pursuit of knowledge, which is fundamentally borderless, is becoming bordered in the current geopolitical environment. International collaboration, long valued as positive-sum, is being treated as zero-sum. Besides the rise of China and the accompanying political rhetoric that posed China as a so-called threat, tensions also grew among accusations, as you may recall, about the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and a corresponding sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States. Public opinions about China were not favorable, and thus there was not a whole lot of public resistance when the FBI’s China Initiative was launched in 2018. This initiative basically signaled that anyone of Chinese descent was a potential enemy of the state, including possible Chinese Communist Party spies in our own universities, even though there was no pervasive empirical or later judicial cases that proved such a damaging assumption. Nevertheless, world-renowned Chinese scientists were falsely accused of academic espionage and their careers and personal finances ruined. In my research that followed with Xiaojie Li, with support from the Committee of 100, we surveyed about 2,000 scientists in the U.S.’ top research universities during the China Initiative. And we found that one in two Chinese scientists were afraid that they were being racially profiled by the FBI. We also observed that consequently scientists, especially those with Chinese descent, were less inclined to collaborate with China, less inclined to pursue federal grants, less inclined to even stay in the United States but rather to take their expertise to another country where they felt safer to pursue their research, including in China. In sum, the federal government’s attempts to weed out possible Chinese spies was highly criticized as a damaging form of racial profiling affecting even U.S. citizens and, in the end, undermined the U.S.’ ability to compete with China. Especially now, as we continue to observe Chinese scientists leaving the U.S. and taking their skills and talents elsewhere. With John Haupt and two academics at Tsinghua University in China, Doctors Wen Wen and Die Hu, we asked about two hundred co-collaborators in China and in the United States how were they able to overcome such geopolitical tensions and the challenges associated with COVID-19 during the pandemic? And we did learn something somewhat unexpected, and I hope valuable. Basically, we found that mutual trust between international collaborators helped overcome such perceived hurdles, including risks of being unfairly targeted. What this tells us is that a chilling effect is certainly real and remains possible, but in the end scientists have tremendous agency on what they study, where they study, and whether or not they seek funds, or where they seek funds. Regardless of the host or home country, international collaboration is important to all countries’ scientific enterprise. Coauthors from different countries improve the knowledge being produced, its applicability, enlarges global audiences, and thereby increases the impact of the work. So considering the value, yet risks, where do we begin? Firstly, federal and institutional policies, of course, matter, for better or for worse. But policies do not manufacture trust. The formation of an academic tie does not suddenly occur over a cold call in the middle of a global meltdown, as often portrayed in Hollywood. Rather, this is a gradual process. And the longevity of the relationship helps strengthen that trust over time. According to our research, these collaborative relationships begin as graduate students, postdocs, visiting researchers. They occur at academic conferences and other in-person opportunities. Cutting short-term fellowships, for example, will impact the potential of a future scientific relationship, but its effects may not be felt for years. Same with denied visas and opportunities for travel. Fewer graduate students from particular countries or fields also means a different shape when it comes to global science. U.S. for instance, was not too long ago Russia’s biggest foreign scientific collaborator, with the war in Ukraine, those research relationships, as well as much—with much of the Western world, have ceased. All of this, and my related empirical research, was conducted when I was a professor at my home institution. And since July, I’ve been serving, as Irina mentioned, as the dean and vice president of international affairs at my own institution. And I’ve been thinking a lot of, what does this mean for institutional practice? For those in university leadership positions, as mine, you know this is a tough challenge. Especially as domestic demand and state funding for higher education is generally declining. And at the same time, internationalization is increasingly central to senior leadership strategies. Universities are continuing vying to attract the world’s students, even despite a decline of interest from China. And at the same time, research universities in particular are quite dependent on federal grants. We have our own research security offices that need to ensure our universities have good reputations and relations with our large federal funding agencies and taking every precaution to not be seen as a vulnerable site of intellectual theft. These units tend not to operate within international affairs. And I’m very well aware that in my role of trying to attract as many students from China and develop international partnerships, all of them can be suddenly erased if a Chinese University partner does not pass visual compliance or there is a sudden presidential executive order, as we experienced under the Trump administration. I’m also very well aware that of senior leaders have to choose between my educational offerings and partnerships in China versus risking a major grant from a federal agency, I will lose. We witnessed that with the shutting down of over 100 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., despite a lack of evidence of systematic espionage occurring through these centers. Public perceptions, informed or not, strongly affect the nature of our international work, as in the case of Florida. Such negative perceptions are not one country-sided, of course. A key concern for Chinese and other international students and their parents relate to safety. Gun violence, including on our own college campuses, anti-Asian hate crimes in surrounding neighborhoods, and unfavorable political environment in which studies might be interrupted as in the case of Proclamation 10043, or visa non-renewals are all contributing factors for the decline of interest from China, and uncertain future student exchange as well. In closing, when it comes to China these days no practices are guaranteed. However, I can recommend some while also keeping in mind geopolitical conditions can suddenly change for worse, or perhaps better. I mentioned earlier the value of mutual trust. At my university, we have long-standing relationships with university leaders at Chinese institutions. We’ve set up dual degree programs in China. Actually, about 40 percent of our international student enrollment are through such partner relationships throughout the world, in which we go to where they are. Hiring staff who speak the language and know the culture are also essential. And, like any relationship, these arrangements have developed over time. They are not built overnight. It takes intention. It takes effort. But in my experience, as trust is established the numbers have grown, and the positive impact is still being felt. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much for that. That was terrific. Let’s go now to all of you for your questions, comments. You can use this to share best practices and what you’re doing to your universities or institutions. Please click the raise hand icon on your screen to ask a question. On your iPad or tablet, you can click the “more” button to access the raise hand feature. And when you’re called upon, please accept the unmute prompts, state your name and affiliation, followed by your question. You can also submit a written question, they’ve already started coming in, by the Q&A icon. And if you can also include your affiliation there, I would appreciate it, although we will try to make sure we identify you correctly. So let’s see. I’m looking for—no raised hands yet, but we do have questions written. So first question from Denis Simon, who’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Many U.S. universities have curtailed their exchanges and cooperation with China. You referenced that. Officials at these universities are worried that if they appear too friendly toward China they will lose all sorts of federal funding. Are these concerns justified? Are there any regulations or legislation that actually says federal funding can be removed assuming these universities are in compliance with the export controls, et cetera? LEE: All right. Well, thanks, Denis, for your question. I know there—when I saw the list of those who signed up, I know there are many here who can speak to this directly. So I encourage those to also raise their hands and provide input in the Q&A, maybe in the form of an A instead of a Q. But in any case, going to that question, you know, it’s a tough environment. And so much in my role, but what I even experienced in my research, is about that perception, that overinterpretation. So maybe signaling that we have this exchange program might draw attention in ways that might lead to suspicions that, oh, well is this, you know, somehow creating an opportunity for us to disclose military secrets? I mean, that’s where we take it. A friendly exchange or visit is oftentimes now having to be scrutinized and ensuring that there is no remote violation of export controls, even in educational delivery in a non-STEM field. And what we’re seeing is that this—we have our highly sensitive fields, but that kind of scrutiny we’re also seeing applied to the institution more broadly. So these seemingly benign programs about language or culture, about fields that are enhanced or help promote so-called American values, are also being watched. So I believe as an institutional leader, again, as I mentioned earlier, having to deal with the possibility of unwanted or unwarranted attention versus not having that program, I think some, as Denis has pointed out, are leaning towards being more cautious. Unfortunately, China—any work with China is considered a risk, even if there is no reason for risk, as we’ve witnessed under—or, observed under the China Initiative. I don’t know if I’ve fully answered that question, but please follow up if I haven’t. And I know others can probably say more to that issue. FASKIANOS: Great. I’ll take the next question from Peter—I don’t know how to pronounce— LEE: Peter Becskehazy. Hi, Peter. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. Thank you very much. LEE: I know Peter. FASKIANOS: All right. Good. Well, I’d love if Peter asked his question directly, if he can. Oh, good. From Pima Community College. Go ahead, Peter. Q: Hello, Jenny. Nice to see you. LEE: Hi, Peter. Q: Now my question is, the University of Arizona and other universities have had an inflow of dozens of countries, adding up to the million that you mentioned. Are other countries trying to fill in slots left vacant by Chinese students and scholars? LEE: Yeah. Great question, Peter. And I think you can also share what you’ve observed at Pima in terms of the patterns you’ve witnessed. But for us, and as we are seeing nationally, we’re seeing India rise. Not at the—not at higher numbers in many institutions, compared to China, but the rate is rising. It’s not so simple, though, because we also have relations in India, and trying to set up agreements, and bring students. The competition in India is intense. So even though there’s a relatively so-called large market, and the U.S. has been quite successful in attracting Indian students, that is perhaps where the attention is as a more, I would say—I hate to use the word “market,”—but a stable student market. There’s a lot more interest in graduate-level education globally, as we’ve observed. These countries that formerly didn’t have capacity now do have capacity. They have online offerings. They have branch campuses, dual degrees, lots of other options. And so the niche for the U.S., whereas before we didn’t really have to think about a niche, is really in graduate education. Now, of course, that’s not good news for Pima, that’s thinking about a community college and other kinds of educational offerings. But for us, we’re thinking about India a lot. Southeast Asia, of course, has always been an important partner to us. Africa continues to be a challenge. We know that when we think about population growth, Africa is the future. There’s still challenges and trying to identify places where there is capacity. But also the affordability of a U.S. education is a huge challenge. So it’s a great question. And, again, I’m curious to know other places in the world people recommend. Of course, Latin America, given our location, is a key strategic partner. But again, affordability becomes an issue. And again, I’m just talking about the traditional international student who would choose to come to Arizona. Not talking about research collaboration, which is less bound by affordability issues. Irina, you’re muted. FASKIANOS: How long have I been doing this? OK. (Laughs.) I’m going to take the next written question from Allison Davis-White Eyes, who is vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Fielding Graduate University: We have tried to work on collaborations with European universities and African universities, and met with much difficulty. What trends are you seeing in these regions? And what are emerging global markets beyond China? LEE: Great question, Allison. I mean, if you could leave the question in the future, so because I am visually looking at the question at the same time. FASKIANOS: Oh, great. Sorry. LEE: So, Allison, I’m not sure if you’re referring to academic or research. Of course, within Europe, where the government does highly subsidized tuition, it’s just becomes financially a bad deal, I suppose—(laughs)—for a student in the world who would normally get a free or highly reduced tuition to pay full price at our institution. So that kind of exchange of partnership, especially when it’s about—when it’s financially based, becomes almost impossible from my experience. But thinking about research collaboration, it depends on the level. So if it’s an institutional agreement, you know, it’s—often, these MOUs tend to just be on paper. It takes quite a bit of—it’s very ceremonial. You need to get legal involved. It’s a whole process to get an MOU. We really don’t need these non-binding MOUs for research agreements. Some countries like it, just to display that they have an MOU with a U.S. institution. But essentially, it doesn’t stop me as a professor to reach out to another professor at the University of Oslo, and say, hey, let’s do a study. Which we actually are doing. So, yeah, feel free to be more specific, or if you want to raise your hand or speak on—and elaborate on that question. So, again, for educational exchange, it is difficult because we are—there’s already a process within the EU that makes it very affordable and highly supported within the EU, or if you’re part of that bigger program. Africa, again, my challenge from my role as an institutional leader is identifying places where there is already enough mass education up through high school where one would be able to consider, first of all, being admitted to a U.S. institution, but secondly, to be able to pay the cost. FASKIANOS: Allison, do you want to expand a little bit? Q: Oh, sorry. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: There you go. There you go. Q: Right. Dr. Lee, thank you for your response. I think it was helpful, especially regarding the subsidizing of education in Europe. We’ve been working on some research partnerships. And we have just—you know, really, it has just been extremely difficult with European universities. And I do think part of it has to do with the way things are subsidized in Europe. I was just wondering if there were new and different ways to do it. I do appreciate your comment about the MOUs being largely ceremonial. I agree. And would like to see something with a little more substance. And that will take some creativity and a lot of partnership and work. As for Africa, we have tried to create partnerships with South Africa. I think there’s some potential there. Certainly, some excitement. We’ve had a few students from Nigeria, extremely bright and motivated. I just would—you know, would like to hear, maybe from some other colleagues as well on the call, if there are creative ways in working with these students as well. So, thank you. LEE: Yeah, no. And just to follow up quickly, and, again, opportunities for others to share, academic collaboration, as I mentioned during my remarks, is largely built upon mutual trust. And not to say it can’t happen from top down, but really does—is most successful from bottom up. And I don’t mean to refer to professors at the bottom, but meaning those that are actually engaged with that work. And so just some considerations is rather than a top-down initiative or strategy, is to identify those that are visiting scholars, already from that country, have networks within that country. What’s interesting, as I learned in my current role, is how little my predecessors worked with professors in these area’s studies programs, because they’re oftentimes treated as a separate or having different interests in mind when actually there is a lot of overlap to identify those that are actually there. Allison, by the way, I lived in South Africa for eight years. And I know it actually takes a long time. My Fulbright started off as a one year, and I had to extend it because even getting the data while I was on the ground takes time. And I’ll be honest, I think part of it was taking some time just to build trust the intentions of my work, what was I going to do with that data, how is that going to be used? Was it actually going to be ways to empower them? You know, for those who study international collaboration, know this north and south divide, and I think there are places in the world that are—maybe have some guardrails up from those—not saying this is what’s happening in your institution—but someone that they don’t know coming from the Global North to study someone else in the Global South. And so how do we create or initiate a collaboration that is clearly, expressly mutual at the onset? And, again, this is where trust can be operationalized lots of different ways, but that even begins with that initial message. I mean, I remember when I started my work, nobody responded to me. They’re like, who are you? And I don’t care who you are or what your CV says. And it takes time. You know, building that relationship, and that person introducing me to that other person. Like, you know, this is how scientific networks form. And I think, to some extent, this is also how institutional collaborative relationships also form. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to David Moore, who has a raised hand. Q: OK, thank you. I just got unmuted. FASKIANOS: Great. Q: Lee, I appreciate your comments. And I heard your reference to Florida earlier. I don’t know if we have colleagues on this call from Florida, but I think they’ll know what I’m about to say. I’m the dean of international education at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale. And as of tomorrow, December 1, Florida has to—all institutions in Florida, public institutions, colleges and universities, must be completely devoid of any partnerships in China. And not just China. There are seven countries of concern. And you probably can cite them, most of you would know the other six. But of the seven countries, Broward had four partnerships in China alone, none in the other countries that were active. And so we are now officially done, have to be. And I’ve had to notify the partners as well as our accrediting body, because these were international centers of Broward where they literally offer—we offered associate degrees, two-year degrees. And students could then transfer to an institution in the United States. Now, this didn’t catch us too much by surprise because two and a half years ago our Florida legislature started in on this, really probably before that, where they isolated universities in Florida and said: You cannot do research—sensitive research, whatever, you know, engineering, computer science, et cetera—any research without notifying the state. And there’s an elaborate process that had to be—you know, they had to go through to do this. But now it’s not just research institutions. Now it’s not just those kinds of collaborations. It is, in fact, all partnerships of any kind. We had to end our agent agreements where we were recruiting students from China that were—where the companies were based in China. And in course our programs were not research. They’re just general education, two-year associate’s degree, maybe some business. But we’ve been informed now it’s completely done. And so I’m actually looking for institutions outside of Florida who might be willing to take over the role that we’ve had in transcripting students who later want to come to the United States. At least for the first two years in China, and then transferring to the upper division to the U.S. So I’m not sure. You’re probably quite familiar with this. I don’t know if you know the details of how it was worked out in practice. We were the only community college in the state that had any partnerships. So we were the ones that had to desist. So I want to—there are probably people on the call that are familiar with this, but there might be many others. And I just wanted to say that I’m looking to, you know, open that door to other institutions outside of Florida that might be willing in, yes, take a risk to go into China, but to—I’ve always felt that these kinds of programs were very good to build relationships, partnerships, communication. Ambassadors really. Where we feel like we were representing American education, whatever, you know, we call American values, democracy, you know, community. We thought we were doing good. But we found out we were—we were not. We were—we were doing something that went opposed to the prevailing political climate, at least in Florida. So that’s my comment. I think people should know about it. And thank you for letting me speak to it a bit. Maybe someone will speak up and say they’re interested in they can get in touch with me, David Moore at Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. LEE: David, thank you for sharing what you did. This is a really important example of where other states could very well head. And what’s interesting, as David noted, we’re talking about a community college. When we normally think about cutting ties, it’s usually around the concerns about national security. Now, how this translates to a two-year degree that is solely educational based is a pretty far stretch, and yet is being impacted quite severely. So I think we should continue to follow this example—unfortunate example. And, David, yeah, your partners have reached out to my office, and I’m sure to others. But thank you for being available. Q: You’re welcome. We have partners—we are also working with your Jakarta, Indonesia center there. So we have that connection. Thank you. LEE: Mmm hmm. Thanks. FASKIANOS: And if anybody wants to share contact information in the Q&A box, you can certainly do that. That would be great. There is a written question from Tutaleni Asino at Oklahoma State University: There was an article today in SEMAFOR highlighting that there are currently 350 U.S. students studying in China compared to 11,000 in 2019. Comparatively, there are 300,000 Chinese students in the United States. Is this a one-way problem, where the U.S. is not investing in international engagements as a result of being more inward looking and other countries having more options of who to collaborate with? LEE: Yeah. Tutaleni, that’s—I think your question is an answer. And I think it’s—I agree with your observation. So we are seeing that as there’s state and public disinvestment in higher education, and including scrutiny about international higher education, we’re also seeing a decline and cutting of foreign language programs in the United States. So here we are, a monolingual country whose students mostly go to Europe or other English-speaking countries to study abroad. A very limited number of international—U.S. students who pursue undergraduate degrees in a foreign country. And knowing that the future is global and international, at least in my opinion, does not set the U.S. up well to be globally competitive, even though much of its international policy is around this rhetoric of we need to compete with China. And so you raise a good point. How is this possible if U.S. citizens don’t speak Chinese, or have no interest in learning about Chinese culture, or there’s reduced opportunities even in our own institutions, I think is something to think about and ask more questions about. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Zhen Zhu, chair and professor of marketing, director of faculty excellence, and director for international engagement at Suffolk University: How do you see the trend of U.S. students’ interest in study abroad to China? LEE: There is actually growing interest. As many of you know, China—offering Chinese language in high schools is not as unusual as it used to be. There is growing interest as students are thinking about employability in global markets in multinational or international organizations or corporations. It would be fundamental, in fact, for someone who has any interest in international work to pick up the language if they can, and at your own institution. FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s see. From—I’m going to take the next question from Jeff Riedinger: Is there a role for universities to play in knowledge diplomacy to sustain international relationships and collaborations in addressing global problems such as climate change and pandemics when national governments may be at odds with each other? LEE: Thanks, Jeff. And hi, Jeff. I’m just going to read over that question so I can kind of digest it a bit. Is there a role for institutions to play in knowledge diplomacy, such as climate change, pandemics, when national governments may be at odds with each other? Absolutely, 200 percent. It is occurring—knowledge diplomacy, science diplomacy. That one individual going on a Fulbright or coming to study here for some extended visit, having these collaborations and, ultimately, you know, science—knowledge production—I mean, there’s no bounds. And when we think about the kind of research that may not occur because of these national governments are at odds when it comes to addressing climate change or other global issues, you know, the world is paying somewhat of a price when it comes to that in—when there are overarching concerns about national security. So, you know, my issue has always been with policy you overlook nuance, and with sweeping policies that overlook the disciplinary distinctions and contributions, what is lost in the pursuit of trying to stay ahead of another country in fields and areas that really have no economic or military value, right? But yet, have an important cultural value, or maybe will address something bigger, such as COVID-19. So as I mentioned, the work that I referenced earlier about U.S.-Chinese scientists coming together during COVID-19, were actually scientists who studied COVID-19 together. And again, this was not—this was fraught with risks. They were very well aware that there was a lot of scrutiny about any research about COVID-19 coming from China. There was scrutiny about, you know, where the data was held, who was analyzing it, who was funding it. And yet, these scientists took these risks in order to address how does the world deal with the pandemic. And this was based on interviews of those studies that were actually successful and published. This is where that mutual trust, as I’ve mentioned earlier, is so important. And without that mutual trust, these studies, I’m pretty certain, would never have been published, because it was not an easy path when it comes to that particular geopolitical climate during the pandemic. FASKIANOS: Jenny, I’m just going to ask a question. President Biden and President Xi met during APEC. Did anything come out of that meeting that could affect U.S.-China academic collaboration? LEE: Yeah. You know, this is tough. I mean, how do you analyze political statements? What do they really mean? And what is really going to change? I think what’s clear is that there’s an acknowledgment that we’re interdependent, but we’re also adversaries. Almost a love/hate codependent, in a relationship that we can’t just easily separate but we do need each other. But the form that it takes, I think there’s an understanding it needs to be more specific. And I don’t think that has been clarified yet. I realize I missed part of Jeff’s question on what can institutions do? That’s such a good question. And I got more into the topic than the actual to-do. What can institutions do? Honestly—(laughs)—I’ll just speak as a researcher, to back off a bit, right? To let scientists do what they want to do. Yes, we need to follow disclosures. We need to make sure there’s no conflicts of interest. We need to follow all of these procedures. But what I also found during the China Initiative, there was also this chilling climate in which there’s an overinterpretation that may put institutions at risk. And to my knowledge, institutions were not at risk to the extent to which their scientists, especially those of Chinese descent, felt scrutinized. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have a raised hand from Dan Whitman. Q: OK, I think I’m unmuted. Thank you, Irina. And thanks, Professor Lee, for mentioning the Great Wall that that prevents us from dealing with even Europeans who have subsidized education or Africans who have no money. And just an anecdote, since you have welcomed anecdotes, I am an adjunct at George Washington University. But totally unrelated to that, just for free and just for fun, pro bono, nobody pays, nobody gets paid. A course that I’m giving by webinar, it’s zero cost. The topic is crisis management, but it could be any topic. And in that group, which there are about eighty people who tune in twice a week, fifteen Kenyans, twenty-five Ukrainians, and forty Kazakhs. I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever been exchange between Kazakhstan and Kenya. Anyway, my point is things can be done. We share it for free. What motivates the students? A certificate. It’s so easy to give them a certificate. And in many countries, they very highly value that, even though it’s not a—there’s no formality, there’s no formal academic credit. But the students are very motivated. And possibly, there may be universities in the U.S. that could—that might want to give a professor a small stipendium to do an informal webinar course, which would create connections, which would be zero cost, basically, and would bridge that gap of funding that you’ve alluded to. Thank you. LEE: Yeah. Dan, thank you for that. And I think this leads to a kind of a spin-off comment about certificates. Absolutely. Micro-credentials or alternative forms of education, where there’s maybe not a full-fledged undergraduate degree but some certificate, I think, is important niche, especially for returning adults or communities where they’re not able to afford to take time off. So that flexibility, and obviously now with online education, just becomes so much more accessible and very low cost. Something else to keep in mind, though, is that, depending on the institution you’re from, that will make a difference in certificates. I mean, an institution like George Washington University offering a certificate may have some symbolic or perceived value that may be higher than an institution that is lower or are not ranked at all. So this is where, unfortunately—I’m a big critic of global rankings. But unfortunately, it does play a role in how that certificate is being perceived and the attractiveness of that certificate. But absolutely, this is definitely a way to open access especially for places in the world that just cannot physically move or have the funds to support their studies. FASKIANOS: Great. There are two comments/questions in the Q&A that I wanted to give you a chance to respond to about Africa, from Tutaleni Asino and Fodei Batty. Dr. Asino talks about English is the language of instruction and governments in Africa where they’re funding education to a higher degree, and thinks that there are opportunities there, but it sounds like all fifty-four countries are grouped together. And Dr. Batty talks a little bit about there are a lot of students from African countries pursuing graduate education in the United States. But South Africa is usually an exception to the higher education American norm in Africa. Most South Africans don’t like to travel, especially travel to America. I thought maybe you could just clarify some—respond to those comments. LEE: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing those comments. There’s a book I edited called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. And I agree with the comments. And one of the things I didn’t mention that I think is important to help us understand the broader global context is that there’s actually considerable international activity within the continent. And there’s actually considerable intra-Africa mobility within the continent. South Africa is the most important country player in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is globally ranked—has more globally ranked institutions than any other African country. And so South Africa then becomes an important hub. And, yes, as an English-speaking, among many other languages, country, that does attract African students to go oftentimes for a similar sense of shared culture, despite sometimes different languages and customs and backgrounds. And yet, nevertheless, South Africa is an important player within the continent. Not to say that there is no international mobility occurring, but there is increased capacity within the continent that would allow students and interested students to travel within the continent. Not the same extent, of course, as Europe. But the least we’re seeing that rise over time. And so it’s called Intra-Africa Student Mobility. Chika Sehoole and I coedited the book. We were able to get about eight African scholars to talk about the various reasons students would choose that particular African country, and what draw them. And what was really interesting about this phenomenon is that it goes against this prevailing notion of Africa’s victim of brain drain or all going to the north. That’s actually not what is happening. But that there is capacity building within the continent. So in trying to answer a different question, I skirted over a lot of the things I could go further into. But hopefully that book will shed light on what’s happening within that continent, at least from the perspective of eight different countries. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you for that. I’m going to go next to Jonathan Scriven at Washington Adventist University in Maryland: What are some of the strategies universities are using to make education more affordable in the United States? If that is a challenge, are schools investing more or less in setting up campuses in foreign countries as a way to reach foreign students? LEE: I’m just going to read over that question. OK, yeah. Great question, Jonathan. So what’s happening in my institution and many others is a way to attract students is we’re providing considerable aid, merit aid, financial aid, aid even to international students. The majority may not even be paying the full sticker price. Now this, of course, will affect the revenue that would have otherwise been generated, but nevertheless is a way to deal with the fierce competition across U.S. institutions for these top students. So how to make it affordable? There’s a lot of aid going around at the undergraduate, not just the graduate, levels. And so what are institutions doing? Well, for example, at the University of Arizona for our dual degrees, it’s a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to be a student at our main campus. When you have a combination of hybrid or online delivery with a campus partner maybe providing most of the gen ed’s and then we would teach most of the major courses as an example, that does significantly lower the cost where that student will still get a bona fide University of Arizona degree, just like they would at main campus. So these alternative forms of delivery certainly make it more affordable, especially for those that opt to stay in their home country and receive an online education, or a flipped classroom model, or a dual degree. FASKIANOS: Great. Denis Simon, if you can—why don’t you ask your question? Q: Here I am. OK. Recently, on a trip to China in September, a number of faculty have told me they’re no longer wanting to send their best students abroad. They want to keep them in China. And this is all part of the rise of Chinese universities, et cetera. And so it may not be simply the souring of Sino-U.S. relations that has causal effect here, but simply the fact that China now is becoming a major, you know, educational powerhouse. And that also could change the dynamics. For example, even the BRI countries could start to send their students to China instead of sending them to the United States. Do you see anything evolving like this or—and what might be the outcome? LEE: Yeah. Spot on, David. That halo effect of a U.S. degree is not the same as it was when I was a university student. Chinese students, as well as students in the world, are much more savvy. They have access to information. They have access to rankings. They know all universities are not the same. And they know that they have some institutions that are highly ranked and may offer better quality education than the U.S. So that the image of a U.S. degree, of course, is not as universally perceived as it may have been, I don’t know, pre-internet, or without the—all sorts of rankings in which institutions are rated against one another. And absolutely, Chinese institutions are very difficult to get into, fiercely competitive, producing far more scientific output than some of our leading institutions. And there’s another factor when it comes to Asian culture just more broadly speaking, is that social network tie. Sociologists refer to it as social capital. When a Chinese student, a Korean student, Japanese student decides to study in the United States, they may lose that social tie that may possibly put them in a disadvantage when they decide to come back and compete for a position when they may just have that U.S. credential, but may have either lessened or no longer have that relationship that may have allowed them to get a position at the university, or in a place where that alumni network would have been especially useful. So again, I don’t want to generalize, you know, in any place to the world, but there is that component that I think sometimes is missed in the literature. Maintaining that social network is pretty key, especially as jobs, of course, global, you know, unemployment—places where students are competing for positions need to have every edge possible. So that also can be part of that reason they decide to stay. FASKIANOS: Great. The next question from Michael Kulma, who’s at the University of Chicago. He’s following on David Moore’s comments about Florida: Do you know how many other states in the U.S. are enacting or are considering such policies against partnerships with China? LEE: I do not know the answer. So if anyone wants to raise their hand and share about their own state, or put it on the answer part of the question and answer. There are related concerns about DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Some of that may spill over to China. Hopefully, at some point at the Council of Foreign Relations will have a discussion on Israel and Hamas conflict and how institutions are dealing with that. And so we’re seeing a pretty challenging political environment that is clearly spilling over to our classrooms and to our international activities, our domestic recruitment. But I’m not answering your question, Michael. (Laughs.) I’ll leave it up to someone else to answer. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So we don’t have very much time left. I thought maybe you could, given your research and expertise, could suggest resources—recommend resources for higher ed leaders and administrators to better understand how to promote collaboration. LEE: Sure. So promoting collaboration, it really—each person at a time. You know, again, MOUs may be signed, and maybe overarching presidents will come together and have an agreement, but there’s no guarantee that will ever happen. I’d love to do a study on how many MOUs never actually materialized into real action. So where do we begin? International affairs SIOs out there, identify who are your area studies experts? Who are your visiting postdocs? Who are your Fulbright scholars from other parts of the world? They all represent their own network and are certainly are valuable resources to consider. What I’ve sometimes have heard even at my own institution is, you know, how do we bring these people to the table? Why are they not at the table to begin with, and then how do we bring them there? And this is a relatively low-cost way to go about this, right? Like, faculty engaged in service. What kind of opportunities can your university provide for faculty service that is aligned with their area of expertise, the areas of the world they represent, the networks they have? And many of—some of you already have experienced this directly. These partnerships often begin with our alumni, international—former international students who decide to go back home. So, again, there’s just a lot of exciting opportunity. I love this field because it’s never boring. There’s always new ways to grow, expand new partners. But it really does begin with that essential element of trust. And that often begins with our own institutions and identifying those who’ve already started to build that network. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you very much. Really appreciate your being with us and for sharing your expertise and background, Dr. Lee. It’s been fantastic. And to all of you, for your questions and comments, and sharing your experiences as well. You can follow Dr. Lee on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @JennyJ_Lee. I will send out a link to this webinar, the transcript, and the video, as well as the link to the book—your book that you mentioned, and any other resources that you want to share with the group. And I encourage you all to follow @CFR_academic on X, visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. We also—just putting in a plug for our other series, Academic Webinar series, which is designed for students. We just sent out the winter/spring lineup and we hope that you will share that with your colleagues and your students. It is a great way for them to have access to practitioner scholars and to talk with students from around the country. So if you haven’t received that lineup, you can email [email protected], and we will share that with you. So, again, thank you, Jenny, for being with us, and to all of you. And wishing you safe and happy holidays. And good luck closing out this semester before we get to the holidays. (Laughs.) So thank you again. (END)
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, leads the conversation on public opinion on …
  • Human Rights

    José Miguel Vivanco, adjunct senior fellow for human rights at CFR and former executive director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, leads the conversation on human rights in Latin America. FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the Fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record. The video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share them with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have José Miguel Vivanco with us to discuss human rights in Latin America. Mr. Vivanco is an adjunct senior fellow for human rights at CFR and partner at Dentons Global Advisors. He formerly served as the executive director of the Americas Division at Human Rights Watch, where he supervised fact-finding research for numerous reports on gross violations of human rights and advocated strengthening international legal standards and domestic compliance throughout the region. He is the founder of the Center for Justice and International Law, an international civil society organization providing legal and technical assistance with the Inter-American Human Rights System. So, José Miguel, thank you very much for being with us today. I thought you could begin by giving us an overview of what you see as the most important human rights challenges and advances in Latin America today. VIVANCO: Well, thank you very much for this invitation. It is a pleasure to be with you all and to talk for an hour about human rights problems, human rights issues in Latin America. Let me first make a couple of points. First, I think it’s very important that, in retrospect, if you look at Latin America in the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s, it was a region that was pretty much run by military dictatorships. So if you look at historically, the region is not in such a bad shape. I know that this comment is quite controversial and many experts who follow the region closely might disagree with that statement, but objectively speaking I think we need to recognize that most of the region is run today—with the exception, obviously, of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua—by democracies, weak democracies, the kind of democracies that we have in Latin America are facing very serious challenges and with endemic problems such as corruption, abuse of power, lack of transparency, lack of proper accountability, and so on and so forth. But in general terms, this is a region that has a chance to conduct some self-correction. In other words, electoral democracy is a very, very important value in the region, and the citizens—most of the people are able to either reward or punish the incumbent government at the times of elections. That is not a minor detail. It is extremely important, especially if you take into account that during the last twenty years in Latin America, if I’m not wrong, the vast majority of the governments elected were from the opposition. The statistics, I think, show that in eighteen of the twenty last presidential elections, the winner has been the party of the opposition; which means that even though our democracies in Latin America are dysfunctional, weak, messy, slow, you know, short-term-oriented, obviously, but at least citizens take their rights seriously and they exercise their powers so that is why you see a regular zigzag or, you know, transfer of power from a left-wing government to a right-wing government or vice versa. And that is, again, something that is, obviously, a very, very important tool of self-correction. And that, obviously, includes or has an impact in terms of the human rights record of those countries. You know, I’m not—I’m not addressing yet—I will leave it for the Q&A section—conditions in those three dictatorships in Latin America. Let me just make some few more remarks about one of the biggest challenges that I see in the region. And that is, obviously, the rise of autocracy or autocratic leaders, populist leaders, leaders who are not interested or as a matter of fact are very hostile to the concept of rule of law and the concept of independence of the judiciary. And they usually are very charismatic. They have high level of popular support. And they run and govern the country in a style that is like a permanent campaign, where they normally go against minorities and against the opposition, against the free media, against judges and prosecutors who dare to investigate them or investigate the government. Anyone who challenges them are subject of this type of reaction. And that is, unfortunately, something that we have seen in Mexico recently and until today, and in Brazil, especially during the administration of President Bolsonaro. The good news about, in the case of Brazil, is that, thanks to electoral democracy, it was possible to defeat him and—democratically. And the second very important piece of information is that even though Brazil is not a model of rule of law and separation of power, we have to acknowledge that, thanks to the checks-and-balance exercise by the Supreme Court of Brazil, it was possible to do some permanent, constant damage control against the most outrageous initiatives promoted by the administration of President Bolsonaro. That, I think, is one of the biggest challenges in the region. Let me conclude my—make crystal clear that there are serious human rights problems in Latin America today regarding, for instance, abuse of power, police brutality, prison problems. Prisons are really, in most of the countries in the region, a disaster. And you know, a big number of prisoners are awaiting trial, in detention and unable to really exercise their rights. And unfortunately, populist leaders use the prison system or essentially criminal law, by expanding the practice and enlarging the numbers of crimes that could be subject of pretrial detention, and—you know, regardless of the time that it will take for that case to be prosecuted in full respect for the rule—due process, and so on and so forth. And that—the reason is very simple. There is a real demand in Latin America for policies that will address insecurity, citizen security. If you look at statistics in terms of crime rate, it is going up in most of the country. Obviously, there are big difference between countries like Mexico, for instance, or Colombia, and if you link—if you look at the power of cartels and big mafias, and gangs in other countries, or petty crime impacting the daily life of the citizens. Regardless of that point, one of the biggest demands in Latin America is for better and more public security. And that’s why political leaders, usually the solution for that request and demand is to put people in prison with essentially no real due process and increase the number of prisoners without conviction. There are challenges for free speech occasionally, of those leaders who resent scrutiny of their practice. And normally there is a campaign against free media. And there are some attempts in some countries to constantly look for ways to undermine the independence of the judiciary. Keep in mind, for instance, that now in Argentina the whole Supreme Court is under impeachment, and it’s essentially an impeachment promoted by the current government because they disagree with the rulings, positions of the Supreme Court. All the justices on the Supreme Court are subject of this political trial conducted by the Argentine Congress. That is a concrete example of the kinds of risks that are present for judges and the judiciary in general, when they exercise their power and they attempt to protect the integrity of the constitution. So let me stop here and we can move on to the most interesting part of this event. FASKIANOS: Well, that was quite interesting. So, thank you, José Miguel. We appreciate it. We going to go to all of you now for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) We already have some hands up. We will go first to Karla Soto Valdes. Q: My name is Karla Soto. I’m from Lewis University. My question is, what specific measures could be implemented to address and/or prevent trafficking within the asylum-seeking community during their journey to the U.S.? VIVANCO: Irina, are we going to take several questions, or? FASKIANOS: I think we should do one at a time. VIVANCO: Well, Karla, there are multiple tools to address that specific issue. But this applies to essentially most of the human rights problems all over the world. The menu is pretty ample, but depends on one important factor—whether the government involved cares about its own reputation. That is a very important premise here, because if you we are dealing with a democratic government, once again, it’s not—when I refer to a democratic government, I don’t have in mind a sort of Jeffersonian model, I’m referring to the kind of democracies that we have in Latin America. But, if the leaders in charge are—you know, they care about their own reputation, they care about domestic debate, very important, because these types of revelations usually have ramifications at the local level. If they pay close attention to those issues, I think it’s possible to apply, essentially, the technique of naming and shaming. In other words, collecting information, documenting what exactly is happening, and revealing that information to the public, locally and internationally. That is going to create naturally a reaction, a process, an awareness, and local pressure is—hopefully, it’s not just twenty-four hours news, so splash—big splash, but also will trigger some dynamics. If we are dealing with a country that is run by a dictatorship, it is a very, very different question, because normally you’re facing a leader, a government, who couldn’t care less about its own reputation. They have taken already and assume the cost of doing business in that type of context. Now, sometimes conditions are kind of mixed, where you have democratic country in general—so there is still free media, there is an opposition, there is Congress, there are elections. But the government in charge is so—is run by an autocratic leader. That makes, you know, quite—a little more challenging to just document and reveal that information. And you need to think about some particular agenda, governmental agenda. Some specific interests of the government in different areas. Let me see—let me give you an example. Let’s say that the Bolsonaro administration is seriously interested in an incorporation into the OECD in Paris. That is an important piece of information. Whatever you think that is relevant information regarding the record of that government, you could provide information to an entity that is precisely evaluating the record of the government. And the government will be much more willing to address those issues because they have a genuine interest in achieving some specific goal at the international level. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. We’re going to go to Nicole Ambar De Santos, who is an undergraduate student at the Washington University in St. Louis: When we consider weak democracy in a more personal sense, like Peru, the controversy of obligation to help these nations arises. How much third party or other nations, such as the United States, intervene? VIVANCO: Tricky question. Peruvian democracy is quite messy. Part of the problem is that the system, the political system, needs some real reform to avoid the proliferation of small political parties and to create the real link or relationship between leaders, especially in Congress, and their constituencies, and so they are much more accountable to their community, the ones who elected them. I don’t think the U.S., or any other government, has a direct role to play in that area. My sense is that when we are looking into a dysfunctional democracy that deserve some probably even constitutional reforms, that is essentially a domestic job. That is the work that needs to be done by Peruvians. Without a local consensus about the reforms that need to be implemented in the political system, my sense is that it’s going to be very difficult for the U.S. or any other large democracy, to address those kinds of points. It’s very different, that type of conversation, from a conversation or an assessment of universal values, such as human rights. When we are looking into cases of police brutality, for instance, the international community has a role to play. But if I were part of the conversation or evaluation by the U.S. government or the European Union with regard to this dysfunctional democracy in Peru, I would approach very carefully by suggesting creating the right type of incentives, more than questions of punishment, or sanctions. It’s incentives for them to create the right conditions to address the domestic problem that is—has become quite endemic, in the case of Peru. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Matthew. Matthew, you don’t have a last name, so can you identify yourself? Q: Hello. Yes, my name is Matthew. I am a junior student from Arizona State University studying business, but working on a thesis that has to do with human rights and the ethics of supply chain management. My question is, you were talking at the very beginning kind of just about history and how understanding history is important. And what I was hoping to get was, why is understanding history and culture important when working to address human rights issues, history of dictatorship, colonialism? In cultures it’s socially acceptable things, like child labor, in some countries, that’s not acceptable in Western ideology. So, yeah, just how is history and culture important when working to address human rights for the future? VIVANCO: Matthew, I think you’re referring to two different issues. History is central. It’s really, really relevant. Because that helps you—if you—if you follow your history, especially periods of time when massive and gross violations were committed in Latin America, it’s important to put things in context and value what you have today. And the job is to—not only to preserve democracy, but also to look for ways to strengthen democracy. Because part of the problem is that domestic debate is so polarized today, not just in Latin America, all over the world, that sometimes people—different, you know, segments of society—in their positions, they’re so dismissive of the other side, that they don’t realize that we need to frame our debate in a constructive way. Let me put it—one specific example. If the government of Argentina, who is a government very receptive and very sensitive to vast and gross violations of human rights committed during the military dictatorship, so in other words, I don’t need to lecture that government on that subject. They are actually the people who vote for the current government of Argentina—not the new government, the current government of Argentina—is deeply committed to those kinds of issues. I think that one of the biggest lessons that you should learn from the past is the relevance of protecting the independence of the judiciary. If you don’t have an independent judiciary, and the judiciary becomes an entity that is an appendix of the ruling party or is intimidated by politics, and they could be subject of impeachment procedures every time that they rule something, that the powerful—the establishment disagree, I think they’re playing with fire, and they’re not really paying attention to the lessons that you learn from recent history in Latin America. That would be my first comment regarding that type of issue. And the second one, about you mentioned specifically cultural problems, culture, tensions or conflicts. And you mentioned—your example was child labor. And, and you suggested that that—the combination of child labor is something typical of Western ideology. If I’m not wrong, that was the language that you used. I would—I would push back on that point. And because this is not just a Western or European commitment. This is a universal one. And this is reflected on international treaties, and that are supposed to eradicate that kind of practice. If you give up to the concept of local traditions, you know, cultural, you know, issues that you need to pay attention, sure, as long as they are not to be in conflict with fundamental human rights. Otherwise, in half of the planet you’re not going to have women rights, and women will be subject of traditional control. And you wouldn’t have rights for minorities, and especially—and not only, but especially—the LGBTQ community. And you wouldn’t have rights for racial minorities, or different religious beliefs. So, we have to watch and be very careful about what type of concessions we make to cultural traditions. I am happy to understand that different communities in Latin America might have different traditions, but there is some firm, solid, and unquestionable minimum that are the these universal human rights values that are not the property or monopoly of anyone. You know, these are—and this is not an ethical conversation. This is a legal one, because these values are protected under international law. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to combine or take two questions. The first question is from Lindsay Bert, who is at the department of political science at Muhlenberg College, who asks if you could speak on the efficacy of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in addressing the human rights violations you described. And the second question is from Leonard Onyebuchi Ophoke, a graduate student at Cavendish University in Uganda: Why is it almost impossible to hold the actors that violate human rights accountable? What could be done to make the mechanism more enforceable? VIVANCO: The inter-American system of human rights protection, there is nothing similar to inter-American system of human rights protection in the Global South. You don’t have something similar in Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East. In other words, you don’t have a mechanism where ultimately a court, a court of law—not just a commission, a court of law—handle individual cases, specific complaints of human rights abuses, and governments participate in public hearings. The parties involved have the obligation to present evidence before the court, and the court finally ruled on the specific matters where its decisions are binding. The number of issues that have been addressed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the last thirty years in Latin America are really incredible. And the impact—this is most important point—the impact at a local level is remarkable. In the area, for instance, of torture, disappearances. I’m referring to the elaboration of concepts and the imposing the obligation of local governments to adjust their legislation and practice, and to address specific problems or issues by providing remedies to victims. That is quite unusual. And the court has remarkable rulings on free speech, on discrimination issues, on indigenous populations, on military jurisdiction. One of the typical recourse of governments in the region when security forces were involved in human rights atrocities was to invoke military jurisdiction. So they say, no worries, we are going to investigate our own crimes. And the court has been actually very, very firm, challenging that notion to the point that I don’t think there is a single case in Latin America today—once again, with the exception of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, that I hope that somebody will ask me a question about those three countries—and I don’t think there is a single case where today security forces try to—or attempt to shield themselves from investigation invoking military jurisdiction. And the credit is to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. I can elaborate, and give you—provide you with a long list of examples of areas where the court has been actually really, really critical in advancing human rights in the region. Let me give you actually one last example that I think is very—is very illustrative, very revealing. In Chile, something like probably twenty years ago or fifteen years ago, full democracy. Full democracy. No Chile under Pinochet. The Supreme Court of Chile ruled that a mother who was openly lesbian did not qualify for the custody of her children because she was lesbian. And she had a couple. So that was sufficient grounds to rule in favor of the father, because the mother didn’t have the moral grounds to educate her own kids, children. And this was decided by the Supreme Court of Chile. Not just a small first instance tribunal. And I will point out that the vast majority of the—I mean, the public in Chile was pretty much divided, but I’m pretty sure that the majority of Chileans thought that the Supreme Court was right, you know? The case went to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. And fortunately, after a few years, the court not only challenged that decision of the Supreme Court, forced Chile to change its legislation, and to change the ruling of the Supreme Court of Chile, which is supposed to be the last judgment in the country. And the impact of that one, not only in Chile, in the rest of the region, because it shapes the common wisdom, the assumptions of many people. It helps for them to think carefully about this kind of issues. And the good news is that that mother was able to have the custody of her kids. And not only that, the impact in Chilean society and in the rest of the region was remarkable. Now, the second question that was asked was about how difficult it is to establish accountability for human rights abuses against the perpetrators of those abuses. I mean, it’s a real challenge. It depends on whether or not you have locally an independent judiciary. If you do have an independent judiciary, the process is slow, it’s messy, it’s complicated. But there is a chance that atrocities could be addressed. And that is— especially human rights atrocities or abuses committed during the military dictatorship. There are countries in the region, like for instance, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, where there are people in prison for those type of atrocities. In Brazil, thanks to an amnesty law that was passed in 1978, real investigation and prosecution of those atrocities actually never happened. And an important lesson that you could bear in mind is that Brazilian military are very dismissive of these type of issues, of human rights issues. But not only that, my sense is that Brazilian military officers at very high level are not afraid of stepping into politics, and give their opinion, and challenge the government. In other words, they were actually very, very active, and I’m referring to top officials in the Brazilian Army, during the Bolsonaro administration. There were top leaders who actually publicly argued that if they have to organize a coup again in Brazil, they are ready. That kind of language you don’t find in Argentina, in Chile, in other countries where there have been some accountability. For one simple reason, the top military officers running the show are very much aware that if they get involved in politics, that they are part tomorrow of a coup d’état or something like that, at the end of the day they will be responsible. And they might be subject of criminal prosecution for atrocities committed during that period. And so there is a price to pay. So their calculation is much more, shall we say, prudent regarding this issue. But again, once again, how difficult it is? It’s very difficult to establish accountability, and much more difficult when you’re dealing with dictatorship, where you need to rely on the work done by, for instance, the ICC, the International Criminal Court, which is pretty active in the case of Venezuela. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Fordham. Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Vivanco. My name is Carlos Ortiz de la Pena Gomez Urguiza, and I have a question for you. El Salvador is currently battling crime and gangs with strategies such as mano dura, which have shown a significant decrease in crime at the cost of violating human rights. Do you see a possible effective integration of such policies in high-crime-rate countries, such as Mexico, to stop the growth of narco and crime gang activity? And if so, how? VIVANCO: Well, look, yeah, Carlos, very good question. Bukele in El Salvador is a real, real challenge. It’s really, really a complicated case, for several reasons. He’s incredibly popular. No question about it. He has managed to—thanks to that popularity—to concentrate power in his own hands. He fully controls Congress. But, much more relevant, he fully controls the judiciary, including the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court today is subordinated to the executive branch. And he is constantly going after the civil society, and free media, and the opposition. Now, in violation of the Salvadorean constitution, he’s going to run for reelection. And he will be reelected, because he’s also very popular. And his policies to go after gangs are cruel, inhuman, and without—not even a facade of respect for due process. Essentially, the policy which is not sustainable and is—I don’t think is something that you could export to other countries—is a policy—unless you have full control, unless you have some sort of dictatorship or quasi dictatorship. Which is based, in essence, in the appearance, in the number of tattoos that people, especially in the marginal communities in the periferia in El Salvador, where shanty towns are located. The police has a, you know, green light to arrest anyone who fit that profile. And then good luck, because it’s going to be very, very difficult for that person to avoid something like several months in prison. The whole point of having an independent judiciary and due process is that law enforcement agencies have the—obviously, not only the right, the duty to prevent crimes and to punish criminals. Not physically punish them. You know, it’s to arrest them, to detain them, and to use proportional force to produce that attention. But they need to follow certain rules. They cannot just go around and arrest anyone who they have some sort of gut feelings that they are involved in crimes, because then you don’t—you’re not—the whole system is not able to distinguish and to make a distinction between potential criminals and innocent people. But it is complicated, the case of Bukele, because, for instance, I was referring initially to the technique of naming and shaming as a technique, as a methodology to expose governments with deplorable human rights record. But in the case of Bukele, he couldn’t care less about. In other words, actually, I think he used the poor perception that exists, already that is established outside El Salvador as a result of his persecution of gangs in El Salvador—he used that kind of criticism as a way to improve his support domestically. In other words, when the New York Times published a whole report about massive abuses committed by Bukele’s criminal system, in the prison system in El Salvador, what Bukele does is to take that one, that criticism, as actually ammunition to project himself as a tough guy who is actually, you know, doing the right thing for El Salvador. It’s a question of time. It’s a question of time. All of this is very sad for El Salvador, one of the few democracies in Central America with some future, I think, because I think they managed after the war to create institutions that are—that were much more credible than in the neighboring countries, like Guatemala, Honduras, and I’m not going to even mention Nicaragua. But under the control of this strongman, everything is possible today in El Salvador. He will be able to govern El Salvador this way as long as he’s popular. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has relaxed its attention and pressure on that government, based on the question of migration. So they are hostage by the cooperation of Bukele government to try or attempt to control illegal immigration into the U.S. So that point trumps or, I mean, supersedes everything else. And that is actually very unfortunate. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next two questions, written questions. One is on the subject that you wanted, from Brittney Thomas, who is an undergraduate at Arizona State University: How come the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are socialist or communist while other Latin America countries are predominantly democracies? And then from Roger— VIVANCO: I’m sorry, I couldn’t understand the question. Obviously, it’s about Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, but? FASKIANOS: Why are they socialist or communist while other Latin American countries are predominantly democracies? VIVANCO: Oh, I see. OK. FASKIANOS: Yeah. And then the next question is from Roger Rose, who is an associate professor of political science at University of Minnesota, Morris: Given the recent decline in the norms of U.S. democracy in the last seven years, does the U.S. have any credibility and influence in the region in promoting democracy? And, again, if you could comment specifically on nations with the least democratic systems—Venezuela, Nicaragua—how could the U.S. play a more constructive role than it is currently? VIVANCO: The U.S. is always a very important player, very, very important. I mean, it’s the largest economy in the world and the influence of the U.S. government in Latin America is huge. However, obviously, I have to acknowledge that our domestic problems here and serious challenges to the fundamentals of the rule of law, and just the notion that we respect the system according to which one who wins the election is—you know, has the legitimacy and the mandate to form a new government. If that notion is in question, and there are millions of American citizens who are willing to challenge that premise, obviously undermines the capacity of the U.S. to exercise leadership on this—in this context. And the autocrats and the autocracies in the region—I’m not referring to the dictatorships, but I’m referring to the Andrés Manuel López Obrador, once again, from Mexico, or Bolsonaro in Brazil—they take those kinds of developments in the U.S. as green lights to do whatever they want at local level. So that is a serious—obviously, it’s a serious problem. And what is going on here has ramifications not only in the region, but also in the rest of the world. Now, Cuba is a historical problem. It’s going to be too long to address the question in terms of why Cuba is a dictatorship and the rest of the region. Part of the problem with Cuba is that you have a government that violates the most fundamental rights and persecutes everyone who challenges the official line. And most of the Cubans today are willing to leave the country and to go into exile. But the problem is that we don’t have the right tool, the right instrument in place, to exercise pressure on Cuba. And the right instrument today is the embargo. And that embargo, that policy is a total failure. The Cuban government is the same, exactly the same dictatorship. There has been no progress. And there’s going to be no progress, in my view, as long as the U.S. government insist on a policy of isolation. You should be aware that every year 99 percentage of the states in the world condemned the isolation against Cuba, with the exception and the opposition of the U.S. government, Israel, and in the past was the Marshall Islands. Now, I don’t think even the Marshall Islands joined the U.S. government defending that policy. So the policy is incredibly unpopular. And the debate at international level is about the U.S. government policy on Cuba and not about the deplorable human rights record of Cuba. That’s why I was actually very supportive of the change of policy attempted during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, the isolation policy depends on Congress. And since the times of Clinton, this is a matter of who is the one in control of Congress. And the policy of isolation, it once again makes Cuba a victim of Washington. And Cuba, by the way, is not isolated from the rest of the world. So the U.S. is incredibly, I would say, powerless with regard to the lack of democracy and human rights in Cuba. And at the time, offers a fantastic justification for the Cuban government to present itself as a victim. I think that is the—this is one of the most serious mistakes of the U.S. foreign policy in Latin America that I hope that one day will be—will be addressed effectively. The case of Nicaragua and Venezuela is different, in the sense that we are looking into countries that—Venezuela in particular—have democracy for—a very questionable democracy, very weak, subject of tremendous corruption, and so on and so forth. But they have a system of political parties, free media, and so on, for many, many years. And they end up electing a populist leader whose marching orders and, you know, actually first majors was to establish some effective control of the judiciary. And the Supreme Court became an appendage of the government many, many, many years ago, which means that they managed during the Chavez administration to run the country with some sort of facade of democracy. Today, under Maduro it’s no a longer a façade, it’s a clear dictatorship responsible for atrocities. Fortunately, it is under investigation by the ICC. And the case of Nicaragua is an extreme case, similar to Venezuela. And it’s—it’s a dictator who has managed to put in prison everyone who is not in full alliance with the government, including religious leaders, and academics, and opposition leaders, civil society, et cetera. The case of Nicaragua is more complicated because Nicaragua is subject of sanctions by the U.S. government, and the European Union, and Canada, and some governments in the region. But still, we don’t see much progress there. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to Nassar Nassar, who has a raised hand. You can unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Q: Yes. Hello. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. Q: Hi. My name is Nassar Nassar. I’m from Lewis University. So my question is, which are the most significant actors in the global governance of human trafficking? And how effective are they in tackling that? VIVANCO: Well, this is a matter that is usually—the main actors—so this is organized crime. This is organized crime. This is a question regarding—this is a—it’s a huge business, and extremely profitable. And if you want to address these kinds of issues, you need regional cooperation, which is very challenging. Keep in mind that at a local level, in many of the most democratic countries in the region, you have tremendous tensions among the local police and different police. For instance, the local FBI—equivalent to an FBI, is usually in tension with other branches of law enforcement. And if you expect to have cooperation from the rest of the countries in the region, it’s extremely challenging. So these type of issues require effective cooperation, adjustment on legislation. Require more better intelligence. The reason why you have this type—proliferation of this type of business is because, obviously, corruption and lack of accountability. So this is—my point is that it is a reflection of how weak is our law enforcement system, and how unprofessional, and subject many times of corruption. FASKIANOS: Just to follow up on that, a written question from Patricia Drown, who’s at Regent University. How are the cartels and mafia being armed, and by whom? VIVANCO: Well, in the case of, for instance, Mexico, weapons comes from the U.S. Sometimes even legally. You know, the Second Amendment plays a role here. It’s so easy to have access to weapons, all kind of weapons, in the U.S. So that helps. And a lack of actually an effective control mechanism to stop that type of traffic. The amount of money that cartels moved in countries like Mexico, but Colombia as well, and this mafia scene in Central America is significant. So they do have capacity to corrupt local enforcement officials that belongs to the police, the army, even the judiciary. And as long as you don’t address the root cause of the problem, which is the lack of presence of the state—in other words, there are vast—as you know, there are regions of Colombia that are not under the control of the government, the territories in Colombia. And there are regions of Mexico that, unfortunately, are increasingly under more effective control of cartels than law enforcement and legitimate officials. So that unfortunately, is the—in my view, one of the reasons why it is relatively easy to witness this type of proliferation of illegal business. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. I think we are out of time. We have so many written questions and raised hands. Maybe I’ll just try to sneak in one more from Andrea Cuervo Prados. You have your hand raised. I think you also wrote a question. So if you can be brief and tell us who you are. Q: OK. Hello. I’m adjunct faculty at Dickinson State University. And, Mr. Vivanco, I have a question related to Colombia. What do you think about the state of the human rights in Colombia under the new leftist president, Gustavo Petro, compared to the previous president, Ivan Duque? VIVANCO: Andrea, I think it’s pretty much the same. When we witness actually an improvement of human rights conditions in Colombia, it was during the negotiations with the FARC. I’m referring to the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos. And with the signature of the peace agreement, when they signed the peace agreement, the numbers shows a serious decline in the cases of, for instance, internally displaced people, torture cases, executions, abductions, and many other of those typical abuses that are committed in Colombia in rural areas where this organized crime and irregular armed groups are historically present. But then the policies implemented during the Duque administration were actually not very effective. There was a sort of relaxation during that period, and not effective implementation of those commitments negotiated with the FARC. That had an implication in terms of abuses. And today I don’t see a major shift. My sense is that the local communities are subject of similar abuses, including human rights activists as well as social leaders, in areas where there is a very weak presence of the state. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. José Miguel Vivanco. We really appreciate your being with us today. And I apologize. Great questions. I’m sorry, we couldn’t get to all of the written ones or raised hands. It’s clear we will have to do this—focus in on this again and have you back. You can follow José Miguel on X at @VivancoJM. And the next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, November 29, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Shibley Telhami, who’s a professor at the University of Maryland, will lead a conversation on public opinion on Israel and Palestine. And in the meantime, I encourage you to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at You can follow us at @CFR_Academic. And visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Again, José Miguel, thank you very much for today, and to all of you for joining us. VIVANCO: Thanks a lot. FASKIANOS: Take care. (END)
  • Military Operations

    Stephen Biddle, adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at CFR and professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, leads the conversation on military strategy in the contemporary world. FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share them with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Stephen Biddle with us to discuss military strategy in the contemporary world. Dr. Biddle is an adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at CFR and professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. Before joining Columbia he was professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He regularly lectures at the U.S. Army War College and other military schools and has served on a variety of government advisory panels and analytical teams, testified before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; force planning; conventional net assessment; and European arms control, just to name a few. And, finally, Dr. Biddle is the author of numerous scholarly publications and several books, including his most recent, Nonstate Warfare, published by Princeton University in 2021 and he just recently authored a piece in CFR’s magazine Foreign Affairs in the September/October 2023 issue entitled “Back in the Trenches: Why New Technology Hasn’t Revolutionized Warfare in Ukraine,” and we shared that out in the background readings for this conversation. So, Steve, thank you for being with us. I thought you could give us an overview of the changes you’ve seen in military operations as a result of technological innovation and say a few words about wartime military behavior especially as you’ve studied it over the years and what we’re seeing now in Ukraine and now with the Israel-Hamas war. BIDDLE: Yeah, I’d be happy to. There’s a lot going on in the world of military affairs and strategy at the moment between Gaza, Taiwan Straits, and, of course, Ukraine. Maybe as a conversation starter I’ll start with Ukraine but we can go in whatever direction the group wants to go in, and the spoiler alert is in the headline of the article from Foreign Affairs that you’ve already assigned. There’s a big debate over what Ukraine means for the future of warfare and what Ukraine means for the way the United States should organize its military, modernize its equipment, write its doctrine and so on. One of the most common interpretations of what Ukraine means for all this is that it’s harboring—it’s a harbinger of a revolutionary transformation. The new technology, drones, space-based surveillance, precision-guided weapons, hypersonics, networked information, artificial intelligence, this whole panoply of things in this argument is making the modern battlefield so lethal, so radically more lethal than the past is that in the present and in the future offensive maneuver will become impossible and we’ll get the dawn of some new age of defense dominance in conventional warfare, which, if true, would then have all sorts of implications for how the United States should make all these kinds of defense policy decisions. As those of you who read the Foreign Affairs article know I don’t buy it because I don’t think the evidence is consistent with that supposition. You’ll be happy to hear that I’m not planning to do a dramatic reading of the Foreign Affairs essay, entertaining as I’m sure that would be, but I did think it might be useful for me to briefly outline the argument as a way of teeing up the subsequent conversation. And the basic argument in the article is that whereas there are, indeed, all sorts of very new technologies in use in this war, when you actually look carefully at the results they’re producing, at the attrition rates that they’re actually causing, at the ability of the two sides to gain ground and to suffer the loss of ground, the actual results being produced by all this very new technology are surprisingly less new than is assumed and supposed in the argument that we’re looking at some transformational discontinuous moment in which a new age of defense dominance is dawning. This doesn’t mean that nothing’s changing or that the United States military should do in the future exactly what it’s done in the past. But the nature of the change that I think we’re seeing is evolutionary and incremental as it has been for the last hundred years, and if you think what’s going on is incremental evolutionary change rather than discontinuous transformation that then has very different implications for what the U.S. should do militarily. So just to unpack a little bit of that by way of pump priming let me just cite some of the examples of what one actually observes and the outcomes of the use of all these new technologies as we’ve seen in Ukraine. So let’s start with casualty rates and attrition. At the heart of this argument that new technology is creating a new era of defense dominance is the argument that fires have made the battlefield so lethal now that the kind of offensive maneuver you saw in World War II or in 1967 or in 1991 is now impossible. And, yet, the actual attrition rates of, for example, tanks, right—tanks tend to be the weapon system that gets the most attention in this context—are remarkably similar to what we saw in the world wars. So in the first twelve months of the fighting in Ukraine, depending on whose estimates you look at the Russians lost somewhere between about half and about 96 percent of their prewar tank fleet in twelve months of fighting. The Ukrainians lost somewhat in excess of 50 percent of their prewar tank fleet, and intuitively that looks like a heavy loss rate, right? Fifty (percent) to 96 percent of what you opened the war with, that seems pretty—you know, pretty dangerous. But in historical context it’s actually lower than it frequently was in World War II. In 1943, the German army suffered an attrition rate to the tanks it owned at the beginning of the year of 113 percent. They lost more tanks in 1943 than they owned in January 1943. Their casualty rate went up in 1944. They lost 122 percent of all the tanks they owned in January of 1944. So these attrition rates while high aren’t unusually high by historical standards. What about artillery, right? Artillery is the single largest casualty inflicter on the modern battlefield defined as since the turn of the twentieth century, 1900. As far as we can tell the attrition rate from Ukrainian artillery fire of Russian forces in this war looks to be on the order of about eight casualties inflicted per hundred rounds of artillery fired and that’s higher than in World War II but not discontinuously radically higher. In World War II that figure would have been about three casualties per hundred rounds fired. In World War I that figure would have been about two casualties per hundred rounds fired. If you chart that over time what you see is an essentially linear straight line incremental increase over a hundred years of about an additional .05 casualties per hundred rounds fired per year over a century of combat experience. There’s no sudden discontinuous increase as a result of drones or networked information or space-based surveillance at the end of the period. What about ground gain and ground loss? The purpose of attrition on a modern battlefield is to change who controls how much territory and the whole transformation argument is that all this putatively much more lethal technology is making ground gain much, much harder than in the past, and yet the Russia offensive that opened the war, mishandled as it was in so many ways, took over 42,000 square miles of Ukraine in the first couple of months of the war. The Ukrainian Kyiv counteroffensive retook more than 19,000 square miles. Their Kharkiv counteroffensive retook 2,300 square miles. The Kharkiv counteroffensive took back more than 200 square miles. There’s been plenty of defensive stalemate in the war, right? The Russian offensive on Bakhmut took ten months to take the city. Cost them probably sixty (thousand) to a hundred thousand casualties to do it. The Mariupol offensive took three months to take the city. But this war has not been a simple story of technologically determined offensive frustration. There have been offensives that have succeeded and offensives that have failed with essentially the same equipment. Drones didn’t get introduced into the war in the last six months. Drones were in heavy use from the very outset of the fighting and this kind of pattern of some offensives that succeed, some offensives that don’t, like the attrition rate is not particularly new. I mean, the popular imagination tends to see World War I as a trench stalemate created by the new technology of artillery and machine guns and barbed wire and World War II as a world offensive maneuver created by the new technologies of the tank, the airplane, the radio. Neither World War I nor World War II were homogeneous experiences where everything was defensive frustration of World War I and everything was offensive success in World War II. That wasn’t the case in either of the two world wars. The Germans advanced almost to the doorsteps of Paris in the initial war opening offensive in 1914. In 1918, the German spring offenses broke clean through Allied lines three times in a row and produced a general advance by the Allies and the subsequent counteroffensive on a hundred-eighty-mile front. There was a lot of ground that changed hands in World War I as a result of offensives in addition to the great defensive trench stalemate of 1915 to mid-1917. In World War II some of the most famous offensive failures in military history were tank-heavy attacks in 1943 and 1944. The Battle of Kursk on the Russian front cost the German attackers more than a hundred and sixty thousand casualties and more than seven hundred lost tanks. The most tank-intensive offensive in the history of war, the British attack at Operation Goodwood in 1944, cost the British a third of all the British armor on the continent of Europe in just three days of fighting. So what we’ve seen in observed military experience over a hundred years of frequent observational opportunity is a mix of offensive success and defensive success with technologies that are sometimes described as defense dominant and, yet, nonetheless, see breakthroughs and technologies that are sometimes seen as offense dominant and, yet, sometimes produce defensive stalemates and what really varies is not so much driven by the equipment, it’s driven by the way people use it. And the central problem in all of this is that military outcomes are not technologically determined. The effects of technology in war are powerfully mediated by how human organizations use them and there are big variations in the way human organizations use equipment. And if you just look at the equipment alone and expect that that’s going to tell you what the result of combat is going to be and you don’t systematically account for how the human organizations involved adapt to what the technology might do on the proving ground to reduce what it can do on the battlefield then you get radically wrong answers and I would argue that’s what’s going on in Ukraine. Both sides are adapting rapidly and the nature of the adaptations that we’re seeing in Ukraine are very similar to the nature of the adaptations we’ve seen in previous great power warfare. Again, incremental lineal extensions of emphases on cover, emphases on concealment, combined arms, defensive depth, mobile reserve withholds—these are the ways that all great power militaries have responded to increasingly lethal equipment over time to reduce their exposure to the nominal proving ground lethality of weapons in actual practice. The problem is this collection of techniques—and in other work I’ve referred to them as the modern system, this kind of transnational epistemic community of practice and the conduct of conventional warfare—to do all these things right and minimize your exposure is technically very challenging. Some military organizations can manage this very complex way of fighting; others cannot. Some can do it on one front and not on another front, and the result is we get a lot of variance in the degree to which any given military at any given moment embraces the entirety of this doctrinal program. Where they do, defenses have been very hard to break through for a hundred years. This isn’t something that came about in February of 2022 because of drones and networked information. This has been the case repeatedly for a century of actual combat. But where they don’t, where defenses are shallow, where reserve withholds are too small, where combined arms aren’t exploited, where cover and concealment isn’t exploited, then casualty rates go way, way up. Then breakthrough becomes possible. Then attackers can gain a lot of ground with tanks or without tanks. The German offensives that broke clean through Allied defensive lines in 1918 had almost no tanks. The first of them, Operation Michael, was a one-million soldier offensive that had exactly nine tanks in support of it. So the differences that have mattered are the interaction of increasingly lethal technology with these variations and the ability of real human organizations to master the complexity needed to fight in a way that reduces exposure to this and that’s the same thing we’ve seen in Ukraine. Where defenses have been shallow and haven’t had enough reserves behind them you’ve gotten breakthroughs. Where they’ve been deep, adequately backed by reserves, as we’ve seen in this summer counteroffensive over the last three or four months, for example, they’ve not been able to break through and this isn’t a new story. This is just a recapitulation of a hundred years’ worth of military experience. If that’s so then what difference does it make to the U.S.? So, again, as I suggested earlier, that doesn’t mean don’t change anything, right? A 1916 tank on a modern battlefield would not fare well. Part of the stability in these kinds of outcomes is because people change the way they do business. They change the way they fight. They update their equipment. They execute measure/countermeasure races and so we need to continue to do that. Depth is probably going to increase. Reserve withhold requirements are going to go up. Demands for cover and concealment are going to increase. There will be technological implications stemming from the particular measure/countermeasure races that are emerging now especially with respect to drones. Almost certainly the U.S. Army is going to have an incentive, for example, to deploy counter drone escort vehicles as part of the combined arms mix, moving forward. But the principle of combined arms that’s behind so much of the way the U.S. Army fights is very unlikely to change very much. What’s going to happen is a new element will be added to the combined arms mix, and escort jammers and anti-aircraft artillery and other air defense systems that are optimized for drones will become part of the mix of tanks and infantry and engineers and signals and air defense and all the rest, moving forward. The whole revolution argument, though, is not that, right? The reason people refer to this as a revolution, as transformation, is they’re using language that’s designed to tee up the idea that ordinary orthodox incremental updating business as usual isn’t enough in this new era because of drones, because of hypersonics, or space-based surveillance or whatever. We need something more than that, and I think if we look closely at what’s going on in Ukraine what we see is not an argument that we need to transform the way the U.S. military does business. What we see is an argument for incremental change that implies incremental adaptation is appropriate, that it’s not the wrong thing to do. I think it’s possible to over-innovate. I think there are ample historical examples of militaries that have gone wrong not by being resistant to innovation—there are plenty of those, too—but by doing too much innovation. In the 1950s and 1960s U.S. Air Force transformed itself around an idea that conventional warfare is a thing of the past, all wars of the future will be nuclear, and they designed airplanes for nuclear weapon delivery that were horribly ill-suited to the conventional war in Vietnam that they then found themselves in. The U.S. Army transformed its doctrine following a particular understanding of the lethality of precision-guided anti-tank weapons in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, adopted a concept called active defense that relied on static defense in a shallow disposition from fixed positions, emphasizing the ostensible new firepower of anti-tank weapons. Found that that was very innovative but very ineffective and abandoned it in favor of the airline battle doctrine that’s a lineal descendant of the doctrine we use now, which was much more orthodox and conventional. There are plenty of examples of militaries that have over-innovated. This language of revolution and transformation is designed to promote what I’m concerned could be over-innovation again. I think we could talk more about the particulars of what incremental adaptation should comprise but I think that’s the right way forward in light of what we actually observe about what’s going on in Ukraine. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you for that, Steve. That was great. Let’s go now to all of you for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) And so don’t be shy. This is your time. We have our first question from Terrence Kleven. Q: Hello. Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. If you could tell us your affiliation that would be great. Q: Yes, very good. Terrence Kleven. I’m at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and I teach in a philosophy and religious studies department and I teach quite a lot of Middle Eastern studies. Thank you very much for your presentation because so much of this we don’t talk about enough and we don’t understand, and I appreciate the opportunity to hear what you have to say and look forward to reading your—some of your material. Just kind of a practical question, why aren’t the Russians using more planes in this war or are they and we just don’t have a report of that? I assume that the Russian air force is much superior to what the Ukrainians have but it doesn’t seem to give them a great advantage. What’s missing? What’s going on? BIDDLE: Yeah. You’re raising a question that has bedeviled military analysts in this war since its beginning. Part of the issue is the definition of what plane is, right? If we define a plane as something that uses aerodynamic lift to fly through the air and perform military missions the Russians are using lots of planes; they just don’t have pilots. We call them drones. But a drone, to a first approximation, is just a particular inexpensive, low-performance airplane that is relatively expendable because it’s inexpensive. But because it’s inexpensive it’s also low performance. If by airplanes one includes drones, then there’s lots of airplane use going on. What you had in mind with the question, I’m sure, is the airplanes that have people in them—why aren’t they more salient in the military conduct of the war, and the Russians have tried to use piloted aircraft. The trouble is the loss rates have kept them, largely, out of the sky. So this again gets back to the question of human adaptation to new technology. Air forces—and navies, by the way, but that’s a different conversation—are much more exposed to more technology increases—the technology changes that produce increasing lethality than ground armies are. Ground armies have much easier access to cover and concealment. It’s hard to find much cover and concealment up there in the sky, right? You’re highlighted against a largely featureless background. There are things you can do as an air force to try and reduce your exposure to precision-guided anti-aircraft weapons and the U.S. Air Force, for example, practices those extensively. But the complexity of operating an air force to be effective at the mission called SEAD—suppression of enemy air defenses—is very high and it requires a lot of practice and it requires a lot of flight hours and it requires you to burn a lot of fuel in training, and the U.S. Air Force is willing to do that. The Russians historically have not. Therefore, they’re not very good at it. Therefore, they’re very—they have been very exposed to the lethality precision-guided Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses and, therefore, they’ve mostly decided not to expose themselves to this fire. They fly mostly over friendly terrain, especially in metropolitan Russia, and they fly at low altitudes that keep them under the radar, which is a cliché that’s leached into public conversation because of the actual physics of the way radar works and responds to the curvature of the earth. If the Russians operate over Russian territory at low altitude and launch cruise missiles at huge distances then their airplanes don’t get shot down as much. But then the airplanes are a lot less effective and contribute a lot less and that’s the tradeoff that the Russians have accepted with respect to the use of airplanes. The airplanes they use a lot are unpiloted cheap low-performance drones which they are willing to get shot down in huge numbers and they do get shot down in huge numbers. But piloted aircraft have played a limited role because the air defense environment is too lethal for an air force with skills no better than the Russians are to survive in it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Mike Nelson. Q: Thanks for a very interesting overview. I work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and also have taught at Georgetown on internet policy and the impacts of digital technologies. Seems to me that one of the big changes with this war has been the incredible transparency, more information on what’s actually going on on the ground from social media, satellite photos, drone photos. I saw a tweet today about how they’re able to infer how many Russian soldiers have mutinied by counting these soldiers marching back from the front, presumably under armed guard. It just seems that there’s a lot more information on what’s going on hour by hour. I wonder if that is causing some changes on both the Russian and the Ukrainian side and whether the insertion of disinformation to make it appear that things are going differently than it seems is also something that’s getting better and better. Thank you. BIDDLE: Yeah. I mean, the information environment in Ukraine is complicated in ways that the debate often doesn’t deal with very well, in my view. So starting at the superficial level, public perceptions of what the lethality of first-person view kamikaze drones has been against tanks and artillery are wildly exaggerated and the reason why the public impression is wildly exaggerated is because the medium formerly known as Twitter puts up endless videos of successful attacks. But nobody posts a video of their failed attack so we only see the subset of all drone missions that succeeded. The ones that don’t are invisible. Therefore, the public gets this impression that all—that there are successful drone missions by the millions all the time and that that’s—there are serious selection effects with the way the public understands drone success rates in light of that. So one point is that the apparent transparency is subject to a variety of selection biases that lead to misunderstandings of the transparency on the battlefield as a whole. Similarly, there are lots of videos of images of Russian soldiers in a trench and especially videos of Russian soldiers in a trench before a quadcopter drone drops a grenade on them and then kills them. You don’t see any video feeds of a drone flying over a camouflaged position where you can’t see anything because nobody’s going to post that, right? It’s not interesting enough. But, therefore, again, we get the selection effect. People believe that everything is visible and everything is transparent because every video feed they see, and they see a lot of them, shows a visible target. The trouble is you’re not seeing the failed drone missions that didn’t produce a visible target and those are the vast majority as far as we can tell from more careful analyses that try to look at the totality of drone missions rather than just the selected subset that appear on now X, formerly Twitter. Now, that leads to the general issue of how transparent is the modern battlefield and I would argue that the modern battlefield is a lot less transparent than people popularly imagine that it is. The cover and concealment available in the earth’s surface to a military that’s capable of exploiting it is still sufficient to keep a sizeable fraction of both militaries’ targets invisible to the other side most of the time and that’s why the artillery casualty rate hasn’t gone up dramatically as a result of all this. It’s because cover and concealment is still keeping most of the targets out of the way. So I would argue the battlefield is less transparent than we often assume that it is and in part that’s because the systems that would generate information are countered by the other side so that they generate less information. Again, take drones, which have been the thing that everybody’s been focusing on. There have been multiple waves of measure/countermeasure races just on the technical side, setting aside technical adaptation, with respect to drones already. When the war opened the primary drone in use, especially on the Ukrainian side, was the Bayraktar TB2, Turkish-built large, you know, capable, fairly expensive drone which was very lethal against exposed Russian armored columns. Then several things happened. One is the armored columns decided to get less exposed. Smart move on the Russians’ part. The other thing is the air defense system under the Russians adapted and started shooting down Bayraktar TB2s at a huge rate to the point where the Ukrainians stopped flying them because they were so vulnerable and, instead, drones shifted from big expensive higher performance drones to smaller, cheaper, lower performance drones, which were so cheap that it didn’t make sense to fire expensive guided anti-aircraft missiles at them anymore and then the air defense environment shifted to emphasize jamming, which is even cheaper than the drones, and anti-aircraft artillery firing bullets that are cheaper than drones. So the systems that would create this transparency and that would give you this information don’t get a free ride. The opponent systematically attacks them and systematically changes the behavior of the target so that the surviving seekers have less to find, and in addition to cover and concealment and complementary to it is dispersion and what dispersion of ground targets does is even if you find a target it may very well not be worth the expenditure of an expensive precision munition to kill. A guided 155-millimeter artillery shell costs on the order of a hundred thousand dollars a shell. If you’re shooting it at a concentrated platoon of enemy infantry that’s a good expenditure. If you’re shooting it at a dispersed target where they’re in one- or two-soldier foxholes now even if you know where all the foxholes are—even if your drones have survived, the concealment has failed and the drone has accurately located where every single two-soldier foxhole is does it make sense to fire a $100,000 guided artillery shell at each of them or are you going to run out of guided artillery shells before they run out of foxholes, right? So the net of all of this—the technical measure/countermeasure race and the tactical adaptation is that I would argue that the battlefield is actually not as transparent as people commonly assume. If it were we’d be seeing much higher casualty rates than what we’re actually seeing. There’s incremental change, right? The battlefield is more transparent now, heaven knows, than it was in 1943. But the magnitude of the difference and the presence of technical measures and countermeasures is incremental rather than transformational and that’s a large part of the reason why the change in results has been incremental rather than transformational. FASKIANOS: So we have a lot of questions but I do want to just ask you, Steve, to comment on Elon Musk’s—you know, he shut down his Starlink satellite communications so that the Ukrainians could not do their assault on the—on Russia. I think it was the submersible—they were going to strike the Russian naval vessels off of Crimea. So that, obviously—the technology did affect how the war was—the battlefield. BIDDLE: It did, but you’ll notice that Crimea has been attacked multiple times since then and metropolitan Russia has been attacked multiple times since then. So there are technical workarounds. On the technical side rather than the tactical side there are multiple ways to skin a cat. One of these has been that the U.S. has tried to make Ukraine less dependent on private satellite communication networks by providing alternatives that are less subject to the whims of a single billionaire. But tactical communications of the kind that Starlink has enabled the Ukrainians are very useful, right? No doubt about it, and that’s why the U.S. government is working so hard to provide alternatives to commercial Starlink access. But even there, even if you didn’t have them at all the Ukrainian military wouldn’t collapse. I mean, in fact, most military formations were taught how to function in a communications-constrained environment because of the danger that modern militaries will jam their available communication systems or destroy communication nodes or attack the satellites that are providing the relays. Certainly, the U.S. military today is not prepared to assume that satellite communications are always going to be available. We train our soldiers how to operate in an environment in which those systems are denied you because they might be. So, again, I mean, tactical adaptation doesn’t eliminate the effects of technological change—having Starlink, being denied Starlink, right, this Musk-owned communication satellite constellation that was the source of all the kerfuffle. It’s not irrelevant whether you have it or not but it’s less decisive than you might imagine if you didn’t take into account the way that militaries adapt to the concern that they might be denied them or that the enemy might have them and they might not, which are serious concerns. Certainly, if the U.S. and Russia were true belligerents both the danger of anti-satellite warfare destroying significant fractions of those constellations is serious, or jamming or otherwise making them unavailable is a serious problem so militaries try to adapt to deal with it—with their absence if they have to. FASKIANOS: Great. We have a question—a written question from Monica Byrne at—a student at Bard College: Can you share thoughts and strategy for Israel and Gaza, given the conditions in Gaza? BIDDLE: Yeah. So shifting gears now from Ukraine to the Middle East, given Israel’s declared war aim, right—if Israel’s aim is to topple the Hamas regime and then hopefully replace it with something that’s another conversation. But let’s for the moment just talk about the military dynamics of realizing their stated war aim of toppling the Hamas regime. That will certainly require a ground invasion that reoccupies at least temporarily the entirety of Gaza, right? Airstrikes aren’t going to accomplish that war aim. Special forces raids aren’t going to accomplish that war aim. The Hamas administrative apparatus is, A, too large and, B, too easily concealed, especially underground, for those kinds of techniques to be sufficient. So if the Israelis really are going to topple Hamas a large-scale ground invasion is needed. That has obvious horrible implications for collateral damage and civilian fatalities in Gaza—urban warfare is infamously destructive of capital and of civilian human life—but also for military casualties to the Israelis. Urban warfare is a radically advantageous military environment for defenders and so Israel inevitably will take serious losses if they really expect to completely reoccupy Gaza as would be needed to depose Hamas. Now, there are ways that conventional militaries can try and reduce either the loss of innocent civilian life or casualty rates to their own forces but none of these things are perfect and the techniques militaries use to reduce civilian fatalities can be exploited by defenders who want to take advantage of them to increase Israeli military casualties and limit the Israelis’ ability to limit collateral damage. You can fire only at identified targets and not at entire buildings. You can use small-caliber weapons rather than large-caliber artillery and missiles. You can warn the civilian occupants of a building either with leaflets or text messages or the Israeli technique that’s called knocking on the roof where they drop a nonexplosive weapon on the ceiling to create a sound that tells the occupants they are about to be attacked so they leave. There are a variety of things like that that you can do and that the U.S. should hope that the Israelis are going to do. But the whole problem here is that the Hamas political and military infrastructure is deeply intermingled with the civilian population in Gaza, and so even if you’re going to be as discriminating as modern technology and military skill potentially could make you, you’re still going to kill a lot of civilians and Hamas is not going to conveniently remove the military infrastructure from the civilian population to make it easier for the Israelis to kill the fighters and not kill the civilians. They’re going to keep them tightly intermingled. Now, the Israelis can reduce their losses by being slower and more deliberate and methodical in the way they enter Gaza. There’s been a discussion in recent weeks about the difference between Mosul and Fallujah and the U.S. experience of urban warfare in Iraq. In Fallujah, we entered quickly with a large ground force that was fairly dependent on small arms direct fire and relatively less reliant on artillery and airstrikes. In Mosul with Iraqi allies on the ground, we did the opposite. Very slow entry. The campaign took months. Limited exposure, small-caliber weapons, heavy emphasis on airstrikes and artillery to reduce the ground—even so, thousands of civilians were killed in Mosul. Even so, our Iraqi allies took serious casualties. There’s no way for the Israelis to do this Gaza offensive if they’re going to realize their war aim that won’t destroy Gaza, kill a lot of civilians, and suffer a lot of casualties themselves. All these things are marginal differences at the most. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Dan Caldwell. Q: Oh, Steve, thanks very much for a very interesting overview. I’d like to raise another subject that is, obviously, very broad but I would really appreciate your comments on it and that’s the question of intelligence and its relationship to military operations that you’ve described. Broadly speaking, we can separate out tactical intelligence from strategic intelligence, and in the case of tactical intelligence the use of breaking down terrorists’ cell phones’ records and things like contributed to military successes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a strategic sense, the breaking of the Japanese codes, Purple, and the Ultra Enigma secret in World War II contributed to the Allies’ success, and in terms of the Middle East the strategic failures of Israeli intelligence in 1973 and, I would argue, in the recent Hamas attacks contributed to the losses that Israel has suffered. So how do you think about the relationship of intelligence to military strategy? BIDDLE: Yeah. I mean, intelligence is central to everything in security policy, right? It’s central to forcible diplomacy. It’s central to preparation for war. It’s central to the conduct of military. So intelligence underlies everything. All good decision making requires information about the other side. The intelligence system has to provide that. The ability of the intelligence system to create transformational change is limited. Let’s take the national level strategic intelligence question first and then we’ll move to things like Ultra and battlefield uses. As you know, the problem of military surprise has been extensively studied, at least since the 1973 war in which Israel was famously surprised by the Egyptian attack in the Sinai. There’s been an extensive scholarly focus on this problem of intelligence failure and surprise—how can this possibly happen. And the central thrust of that literature, I would argue, has been that almost always after a surprise you discover later that the surprised intelligence system had information that should have told them an attack was coming. They almost always receive indicators. They almost always get photographic intelligence. All sorts of pieces of information find their way into the owning intelligence system. And yet, they got surprised anyway. How could this happen? And the answer is that the information has to be processed by human organizations, and the organizational challenges and the cognitive biases that individuals have when they’re dealing with this information combine in such a way to frequently cause indicators not to be understood and used and exploited to avoid surprise and part of the reason for that—the details, of course, are extensive and complex. But part of the reason for that is you get indicators of an attack that didn’t—that then didn’t happen way more often than you get the indicators of the attack that does happen. You get indicators all the time but usually there’s no attack and the trick then is how do you distinguish the indicator that isn’t going to become an attack from the indicator that is going to become the attack when you’ve always got both. And if you—especially in a country like Israel where mobilizing the reserves has huge economic consequences, if you mobilize the reserves every time you get indicators of an attack you exhaust the country and the country stops responding to the indicators anymore. It’s the cry wolf problem. I mean, the first couple of times you cry wolf people take it seriously. The eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth time they don’t. So because of this the ability to change, to do away with surprise, with, for example, new technology, all right, a more transparent world in which we have a better ability to tap people’s cell phones and tap undersea cables to find out what governments are saying to themselves we have better ability to collect information. But there are still organizational biases, cognitive problems, and just the basic signal-to-noise, wheat-to-chaff ratio issue of lots and lots of information, most of which is about an attack that isn’t going to happen. And distinguishing that from the ones that are going to happen is an ongoing problem that I doubt is going to be solved because it isn’t a technological issue. It resides in the structure of human organizations and the way the human mind operates to filter out extraneous and focus on important sensory information, and human cognitive processes aren’t changing radically and human organizations aren’t either. So at the strategic level I don’t see transformation coming soon. Then we’ve got the battlefield problem of what about intercepted communications, for example, which have changed the historiography of World War II in an important way. We’ll note that that didn’t cause the Allies to defeat the Germans in 1944, right? I mean, the Allies cracked the German and the Japanese codes long before the war ended and, yet, the war continued, and this gets back to this question of how militaries adapt to the availability of information about them on the other side. At sea where there’s not a lot of terrain for cover and concealment, right, then these kinds of communications intercepts were more important and as a result the Japanese navy was, largely, swept from the Pacific long before the war ended in 1945. But wars are ultimately usually about what goes on on land, and on land even if you intercept people’s communications if they’re covered, concealed, dispersed, and in depth being able to read German communications, which we could do in 1944, didn’t enable us to quickly break through, rapidly drive to Berlin and end the war three months after the Normandy invasions. In spite of the fact that we could read the communications traffic we couldn’t do those things because the communications traffic is only part of success and failure on the battlefield. So if that was the case in World War II where we had, you know, unusually good comment and usually good ability to break the enemy’s codes and read their message traffic, again, I would argue that improvements in intelligence technology today were certainly helpful, and they’re worth having and we should pursue them and use them, but it’s not likely to transform combat outcomes in a theater of war any more than—to a radically greater degree than it did when we had that kind of information in 1944. FASKIANOS: So I’m going to combine the next two questions because they’re about innovation from the Marine Corps University and Rutgers University: You mentioned over innovation. Can you explain what that is and how it can be detrimental? And then are you concerned that the Department of Defense R&D program could be at risk of being out of balance by over emphasizing advanced technology versus getting useful technology deployed and into the field? BIDDLE: I think that’s one of the most important implications of this war is that the United States has historically chosen to get way out on the envelope of what technology makes possible for weapon acquisition, creating extremely expensive weapons that we can buy in very small numbers that we evaluate and we decide to buy because of their proving ground potential because what they can do against targets that haven’t adapted to them yet. What the record of adaptation in Ukraine, I think, shows is that the actual lethality of very sophisticated weapons is not as high as it looks on a proving ground because the targets are going to be noncooperative and the real-world performance of extremely expensive sophisticated technologies is normally less than it looks, and if that’s the case we are probably overspending on very sophisticated, very expensive weapons which we can only buy in very small numbers and which if they don’t produce this radical lethality wouldn’t be worth the expenditure that they cost. And if the adaptation of the target is going to reduce their lethality and increase their vulnerability, which is certainly what we’re observing in Ukraine, then we’re going to have a dickens of a time replacing them when they get lost, right, because very sophisticated high technology weapons, among other things, require a supply chain of materials that are often quite scarce—rare earths, cobalt, lithium. One of the reasons why the American Defense Industrial Base has had a hard time responding rapidly to the demands that the expenditure rate of things in Ukraine has created is because of these complicated supply chains that we can manage when we’re building things in small numbers, which we think is sufficient because we’re expecting that each one of them is going to be tremendously lethal. If we now realize that they’re less lethal in practice than we expect them to be and therefore we need larger numbers of them, how are we going to get the materials we need to do that? And the experience in Ukraine has been that the kind of revolution in military affairs expectation for the lethality of high technology just hasn’t been realized. Yes, weapons are very lethal in Ukraine, but not orders of magnitude differently than they were in 1944, right, and so I think this ought to suggest to us that the historical post-World War II U.S. strategy emphasizing very high technology at very high cost in very small numbers to compensate for small numbers with radical lethality may very well be misguided. It works well when you’re fighting an opponent like the Iraqis who can’t handle the complexity of cover and concealment, combined arms, and all the rest. They’re exposed and the weapons have the kind of proving ground effect that you expect because the targets are not undercover. Not clear that it has been producing that kind of results in Ukraine and it’s not clear that it would produce those kinds of results for the United States in a coming great power conflict. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going take the next question from Genevieve Connell at the Fordham graduate program in international political economy and development. How much does successful military strategy rely on stable domestic economic systems to fund it or is this less of an issue when one or both sides have strong geopolitical support and aid? BIDDLE: War is very expensive, as the Ukraine war is reminding us, right? This isn’t news. The expenditure rates in modern industrial age warfare are massively expensive to maintain and that in turn means that the strength of the national economy is a fundamental foundational requirement for success in modern great power warfare. This, of course, leads to the set of tradeoffs that are fundamental in grand strategy, right? Grand strategy, as opposed to operational art, military strategy, or tactics, integrates military and nonmilitary means in pursuit of the ultimate security objectives of the state and one of the more important of the nonmilitary means is the economy. So you need a large GDP to support a large expensive war effort. The way you maximize GDP is with international trade. International trade makes you vulnerable to cutoff in time of war through blockade. Therefore, if we just maximize GDP in the short run we run the risk—we increase our vulnerability in time of war or blockades. We say: Oh, no, we don’t want to do that. Let’s reduce the amount of international trade we do, make ourselves more self-sufficient. Now GDP growth rates go down and now the size of the military you can support in steady state goes down. There’s a fundamental tradeoff involving the interaction between classically guns and butter in the way you design the economy in support of the grand strategy you have in mind for how you’re going to pursue your security interest in the international system at any given time. So, yeah, a productive expanding economy is essential if you plan to be able to afford the cost of modern warfare. The implications for what that means for things like international trade, though, are complicated. FASKIANOS: Great. I’ll try to sneak in one last question from David Nachman. Q: Thank you. Thank you for this really interesting presentation. I teach at the Yale Law School, nothing related to the topic of today’s submission and discussion. I’m just wondering, and you captured it towards the end here where you said something about wars are won and lost on land. With the advent of cyber and all the technological development that we’re seeing in our armed forces is that still true as a matter, you know, and are we—is the Ukraine and even Gaza experience sort of nonrepresentative of the true strategic threats that the United States as opposed to its allies really faces at sea and in the air? BIDDLE: Yeah. Let me briefly address cyber but then extend it into the sea and the air. One of the interesting features of cyber is it’s mostly been a dog that hasn’t barked, at least it hasn’t barked very loudly. There were widespread expectations as Russia was invading that cyberattacks would shut down the Ukrainian economy, would shut down the Ukrainian military effort, or vice versa, and neither of those things have happened. So I don’t—there have been plenty of cyberattacks, right, and there have been plenty of efforts at break in and surveillance and manipulation. So far none of them have been militarily decisive and it’s an interesting and I think still open question for the cyber community about why that has been so and what, if anything, does that tell us about the future of cyber threats to national military projects. But so far it hasn’t radically—it hasn’t produced a result that would have been different in the pre-cyber era. Now, when I say wars are won on land what I mean by that is that people live on the land, right? People don’t live in the air and people don’t live on the surface of the water. People live on land. Economies are on land. Populations are on land. That means that usually the stakes that people fight wars over are things having to do with the land. That doesn’t mean that navies and air forces are irrelevant. We own a large one. I’m in favor of owning a large one. The Navy—my friends in the Navy would be very upset if I said otherwise. But the purpose of the Navy is to affect people who live on the land, right? In classic Mahanian naval strategy the purpose of the Navy is destroy the opposing fleet, blockade the enemy’s ports, destroy the enemy’s commerce, and ruin the land-based economy and it’s the effect of the land-based economy that causes surrender or compromise or concession to the opponent or whatever else ends the war in ways that you hope are favorable to you. What this means then is that especially where we’re dealing with large continental powers like Russia, classically—China’s an interesting sub case but let’s talk about Russia—the ability to influence the Russian decision-making calculus that leads to an end to a war or the beginning of a war without affecting the life of people on land is very limited. Cyber has not proven able to do that. Air attack historically has not been a good tool for doing that. Navies do that by affecting the land-based economy and I don’t see that changing rapidly anytime soon. FASKIANOS: Well, Steve, thank you very much for this really insightful hour. I’m sorry to all of you we couldn’t get to the questions, raised hands, so we’ll just have to have you back. And thanks to all those of you who did ask questions. I commend to you, again, Steve Biddle’s Foreign Affairs piece, “Back in the Trenches,” and hope you will read that. Our next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, November 8, at 1:00 p.m. (EST) with José Miguel Vivanco, who is an adjunct senior fellow here for human rights, to talk about human rights in Latin America. So, Steve, thank you again. BIDDLE: Thanks for having me. FASKIANOS: And I—yes. And I’d just encourage you all to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Our tenured professor and our fellowship deadlines is at the end of October. I believe it’s October 31, so there’s still time. And you can follow us on X at CFR_Academic. Visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you all again for being with us today. (END)
  • Africa Program

    Landry Signé, senior fellow in the global economy and development program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and executive director and professor of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, leads the conversation about Africa on the global stage. FASKIANOS: Thank you and welcome to today’s session of the Fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, And, as always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Landry Signé with us to discuss Africa on the global stage. Dr. Signé is a senior fellow in the global economy and development program and the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution. He’s also a professor, executive director, and the founding codirector of The Globalization 4.0 and Fourth Industrial Revolution Initiative at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, and distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. He serves as chairman of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity and is also the author of numerous scholarly publications and several books. His most recent is entitled, Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. And it was published by Cambridge University Press this summer. So, Dr. Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. I’m going to throw you a very big question, and you can take us in the direction you would like, by talking about the important challenges and opportunities facing countries across Africa. SIGNÉ: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much, Dr. Irina, for so kind an introduction. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you today. So when it comes to Africa, I want to highlight a few key trends why Africa is playing such an important role in the global sphere. So the first thing that I want to share to everyone is Africa’s transformation is more substantial than what most people will think. And this is for many reasons. One is that, especially pre-pandemic, trade and in and with the rest of the world have grown for about 300 percent, which exceeds the global average of a little bit less than 200 percent. So that is a key dimension to highlight. And this is also driven by the competition between emerging countries, such as, of course, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, China, and more established and industrialized nations such as the United States, France, and others. So that is one of the key trends that I want to highlight. So Africa is richer and is transforming much more than what most people will be thinking. So the second trend that I also want to highlight, why Africa is so important in the global sphere, is that by the end of this century Africa could reach about 40 percent of the global population. Listen, I said 40 percent. So this is incredible, especially as the continent represent now only about 17 percent of the global population. So that is a key dimension to take into consideration when speaking about Africa, how Africa engages with the rest of the world. A third trend that I also want to highlight is really the rise of global partnerships and the competition, as I highlighted, between emerging and established powers. So, as a matter of fact, between 2006 and 2016, for example, China trades with Africa surge with imports increasing by 233 percent, and exports increasing by about 53 percent. This is a substantial growth in engagement. And if we compare—so with Russia, for example, it was about 142 percent of change in imports from Africa and about 168 percent change in exports with Africa. So in comparison, and with the rest of the world was only about 56 percent for change in imports and 18 percent for change in export. So this is another key trend. And a country like the United States still needs to expand and to do much more in terms of those engagement. This also apply with—to the countries in the European Union in general. So another trend that I want to highlight is really the, let’s say, fast urbanization that we see on the continent. So the continent will be growing from about five cities—will reach about five cities of more than ten million inhabitants, in comparison of only three in 2015. And will exceed fifteen cities of more than five million inhabitants, in comparison of about five to six in the recent year. So another point, when people speak about Africa, I want to speak about industrialization in Africa. Of course, we have to acknowledge the diversity of the continent. Some would say fifty-four member states, because we have about—those other ones recognized by the United Nations. But don’t be surprised if you also hear people mentioning instead fifty-five countries, because the Western Sahara is also consider as a member of the African Union. So when speaking about industrialization, people may—some people may consider Africa as deindustrializing. But that is because they’re not looking at one of the things that we call at the Brookings Institution industries without smokestacks. Those industries are important because they have similar characteristic when they compare to traditional manufacturing. And those similar characteristics include, for example, the tradability, they are labor intensive, and the store—they absorb a high quantity of moderately skilled workers. But they are also—they also have a high level of productivity. Irina, you mentioned my book on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I want to connect, because when people speak about digitalization, innovation, they will mostly think about the Silicon Valley. They will think about some of the emerging nations—Israel, India—in addition to the U.S., of course. A key dimension to highlight is that in the 1990s New York City had more mobile phone subscribers than the entire continent of Africa, where now the continent has hundreds of millions of mobile phone subscribers. So in addition, we have disruptive innovations such as mobile banking, with M-PESA, for example, which is a digital application allow—which allow to provide banking services, digital banking services, to African citizens. This is another illustration of the important dynamics with Africa. Let me finish with about two or three additional points, and I’m looking very much forward to the conversation. I will highlight the critical importance of regional integration. We have, for example, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which was adopted in 2018, ratified by a sufficient number of country in 2019, and was officially launched in January 2021. And that is an incredible speed from the signing to the coming into force of the second-largest trade organization in the world, or let’s say trade area in the world, after the World Trade Organization, of course, in terms of number of countries. So this is a key dimension. And another trend to highlight, despite some of the challenges that we see in many African countries in terms of democratic retreat. The overall trend is that African citizens want democracy. So they want accountability. But they also want democracy to deliver. And let me finish with a trend related to business. The combined consumer and business spending in Africa will reach or exceed $16 trillion U.S. dollars by 2050, and about $6.7 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. So Africa really is a place with phenomenal opportunities, despite the challenges that we see. Climate change affects Africa more than other regions, for example. Some of the most vulnerable countries in terms of state fragility. We have, as I also mentioned, some democratic recession. But despite those challenges, the continent is really growing and is really transforming at a very important pace. And I enthusiastically look forward to engaging, to answering your many questions. Thank you so much. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. That was a great overview. Obviously, this is such a big topic. So now we’re going to go to all of you for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) Alright, so the first question we’re going to take is from Pearl Robinson. Pearl over to you. Q: Hello. Very pleased to meet you. I have a question, something I’m going to ask you to do. I’m at Tufts University. FASKIANOS: Thanks, Pearl. Q: Can you use this wonderful, optimistic introduction, and connect it with a discussion of the wave of coups in the West African Sahel? Because I find myself having to talk about both. And I thought that you began with the last decade’s narrative of Africa’s growth and opportunities. And today, everybody is talking about democratic decline and all of these coups in the context of everything. So I’d like you to put your talk onto an introduction for me to talk about the coup situation. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the question. So I have studied the—also the democratic situation in Africa from the—from the independence to the last decade. And one of the reasons, of course, when you have democratic interruption, there are serious reasons to be concerned. And this is mostly related to the ability of democratic governance to deliver. Typically when democracy is promoted with many of the Africans, one of the key argument which was chose is that democracy allows citizens to have a better standard of living, deliver economic outcomes, education, health, security, good governance, less corruption, among others. And many of the countries which have faced a coup are countries—when you think about Mali, we think about Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, among others—there are countries where citizen are facing serious economic—a serious economic situation, deteriorated by the pandemic, of course. They are not the only country but deteriorated by the pandemic. You also have a question—the security question in the Sahel especially, with violent extremism. But I want to put things in perspective because democratic development is a slow-moving process. And although it is very unfortunate some of the development that you are seeing in terms of coups, when you look at Africa in the long-term perspective, when I was looking, for example, in the 1980s, almost the entire continent was red. Red, meaning authoritarian. But now the majority of African countries have elections. More than half of those country have free, fair, and transparent, meaningful elections. They are able to choose their government. And this so I’d just highlight those point, to say I classify those countries—I had them in four categories. So one was the uninterrupted democracy. So the countries which once they become democracies, they remain uninterrupted democratic. And those countries are outperforming overall, economically speaking and with many of the other benefits of democracy that I’ve mentioned. But the countries which are interrupted are mostly the countries where democracy is not necessarily delivering wealth. But will that change the broader trend on the continent? I don’t think so. So I think, yes, we have to acknowledge those challenges. We have to act vigorously to address them to reduce the negative impact. But those are not necessarily—I don’t think that that makes Africa a hopeless continent, as depicted by the Economist in the early 2000s, as discussed before. I’ll pause there. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take a written question from Tanisha Fazal’s student Jack Drouin, and they’re at the University of Minnesota: Will Africa as a whole ever compete at the same level as the United States and China in international trade and production? SIGNÉ: So the idea behind the African continental trade area is to make Africa stronger internationally when dealing with the rest of the world, while unlocking also the potential of trade within Africa. For example, when African countries trade with one another, more than 40 percent of products exported are manufactured products. Which mean that they create jobs and opportunities for young people, for women, for the economy. They accelerate industrialization. And when African countries trade with the rest of the world, about only 17 percent of those countries—of those—of the products exported are manufactured products. So the idea really behind the African Continental Free Trade Area is not just to grow African trade with—and improve countries’ trading with one another. But it is also really to make Africa stronger when engaging with other countries. As a matter of fact, Africa still represents less than 3 percent of global exports. So this the reason why when I engage with some leaders, some are wondering if whether the AfCFTA was really needed. There is no doubt that the African Continental Free Trade Area was needed, because partnering and coming together to engage with them makes the continent stronger. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ve never seen so many questions. So I’m going to go next to Fordham IPED. They have their raised hand. It’s the International Political Economy and Development Program at Fordham. Q: Hi. My name is Julisha. I’m a student here at Fordham in the IPED Program. And thank you for your presentation, Landry, if I may call you that—I’m sorry, Professor. My question is—and I come from the continent. My question to you is, you seem very optimistic about Africa, as we call it. But why exactly? What gives you this optimism, given the fact that different countries have varying problems, and also we’ve got different levels of infrastructure and productive capacities? And then also, we haven’t had that much success in relation to the regional FTAs. So why optimistic specifically about this one? Should we focus more on maybe building stronger regional bodies and then come together as one consortium? SIGNÉ: Thank you so much for your question. I don’t think that it is either/or. And you have to put in perspective also, again, when—I like to look at things from a historical perspective, putting things in context. And when we put things in context—again, I mentioned, for example, before, in less than a couple of decades Africa went from being a continent almost full of authoritarianism, to a continent where in perhaps the past six, seven years you have had an incredibly important number of countries which where the incumbent lost the election or was changed through an electoral process. So those are important gains not to overlook. When we also speak about poverty, for example, so we are also seeing positive—although, and I published an article at Brookings about it—why, despite the fast economic growth just before the pandemic, the continent had an important number of poverty. The key dimension here was poverty in terms of percentage of the population went down, but the continent is also growing at a fast rate, the population of the continent. So which means that even if you’re in relative number you have a reduction of poverty, in absolute number we can still have an important number of poor. But if you also put that further in context, by removing—of course, you could not remove them—but by considering Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, which are countries with the highest concentration—not the highest, but an important number of poor, the picture related to poverty on the continent will be very different. Another reason of my lucid optimism is that Africa—more than 50 percent of the African—close to 60 percent of the African population is below the age of twenty-five. So what this means, that everything is possible in an incredibly short duration. You probably know what we have named the Cheetah—what George Ayittey has named the Cheetah Generation. So the generation of young Africans who are dynamic, they are innovative, in opposition to the elephant who are moving slowly. So this is also another characteristic. When you look at innovation and you look at entrepreneurship, the general entrepreneurship survey globally, when you compare Africa to the rest of the world, the percentage of optimism, of interest in innovation, in entrepreneurship, of willingness and of respect for the field is also higher in general. So, again, I understand why most people will be focusing on challenges versus opportunity. But you also know, like me, that when in 2000 the Economist wrote that article about a hopeless Africa, in 2011 they wrote another issue about Africa rising, apologizing about their previous assessment. Because six to seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies in the first decade—the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, were located in Africa. So yes, we have numerous challenges. But most countries, which were at the level of development of many of the African countries, have also had challenges. So. yes, we have to address those challenges. And that is also part of what my work does with the Brookings Institution—identifying how to bridge the gap between the policy intentions and the implementation outcome. And a part of doing that is also to shift the mindset from looking exclusively at the challenges that Africa is facing, to also think about what are the opportunities? How can we identify those opportunities? How can we transform those opportunities into reality, into positive outcomes? Because the young generation in Africa deserve it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Dayanara Miranda, who’s an undergraduate student at Lewis University: My question is, besides agricultural and mineral resources, what other markets can African countries enter to grow their economies? SIGNÉ: So, that is another extremely important question. And let me say, overall Africa—so, it depends as to whether we are speaking about the consumer spending, household consumptions, or whether we are speaking about business spending. In terms of household consumption, by 2030 the continent will receive about $2.5 trillion U.S. dollars of household consumption or consumer spending. And some of the largest sector include food and beverage because people need to eat, but also include housing, healthcare, financial services, transportation, and education. So to put things in perspective, African countries will be growing faster in some of those sectors compared to the growth of other developing economies. Now, if I also think now about the business-to-business spending, so the continent will be home of about—of more than $4 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. Of course, the largest area for that spending will include agriculture and agri-processing. But we will also have manufacturing, construction, utilities, transportation, wholesalers, and retailers in terms of resources. So, yes, a place—Africa is an important business destination for people who are, again, open to identify opportunities and to manage the risk. Of course, have risk, but those risks also exist in Latin America, exist in the Middle East. exist in the broader—in the broader Asia, and also in the—in some of the advanced economies. So, again, I think, like, a change of mindset is important. One of the reasons why China become the first trade partner of Africa, the first investor in infrastructure amount order, is because while other countries were looking at the challenges that Africa is facing, China and other emerging countries were looking at opportunity and how to manage their risk amount order. Of course, that is not to say that the Chinese model of engagement is necessarily the right one, but it’s just to say that the difference of mindset may explain why some country may be identifying more opportunities than other. But I’m also very happy to highlight the fact that recently, the U.S. administration has also been very much active—much more active in terms of engaging with Africa from an economic perspective, from an opportunity business perspective, including the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Dorian Brown Crosby. Q: Yes. Hello. Thank you, Professor Signé, for this discussion. I’m from Spelman College. And I do have a question regarding remittances. Can you speak to the current impact of remittances that those in the diaspora are sending to African countries? And how is that affecting Africa’s economic trajectory? Or even speak to a specific country. Thank you. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you very much for the questions. Remittances are playing a key role in Africa. In some of the countries they are exceeding even, let’s say, the official development assistance. So that is a key point to highlight. Perhaps the nuance that I want to bring is that most of the remittances are sent for consumption, for family consumptions, among others. A shift that we may want to see happen is to turn—(inaudible)—to increase perhaps those remittances, and especially the category of remittances, shifting only from consumption, for productive use, for economic use, for entrepreneurial activities, as well on the continent. But, yes, remittances are key for development. They are extremely important. They are making a difference. And I connect with that question with the notion of diaspora. The rising role of the diaspora is also one of the key trends. Of course, I didn’t—I wanted to be brief in my preliminary comments, but diaspora are really playing a key role in fostering the relations between Africa and the rest of the world. They play the role of investor. You have also the remittances, as you have just mentioned. They are diplomat. In addition of the higher representation that we are also seeing of people of African origin in international organizations, whether we speak about the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Finance Corporation, among other. So there’s really a trend where the diaspora playing a key role, both financially to remittances and have an increased demand, also for investment. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to combine two questions, two written questions, because they are along the same lines. One from Thomas at Oklahoma State University and Kihoa from Adelphi University, and it has to do with China: China’s trade with—China’s aid to Africa, is it purely altruistic? Should African states be receiving Chinese aid? And should Africa be giving aid to historically authoritarian regimes? And then the second question is to have you talk a little bit about the Belt and Road Initiative, and how that initiative is influencing trading partners with other Western countries. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Thank you for the important question. So let me—to further speak about China in Africa, some key trends to highlight is that, first, you have an exponential growth of exports to Africa, increase imports from Africa, substantial lending to African countries. So China is already one of those, the major lending on transport, power, and mining, the Ex-Im Bank is really leading the way in terms of loans. I do prefer to speak about development versus assistance, development finance instead of developing assistance, or on the longer term, a growing trend in terms of FDI. So China is dominating also the important investment on the continent. You have an important presence of Chinese workers, and forgot—not to forget the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which remains critical to an action of the multiplication of the of the Confucius Institutes on the continent. Despite that important presence, a key element you mentioned is that per Afrobarometer survey, African citizen still prefer the U.S. model of development to the Chinese one. So this is an important dimension that I want to highlight. And whether China is altruistic, it’s important to mention when we speak about the commitment, they are not necessarily—China is a country with its own national interests. Perhaps the way of doing business is different, but they are not acting toward Africa, from my perspective, from an altruistic perspective. They’re really looking to achieve interest, whether from a geopolitical dimension, economic interest to secure especially energy, power, mining, oceans, agricultural lands for food security in China, among others. And many of the other countries in the world are doing the same. So I’m not—so, of course, we are speaking more about China, but most of the countries when they’re acting globally they are acting in alignment of their interests. And probably Jentleson, for example, has mentioned when we speak about the U.S. foreign policy as some of their drivers, which include what are the—of course, we have power, we have peace, we have prosperity, and we have principles. So foreign policy decisions are usually, let’s say, the result of a tradeoff between either power consideration, peace consideration, or security consideration, economic consideration, and principle consideration, which could include democratic development, and, of course, humanitarian intervention, and so on. So it depends on which country we are talking about. And to just connect it to the broader Belt and Road Initiative, I think that, of course, it is part from my perspective of China ambition to become the next global power. And in my conversation with many of the African leaders, their main concern—including head of states and head of governments—so their main concern is given the gap, the infrastructure gap that we have on the content, financing gap that you have on the continent, China is providing an alternative and China is acting quickly. However, many of the leaders with whom I’m engaging will prefer to deal instead with, for example, the United States. The United States is probably acting slower than some of the other players. But this is also because of the democratic process and the compliance mechanism, among others. But despite that, I think that there are still tools which can allow to be compliant, to respect the democratic principle, but also act faster, with more agility. And we are having conversations. I testified before the Senate on some of those questions, before the House of Representatives, before the U.S. International Trade Commission, sharing perspective on how the U.S. can further leverage its strength and the alignment to advance U.S.-Africa prosperity. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next oral question from John O’Toole. Q: Well, thank you, because my question directly kind of follows off of that. So that’s very fortunate. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Q: So my question was related to, like, Africa on, like, the global security scale. So, like you said, like, Russia and China are investing heavily, are—and becoming, like, major players, some might argue, in an attempt to be, like, first to market, in a way, in terms of being, like, colleagues with Africa. And you can’t really pick and choose who your partners are, especially if the people you want to work with, like the United States or the EU, aren’t moving as fast. But is there a concern that growing relationships with China and Russia could morph into a global security conflict? And that some African leaders might be afraid of becoming perhaps the next Lumumba where they’re characterized as, you know, perhaps a communist pawn, or something? Is that part of the thought process? SIGNÉ: Thank you for the important question. So it’s important to highlight a few considerations here. Typically, when many of the more established powers, whether you’re speaking about France, the United States, UK, when they are engaging with many of the African countries they take into consideration the principles that I mentioned before, whether we speak about democratic principles, human rights consideration, humanitarian consideration, among other. So those are really key dimensions that are taken into consideration with more traditional African partners, although it is not uniform. So you will also have the same country which will be trading both with some of the authoritarian countries. But when doing so, they will often bring the question of democratic governance, of human rights in the conversation. And the difference there with countries such as China or Russia, is they are decoupling trade, investment, and principle quotient of democracy—democratic quotients, human rights quotients. For obvious reason, when you look also at your level of democratic development, or at the situation of human rights in your—in your countries. So now, what are the potential risk for the continent? I think that the—many of the—we have seen the presence, whether in an official capacity or in an unofficial capacity of foreign forces in Africa, including from Russia. So to what extent are they influencing the political sphere? To what extent are they fueling or contributing to fuel some of the insecurity and conflict that we have, as we say, in the Sahel? Or to what extent are they helping those country to address some of the challenges faced? I think the growing support that we have seen for Russia, or China, or for some of the emerging countries is related to a narrative, which may not always be founded, but a more appeasing and more respectful narrative that they have when engaging with some of the African countries. But that doesn’t mean that they are acting in a way which better advance the interests of those countries. And African leaders are often in a complex situation where they don’t necessarily—some of them, of course, will be very clear in terms of their preferences for Western countries. And others, in between, where they want to be certain that they will not be dropped, if I can use the terms. And this is because historically, even some of the best partners of the West—and we look at the case of Niger, when the military coup happened, so despite some political discourses the West was not able to do much. So those are elements which create also a certain level of insecurity on the continent. So yeah, your question is extremely important. And I think that there are risks which are associated with the—with the growing involvement of those emerging powers, like China, especially as it is shifting or has shifted from the economic quotient to a more security, military quotient and cooperation. But some of the countries with which they are cooperating, or perhaps even most of those countries in terms of military engagement, are not necessarily countries with their reputation or leaders with the reputation of—or with the best record in terms of democratic progress or in terms of human rights. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Zachary Billot, a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas: How will increased environmental challenges related to climate change impact institution and governmental efficacy in Africa? Can Africa be expected to transition to green energy if there isn’t substantial foreign investment? SIGNÉ: Absolutely. It is extremely important. Thank you for the question. It’s extremely important to highlight the consequences of climate change on the continent, especially in the fragile countries, in the fragile regions, especially also when combined with governance challenges. So many of the conflicts in the Sahel—and I publish a—I co-published a report with Brookings on the question on how—on the nexus—on the climate change-security-development nexus. So many—if climate change doesn’t necessarily—the relation between climate change and conflict is not necessarily causal, but there is a strong correlation at least when it comes to exacerbating initial conditions in regions where you have poverty and where governance is already quite weak. So the question is, yes, climate change is increasing the likelihood of conflict, especially in an area where we already have bad governance, or poor performance. And how to address some of those questions? Of course, we have involved also in drafting the human development—the Sahel Human Development Report, where the topic is on using energy to unlock Africa potential to contribute to sustainable development, how we can leverage in a sustainable way. And, yes, I do believe that the continent has a path. So of course, I will not necessarily disclose the findings, because they will have to be officially launched by the United Nations Development Program later this year, early the next one. But there is a clear path for Africa to achieve a greener future, especially as the continent has, I would say, the luxury of learning from what has been done on the negative experiences of some of the advanced economies. But also on capitalizing on technology to achieve those goals. Now, you mentioned about investment. Yes, that is an area where global partners who have committed, including the United States, France, Canada, among others, to support a greener revolution, economic revolution, energy transition, industrial development on the continent also have to play their part. Of course the global community, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, among others. So Africa has the potential to achieve it, but not alone. With the collaboration of global partners, including some of the biggest polluters. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. I’m going to go next to Alicia Hoffman. Q: Hello. How are you? I have a question regarding some previous legal agreements that were put forth between the ACP countries and the European Union. So my question is, I would like for you to highlight and discuss the role of the comprehensive legal agreements such as the Rome Agreement, that is now defunct, the Lomé Agreement, the Cotonou Agreement and now the post-Cotonou Agreement, which was just finalized last month, and get some of your opinions or your thoughts about the post-Cotonou Agreement in fostering the economic development of African countries. And also mitigating the issues dealing with migration and even human trafficking that kind of were not really addressed clearly in those earlier agreements, such as the Rome, and Lomé, and the Cotonou. SIGNÉ: Thank you so much for the extremely important question. So I think that to put things in context, as you mentioned, the Lomé Agreement, the Cotonou Agreement, and other agreement, when we look—again, I like to look from an historical perspective. So we clearly see that if a single agreement was almost having the impact of a magic stick, Africa will be in a different position now. So all those agreements, of course, and some of those agreements are benefiting, at least per the perspective of some of the African countries, they are benefiting more the European Union countries and France than perhaps, per se, in the absolute term, the African countries. Because many of the key players in those countries in industrial development, among others, are foreign corporations, which are originating from those countries. But let me instead speak in a in a broader perspective. I think that the responsibility for Africa’s development really lie primarily with African leaders and citizens. So it’s a notion that I think we should really come back to. Of course, when we discuss then the relation within Africa and the rest of the world, Africa has been historically in a situation where it was abused—from slavery, to colonization, and so on. But as you have seen in in my permanent record, I’m also part—most of my work consists not only at looking at those structural asymmetries that we can see on the continent, but at giving back the responsibility, accountability of the African leaders, despite the asymmetrical relation they may be having with some of the other part of the world, still have the power and the responsibility to better deliver for their citizens. So, yes, I think that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as I mentioned, also represents an opportunity to address some of those challenges. But, of course, some countries will—we also have the political economy of the AfCFTA, in the sense that some country—and the ones which are the most advanced, economically speaking—the most enthusiastic about accelerating the implementation. But the beauty of the AfCFTA is that they also acknowledge some of the country we may potentially be left behind and have specific growth or special and differential treatments allowing the countries with more challenges to be—to be developed. So, again, I think that, yes, it’s extremely important for Africa when engaging with the European Union to really find a configuration which would unlock the industrial development of the continent, and not necessarily just rely on the primary goods, among others. FASKIANOS: So, thank you. I’m you’re going next to Charlotte Langeveld, who’s a lecturer at Ocean County College: To which identity do the young African people prefer to be associated with, ethnic or national identity? While national identity is superficial and ethnic is real, it has consequences for the future of the continent. SIGNÉ: So yeah, so that is probably a specific survey should be developed and in a systematic way to provide a definitive response to that question. But we have different, again, multiple belonging. Like some African citizens, especially young people, will want to be presented as African, even beyond your nation, or as global citizens. But it is clear that ethnic—the ethnicity continues to play a role on the continent, because although younger Africans speak less than the previous generation local dialects and languages, so it is important to also highlight that it is part of a broader cultural system. So I don’t think that it is either/or. So if you think also about citizens of the Africa—of the European Union, are French people considering more French than European, or more European than French? I would say it probably depends, but that multiple belonging remain valid. And although the comparison is slightly different, are Californians believing that they are more Californian than American or are more American than Californian? So, but understanding also the potential implication of the question is that it is extremely important to keep—in nation-building to go beyond the questions or the notions which are dividing, to focus on the common values, and systems. So I don’t think that’s a problem for young people to have multiple belongings or ideas of belonging. What is—what could be a bad thing is to use those differences for discrimination, for poor governance, among others. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Kimberly Pace. Q: Hello, Landry. It’s nice to see you. I have—my question is—hi, University of Alaska, Anchorage. My question is regarding women and girls. My question is, you know, given the role that violent extremism has had in Africa, what is the effect—what do you think is the effect on the economic and political opportunities for girls and women across African countries? Would love to hear your response. SIGNÉ: Absolutely. Hello, Kimberly. And so great to see you. And so I’m looking forward to following up after this session. So this is an extremely important question. There is no future of Africa without a full acknowledgement of the critical importance of women and girls, and not just economically speaking, politically speaking, in all the spheres of society. Just speaking economically, the gross domestic product of the content in some country could be increased by more than 50 percent with the full—or, about 50 percent—increase from 2 to 48, 49 percent with the full integration of women in society, in the economy, among other. So, and it is incredibly painful to see how in some countries, especially in situations of conflict, some of the first victim—the main victims, are girls, are women, or young people in as well, in general. So it is therefore extremely important, I think, to further empower women. But when you speak about empowering women, most people will think about empowering them politically, in particular. But for my conversation with many heads of state—former head of states, including President Banda or President Gurib-Fakim, so in our conversation it appear clearly that one of the best way to empower women politically is first to empower them also economically. Because when you’re empowered economically you can organize a campaign, you can be a fully contributing member, and you can be independent. So, yes, addressing conflict, human rights challenges, will be a way to further protect women, because when you have war, when you have civil conflict, they are typically the most vulnerable people and they are often the one who are the most abused by a protagonist. So yeah. So I fully concur to the fact that we have to act in a more vigorous way to protect women, to create opportunities for women, and to empower women. And some of my best models, not to say most, are women. And starting with my mother, my sisters, and yeah. So I couldn’t agree more with you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from William Decourt, who’s at Hamilton Lugar School at Indiana University: You mentioned surveys indicating widespread support for democracy across the continent. How have you seen public opinion in Africa responding to or shaping norms of liberal governance on the continent? And has it been affected by other challenges, such as the recent coups, influence from Russian mercenaries, and perhaps from increased Chinese investment too? SIGNÉ: So, just to be certain that I understand, and thank you so much for the important questions, is also about some of the trends on the continent related to democratic support, and the overall political situations. One of the reasons, and please, Irina, feel free to engage and follow up as needed. So one of the reasons why we have seen coups, of course, some—you have to put things in context. I mentioned that before. Many of the African citizens really want democracy to deliver. And not just democracy to deliver—if you live in rural contexts. At the origin of modern states is the social contract, which require that while a citizen will be giving up some of your fundamental—some of your rights, you will receive in exchange from states basic public services and goods, including security, economic opportunities, among others. But when those are not delivered, whether in a democracy or in a nondemocratic regime, that is when you have more challenges. Which could lead in some cases to a military coup, as we have seen, because then coup leaders may justify that—may justified their action by the imperative of restoring security or bringing about economic opportunities. So I think that is a point that I first want to highlight, to insist on the fact that, yeah, so the—those surveys show that on one hand, Africans want democracy. On the other hand, they want those democracies to deliver. And sometime even in democratic countries, some leaders are not necessarily governing in the way which is aligned with accountability. And those are the reasons why some coup leaders will also be supported by some citizens as an alternative, not to restore a long-term authoritarian system, but perhaps organize a transition. But from my perspective, it’s one of the reasons why I think that—for many reasons. But one of the key reasons why I think coups even in a very contested context are extremely bad is one of the best predictors of a coup is a previous coup. So once military got involved in politics, even after a successful short-term transition and return to power to the civilians, the likelihood of having another coup is high. So that is one of the reasons why I think it’s very important to invest in citizen, and invest in democratic development, and also invest in making democratic countries, African democracies, African democratic countries, deliver better for their citizens. FASKIANOS: Well, Landry, we are unfortunately out of time. And I apologize to all of you who had wonderful questions, we could not possibly get to them all, and raised hands. So we will just have to continue the conversation, and organize another conversation around these important issues. But, Landry Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. We really appreciate your comments and your analysis. And you can follow Landry on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @LandrySigne. It’s spelled S-I-G-N-E. And our next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, October 25, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) with Stephen Biddle, who’s an adjunct senior fellow here at CFR and professor at Columbia University, to talk about military strategy in the contemporary world. And in the meantime, I’d encourage you to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Please visit,, and We have been posting a lot of content there in light of the Israeli-Hamas conflict. So there are a lot of resources on our homepage that I commend to all of you. And again, Landry Signé, thank you very much for being with us today. SIGNÉ: Thank you so much, Irina. And thank you so much for the wonderful questions, conversation, and to the incredible team which has put everything together. FASKIANOS: Thank you. (END)
  • International Finance

    Tamar Gutner, associate professor of international affairs at American University’s School of International Service, leads the conversation on the international financial architecture. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to today’s discussion of the Fall 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you for joining us. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, if you would like to share them with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Tamar Gutner with us to discuss the international financial architecture. Dr. Gutner is an associate professor at American University’s School of International Service, and expert on the performance of international organizations and their roles in global governance. In 2019, she held a CFR Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars at the International Monetary Fund’s Independent Evaluation Office. She is the author of International Organizations in World Politics, published by CQ Press; and Banking on the Environment: Multilateral Development Banks and Their Environmental Performance in Central and Eastern Europe, published by MIT Press. And she recently completed a book manuscript on the birth and design of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its role in the landscape of development banks. So, Dr. Gutner, thank you very much for being with us today. I thought we could begin by having you outline for us the various change-related proposals and activities facing the World Bank, other multilateral development banks, and the International Monetary Fund. Just a small question, but—(laughter)—over to you. GUTNER: Thank you. Thank you, Irina, for introducing me, and thank you for having me as part of this seminar. I think these seminars are just a fantastic way for scholars, professors, students, and others to engage with these important issues, and I’m really excited to see so many people from around the world and professors and students and I see some colleagues in the audience. So I’m really looking forward to engaging with all of you. Right, so this is a critical time for the IMF and the World Bank and other development banks because their importance has been heightened by the need for them to respond to the various crises and challenges that we’re facing now. Many of these, as you know, are quite difficult to solve, like climate change. And the world is also dealing with the ongoing economic and social and health repercussions from the pandemic, the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine including food insecurity. And we’re also living in a time when a lot more countries are at high risk of debt distress, and it’s a time when it’s becoming clear that progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals are stalling. We also have major geopolitical tensions, which is an issue as well. So the IMF and the World Bank are leading international organizations in this scenario today. The IMF has been called the center of the global financial safety net. And the World Bank, meanwhile, is the leading multilateral source of climate finance, and is also playing a huge role in responding to various development challenges that impact its borrowing countries. And also, the regional development banks are addressing these issues as well. So for people who support multilateralism, there’s widespread agreement that no one state or actor can solve any of these cross-border issues on their own. And that means we’re living in a time when cooperation and multilateral action is absolutely essential, and these people agree we need more to be done to address these issues. But we’re also living in a time when many states have inward-looking politics, where there’s rising nationalism and populism. And this has produced people and leaders who either don’t see the value of international organizations (IOs) like the World Bank and IMF or they see them as contrary to national interests. The IOs themselves—the international organizations themselves—also struggle with relevance sometimes and mixed performance sometimes. And the IMF and World Bank constantly face criticism. They’re always being criticized. But I think one important thing to remember is that there’s no consensus among the critics. There are always people who want them to do more. There are people who want them to be abolished. So when you’re exploring the kind of critiques of these organizations it’s important to keep that in mind, just they’re coming from different actors and they have different thoughts. And, meanwhile, these institutions themselves, they have—it’s tricky for them because they have a tough job. They have to be responsive to their member-state shareholders, who don’t always agree with each other. They have to try to be responsive to other stakeholders, for example civil society actors; they don’t always agree with each other or with their member states. And so these institutions are constantly being pulled in different directions and they have to navigate that. To their credit, they do try to adapt and adjust, not always effectively. And there’s also variation in what they’ve done well and haven’t done well. But it’s precisely at this time today with these international crises that the Bank and the Fund and the other MDBs—multilateral development banks—have to try to do better. And what I want to do is offer you a brief overview of some of their efforts to do so and some of the challenges that face these efforts. So I’ll begin with the World Bank, which is in the midst of a process to figure out how to update its mission, its vision, its strategy, and its operating model. And this is a process that has been driven by shareholders, including the G20 members, and lots of other consultations. Last fall—well, first of all, I want to say there are a number of proposals on the table on how to reform the World Bank and other MDBs, and they have in common calling for these institutions to do a lot more to address climate change and other global public goods. And some of them call for more effort to better engage with private capital and to rethink how these institutions, which are in part banking institutions, how they can maximize the impact of their capital. So last fall the World Bank embarked on what’s been called an evolution roadmap to think through ideas for what should be done. This came out late last year amid calls for the Bank to be bigger and better. And this initiative was launched by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen a year ago, and she led an effort with other non-borrowing and borrowing countries to call for the whole multilateral development bank system to evolve. As she put it, the world has changed and we need these vital institutions to change along with it. So the idea underlying all of these proposals is for MDBs to be more innovative and efficient. India made MDB evolution a priority in its presidency of the G20 this year, and there have been different expert panels that have also called for radically reformed and strengthened multilateral development banks. So what’s interesting for this audience is this evolution roadmap process will eventually turn into the World Bank’s strategy, its corporate strategy, and the latest version of it will be discussed next week at the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Marrakesh. So if you’re interested in following that, keep your eyes on the news. And the latest version is seeking approval for measures that will allow the World Bank to boost its lending by $100 billion. So this—the document circulating now for the development—the Joint Ministerial Committee of the World Bank and IMF—and we’ll see what happens with it. And I’m happy to talk more about the document itself in the Q&A. These efforts to reform the World Bank are also impacting other regional development banks. So, for example, the Asian Development Bank recently announced it, too, will lend an additional $100 billion over the next ten years by relaxing some of its risk rules for its banking, how it manages its assets, without jeopardizing its triple-A credit rating. The IMF also has been trying to change and adapt in recent years. It’s not directly part of this evolution framework that’s focusing on MDBs, but the IMF has really turned attention to climate change and also to gender and inequality. And it’s essentially pushing forward a kind of a slow change in thinking where economists, and finance ministers, and central bank leaders have realized that these issues are essential to macroeconomic stability. So climate change has become a more visible focus of the IMF’s work, its work in surveillance, its capacity development activities, and its general work with countries. Its first strategy for mainstreaming gender was adopted in July 2022. And, like the World Bank, it has also created a number of mechanisms to respond to the pandemic. So it has a new resilience and sustainability trust. And the goal of it is to help low-income member states to address climate change and issues like pandemic preparedness. And it also has a new food shock window to offer emergency financing for countries facing food insecurity as a result of everything going on today. So this is—it’s interesting to watch both of these institutions. The IMF typically has a harder time changing because it’s a more rigid, set in its ways organization. But it, too—it’s not your grandmother’s IMF anymore. But all of these efforts are going to face their own sets of challenges. And I want to briefly highlight a few of them before we have our Q&A. So in the World Bank’s roadmap, which is also being called a new playbook, the question is: Is it a zero-sum game to balance more focus on global public goods like climate change with individual countries’ own development priorities? And there are many people who say, no problem. Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, when talking about this balancing issue, she said: Well, we can chew gum and walk at the same time. But these goals may have areas of overlap, where a country’s own development issues do coincide with these global public goods, but there may be areas where they do not. And that’s something that has to be worked out. There’s also some criticism in civil society and other actors about asking the multilateral banks to do much more to engage with the private sector. First of all, this idea has been around for a while, this idea of turning billions and trillions, for example, was part of the 2015 UN Financing for Development Conference. And it hasn’t really come through. So it’s a difficult issue to do. There’s going to be more work on it. But some organizations actually are concerned about potential negative effects of prioritizing incentives for private finance to provide co-financing to development efforts, because private sector goals are not always the same as public goals, right? So there’s some areas of tension. And finally, I just want to flag that all of these organizations are calling for more collaboration. Collaboration is almost the magic wand that will help all these efforts to work out better. And, in fact, if you look at the IMF’s new annual report, which was just published, it lists on its front page “committed to collaboration.” But, in fact, it’s not that easy for these organizations to collaborate. And I’m happy to break that down a little bit more. And so this great emphasis on something that can be difficult will be something that these organizations have to grapple with. I’m happy to talk about more of the issues in our Q&A, but I think I should stop here and open it up to questions or comments. FASKIANOS: Thank you, Tammi. That was fantastic. So we’re going to go to all of you for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) OK, so I’m going to take the first question from Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome. Q: Thank you. Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome. I’m a professor of political science at Brooklyn College. And I’m just wondering about this financial architecture that is much criticized, as you said. And I’m wondering the extent to which the criticism informs new decisions that are taken. So the criticisms about people who say the organization should be abolished is coming from the Global South, where there’s been feeling since the 1970s that these organizations are not sufficiently sympathetic or understanding of the challenges faced by the countries that had unsustainable debt, and are still in a deeper state of unsustainable debt today. So how is the global architecture on these—in these organizations dealing with these challenges? I heard for the first time, like, in the last five years—Lagarde, I think it was—that said, oh, we made mistakes in some of the advice that we were giving. So who pays for those mistakes? People’s lives are damaged, economies are wrecked. And you know, so what are the—what’s the good of these changes, really? GUTNER: Yeah, thank you so much for that question, because that’s a really good reflection on some of the harsh criticism that these institutions face. And I also would not be someone who says they do everything right, because they don’t. But it has been interesting to watch some of the ways that they’ve evolved. So, for example, they do interact much more with civil society than they used to. I mean, it used to be in the old days when the IMF and World Bank had their annual meetings, civil society actors would protest outside on the street in Washington, DC. And I would tell my students, feel free to go down there but please maybe try not to get arrested, you know? So there were—there were very large protests. Now, when they have the annual meeting, civil society actors are in—are part of it. They’re engaged in seminars. They’re engaged in discussion. The institutions have strengthened some of their accountability measures, although I could argue some of them are also still weak. But there have been changes. So for example, the IMF now addresses and thinks about social protection, which it didn’t used to do, and social safety nets, which it didn’t used to do in the past. So you can argue that these changes aren’t enough, and they’re too late, and it’s still harmful. But I think there is evidence that they do try to evolve and adapt, maybe not perfectly. And also, it’s really difficult to change a huge institution. It’s like turning a large ship. You know, it doesn’t happen quickly. But the narrative today is different from the past. I mean, there is—there is more focus on climate change, for example. Which you can argue some countries, it’s not really their priority. But even that’s changing. More countries, more developing countries, are realizing that issues of climate change are related to them, whether it’s through natural disasters, you know, hurricanes, floods, mud—you know, all of this. So I think it’s—I think this criticism is still out there. And it exists. The institutions are imperfect. But they do—they do slowly try to adjust and adapt. And if you dig into it, if you go into detail, you’ll find that they do a better job in some issues than others, in some countries than others, in some periods of time than others. So as a scholar I would argue that you—it’s hard to make a blanket statement about them without kind of unpacking, you know, specific cases and over time. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Jon-Paul Maddaloni, a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College: For the World Bank, what is the definition of creditworthy? Is this a debt-to-GDP ratio? Is there a standard here that may be part of the developing world grievance against the World Bank? GUTNER: So there are complex ways of assessing that. But basically, one of the major ones is to decide if a country is eligible for IBRD loans, which are International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the main part of the World Bank, which are loans that have to be repaid. And if a country is relatively less creditworthy or poor countries can access grants, or no-interest loans, or concessional funding from the World Bank’s arm that’s called IDA, the International Development Association—or, Agency. (Laughs.) I just—I just call it IDA. So if you’re—if you’re able to access IDA funding, you’re relatively less creditworthy. The World Bank also has other facilities to offer—both the bank and also the IMF—capacity development, which is just money given for technical assistance. And those are the different categories for the World Bank. So countries can change category. So if a country becomes more economically stronger, it can graduate from IDA concessional financing. If it becomes weaker, it can access that financing. And there are some countries which can get a blend. In other words, they’re creditworthy enough to be able to take some amount of loans, but not enough so that all of their financing can be a loan form. So these are some of the ways that the World Bank responds to different categories of creditworthiness. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. I’m going to take the next question from Fordham’s International Political Economy and Development Program. They have a raised hand. If you can just say who you are. (Laughter.) Q: Thank you for being with us today. I’m Genevieve, part of the Fordham IPED Program. My question is, what are some specific examples of how a country’s national political landscape and private interests cause these setbacks for cross-sectoral collaboration in these development banking efforts? And how do these large banking institutions work around corruption, for example? GUTNER: I’m sorry. Can you repeat the first part about collaboration—cross-sectoral collaboration? Q: Yeah. What are some specific examples of how a country’s national political landscape and private interests cause setbacks for cross-sectoral collaboration for these development banks? And then we could take corruption as an example. GUTNER: So I’m not 100 percent sure what you mean by the—by the cross-sectoral collaboration. When I’m focusing on collaboration, or when the narrative is focusing on collaboration, it’s really focusing more on collaboration between, for example, the World Bank and IMF. How do they collaborate? And the answer to that is, they haven’t collaborated well for almost eighty years. But that’s not—what I think you’re asking is, what happens between these institutions and the national level? Well, one issue—the issue of corruption has become much more widely discussed in both the World Bank and the IMF. In the past, it was seen as a domestic political issue, which is really outside their articles of agreement. They’re not supposed to get involved in these domestic political issues. But there’s much more awareness today that corruption—for example, in the IMF—corruption impacts a government’s health—the fiscal health, their ability to have money to spend on development. And the same is true for the World Bank. So there’s much more attention on these issues. The institutions still have to navigate carefully so that they don’t look like they’re getting involved in politics, even though they can’t really avoid it. But so corruption is much higher on the priority list. And it can impact a country’s ability to get funding from either institutions. So from the World Bank, and they have—they have lists of companies they won’t work with in procurement, for example, who are barred from engaging in procurement. And it’s part of discussions. It shows up in the partnership—the framework documents that both countries produce for individual countries. So a kind of a—this is a long way to say, it’s on the radar and it matters. But a lot of the collaboration issues are related to how the institutions work with each other. But also in country, I should add, that in some countries the donors collaborate on the ground. So they meet together and they try to make sure they’re not overlapping. There’s—it doesn’t always work very well. You know, in some cases it works better than others. But for the institutions to collaborate more with each other, they have faced many challenges in doing that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Joshua McKeown, associate provost and director of the international education at State University of New York at Oswego: For context, how much lending does the World Bank do in comparison with regional development banks? GUTNER: Well, I guess it depends. I don’t have all that data at my fingertips, but the World Bank in the last—in—let’s see, I do have the World Bank data at my fingertips. Let me just pull it up. See where I had it. The World Bank in its current annual report, the IBRD committed $38 and a half billion in 2023. IDA committed $34 billion. The regional banks are much smaller, so the World Bank tends to be the largest. But there’s also a lot of variation across the regional banks as well. Now it’s important to say that they will often cofinance projects with each other. So the regional banks will engage with the World Bank, and they’ll have shared projects, and they’ll work together. There are times where they also will compete with each other on occasion. They might both be interested in funding an airport—building an airport somewhere. And one of them may offer more attractive terms than the other. But the competition is not kind of a serious problem, because basically wherever you look in the world, there’s almost an infinite demand for infrastructure finance. You know, show me a city that doesn’t need a new metro, or the roads repaired, right? So there’s a lot of demand out there for these banks to be able to do what they do. And but that has to be tempered with the, on the other side, how much debt can an individual country take on? And that’s where we’re seeing more serious problems today. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Samia Abdulle from Professor Fazal’s class. And she is at the University of Minnesota: How has COVID-19 renewed the debate about the World Bank’s role in international development? GUTNER: That’s a great question, because when it comes to crisis, member states turn to these institutions right away. And this is a little separate from your question, but before the global financial crisis, for example, the IMF and the World Bank had seen their demand for their services drop dramatically. There were questions about the legitimacy of the IMF. Then the global financial crisis hit and, boom, they were kind of the go-to organizations to help respond to these issues. So the World Bank and the IMF both responded pretty rapidly to the pandemic. And they each came up with new facilities, they got money out the door quickly, they relaxed some of their conditions. So they both had a kind of a robust response. Now, there are people who are saying, well, it was not enough. It should have been more. But, you know, they did a lot. And in an emergency situation, also, you have to remember, they all had to work at home as well. So everybody was working at home. Nobody could travel, but yet they got a lot of money out the door quickly, in different kinds of ways. And I think what we’re going to have to revisit down the road is, did any of that money disappear? You know, where—was there accountability for all this money, because it was moved out the door so quickly. And the head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, would say: Just save your receipts. (Laughs.) Just save your receipts. But that’s going to be something to see, what happened with this money, where did it actually go, how did accountability work? But the World Bank alone got $30 billion—it dispersed $30 billion in fifteen months at the beginning of the pandemic in emergency support. So they really did step up. And whether it was enough or not is a matter of opinion. But they moved—they did move quickly. And I should just add, since you asked about—I just want to add one thing. The World Bank was involved in getting people access to vaccines, helping weak health infrastructures in countries, and all kinds of issues related to the pandemic. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. So I’m going to take the next written question from Yiagadeesen Samy, who’s the director of the School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Canada: You already covered the AIIB in your opening remarks, and we will be circulating this transcript in the video later, but let’s look at the second part of the question. Can you comment a little bit on whether the proposed changes to MDBs are a reaction to China’s growing influence? And if so, what your views are about the changing geopolitical economic dynamics? GUTNER: It’s so great people are asking these simple questions. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: I know! GUTNER: Yes. FASKIANOS: Keeping you on your toes! (Laughs.) GUTNER: Yes. So let me preface by saying this: China has different strategies in development banking. On one side, you have the AIIB, for example. On the other side, the Belt and Road Initiative. The AIIB is not—in my research, it’s cut from the same cloth as other development banks. It’s not a threat. It’s a part of the landscape of development banks. It’s part of the community. It was designed by an international group of experts. In fact, the person who wrote the AIIB’s articles of agreement was an American. And the person who designed the AIIB’s environmental and social framework was an American. So it was a—it was a real international effort. And in fact, the World Bank helped the AIIB get set up. So the World Bank volunteered staff and gave the AIIB advice on things like vacation policy and office furniture. This is the Beijing office of the World Bank. And the World Bank even ran the AIIB treasury at the beginning, and it cofinanced projects. So the AIIB is cut from the same cloth as development banks. Now, it does have some differences. It’s has—it’s much smaller. It has a staff under four hundred. The World Bank is ten thousand, for example. And so there are some people who think it might have spurred the World Bank to pay more attention to doing more on infrastructure, which it had moved away from a little bit because that’s the AIIB’s focus. But the Belt and Road is something different. It’s a bilateral initiative. It’s an umbrella for Chinese financial institutions to lend money for infrastructure. It’s not actually an organization. It’s just an umbrella term. And there are differences, because the banks lending under the Belt and Road, Chinese institutions, they don’t follow global norms on environmental and social framework, on safeguards. They’re not transparent. We can’t—we don’t know how the loan is structured. They don’t report the lending numbers to the Paris Club, for example. So there’s a real difference between China’s strategy in the AIIB and China’s strategy in the Belt and Road, which reflects the different natures. There’s not one Chinese strategy. So I think, in a way, the existing development banks help the AIIB more, and their staff help the AIIB more. The Belt and Road is a separate thing. But what I think is going to be interesting is to see if the borders, the boundaries between what is done following global norms, and rules, and procedures, if there’s any kind of crossover with what’s inside those borders and what’s outside those borders. So for example, the AIIB is hosting a facility to help countries better design infrastructure projects that might be undertaken under Belt and Road. And so we just have to keep an eye on that. But it’s not—it’s not a bleak or black and white picture, the way some people describe it. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. A good follow up question from Steven Shinkel, who’s the military professor of national security affairs at U.S. Naval War College: Can you compare the relative use of concessional loans between the World Bank and China? What about loan forgiveness, especially in regions such as Africa and South America? GUTNER: Right. So most of the Chinese lending under Belt and Road is not concessional. Most of it is not concessional. And often interest rates are higher than a comparative loan, even from the IBRD, even non-concessional lending. So they will often charge higher interest rates, but they will have less conditionality. So a country trying to decide who to take a loan from will have to weigh that. Do we want a lower interest rate loan from the World Bank that might have more policy conditionality, we might have to adjust our policy, we might have to think about environmental impacts more? Or do we want a slightly more expensive loan from a Chinese lending institution, but it doesn’t have any strings attached? So that’s kind of the part of the decision-making that borrowers have to go through. On debt—the second part was on, I’m sorry, the question disappeared. On debt? FASKIANOS: Oh, sorry. Yes, the second question is: What about loan forgiveness, especially in regions such as Africa and South America? GUTNER: Well, that’s something that’s being widely discussed right now, because Chinese institutions haven’t been as comfortable about that, or as used to that. And they’re—you know, they’re being pushed by other institutions. Hey, you have to take a haircut too. We all have to—we all have to do that. There is a little bit of that going on. But it’s something—I mean, if you read the article suggested in the email about this talk by Deborah Brautigam, she really unpacks that in great detail. And she makes an argument that there’s some kind of learning and give and take that’s happening and we need to see more of it. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Next question from Lindsey McCormack, who’s a graduate student at CUNY Baruch College: There’s a lot of activity in the U.S. and Europe with new disclosure standards on climate and social impacts of corporations. How do the multilateral development banks relate to this activity? Are they seeing more pressure to discuss—oh, sorry—disclose climate and social impacts of their lending? GUTNER: Yes. (Laughs.) Yes. Now, they already do a lot. They already have environmental and social safeguards. And they’ve all moved away from funding oil and gas, or mostly oil and some gas. So they’re moving away from that. And they’re all working together, actually—I mean, I think it’s an important example of networking—of the network of MDBs—that they’re all moving toward meeting—complying with the Paris Agreement and showing how they’re doing that. Now, some of this is how they measure things, and how they label things, and how they account for things. So there’s still some debate on whether they’re doing enough. But there’s, for sure, pressure from NGOs and others. And the banks are moving in that direction. And they’re—they’re proudly touting how their projects comply. A high percentage of their projects are complying with the Paris Agreement. But there’s still some interesting criticism coming out. So, for example, there was a recent report by a German NGO that said the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the IFC—that the IFC was making loans for trade support where that money might go into oil and gas. But you can’t tell, right? So they were calling for more transparency on how the IMF is—how the IFC is doing trade credits. So that’s something that’s very recent. You can look that up and read more about it. FASKIANOS: Just to follow on, how are the multilateral development banks structured? And how effective do you think they are? GUTNER: Structured in terms of what? I mean, I can talk generally in case—so they— FASKIANOS: Yeah, I think corporate structure. GUTNER: So they have—they all have board of governors, which are all the top relevant officials of their member states, typically the finance minister or the central bank head. And they meet once or twice a year. And they make the big decisions. So one thing that’s important to realize is a lot of these countries are members of a lot of development bank—there’s a lot of overlap in membership. And that’s also a way to cross-fertilize ideas, and policies, and things like that. They all have boards of directors, which are more engaged with the day-to-day business. And the—voting is based on your shareholding in the development bank. And that is based broadly on your economic strength. So the economically stronger companies have—stronger countries have a larger share and more voting power. And then you have the presidents of these organizations that have an important leadership role. And then you have the staff. So that’s basically the structure of these development banks. And meeting next week are the board of governors and the directors in Marrakech for the World Bank and IMF. And you can see how they engage with staff and how they help set the strategic tone for the institutions. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. And I just want to remind everybody to raise your hand if you want to ask a question. Everybody’s a little bit shy today, or else Tammi’s been so thorough that you have no questions. (Laughter.) But I have more questions. But first, I’m going to go to Don Habibi, who is a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington: With yesterday’s stock market plunge and political instability in the U.S., how much concern should we have over the multitrillion-dollar national debt? GUTNER: So that’s not an issue that directly impacts the international financial institutions, the IMF, and the World Bank, right now. I mean, the U.S. is the largest shareholder of both, and they both—or, the World Bank has a AAA credit rating. So it’s not really—we might be concerned over national debt, but so far it’s not having a big impact on the dollar. So far, it’s not having a big impact on investment. So there’s always kind of some concern, but it’s not—it’s not translating into anything that’s making people nervous about how these organizations operate. But, you know, one place to look for an answer, I’ll tell you this, is when the IMF does surveillance, it does—which are its reports on the economic health of individual member states. It does these surveillance reports even on the rich countries. It does them for everyone. So I would suggest you look for the latest article for surveillance report that the IMF has done on the United States, and see what it has to say about concerns about debt. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. You recently completed a book manuscript on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Some policymakers and scholars have argued it is a threat to the World Bank. Can you talk about if you agree with that or disagree? GUTNER: Oh, right. So I answered a little bit of that earlier, actually, which is: I don’t think it’s a threat because I think it’s cut from the same cloth as these other development banks in terms of it has similar policies, it has similar governance rules. The World Bank—it’s signed MOUs, memoranda of understanding, with all these other development banks. It cooperates with them. It cofinances projects with them. So I think the narrative of the AIIB being a threat is not correct. Could something change in the future? Who knows. But there has been a recent scandal at the AIIB. And we don’t know how that will yet be resolved, where this past summer the Canadian director of communications resigned dramatically, suddenly, arguing that Communist Party committees were somehow involved in the work of the bank. And we—so, Canada froze its membership. So that’s a bit of a scandal and a crisis at the AIIB. And Canada is doing its own report on what happened. So I kind of think we have to see what comes out of that report. If Canada decided to leave the AIIB, would it impact any other members? Too early to say. But so far, there’s nothing directly threatening about its work. It’s walked and talked and behaved like other development banks. It does have some differences. It has a nonresident board, which was seen as a cost-saving measure. You know, why have all these people sit around and cost a lot of money? But there are some civil society actors who think that that could produce less accountability. If the board is not there, you know, the bank has more kind of autonomy to do—more independence. So there are some differences. But so far, it’s been just another member of the multilateral development bank system. FASKIANOS: Thank you. All right. We have more hands raised, which I’m very excited about. Tanisha Fazal, who is the Weinstein chair of international studies at University of Richmond: You mentioned the difficulties of collaboration between IMF and the World Bank. Can you please elaborate on what you see as the primary obstacles to collaboration between MDBs? GUTNER: Yes. I’m happy to talk about that. So that was the topic of my year—my Council on Foreign Relations fellowship at the International Monetary Fund’s Independent Evaluation Office. And we were evaluating Bank-Fund collaboration. And I was part of the overall evaluation, which you can find online. And I also wrote a separate paper on the history of Bank-Fund collaboration. And I found it to be absolutely fascinating, because these two institutions were created together at the Bretton Woods Conference. And they’re called the Bretton Woods twins. They’re literally across the street from each other. There’s an underground passage that connects the two. They interact all the time. They have a joint orchestra. I don’t know if anybody knew that. (Laughs.) They used to share a library. So there’s a lot of—if any two organizations should be able to work closely together, it’s these two, right? This should be your best case, and yet they’ve struggled for their entire existence. And I think one of the obstacles is that over time their issues have overlapped. So an example of that is today, when the IMF is doing more on climate change, gender, and inequality, which traditionally is the work of the Bank. So their work has kind of—over time, given the issues facing the world, it’s kind of naturally overlapped. And what I found that was very interesting is in over twenty-five different formal attempts the two institutions produced to collaborate with each other—memos and announcements by the heads of the institutions—for decades, what they meant by collaboration was turf delineation. Collaboration meant you stay out of my territory. (Laughs.) I don’t think of that as collaboration. It’s working together on a common objective, right? So that was what they meant by it, and for many years what they—what the solution was, that the institution that’s not in charge of this issue should yield to the judgment of the other one—the yield to the judgment one. So I think turf overlap has been a problem. But even when they make an effort, often they have different incentives, they have different budget cycles, they have different—you know, it’s just not that easy. And the IMF’s latest strategy for collaboration has been when IMF staff encounter an issue that they don’t have expertise in, they should leverage the expertise of the World Bank and other partners. Well, that, to me, sounds like one-way collaboration, which is an oxymoron, right? That if the IMF needs help, it should call the IMF and get help—I mean, call the World Bank and get help. But for the World Bank, they might be busy. (Laughs.) So those kinds of challenges persist. There have been times where they do create a truly collaborative effort, like the HIPC Initiative, or the FSAPs, or the PRSP—sorry for all the acronyms—but where they—where they have a shared work program and shared guidance and shared expectations. Those have tended to work better than big umbrella exhortations by the leaders saying: Collaborate! You know, do more collaboration. Those have tended to work better, but they also run into individual problems. So really, the upshot is, even though you would expect collaboration to be the easiest and make most sense between these two institutions, in fact, it’s often been a struggle. And some people found, when I mentioned the IMF’s resilience trust, that’s something that would normally have been undertaken by the World Bank. So they have not—they have had challenges collaborating, and those continue. FASKIANOS: Thank you. And I need to correct the record, my apologies. So that question was from Tanisha Fazal, who is an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. So the next question is from Sandra Joireman, who is the Weinstein chair of international studies at University of Richmond. So my apologies. So this this question is from Sandra: Some of the previous efforts to address the environmental impacts of certain projects were ineffective. Do you think new efforts to address the environment and climate challenge change will be better? If so, why? GUTNER: So I’m guessing you’re referring to the World Bank? And, yes, there’s a whole long history of the Bank addressing environmental issues. And it really started in the 1980s, when NGOs identified projects that had gone horribly wrong and caused enormous environmental degradation. Like the Polonoroeste highway in Brazil. It was a famous—infamous example. And the Narmada dam in India. These are infamous examples. But when you look over the years, there have been improvements to what kinds of things the Bank can lend money to, how strong the environmental and social safeguards are. So when I look at the whole history of the World Bank and environment, I basically see it is not a one-way trajectory, and as forward or backward. I see it as more zigzag steps, some forward steps, some backward steps, some forward steps, some backward steps. So overall, because climate change is becoming one—it’s about to become a major part of the Bank’s mission and vision. So before it was shared prosperity and poverty reduction, and now it’s going to—if it’s all approved next week—it will be shared prosperity, poverty reduction, and a livable planet. So climate change is kind of moving the front row and center. And that will make it harder for the Bank to fund projects that can be criticized. It will make it much more important that it follows these solid environmental and social framework rules. So I think it’s a move in the right direction. But as I mentioned earlier, we’re still seeing criticism from NGO about things slipping through the cracks, like trade finance, right? Or another area that’s weak is the World Bank—the IFC and the World Bank will sometimes lend money to financial intermediaries. So it’s like—it’s like lending money to a local bank that then lends it out for something else. And there’s been less oversight about how that money is on lent, and whether that can go for something that’s damaging to climate change or the environment. So they’re moving in the right direction. I think there’s been progress. I think there’s been backward steps and forward steps over the whole arc of the World Bank’s efforts in this area. And I think there’s still going to be some criticism as they address some of these areas where there’s slippage. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, a raised hand from Sheri Fink. So, Sheri, if you can say who you are and accept the unmute prompt. Q: Oh, I’m sorry. I think I pressed the wrong button. I didn’t mean to raise my hand. Sorry about that. FASKIANOS: OK. No problem. All right. I will take the next question from Eric Muddiman, master’s student at Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada: In terms of mobilizing more private capital and development, there has been discussion on MDBs’ role in mitigating risk. Private sector are not allowed to invest in BB/BBB ZIP code investments from a regulatory perspective. Are there concrete proposals advancements in these discussions? GUTNER: Yes. Do I know what they all are? No. It’s kind of a live discussion. And I know, in the new World Bank—the latest version of the evolution roadmap, there’s talk about creating, like, a lab—an innovation lab, or a private sector lab, to try to do more. Some of the banks have hubs in some areas where they—areas in the developing world where they might have better access to private sector actors. And they’re trying to engage with private sector actors in conferences and find ways of discussing project ideas. So that’s not as concrete as you like, perhaps, but there are efforts to think about this. And there was a seminar at the spring meetings with private sector actors who are also saying that they felt they could do more to engage colleagues and find ways to bring the private sector and public sector together. So there are initiatives, seminars, hubs, labs. You know, all of this stuff is kind of lively and happening right now. And I do think it will be interesting to see what, if anything, catches on. Because, as I mentioned earlier, this discussion has been going on even before 2015, but the turning billions into trillions discussion. And it just hasn’t worked out that well, because of these issues like risk, right? Private sector actors may not want to involve in countries where the risk is too great and where countries don’t have capacity, where they have weaker capacity. So there are many challenges in this area. And just a variety of activities and ideas being put forward to try to respond. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next, a raised hand for Walton Brown. You can accept the unmute. There you go, Walton. Q: So I too—I didn’t intend to hit anything. I’m so sorry. FASKIANOS: OK. That’s OK. GUTNER: You can still ask a question. (Laughter.) FASKIANOS: That’s OK! You can still ask a—exactly, Tammi. We can—we can still—we love hearing from you all. So, all right. Well, we will continue on— Q: And my phone is troubled. FASKIANOS: Phone is troubled. (Laughs.) No problem. That’s just fine. OK, so I’m going to go next to—let’s see, we’ve got several who don’t have affiliations, but let me go to Holley Hansen: A lot of previous questions have focused on the World Bank or IMF operations. But going back to your original remarks, there also been discussion on how internal rules and procedures, such as voting, leave stakeholders out of the decision-making process. What major suggested reforms to internal decision-making do you think are viable? And what are the pros and cons of changing those rules? GUTNER: Well, the voting is part of internal decision-making. So the voting is part of that. And the real issue has been, how can—well, one of the real issues is shouldn’t China have a greater stake? Shouldn’t China have a higher stake? Because China is now the number-three largest stakeholder in the World Bank and the IMF, after the U.S., number one, and Japan, number two. But its stake, at around 6 percent, is really less than it should be if you follow the kind of formula they use to calculate a state’s economic strength. It’s been calculated that really it should be more like 12 percent, right? So part of the discussion is how to give developing countries, and especially China, more weight in governance through the—through the voting share. And that’s an ongoing discussion. Right now, in today’s kind of more tense political—global political environment, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. supporting something like that at this juncture of time, although there have been reports that the managing director of the IMF is open to it. So I think this is going to be one of the issues that is discussed in Marrakesh next week, what to do with these voting shares? But they do adjust them every so often. So China did move up from having a lower ranking to now being number three in the IMF and World Bank. So it does happen over time. Internal decision-making is a whole complicated other kind of issue. And these development banks, you know, they all face internal decision-making challenges. They all face kind of common tensions. So one of them is how you balance authority between the country—people who work in the country and people who work on sectoral issues. So how do you—who should—who should have more decision-making authority, the country level or the sector level? There are decision-making issues and tensions between the public sector lending arms of these development banks and the private sector lending arms, because they have different incentives and different goals. So there have been challenges inside these development banks with kind of internal silos and where power and authority should be held. And it’s hard to come up with what the right answer is. You know, there are pros and cons to giving more power to the country or more power to the sector. And in fact, these banks restructure from time to time. And if you look at kind of the history of the restructuring of some of the major development banks, they sort of move back and forth between where they think authority should be located. So these issue—it’s a whole other can of worms than voting power on the board of directors. But it’s important, because it can affect their performance. It can affect their performance and their ability to function effectively. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the last question. We have several quick questions from Fordham again. Let’s see. There you go. Q: OK, thank you. So in the worst case scenario that the U.S. and China engage in conflict in Taiwan, how would the World Bank respond to the economic shocks of this in geographically vulnerable neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines? GUTNER: That’s a tough question. Thank you for ending this with a really tough question. We’re not supposed to say I don’t know. (Laughs.) We’re supposed to have—that’s a tough one, because, again, China is number three at the World Bank. So if China—couldn’t—most of the time voting doesn’t happen. Most of the time, it’s consensus. So it’s hard to predict. I mean, you’d have to unpack a lot of different things there. You’d have to unpack what kind of—what would the World Bank normally do? Would it normally—would it affect development lending to neighboring countries? I mean, it’s interesting to look at the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how—what the response to that has been, because Russia’s a member of all these institutions too. But the development banks mostly froze lending to Russia. Also, the AIIB did, because it had to comply—to comply with these sanctions. So Russia lending has been frozen. And these institutions are all giving money to Ukraine to help Ukraine rebuild. So there is kind of a situation that can be—that can be used to compare, to kind of get ideas about what might happen, right? And even at the AIIB, Russia is number three largest shareholder in the AIIB. It’s China, India, and Russia. And the AIIB immediately froze lending to Russia. So we could—we could kind of play out different scenarios, but there’s a lot of unknowns in that case. And I do think looking at the response of MDBs to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could provide some useful lessons. FASKIANOS: Tammi, we are at the end of our time. And I apologize that we couldn’t get to all the questions. I wonder if you could just take a minute. You were awarded a CFR Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars, which allowed you to work—be placed in a government office. So if you could just take a minute to talk about that experience and encourage other professors to apply. The deadline’s coming up. It’s the end of October. So it just would be great for you to just give us your— GUTNER: Absolutely, yes. All the professors in the audience, please apply for this, because it’s a special, invaluable experience. When you’re—when you’re studying something, and you have the opportunity to be an insider for a year, I can’t even tell you how much you learn. I learned being—and it’s a two-way street. They benefit from the expertise of the scholars who are coming in because we bring a different perspective. We bring different analytical and methodological tools. And I just can’t tell you how much I learned that I could never find out as an outsider, including the IMF-World Bank orchestra, or the—(laughs)—yeah, actually, maybe some outsiders know that. But really, to open up the black box of an organization and see firsthand about how things work internally, what the culture’s like, how things get done, what happens in the hallways. I mean, all that stuff, all of those kinds of details really enhanced my scholarship and shaped my research direction, working on these issues of collaboration, for example. So if any of you are considering applying, please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about the fellowship. I’d be happy to discuss it with you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Thank you for that, and for your amazing insights into these issues. And to all of you for your great questions. You can follow Dr. Gutner on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @TGutner. And for the students on this call, CFR has paid internships. So to learn more about the internships you can go to—and also the fellowships—you can go to Follow us at @CFR_Academic, and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. And the next Academic Webinar will take place on Wednesday, October 11, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT). Landry Signé, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, will talk about Africa on the global stage. So, again, thank you to Tamar Gutner. And to all of you, have a great rest of your day. GUTNER: Thanks for having me. And thanks to everyone for attending. (END)
  • Health

    Elizabeth Willetts, planetary health policy director at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, leads the conversation on the health risks of climate change. FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s d…
  • India

    Nirupama Menon Rao, former Indian foreign secretary and former ambassador of India to the United States and China, leads the conversation on India and great-power rivalry. CASA: Welcome to the fir…
  • Education

    Scott Jaschik, cofounder and former chief executive officer and editor of Inside Higher Ed, leads the conversation on the changing landscape of college and university admissions criteria. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Scott Jaschik with us today to discuss the changing landscape of college and university admissions criteria. Mr. Jaschik was a cofounder and former chief executive officer and an editor at Inside Higher Ed, a media company and online publication that provides news, opinions, resources, and events focused on colleges and university topics. He previously served as editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education and was a former board member of the Education Writers Association. And he’s a leading voice on higher education issues, publishing articles in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. So, Scott, thank you very much for being with us today. There’s a lot here to cover, I thought maybe you could give us context and set the stage of the current trends in college and university admissions, as well as the role and importance of international students and scholars at U.S. universities. JASCHIK: Sure. Thanks very much for the invitation. And it’s great to speak to CFR people. And it’s great particularly because you’re a group whose interests extend far beyond higher education. And it just goes to show, higher education is important to every society and everyone, really. So I think this is a great opportunity for me to talk to you. And mainly, I’m excited to hear what the attendees have to say about these issues. But briefly, to give an overview. The big issue, and I want to say a few—one thing, in terms of setting the context. Admissions, talking about college admissions, can vary hugely depending on who you are talking about—by student, by institution, and so forth. So I’m going to talk, for instance, at the beginning about affirmative action. And I’ll talk about the institutions that are most affected by the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. But then I’m going to talk about a trend in the rest of higher ed, direct admissions, and how that affects people in higher ed. And then at the end, I’ll throw in a few comments on the international students. So on affirmative action, the big news was this summer the Supreme Court ruled six to three that colleges—that two colleges in particular, Harvard and UNC Chapel Hill, were not following the law with respect to how they used affirmative action in admissions. It was a very strong decision, a very thorough decision, but one that greatly upset most people in colleges. The general public generally is a little bit skeptical of affirmative action. But in higher ed, there is very strong support for affirmative action. Now, it’s important to remember that this decision will directly affect maybe two hundred institutions. Now, it may indirectly affect many more down the road. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But it’s important to remember, at most colleges—you know, you read these stories every year about how under 5 percent of applicants get into Harvard, Yale, and whatever. Well, most colleges admit most applicants. And I’ll just repeat that, because it’s really important to remember. Most colleges admit most applicants. I think that is largely lost in the coverage of late on affirmative action. And it’s really important, if you have an opportunity, to shout that out to the world. Because even if a student doesn’t feel comfortable applying to an elite college or university, it’s important to always say that there is a place in higher ed for that student, and for all students. But on higher ed, this is a big decision for higher education because most of the top colleges in the country have used affirmative action in admissions. They don’t maybe want to talk about it now, but they have used it for their admissions processes. And now they can’t. And, you know, there’s really a lot of skepticism about what it will be like. Now, the expectations are based on the University of California, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas, because in prior court rulings and in state votes they do not use affirmative action. And if you expect them to follow—to follow what’s going to go on, people will predict a major decline for Black students, Latino students. White students actually are not going to gain a lot. Asian students will gain. But that’s based on those past examples. There’s a big question mark this year which is about the admissions tests that in the past were required of all students, but now they aren’t. And test-optional admissions truly took off during the pandemic, because there was a period of time when students literally couldn’t take the SAT or ACT. But a secondary reason, and arguably, I think, the more important reason, colleges dropped the test-optional—or, went test-optional, is this decision. They knew it was coming and this gives them a lot more flexibility. So do I expect to happen what happened with the University of California? I would say yes, but, because nobody really knows what the impact will be of test-optional admissions. Now, very quickly, some other things on affirmative action to remember. Many colleges are adding essays specifically to reach students who are minority students or who have particular experiences that colleges want to have. And this is, again—remember, even if a college asks, are you Black, Latino, or whatever, they cannot use that information when they evaluate students. So that will be totally invisible to the colleges. The Supreme Court decision explicitly said that students can write about their experiences in life and how that affects them for higher ed. But the Court’s going to be watching very carefully and wants to make sure that anything that the students say is not just a way to go back to considering students differently, as the Court said, on the race and ethnicity. Also, there’s a group working to create a new system to evaluate students’ character, because character is something that many people cite but they don’t really have a way to cite it. That’s the kind of thing that we’re seeing. Now, there are other issues too. Legacy admissions, in which colleges favor the children of alumni or relatives, that is under real tight scrutiny right now. There was nothing in the Supreme Court decision to say they couldn’t do legacy admissions, but many colleges are uncomfortable given that they cannot use the systems they came up with to help Black, and Latino, and Asian American students get into college. They are uncomfortable with legacy admissions because it primarily helps white students get into college. And that’s not something they want to do. Similarly, early decision is something that is very controversial, because it primarily helps white students. Now what’s unknown is two things. One is the final rule, so to say, on admissions. That’s going to be decided not by anything I say or that anyone else says, but it’s going to be back in the courts. I would be absolutely certain it will return to the courts. And they will, you know, hash that out. Also, there’s the question of financial aid. Some colleges award—and this is many more colleges—award financial aid in part based on race and ethnicity. Is that legal? We don’t yet know. Some players on both sides have offered their opinions, but that will be a huge decision that will come down. Now I want to talk about another issue in higher ed that’s going on, which is direct admissions. And if you’re not familiar with direct admissions, in direct admissions students do not apply to colleges. Students simply fill out a form, which includes their transcript, any test scores they want to submit, and roughly where they want to go to college. I don’t mean institution names, but, like, I live in Connecticut and these are the—and I want to go to college near my home. It’s important to remember, most college students go to college near their homes. So and then after that, colleges will look at the application that they filled out. And colleges will admit those students. Now direct admissions is very popular among all the institutions that I wasn’t talking about before, because it is a good way to recruit more low-income students, who seem to really like this system. But direct admissions has primarily been used on a small scale. And that—we have to see what will happen as it goes to a larger scale. So that is something still to find out. And then on international students, with international students most colleges very much want international students. But there are key things that may make it difficult to recruit them. One is foreign—the foreign relations, as your group well knows. I mean, you’ve got the war in Russia and Ukraine, which didn’t send a lot of foreign students to the United States, but they sent some. And, interestingly, some of the colleges in New York City have both Russian and Ukrainian students at the same college. And they are dealing with issues related to that. But the most students have come from China. And our relations with China are, frankly, pretty bad right now, I would say. And that raises real questions about which students will come. My guess is that the top universities are not going to have a loss in foreign students, or at least not a substantial loss. But it’s important to remember, foreign students are enrolling at every type of college and university. And they may be affected at institutions that aren’t as competitive in admissions. So that’s my rough answer to your question. Have at it. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And now we’re going to go to all of you for your questions and comments. And please use this as a forum too to share best practices. (Gives queuing instructions.) So I’m going to take the first written question from Edie Gaythwaite, professor at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida: The issue of essays is now the use of AI-generated essays being submitted. So how do you see the admissions process moving forward with this in mind? JASCHIK: That’s a great question. And it’s something that’s getting a lot of attention right now. And I’m going to answer first for what’s going to happen this year, and then I want to talk about the future. Right now, this is making a lot of people in admissions very nervous, because every day someone does a story on—on the way AI can be used to write essays. Colleges don’t know. So they are nervous. Now, some of the services that colleges use to detect plagiarism can also be used, they say, to maybe detect the use of AI. So that’s one possibility. Others are suggesting that colleges should instead of using regular essays, should require an essay that is handwritten and was graded by a high school teacher, and to turn it in with the high school teacher’s grades. Now that’s a little—there’s something odd about that, in that that assumes that the student didn’t use AI in high school, which, you know, who knows if that’s true. But the reason I would say not to get a huge panic this year, is that a bunch of colleges are working on the issue. I suspect that by the end of this year, they are going to have better ways to deal with AI than they do right now. So I would say, you know, watch. But remember—and the other thing I would say is to remember past examples. Remember, when Wikipedia first started? There were people saying, no college student is ever going to write his or her own essay again. They’re all going to come from Wikipedia. Well, they’re not. And so because a lot of people figured out how to use Wikipedia, and how not to use Wikipedia. So I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, but there may be a better way coming. FASKIANOS: Our next question comes from Beverly Lindsay. Beverly, please identify yourself and ask your question. Q: Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. We can. Q: Great. Beverly Lindsay, University of California, multicampus. Hello, Scott. Good to hear your comments. I have something that wasn’t quite covered. Because I have been at two major research universities, actually more, but two in particular. They actually have informal legacy admits. And I would like your speculation on how that will continue. The second part of the question relates to HBCUs, particularly the ones that are known as the Black Ivies. I was at two of them. And I also know that they are concerned about having more diverse students from different economic backgrounds. Could you comment on that as well? Thank you. JASCHIK: Sure. Those are very good questions. So, first, on the informal legacies, which is something I have heard about. And I, in fact, did a story about a university that said it was eliminating legacy admissions, but it turned out they weren’t. They still had legacy admissions. And that’s because legacy admissions is something that colleges like to talk about with their alumni, but maybe not with the public. It strikes me that informal legacy admissions really doesn’t make sense. If you believe in legacy admissions, defend it. But informal strikes me as inappropriate, frankly. Now, on the HBCUs, and particularly, the so-called top HBCUs, there’s interesting developments with regard to affirmative action. When California eliminated affirmative action way back when, more Californians started to go to Morehouse, and Spelman, and other very good HBCUs. And we are going to see more of this in the next year, I think. But at the same time, I would caution against assuming that HBCUs can provide the answers to everything here. Morehouse and Spelman, despite being great colleges, to not have the financial aid that Harvard and Stanford have. They just don’t. There’s not enough money there. And it’s a different kind of experience, a great experience for some students. But financially and otherwise, there are limits to what they can do. Now, if Morehouse and Spelman could grow by a thousand students, well, that would sound wonderful. But I don’t think they can grow by a thousand students, at least not immediately. So this year, I think we’re going to be watching what goes on at those colleges. So I hope I’ve answered. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. I’m going to take the written question from Todd Barry, who is professor at Hudson County Community College? Excuse me. How safe is it geopolitically for U.S. professors to teach abroad? JASCHIK: How what is it? FASKIANOS: Safe is it. JASCHIK: Oh, how safe? I think it really depends on the country. In lots of countries it is totally safe, in that—you know, you have to be realistic. What is—how safe is it to teach in the United States is a legitimate question, in some parts of the country. To go abroad, there are real issues if the country is not secure, it does not have an adequate system for making sure that people are protected. And also, there are issues related to the potential in other countries for anti-American thought to happen and to be a cause of concern. At the same time, there are many countries where you will find yourself welcome. And I think it’s great for American college professors to look for those places and to go abroad. They will learn as much as they will teach. So I think that’s, you know, that’s great. FASKIANOS: Great. Don Habibi has raised his hand, and also written a—written a question. But, Don, I think you’ve put your hand down, but I’d love you to ask it yourself, if you could unmute yourself. Q: OK. Yes. Hi. Yeah, my question was triggered by the first AI question. And that is, what’s to prevent—or how do you check a student who writes a fabulous story of their overcoming adversity or their combat experience, or whatever it is that, you know, would just sort of bring them to the top of the applicant pool. And the likelihood of fact checking that sort of thing is pretty small. And I mentioned in the question that several times reporters won Pulitzer Prizes for reporting on stories, and they made them up. FASKIANOS: And Don is—can you give us your affiliation? Q: I’m a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. FASKIANOS: Thank you. JASCHIK: Yes, that is a real concern. And it’s not just in admissions. Colleges are worried about that issue in the essays they will assign to students to write after—you know, after they’re enrolled. There, they—some people are arguing for in-person writing. You know, in class, where the students will be forced to write it down. Now, some students say they can’t write a long, handwritten essay anymore, because all they can do is type. And I have some sympathy for them, but that’s what they’re saying. It goes back to what I said before. Colleges are working on solutions to this and going to try. I would say that a good admissions counselor should be able to see some things that come out in their applications. Also, some colleges are changing their essays so that they are more about the college you are applying to, to make it more difficult to use a copied essay. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. The next question we’ll take from Melissa McGinnis, assistant director of admissions at Yale University’s Jackson School of Global Affairs: What are your thoughts on how these affirmative action issues impact graduate admissions for professional programs, not PhD? JASCHIK: Sure. Yeah, well, I’ll tell you about both. In law schools, medical schools, business schools, it is the same thing. That there’s no expectation that this decision doesn’t apply. And they have got to redo their systems and procedures just like their undergraduate counterparts do. PhD programs actually are interesting, though, because in many colleges and universities, those decisions are done by the department level. And it is more difficult to control a department than it is to control a whole school. You know, you may have six members of the English department or whatever deciding on admissions. But they can’t use race. That’s just—and if they do they’re going to get sued. So that’s just the rules. FASKIANOS: Great, thank you. We have a raised hand from Sneha Bharadwaj. Excuse me if I did not pronounce it correctly, but you can correct me. Q: OK. So my name is Sneha Bharadwaj. I’m from Texas Woman’s University here in Dallas, Texas. I was following up on other questions you answered regarding the holistic admission process. And I’m wondering, beyond the handwritten essay, are there any talks about video interviews or uploading video prompts, where you hear from that person? And if that is something that’s in the talks or is being considered, because I think we’re all in the same boat of wondering how this holistic admissions is going to work. JASCHIK: Right. Well, and Texas Woman’s University is a great example. It is a—it is a university in Texas that has men, for those who are not familiar with it. It is not—does not just admit women. And it’s—and in recent years, it’s become quite popular and is growing with more people using holistic admissions to get in. So, you know, to do an interview for everyone, on the one hand, it makes perfect sense. You meet the people, find out about them, find out about their interests, et cetera. But in most colleges, and I don’t know if this is true of Texas Woman’s University, that is a major undertaking, to interview everyone, even via Zoom. And most college admissions offices will be hard stretched to interview every student. Also, there have been charges that admissions interviews favor or don’t favor minority students. They are said to favor them, if colleges want to admit more minority students. They are said to disfavor them when the students don’t have the same expertise in doing interviews as wealthier students do. And most of the wealthy students are white students. So it is something that they are looking at, but I am not sure it will work at very many institutions this year. Q: Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to take the next question from Kurt Schmoke, who is the president of the University of Baltimore: Which states are using direct admissions? And will this spread to other states? JASCHIK: Great question. Nice to have a president here. And so, there are not any statewide requirements, but Minnesota is the state to look at. In Minnesota, they made it possible for any college that wanted to, to use direct admissions. And most of the colleges opted in in part. One college opted in entirely. They said, that’s the way you’re going to apply to get into that college. Most colleges, though, are doing it on a piecemeal basis, admitting just some students. And I’m curious, does the University of Baltimore—did you use direct admissions? FASKIANOS: Kurt, if you want to unmute and respond, that would be great. We’d love to hear your experience. Q: Sure. The closest that we have to that is dual enrollment programs that allow students to obtain X number of credits. And it usually is with the community college, some with high schools. But now I’m quite interested in this direct admissions. So I’ll take a look at what Minnesota is doing. JASCHIK: Right. You should do that. In Minnesota, the colleges that definitely didn’t do it were the flagship University of Minnesota campus and Carleton College. You know, again, colleges that get tons of applicants don’t need to, but it was all the other colleges. And if you search on Inside Higher Ed’s website, you’ll find a bunch of stories on the players in direct admissions, EAB, the common app, et cetera. There are places you can go. Niche does direct admissions. There are places that would love to talk to you, I’m sure. Q: Good, thank you. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next written question from Kevin Collymore, who is an assistant dean of retention and persistence programs at the University of San Francisco: How will institutions handle donor gifts, scholarships intentioned for students of color moving forward? FASKIANOS: Very carefully. (Laughs.) They will have to say that a gift cannot be used by the college specifically for minority students. In fact, some think the best way will be for colleges to work with outside groups, and to say: Don’t give us the money. Give it to the such-and-such foundation. And then that group may decide to give financial aid to minority students at the University of San Francisco, or any university. But this is very much in play right now, in that I think it’s one of the issues about which there will be a court ruling soon. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ll take the next question from Mahmood Khan, a professor at Virginia Tech: Can you comment on anything that can be done about the time to get a U.S. visa? Students cannot join because they didn’t get visas on time. So I guess they couldn’t come this semester. JASCHIK: That is a terrible problem. And it has been a big issue this year. Many of the—going back to the pandemic—at the height of the pandemic, no one wanted to come to the United States. (Laughs.) And the United States didn’t really want them. Everyone was viewed as a threat, really, to the health of others. Since then, officially, they’ve opened up. But students from certain countries report incredible delays in getting their visas. And particularly these are students trying to travel to the United States from countries where there are many Muslim students, or many Muslim people and Muslim students. And they say they’re not rejected, but they just—it just takes forever for them to fill out and to get an answer. Now, why this is sort of—it’s subject to debate. Many of the people who work in processing visas say they are working as fast as they can, looking for the information they need, et cetera. Many in higher education view that very skeptically. And they see students who they cannot think of a good reason why that student should be denied a visa. And it just lingers. Some colleges have taken to educating students abroad for their first semester when they can’t get in. But that is something that only some colleges can do. And also, it denies the students what they’re seeking, which is a real experience at Virginia Tech, or any college. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Beverly Lindsay has her hand—I don’t know if that’s a residual from your last question or if you had a follow-on comment. OK. I’m going to move on, then. I’m going to take the next question from Michael Strmiska, a professor of world history at the Orange County Community College: Do you think that the ban on affirmative action in student admissions might eventually apply to academic employment? I teach in a community college with very low representation of non-white faculty and I think if the Supreme Court or other powers signaled that any diversity motivated hiring among minority faculty could come under dispute this would hamper or even halt our very slow progress toward creating a more diverse faculty. JASCHIK: You’re absolutely right. And many colleges do use affirmative action in hiring. The court decision itself did not speak to that. However, if you look at the justices on the court today and imagine a case involving academic hiring reaching them, it is hard for me to imagine the six justices would not also object to affirmative action in hiring. And that would be very limiting in terms of who colleges have to hire. Now, there is some leeway in that academic hiring decisions are mainly made at the department level, with some administration involvement. I don’t know if that will work. But I think you’re right to see that as a potential problem ahead. FASKIANOS: OK. The next question is from Galia Benitez, an associate professor of international relations at Michigan State University: You began the discussion by asserting that the number of Black and Latino students was going to decline. How do you see the actual class environment for professors and for minority students already in the system or in the future who form part of a minority would be teaching and learning in a less diverse environment? In short, what would be the consequences of these new admissions rules and learning? JASCHIK: The consequences aren’t good. We are already seeing racial incidents on campuses that sort of relate to the Supreme Court decision. And when the Supreme Court has taken up these issues in the past, they have similarly been incidents about race on campus. In terms for learning, again, I think it’s going to be very negative because students look to a diverse student body to learn, for all the reasons that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote back in 2003 still apply. Well, or I think they should still apply. They aren’t. They don’t apply because of the recent Supreme Court decision. I think it’s going to be tougher for faculty members who are truly committed on those issues. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I think Beverly has re-raised her hand, so I’m going to try again. Beverly, I’ll give you a few minutes to—seconds to unmute yourself. You’re still muted. There we go. Q: I don’t know what’s happening because I didn’t have another question. There may be a technical problem, but since I’m on I will ask something else. FASKIANOS: OK. (Laughs.) OK. Q: Scott, with reference to the international students and the international faculty, as we know in many of the tier one, AAU major research universities, and the ones also in our neighboring countries like Canada with the University of Toronto which is also a member of AAU and McGill, for example. A number of the faculty and the PhD students in particular—this is one of my areas of research—are in the STEM fields, but they’re from other countries. So how are we going to think of other ways to get diverse students, whether they’re Canadians in Canada, or Americans in the United States, to be able to pursue some of these programs in STEM fields? JASCHIK: It’s going to be very challenging. Look, in STEM fields international students are admitted not because only—in the past, haven’t been admitted only because of affirmative action. They’ve been admitted—there aren’t enough American students of any race or ethnicity to fill those classes. There aren’t. And that is true at any university in the country, really. Now it’s not that there aren’t talented Americans, but they are not—they’re just not in the right numbers to help. And so, you know, a bunch of things. When recruiting international students or recruiting any students, it’s money. And here, the University of California, I’m less worried about than colleges that are not as high in the rankings as UC is. But, you know, it’s money. And it’s also—it’s also mission. Why you come and do that. And it’s really important that professors have good answers to questions—to both of those questions, because they are going to be asked. But, no, it’s not going to be easy at all. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Beth Hillman. Beth, do you want to ask your question that you’ve written? Putting her on the spot. Q: Sure. I just—I’ll read it there. So how will the new return on investment economic models influence student choices about institutions and programs? JASCHIK: Return on investment, I don’t like the use of return on investment but I’m in a minority. And a lot of students and their parents love it. Look, return on investment is greater if you are a student in STEM at MIT than if you’re a student in English at any college or university. That’s just a fact. But to me what that misses is that in many areas the student studying English may have a perfectly good return on investment. And it’s important for colleges to publicize the actual returns that students get. Look, students who study English, and history, and political science, and whatnot, are not, in fact, as a group, ending up working at Starbucks And they, they have the ability to get good jobs. Now, most of them, they get good jobs by not staying as a—in that field. I am a history major. I am not a historian. And most people don’t seem to really understand that. But every year people will come up with more ways to rank colleges by return on investment. I don’t really put too much in it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Please raise your hands if you have more questions. I see none—no more raised hands or written questions, but we’d love to hear from you. So I do have a couple, though. I wanted to ask you a little bit about how do you think the U.S. higher education admission strategies is affecting our image in the world, our global standing? JASCHIK: That’s a really important question. Look, most people abroad would love to attend a great American college or university. They felt that way during the Trump administration, during the Biden administration, during the Obama administration. They want a U.S. college. Now, that doesn’t mean that they favor the U.S. in terms of what the U.S. is doing around the world, but they do value American colleges and universities. There’s no doubt about that. And so, in fact, I’d say it’s a real loss that the U.S. doesn’t act with more on that, because—you know, potentially it’s a great, great reason to come to the U.S. FASKIANOS: And what resources do you recommend for higher ed leaders and administrators to better understand how to promote equitable missions, processes, or to navigate now what’s this current landscape? JASCHIK: Read Inside Higher Ed—(laughs)—and, you know, pay attention to the issues. If you are at an elite institution, there’s a set of questions that you have about early admissions, about legacy admissions. You know, why are you continuing those policies if they are specifically resulting in—(coughs)—excuse me—in the admission only of white students? Align your financial aid to admitting more low-income students. You can base it on income, not race and ethnicity. Totally legal. And, you know, why aren’t more colleges doing that? If you are a less-wealthy institution, and an institution of less stature, I would raise the same question, particularly about merit aid—so-called merit aid, is what I would call it. Because merit aid is really aid for those who don’t really need aid. And, you know, why do you do these policies that don’t—that don’t actually improve things in terms of your student bodies? FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Todd Barry. Again, it’s Hudson County Community College: Will any of President Biden’s debt forgiveness programs be upheld by the courts? And will college rankings involve more companies to become more diverse? JASCHIK: Companies? FASKIANOS: Todd, do you want to just clarify that second part of your question? Thank you. Q: Yes, thank you. Will there be more organizations that put out college rankings rather than just the two that do so already? JASCHIK: Ah, OK. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Q: Thank you. JASCHIK: I suspect there will be. I’ve yet to find a ranking that I truly like, because I personally believe that college—the way to pick a good college is not to look at what somebody else said are the rankings of colleges. It’s just not a good way. But it may be a good way for some people to make a lot of money, so the rankings will continue. I’m sorry. I just forgot. What was the first part of that question? FASKIANOS: The first part was—let me pull it back up—will any of President Biden’s debt forgiveness programs be upheld by the courts? JASCHIK: Ah, yes. I don’t know. (Laughs.) The most recent of his debt relief things are being challenged. And I don’t know. I really don’t know if he’ll be successful. It depends which judges the cases are before to tell. Yet, I think I saw—I read this weekend, four million have applied for the most recent debt relief, with more expected to. That’s a lot of people. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Amanda Shanor, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School: Why haven’t universities used First Amendment arguments to defend their admissions policies? And should they do so in the future? JASCHIK: I don’t think that that argument would carry the day with the current Supreme Court. I just don’t. They were—if you read the decision, if you listened to the arguments that were made, they were wholly committed to getting rid of affirmative action. It may help in the future with a different Court, but I think we have the current court for a while. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next written question from Edie Gaythwaite, again, a professor at Valencia College: To build off the global conversation, do you see institutions actively recruiting international students as admission applications decline? JASCHIK: Definitely. Many colleges—most colleges have some international recruitment strategy. Now, at—at Valencia, I don’t know what your strategy is. But, you know, many Florida colleges, they are trying to—they have a tremendous advantage in Latin America, as opposed to Europe and the Middle East. That may be something that they are trying. All types of colleges are pushing for more students. And it makes perfect sense. They should definitely recruit more. FASKIANOS: OK. And then we’re going to take the next question from Sneha again, from Texas Woman’s University: How does removing scholarships and merit aid impact enrollment and retention? JASCHIK: It depends what institution you’re at. Many institutions use merit aid to get students who wouldn’t otherwise attend. And that’s just a reality. Most students are making their choice based on a combination of factors, both the academic quality of the institution and the money. And so shifting it is a risky business. Now, some colleges that are more prestigious have managed to eliminate merit aid. But the main problem for colleges that are not in the elite is that they are trying to get some students who wouldn’t come, to come. And they’re very nervous about eliminating merit aid for that reason. FASKIANOS: And now that the—the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, have the admissions or the matriculation from international students—is that going up again? JASCHIK: Slightly. The big study comes out, I think, in December. So we don’t know yet for this year. FASKIANOS: Mmm hmm. Great. OK, so I’m doing a final call for questions from the group. Oh, I think—oh, one more from Kurt Schmoke: Do you think that the Court’s exemption of military academies will undermine their rationale for ending affirmative action? JASCHIK: You know, that’s really interesting. And the group that led the campaign against affirmative action, they are right now seeking plaintiffs at all the military academies. So I don’t think it’s going to last long. And I don’t know. The court may have left it in place because they truly believe it. But in reading the overall decision, I would have a hard time imagining them voting to uphold it anywhere. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have a raised hand from Dena Bateh at NYU. Q: Yes. You pronounced that perfectly correct, thank you. My question is somewhat related, but maybe just on an alternative tangent. And it’s something that I’m going to be doing some research on. So I do teach at NYU, but I am an administrator at another institution. And I’ve noticed—I’m in New York City, of course. And I’ve noticed the pattern of referring to students as consumers or customers has been a prevalent topic. And I can’t even tell you how that boils my blood rather than, say, learner. So that’s my research topic. But I’m wondering, how is this being addressed? You know, to uphold the standards of higher education, what are your thoughts on moving forward beyond a Google certification or just certificates that will get students who are—who have not pursued higher education to a certain point, but then they’re going to need to return? What are your thoughts on that, I think, in general will be. JASCHIK: So I share your distaste, I guess, for calling students consumers. Look, you know, in a real higher ed environment, professors are teaching and they’re also testing students on what they’ve done, period. But there are some areas where a more consumer approach can work. I did a story about fifteen to twenty years ago about—I wanted to take an online course. And I sent off emails of my interest, didn’t say it was for journalism, to some nonprofit and for-profit places. And the for-profit places clearly saw me as a customer. And they wrote immediately—I mean, within an hour—and said, what can we do to help you? Blah, blah, blah. That spirit should be prevalent at any college, particularly that’s going to get a lot of low-income students. That’s how they will get more low-income students. So in some areas thinking about students as consumers is OK, but I hope they don’t do it overall. FASKIANOS: OK. I’m going to take the last question for Babafemi Akinrinade: In Washington State, minority students will number white students in a few years. Will the Supreme Court decision impact the efforts of colleges to recruit these minority students, especially as the state is worried about declining birth rates, while other states are poaching students from Washington State. And Babafemi is with Western Washington University. JASCHIK: So it shouldn’t. Look, it’s great if Washington State has great numbers of students. They should shout out to the world. More colleges should go and recruit. That’s just the fact of life. In the United States today, at Harvard—which was in this decision—they are a majority minority institution. So it didn’t really help them out, but it can help—but lots of colleges can recruit students of all kinds, in Washington State and elsewhere. And thanks so much for your invitation to speak today. And I hope you found it useful. FASKIANOS: We did indeed. Thank you very much, Scott Jaschik. I appreciate it. And to all of you for your questions and comments. We enjoyed this conversation. We will be posting the video and transcript online afterwards if you want to review it and share it with your colleagues. You will receive an invitation to our next Higher Education Webinar under separate cover. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic on X, formerly known as Twitter, and visit,, and, for research and analysis on global issues. We also have a dedicated series for students and professors, so professors can invite their students to join the Academic Webinar series. And the first one of this semester is next Wednesday at, I believe, 1:00 p.m. So I hope you will join us for that. If you haven’t gotten an invitation, please do email us at [email protected]. Again, thank you all for being with us today. We look forward to your continued participation in our program series. (END)
  • United States

    Pablo Molina, associate vice president of information technology and chief information security officer at Drexel University and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, leads the conversation on the implications of artificial intelligence in higher education.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Thank you for joining us. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share it with your colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Pablo Molina with us to discuss implications of artificial intelligence in higher education. Dr. Molina is chief information security officer and associate vice president at Drexel University. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Molina is the founder and executive director of the International Applies Ethics in Technology Association, which aims to raise awareness on ethical issues in technology. He regularly comments on stories about privacy, the ethics of tech companies, and laws related to technology and information management. And he’s received numerous awards relating to technology and serves on the board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for AI and Digital Policy. So Dr. P, welcome. Thank you very much for being with us today. Obviously, AI is on the top of everyone’s mind, with ChatGPT coming out and being in the news, and so many other stories about what AI is going to—how it’s going to change the world. So I thought you could focus in specifically on how artificial intelligence will change and is influencing higher education, and what you’re seeing, the trends in your community. MOLINA: Irina, thank you very much for the opportunity, to the Council on Foreign Relations, to be here and express my views. Thank you, everybody, for taking time out of your busy schedules to listen to this. And hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to learn much from your questions and answer some of them to the best of my ability. Well, since I’m a professor too, I like to start by giving you homework. And the homework is this: I do not know how much people know about artificial intelligence. In my opinion, anybody who has ever used ChatGPT considers herself or himself an expert. To some extent, you are, because you have used one of the first publicly available artificial intelligence tools out there and you know more than those who haven’t. So if you have used ChatGPT, or Google Bard, or other services, you already have a leg up to understand at least one aspect of artificial intelligence, known as generative artificial intelligence. Now, if you want to learn more about this, there’s a big textbook about this big. I’m not endorsing it. All I’m saying, for those people who are very curious, there are two great academics, Russell and Norvig. They’re in their fourth edition of a wonderful book that covers every aspect of—technical aspect of artificial intelligence, called Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. And if you’re really interested in how artificial intelligence can impact higher education, I recommend a report by the U.S. Department of Education that was released earlier this year in Washington, DC from the Office of Education Technology. It’s called Artificial Intelligence and Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations. So if you do all these things and you read all these things, you will hopefully transition from being whatever expert you were before—to a pandemic and Ukrainian war expert—to an artificial intelligence expert. So how do I think that all these wonderful things are going to affect artificial intelligence? Well, as human beings, we tend to overestimate the impact of technology in the short run and really underestimate the impact of technology in the long run. And I believe this is also the case with artificial intelligence. We’re in a moment where there’s a lot of hype about artificial intelligence. It will solve every problem under the sky. But it will also create the most catastrophic future and dystopia that we can imagine. And possibly neither one of these two are true, particularly if we regulate and use these technologies and develop them following some standard guidelines that we have followed in the past, for better or worse. So how is artificial intelligence affecting higher education? Well, number one, there is a great lack of regulation and legislation. So if you know, for example around this, OpenAI released ChatGPT. People started trying it. And all of a sudden there were people like here, where I’m speaking to you from, in Italy. I’m in Rome on vacation right now. And Italian data protection agency said: Listen, we’re concerned about the privacy of this tool for citizens of Italy. So the company agreed to establish some rules, some guidelines and guardrails on the tool. And then it reopened to the Italian public, after being closed for a while. The same thing happened with the Canadian data protection authorities. In the United States, well, not much has happened, except that one of the organizations on which board I serve, the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy, earlier this year in March of 2023 filed a sixty-four-page complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Which is basically we’re asking the Federal Trade Commission: You do have the authority to investigate how these tools can affect the U.S. consumers. Please do so, because this is your purview, and this is your responsibility. And we’re still waiting on the agency to declare what the next steps are going to be. If you look at other bodies of legislation or regulation on artificial intelligence that can help us guide artificial intelligence, well, you can certainly pay attention to the U.S. Congress. And what is the U.S. Congress doing? Yeah, pretty much that, not much, to be honest. They listen to Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT, who recently testified before Congress, urging Congress to regulate artificial intelligence. Which is quite clever on his part. So it was on May 17 that he testified that we could be facing catastrophic damage ahead if artificial intelligence technology is not regulated in time. He also sounded the alarm about counterfeit humans, meaning that these machines could replace what we think a person is, at least virtually. And also warned about the end of factual evidence, because with artificial intelligence anything can be fabricated. Not only that, but he pointed out that artificial intelligence could start wars and destroy democracy. Certainly very, very grim predictions. And before this, many of the companies were self-regulating for artificial intelligence. If you look at Google, Microsoft, Facebook now Meta. All of them have their own artificial intelligence self-guiding principles. Most of them were very aspirational. Those could help us in higher education because, at the very least, it can help us create our own policies and guidelines for our community members—faculty, staff, students, researchers, administrators, partners, vendors, alumni—anybody who happens to interact with our institutions of higher learning. Now, what else is happening out there? Well, we have tons, tons of laws that have to do with the technology and regulations. Things like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, or the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Sarbanes-Oxley. Federal regulations like FISMA, and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, Payment Card Industry, there is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, there is the Budapest Convention where cybersecurity insurance providers will tells us what to do and what not to do about technology. We have state laws and many privacy laws. But, to be honest, very few artificial intelligence laws. And it’s groundbreaking in Europe that the European parliamentarians have agreed to discuss the Artificial Intelligence Act, which could be the first one really to be passed at this level in the world, after some efforts by China and other countries. And, if adopted, could be a landmark change in the adoption of artificial intelligence. In the United States, even though Congress is not doing much, what the White House is trying to position itself in the realm of artificial intelligence. So there’s an executive order in February of 2023—that many of us in higher education read because, once again, we’re trying to find inspiration for our own rules and regulations—that tells federal agencies that they have to root out bias in the design and use of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, because they have to protect the public from algorithm discrimination. And we all believe this. In higher education, we believe in being fair and transparent and accountable. I would be surprised if any of us is not concerned about making sure that our technology use, our artificial technology use, does not follow these particular principles as proposed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and many other bodies of ethics and expertise. Now, the White House also announced new centers—research and development centers with some new national artificial intelligence research institutes. Many of us will collaborate with those in our research projects. A call for public assessments of existing generative artificial intelligence systems, like ChatGPT. And also is trying to enact or is enacting policies to ensure that U.S. government—the U.S. government, the executive branch, is leading by example when mitigating artificial intelligence risks and harnessing artificial intelligence opportunities. Because, in spite of all the concerns about this, it’s all about the opportunities that we hope to achieve with artificial intelligence. And when we look at how specifically can we benefit from artificial intelligence in higher education, well, certainly we can start with new and modified academic offerings. I would be surprised if most of us will not have degrees—certainly, we already have degrees—graduate degrees on artificial intelligence, and machine learning, and many others. But I would be surprised if we don’t even add some bachelor’s degrees in this field, or we don’t modify significantly some of our existing academic offerings to incorporate artificial intelligence in various specialties, our courses, or components of the courses that we teach our students. We’re looking at amazing research opportunities, things that we’ll be able to do with artificial intelligence that we couldn’t even think about before, that are going to expand our ability to generate new knowledge to contribute to society, with federal funding, with private funding. We’re looking at improved knowledge management, something that librarians are always very concerned about, the preservation and distribution of knowledge. The idea would be that artificial intelligence will help us find better the things that we’re looking for, the things that we need in order to conduct our academic work. We’re certainly looking at new and modified pedagogical approaches, new ways of learning and teaching, including the promise of adaptive learning, something that really can tell students: Hey, you’re not getting this particular concept. Why don’t you go back and study it in a different way with a different virtual avatar, using simulations or virtual assistance? In almost every discipline and academic endeavor. We’re looking very concerned, because we’re concerned about offering, you know, a good value for the money when it comes to education. So we’re hoping to achieve extreme efficiencies, better ways to run admissions, better ways to guide students through their academic careers, better way to coach them into professional opportunities. And many of this will be possible thanks to artificial intelligence. And also, let’s not forget this, but we still have many underserved students, and they’re underserved because they either cannot afford education or maybe they have physical or cognitive disabilities. And artificial intelligence can really help us reach to those students and offer them new opportunities to advance their education and fulfill their academic and professional goals. And I think this is a good introduction. And I’d love to talk about all the things that can go wrong. I’d love to talk about all the things that we should be doing so that things don’t go as wrong as predicted. But I think this is a good way to set the stage for the discussion. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much. So we’re going to go all of you now for your questions and comments, share best practices. (Gives queuing instructions.) All right. So I’m going first to Gabriel Doncel has a written question, adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware: How do we incentivize students to approach generative AI tools like ChatGPT for text in ways that emphasize critical thinking and analysis? MOLINA: I always like to start with a difficult question, so I very much, Gabriel Doncel, for that particular question. And, as you know, there are several approaches to adopting tools like ChatGPT on campus by students. One of them is to say: No, over my dead body. If you use ChatGPT, you’re cheating. Even if you cite ChatGPT, we can consider you to be cheating. And not only that, but some institutions have invested in tools that can detect whether or something was written with ChatGPT or similar rules. There are other faculty members and other academic institutions that are realizing these tools will be available when these students join the workforce. So our job is to help them do the best that they can by using these particular tools, to make sure they avoid some of the mishaps that have already happened. There are a number of lawyers who have used ChatGPT to file legal briefs. And when the judges received those briefs, and read through them, and looked at the citations they realized that some of the citations were completely made up, were not real cases. Hence, the lawyers faced professional disciplinary action because they used the tool without the professional review that is required. So hopefully we’re going to educate our students and we’re going to set policy and guideline boundaries for them to use these, as well as sometimes the necessary technical controls for those students who may not be that ethically inclined to follow our guidelines and policies. But I think that to hide our heads in the sand and pretend that these tools are not out there for students to use would be—it’s a disserve to our institutions, to our students, and the mission that we have of training the next generation of knowledge workers. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Meena Bose, who has a raised hand. Meena, if you can unmute yourself and identify yourself. Q: Thank you, Irina. Thank you for this very important talk. And my question is a little—(laughs)—it’s formative, but really—I have been thinking about what you were saying about the role of AI in academic life. And I don’t—particularly for undergraduates, for admissions, advisement, guidance on curriculum. And I don’t want to have my head in the sand about this, as you just said—(laughs)—but it seems to me that any kind of meaningful interaction with students, particularly students who have not had any exposure to college before, depends upon kind of multiple feedback with faculty members, development of mentors, to excel in college and to consider opportunities after. So I’m struggling a little bit to see how AI can be instructive for that part of college life, beyond kind of providing information, I guess. But I guess the web does that already. So welcome your thoughts. Thank you. FASKIANOS: And Meena’s at Hofstra University. MOLINA: Thank you. You know, it’s a great question. And the idea that everybody is proposing right here is we are not—artificial intelligence companies, at least at first. We’ll see in the future because, you know, it depends on how it’s regulated. But they’re not trying, or so they claim, to replace doctors, or architects, or professors, or mentors, or administrators. They’re trying to help those—precisely those people in those professions, and the people they served gain access to more information. And you’re right in a sense that that information is already on the web. But we’ve aways had a problem finding that information regularly on the web. And you may remember that when Google came along, I mean, it swept through every other search engine out there AltaVista, Yahoo, and many others, because, you know, it had a very good search algorithm. And now we’re going to the next level. The next level is where you ask ChatGPT in human-natural language. You’re not trying to combine the three words that say, OK, is the economics class required? No, no, you’re telling ChatGPT, hey, listen, I’m in the master’s in business administration at Drexel University and I’m trying to take more economic classes. What recommendations do you have for me? And this is where you can have a preliminary one, and also a caveat there, as most of these search engine—generative AI engines already have, that tell you: We’re not here to replace the experts. Make sure you discuss your questions with the experts. We will not give you medical advice. We will not give you educational advice. We’re just here, to some extent, for guiding purposes and, even now, for experimental and entertainment purposes. So I think you are absolutely right that we have to be very judicious about how we use these tools to support the students. Now, that said, I had the privilege of working for public universities in the state of Connecticut when I was the CIO. I also had the opportunity early in my career to attend public university in Europe, in Spain, where we were hundreds of students in class. We couldn’t get any attention from the faculty. There were no mentors, there were no counselors, or anybody else. Is it better to have nobody to help you or is it better to have at least some technology guidance that can help you find the information that otherwise is spread throughout many different systems that are like ivory towers—emissions on one side, economics on the other, academics advising on the other, and everything else. So thank you for a wonderful question and reflection. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question written from Dr. Russell Thomas, a senior lecturer in the Department of International Relations and Diplomatic Studies at Cavendish University in Uganda: What are the skills and competencies that higher education students and faculty need to develop to think in an AI-driven world? MOLINA: So we could argue here that something very similar has happened already with many information technologies and communication technologies. It is the understanding at first faculty members did not want to use email, or the web, or many other tools because they were too busy with their disciplines. And rightly so. They were brilliant economists, or philosophers, or biologists. They didn’t have enough time to learn all these new technologies to interact with the students. But eventually they did learn, because they realized that it was the only way to meet the students where they were and to communicate with them in efficient ways. Now, I have to be honest; when it comes to the use of technology—and we’ll unpack the numbers—it was part of my doctoral dissertation, when I expanded the adoption of technology models, that tells you about early adopters, and mainstream adopters, and late adopters, and laggards. But I uncovered a new category for some of the institutions where I worked called the over-my-dead-body adopters. And these were some of the faculty members who say: I will never switch word processors. I will never use this technology. It’s only forty years until I retire, probably eighty more until I die. I don’t have to do this. And, to be honest, we have a responsibility to understand that those artificial intelligence tools are out there, and to guide the students as to what is the acceptable use of those technologies within the disciplines and the courses that we teach them in. Because they will find those available in a very competitive work market, in a competitive labor market, because they can derive some benefit from them. But also, we don’t want to shortchange their educational attainment just because they go behind our backs to copy and paste from ChatGPT, learning nothing. Going back to the question by Gabriel Doncel, not learning to exercise the critical thinking, using citations and material that is unverified, that was borrowed from the internet without any authority, without any attention to the different points of view. I mean, if you’ve used ChatGPT for a while—and I have personally, even to prepare some basic thank-you speeches, which are all very formal, even to contest a traffic ticket in Washington, DC, when I was speeding but I don’t want to pay the ticket anyway. Even for just research purposes, you could realize that most of the writing from ChatGPT has a very, very common style. Which is, oh, on the one hand people say this, on the other hand people say that. Well, the critical thinking will tell you, sure, there are two different opinions, but this is what I think myself, and this is why I think about this. And these are some of the skills, the critical thinking skills, that we must continue to teach the students and not to, you know, put blinds around their eyes to say, oh, continue focusing only on the textbook and the website. No, no. Look at the other tools but use them judiciously. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Clemente Abrokwaa. Raised hand, if you can identify yourself, please. Q: Hi. Thanks so much for your talk. It’s something that has been—I’m from Penn State University. And this is a very important topic, I think. And some of the earlier speakers have already asked the questions I was going to ask. (Laughs.) But one thing that I would like to say that, as you said, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. No matter what we think, the technology is already here. So we cannot avoid it. My question, though, is what do you think about the artificial intelligence, the use of that in, say, for example, graduate students using it to write dissertations? You did mention about the lawyers that use it to write their briefs, and they were caught. But in dissertations and also in class—for example, you have students—you have about forty students. You give a written assignment. You make—when you start grading, you have grading fatigue. And so at some point you lose interest of actually checking. And so I’m kind of concerned about that how it will affect the students’ desire to actually go and research without resorting to the use of AI. MOLINA: Well, Clemente, fellow colleague from the state of Pennsylvania, thank you for that, once again, both a question and a reflection here. Listen, many of us wrote our doctoral dissertations—mine at Georgetown. At one point of time, I was so tired of writing about the same topics, following the wonderful advice, but also the whims of my dissertation committee, that I was this close from outsourcing my thesis to China. I didn’t, but I thought about it. And now graduate students are thinking, OK, why am I going through the difficulties of writing this when ChatGPT can do it for me and the deadline is tomorrow? Well, this is what will distinguish the good students and the good professionals from the other ones. And the interesting part is, as you know, when we teach graduate students we’re teaching them critical thinking skills, but also teaching them now to express themselves, you know, either orally or in writing. And writing effectively is fundamental in the professions, but also absolutely critical in academic settings. And anybody who’s just copying and pasting from ChatGPT to these documents cannot do that level of writing. But you’re absolutely right. Let’s say that we have an adjunct faculty member who’s teaching a hundred students. Will that person go through every single essay to find out whether students were cheating with ChatGPT? Probably not. And this is why there are also enterprising people who are using artificial intelligence to find out and tell you whether a paper was written using artificial intelligence. So it’s a little bit like this fighting of different sources and business opportunities for all of them. And we’ve done this. We’ve used antiplagiarism tools in the past because we knew that students were copying and pasting using Google Scholar and many other sources. And now oftentimes we run antiplagiarism tools. We didn’t write them ourselves. Or we tell the students, you run it yourself and you give it to me. And make sure you are not accidentally not citing things that could end up jeopardizing your ability to get a graduate degree because your work was not up to snuff with the requirements of our stringent academic programs. So I would argue that this antiplagiarism tools that we’re using will more often than not, and sooner than expected, incorporate the detection of artificial intelligence writeups. And also the interesting part is to tell the students, well, if you do choose to use any of these tools, what are the rules of engagement? Can you ask it to write a paragraph and then you cite it, and you mention that ChatGPT wrote it? Not to mention, in addition to that, all the issues about artificial intelligence, which the courts are deciding now, regarding the intellectual property of those productions. If a song, a poem, a book is written by an artificial intelligence entity, who owns the intellectual property for those works produced by an artificial intelligence machine? FASKIANOS: Good question. We have a lot of written questions. And I’m sure you don’t want to just listen to my voice, so please do raise your hands. But we do have a question from one of your colleagues, Pablo, Pepe Barcega, who’s the IT director at Drexel: Considering the potential biases and limitations of AI models, like ChatGPT, do you think relying on such technology in the educational domain can perpetuate existing inequalities and reinforce systemic biases, particularly in terms of access, representation, and fair evaluation of students? And Pepe’s question got seven upvotes, we advanced it to the top of the line. MOLINA: All right, well, first I have to wonder whether he used ChatGPT to write the question. But I’m going to leave it that. Thank you. (Laughter.) It’s a wonderful question. One of the greatest concerns we have had, those of us who have been working on artificial intelligence digital policy for years—not this year when ChatGPT was released, but for years we’ve been thinking about this. And even before artificial intelligence, in general with algorithm transparency. And the idea is the following: That two things are happening here. One is that we’re programming the algorithms using instructions, instructions created by programmers, with all their biases, and their misunderstandings, and their shortcomings, and their lack of context, and everything else. But with artificial intelligence we’re doing something even more concerning than that, which is we have some basic algorithms but then we’re feeling a lot of information, a corpus of information, to those algorithms. And the algorithms are fine-tuning the rules based on those. So it’s very, very difficult for experts to explain how an artificial intelligence system actually makes decisions, because we know the engine and we know the data that we fed to the engine, but we don’t know the real outcome how those decisions are being made through neural networks, through all of the different systems that we have and methods that we have for artificial intelligence. Very, very few people understand how those work. And those are so busy they don’t have time to explain how the algorithm works for others, including the regulators. Let’s remember some of the failed cases. Amazon tried this early. And they tried this for selecting employees for Amazon. And they fed all the resumes. And guess what? It turned out that most of the recommendations were to hire young white people who had gone to Ivy League schools. Why? Because their first employees were feeding those descriptions, and they had done extremely well at Amazon. Hence, by feeding that information of past successful employees only those were there. And so that puts away the diversity that we need for different academic institutions, large and small, public and private, from different countries, from different genders, from different ages, from different ethnicities. All those things went away because the algorithm was promoting one particular one. Recently I had the opportunity to moderate a panel in Washington, DC, and we had representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And they told us how they investigated a hiring algorithm from a company that was disproportionately recommending that they hired people whose first name was Brian and had played lacrosse in high school because, once again, a disproportionate number of people in that company had done that. And the algorithm realized, oh, this must be important characteristics to hire people for this company. Let’s not forget, for example, with the artificial facial recognition and artificial intelligence by Amazon Rekog, you know, the facial recognition software, that the American Civil Liberties Union, decided, OK, I’m going to submit the pictures of all the congressmen to this particular facial recognition engine. And it turned out that it misidentified many of them, particularly African Americans, as felons who had been convicted. So all these artificial—all these biases could have really, really bad consequences. Imagine that you’re using this to decide who you admit to your universities, and the algorithm is wrong. You know, you are making really biased decisions that will affect the livelihood of many people, but also will transform society, possibly for the worse, if we don’t address this. So this is why the OECD, the European Union, even the White House, everybody is saying: We want this technology. We want to derive the benefits of this technology, while curtailing the abuses. And it’s fundamental we achieve transparency. We are sure that these algorithms are not biased against the people who use them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to go next to Emily Edmonds-Poli, who is a professor at the University of San Diego: We hear a lot about providing clear guidelines for students, but for those of us who have not had a lot of experience using ChatGPT it is difficult to know what clear guidelines look like. Can you recommend some sources we might consult as a starting point, or where we might find some sample language? MOLINA: Hmm. Well, certainly this is what we do in higher education. We compete for the best students and the best faculty members. And we sometimes compete a little bit to be first to win groundbreaking research. But we tend to collaborate with everything else, particularly when it comes to policy, and guidance, and rules. So there are many institutions, like mine, who have already assembled—I’m sure that yours has done the same—assembled committees, because assembling committees and subcommittees is something we do very well in higher education, with faculty members, with administrators, even with the student representation to figure out, OK, what should we do about the use of artificial intelligence on our campus? I mentioned before taking a look at the big aspirational declarations by Meta, and Google, and IBM, and Microsoft could be helpful for these communities to look at this. But also, I’m a very active member of an organization known as EDUCAUSE. And EDUCAUSE is for educators—predominantly higher education educators. Administrators, staff members, faculty members, to think about the adoption of information technology. And EDUCAUSE has done good work on this front and continues to do good work on this front. So once again, EDUCAUSE and some of the institutions have already published their guidelines on how to use artificial intelligence and incorporate that within their academic lives. And now, that said, we also know that even though all higher education institutions are the same, they’re all different. We all have different values. We all believe in different uses of technology. We trust more or less the students. Hence, it’s very important that whatever inspiration you would take, you work internally on campus—as you have done with many other issues in the past—to make sure it really reflects the values of your institution. FASKIANOS: So, Pablo, would you point to a specific college or university that has developed a code of ethics that addresses the use of AI for their academic community beyond your own, but that is publicly available? MOLINA: Yeah, I’m going to be honest, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot. FASKIANOS: OK. MOLINA: Because, once again, there many reasons. But, once again, let me repeat a couple resources. One is of them is from the U.S. Department of Education, from the Office of Educational Technology. And the article is Artificial Intelligence and Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations, published earlier this year. The other source really is And if you look at on artificial intelligence, you’ll find links to articles, you’ll find links to universities. It would be presumptuous of me to evaluate whose policies are better than others, but I would argue that the general principles of nonbiased, transparency, accountability, and also integration of these tools within the academic life of the institution in a morally responsible way—with concepts by privacy by design, security by design, and responsible computing—all of those are good words to have in there. Now, the other problem with policies and guidelines is that, let’s be honest, many of those have no teeth in our institutions. You know, we promulgate them. They’re very nice. They look beautiful. They are beautifully written. But oftentimes when people don’t follow them, there’s not a big penalty. And this is why, in addition to having the policies, educating the campus community is important. But it’s difficult to do because we need to educate them about so many things. About cybersecurity threats, about sexual harassment, about nondiscriminatory policies, about responsible behavior on campus regarding drugs and alcohol, about crime. So many things that they have to learn about. It’s hard to get at another topic for them to spend their time on, instead of researching the core subject matter that they chose to pursue for their lives. FASKIANOS: Thank you. And we will be sending out a link to this video, the transcript, as well as the resources that you have mentioned. So if you didn’t get them, we’ll include them in the follow-up email. So I’m going to go to Dorian Brown Crosby who has a raised hand. Q: Yes. Thank you so much. I put one question in the chat but I have another question that I would like to go ahead and ask now. So thank you so much for this presentation. You mentioned algorithm biases with individuals. And I appreciate you pointing that out, especially when we talk about face recognition, also in terms of forced migration, which is my area of research. But I also wanted you to speak to, or could you talk about the challenges that some institutions in higher education would have in terms of support for some of the things that you mentioned in terms of potential curricula, or certificates, or other ways that AI would be woven into the new offerings of institutions of higher education. How would that look specifically for institutions that might be challenged to access those resources, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities? Thank you. MOLINA: Well, very interesting question, and a really fascinating point of view. Because we all tend to look at things from our own perspective and perhaps not consider the perspective of others. Those who have much more money and resources than us, and those who have fewer resources and less funding available. So this is a very interesting line. What is it that we do in higher education when we have these problems? Well, as I mentioned before, we build committees and subcommittees. Usually we also do campus surveys. I don’t know why we love doing campus surveys and asking everybody what they think about this. Those are useful tools to discuss. And oftentimes the thing that we do also, that we’ve done for many other topics, well, we hire people and we create new offices—either academic or administrative offices. With all of those, you know, they have certain limitations to how useful and functional they can be. And they also continue to require resources. Resources that, in the end, are paid for by students with, you know, federal financing. But this is the truth of the matter. So if you start creating offices of artificial intelligence on our campuses, however important the work may be on their guidance and however much extra work can be assigned to them instead of distributed to every faculty and the staff members out there, the truth of the matter is that these are not perfect solutions. So what is it that we do? Oftentimes, we work with partners. And our partners love to take—(inaudible)—vendors. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes they have much more—they have much more expertise on some of these topics. So for example, if you’re thinking about incorporating artificial intelligence to some of the academic materials that you use in class, well, I’m going to take a guess that if you already work with McGraw Hill in economics, or accounting, or some of the other books and websites that they put that you recommend to your students or you make mandatory for your students, that you start discussing with them, hey, listen, are you going to use artificial intelligence? How? Are you going to tell me ahead of time? Because, as a faculty member, you may have a choice to decide: I want to work with this publisher and not this particular publisher because of the way they approach this. And let’s be honest, we’ve seen a number of these vendors with major information security problems. McGraw Hill recently left a repository of data misconfigured out there on the internet, and almost anybody could access that. But many others before them, like Chegg and others, were notorious for their information security breaches. Can we imagine that these people are going to adopt artificial intelligence and not do such a good job of securing the information, the privacy, and the nonbiased approaches that we hold dear for students? I think they require a lot of supervision. But in the end, these publishers have the economies of scale for you to recommend those educational materials instead of developing your own for every course, for every class, and for every institution. So perhaps we’re going to have to continue to work together, as we’ve done in higher education, in consortia, which would be local, or regional. It could be based on institutions of the same interest, or on student population, on trying to do this. And, you know, hopefully we’ll get grants, grants from the federal government, that can be used in order to develop some of the materials and guidelines that are going to help us precisely embrace this and embracing not only to operate better as institutions and fulfill our mission, but also to make sure that our students are better prepared to join society and compete globally, which is what we have to do. FASKIANOS: So I’m going to combine questions. Dr. Lance Hunter, who is an associate professor at Augusta University. There’s been a lot of debate regarding if plagiarism detection software tools like Turnitin can accurately detect AI-generated text. What is your opinion regarding the accuracy of AI text generation detection plagiarism tools? And then Rama Lohani-Chase, at Union County College, wants recommendations on what plagiarism checker devices you would recommend—or, you know, plagiarism detection for AI would you recommend? MOLINA: Sure. So, number one, I’m not going to endorse any particular company because if I do that I would ask them for money, or the other way around. I’m not sure how it works. I could be seen as biased, particularly here. But there are many there and your institutions are using them. Sometimes they are integrated with your learning management system. And, as I mentioned, sometimes we ask the students to use them themselves and then either produce the plagiarism report for us or simply know themselves this. I’m going to be honest; when I teach ethics and technology, I tell the students about the antiplagiarism tools at the universities. But I also tell them, listen, if you’re cheating in an ethics and technology class, I failed miserably. So please don’t. Take extra time if you have to take it, but—you know, and if you want, use the antiplagiarism tool yourself. But the question stands and is critical, which is right now those tools are trying to improve the recognition of artificial intelligence written text, but they’re not as good as they could be. So like every other technology and, what I’m going to call, antitechnology, used to control the damage of the first technology, is an escalation where we start trying to identify this. And I think they will continue to do this, and they will be successful in doing this. There are people who have written ad hoc tools using ChatGPT to identify things written by ChatGPT. I tried them. They’re remarkably good for the handful of papers that I tried myself, but I haven’t conducted enough research myself to tell you if they’re really effective tools for this. So I would argue that for the timing you must assume that those tools, as we assume all the time, will not catch all of the cases, only some of the most obvious ones. FASKIANOS: So a question from John Dedie, who is an assistant professor at the Community College of Baltimore County: To combat AI issues, shouldn’t we rethink assignments? Instead of papers, have students do PowerPoints, ask students to offer their opinions and defend them? And then there was an interesting comment from Mark Habeeb at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Knowledge has been cheap for many years now because it is so readily available. With AI, we have a tool that can aggregate the knowledge and create written products. So, you know, what needs to be the focus now is critical thinking and assessing values. We need to teach our students how to assess and use that knowledge rather than how to find the knowledge and aggregate that knowledge. So maybe you could react to those two—the question and comment. MOLINA: So let me start with the Georgetown one, not only because he’s a colleague of mine. I also teach at Georgetown, and where I obtained my doctoral degree a number of years ago. I completely agree. I completely agree with the issue that we have to teach new skills. And one of the programs in which I teach at Georgetown is our master’s of analysis. Which are basically for people who want to work in the intelligence community. And these people have to find the information and they have to draw inferences, and try to figure out whether it is a nation-state that is threatening the United States, or another, or a corporation, or something like that. And they do all of those critical thinking, and intuition, and all the tools that we have developed in the intelligence community for many, many years. And artificial intelligence, if they suspend their judgement and they only use artificial intelligence, they will miss very important information that is critical for national security. And the same is true for something like our flagship school, the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, one of the best in the world in that particular field, where you want to train the diplomats, and the heads of state, and the great strategical thinkers on policy and politics in the international arena to precisely think not in the mechanical way that a machine can think, but also to connect those dots. And, sure they should be using those tools in order to, you know, get the most favorable position and the starting position, But they should also use their critical thinking always, and their capabilities of analysis in order to produce good outcomes and good conclusions. Regarding redoing the assignments, absolutely true. But that is hard. It is a lot of work. We’re very busy faculty members. We have to grade. We have to be on committees. We have to do research. And now they ask us to redo our entire assessment strategy, with new assignments that we need to grade again and account for artificial intelligence. And I don’t think that any provost out there is saying, you know what? You can take two semesters off to work on this and retool all your courses. That doesn’t happen in the institutions that I know of. If you get time off because you’re entitled to it, you want to devote that time to do research because that is really what you sign up for when you pursued an academic career, in many cases. I can tell you one thing, that here in Europe where oftentimes they look at these problems with fewer resources than we do in the United States, a lot of faculty members at the high school level, at the college level, are moving to oral examinations because it’s much harder to cheat with ChatGPT with an oral examination. Because they will ask you interactive, adaptive questions—like the ones we suffered when we were defending our doctoral dissertations. And they will realize, the faculty members, whether or not you know the material and you understand the material. Now, imagine oral examinations for a class of one hundred, two hundred, four hundred. Do you do one for the entire semester, with one topic chosen and run them? Or do you do several throughout the semester? Do you end up using a ChatGPT virtual assistance to conduct your oral examinations? I think these are complex questions. But certainly redoing our assignments and redoing the way we teach and the way we evaluate our students is perhaps a necessary consequence of the advent of artificial intelligence. FASKIANOS: So next question from Damian Odunze, who is an assistant professor at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi: Who should safeguard ethical concerns and misuse of AI by criminals? Should the onus fall on the creators and companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft to ensure security and not pass it on to the end users of the product? And I think you mentioned at the top in your remarks, Pablo, about how the founder of ChatGPT was urging the Congress to put into place some regulation. What is the onus on ChatGPT to protect against some of this as well? MOLINA: Well, I’m going to recycle more of the material from my doctoral dissertation. In this case it was the Molina cycle of innovation and regulation. It goes like this, basically there are—you know, there are engineers and scientists who create new information technologies. And then there are entrepreneurs and businesspeople and executives to figure out, OK, I know how to package this so that people are going to use it, buy it, subscribe to it, or look at it, so that I can sell the advertisement to others. And, you know, this begins and very, very soon the abuses start. And the abuses are that criminals are using these platforms for reasons that were not envisioned before. Even the executives, as we’ve seen with Google, and Facebook, and others, decide to invade the privacy of the people because they only have to pay a big fine, but they make much more money than the fines or they expect not to be caught. And what happened in this cycle is that eventually there is so much noise in the media, congressional hearings, that eventually regulators step in and they try to pass new laws to do this, or the regulatory agencies try to investigate using the powers given to them. And then all of these new rules have to be tested in courts of law, which could take years by the time it reaches sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court. Some of them are even knocked down on the way to the Supreme Court when they realize this is not constitutional, it’s a conflict of laws, and things like that. Now, by the time we regulate these new technologies, not only many years have gone by, but the technologies have changed. The marketing products and services have changed, the abuses have changed, and the criminals have changed. So this is why we’re always living in a loosely regulated space when it comes to information technology. And this is an issue of accountability. We’re finding this, for example, with information security. If my phone is my hacked, or my computer, my email, is it the fault of Microsoft, and Apple, and Dell, and everybody else? Why am I the one paying the consequences and not any of these companies? Because it’s unregulated. So morally speaking, yes. These companies are accountable. Morally speaking also the users are accountable, because we’re using these tools because we’re incorporating them professionally. Legally speaking, so far, nobody is accountable except the lawyers who submitted briefs that were not correct in a court of law and were disciplined for that. But other than that, right now, it is a very gray space. So in my mind, it requires everybody. It takes a village to do the morally correct thing. It starts with the companies and the inventors. It involves the regulators, who should do their job and make sure that there’s no unnecessary harm created by these tools. But it also involves every company executive, every professional, every student, and professor who decides to use these tools. FASKIANOS: OK. I’m going to take—combine a couple questions from Dorothy Marinucci and Venky Venkatachalam about the effect of AI on jobs. Dorothy talks about—she’s from Fordham University—about she read something about Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild reportedly adopting artificial intelligence to replace certain editorial roles in an effort to cut costs. Does this mean that the field of journalism communication will change? And Venky’s question is: AI—one of the impacts is in the area of automation, leading to elimination of certain types of jobs. Can you talk about both the elimination of jobs and what new types of jobs you think will be created as AI matures into the business world with more value-added applications? MOLINA: Well, what I like about predicting the future, and I’ve done this before in conferences and papers, is that, you know, when the future comes ten years from now people will either not remember what I said, or, you know, maybe I was lucky and my prediction was correct. In the specific field of journalism, and we’ve seen it, the journalism and communications field, decimated because the money that they used to make with advertising—and, you know, certainly a bit part of that were in the form of corporate profits. But many other one in the form of hiring good journalists, and investigative journalism, and these people could be six months writing a story when right now they have six hours to write a story, because there are no resources. And all the advertisement money went instead to Facebook, and Google, and many others because they work very well for advertisements. But now the lifeblood of journalism organizations has been really, you know, undermined. And there’s good journalism in other places, in newspapers, but sadly this is a great temptation to replace some of the journalists with more artificial intelligence, particularly the most—on the least important pieces. I would argue that editorial pieces are the most important in newspapers, the ones requiring ideology, and critical thinking, and many others. Whereas there are others that tell you about traffic changes that perhaps do not—or weather patterns, without offending any meteorologists, that maybe require a more mechanical approach. I would argue that a lot of professions are going to be transformed because, well, if ChatGPT can write real estate announcements that work very well, well, you may need fewer people doing this. And yet, I think that what we’re going to find is the same thing we found when technology arrived. We all thought that the arrival of computers would mean that everybody would be without a job. Guess what? It meant something different. It meant that in order to do our jobs, we had to learn how to use computers. So I would argue that this is going to be the same case. To be a good doctor, to be a good lawyer, to be a good economist, to be a good knowledge worker you’re going to have to learn also how to use whatever artificial intelligence tools are available out there, and use them professionally within the moral and the ontological concerns that apply to your particular profession. Those are the kind of jobs that I think are going to be very important. And, of course, all the technical jobs, as I mentioned. There are tons of people who consider themselves artificial intelligence experts. Only a few at the very top understand these systems. But there are many others in the pyramid that help with preparing these systems, with the support, the maintenance, the marketing, preparing the datasets to go into these particular models, working with regulators and legislators and compliance organizations to make sure that the algorithms and the tools are not running afoul of existing regulations. All of those, I think, are going to be interesting jobs that will be part of the arrival of artificial intelligence. FASKIANOS: Great. We have so many questions left and we just couldn’t get to them all. I’m just going to ask you just to maybe reflect on how the use of artificial intelligence in higher education will affect U.S. foreign policy and international relations. I know you touched upon it a little bit in reacting to the comment from our Georgetown University colleague, but any additional thoughts you might want to add before we close? MOLINA: Well, let’s be honest, one particular one that applies to education and to everything else, there is a race—a worldwide race for artificial intelligence progress. The big companies are fighting—you know, Google, and Meta, many others, are really putting—Amazon—putting resources into that, trying to be first in this particular race. But it’s also a national race. For example, it’s very clear that there are executive orders from the United States as well as regulations and declarations from China that basically are indicating these two big nations are trying to be first in dominating the use of artificial intelligence. And let’s be honest, in order to do well in artificial intelligence you need not only the scientists who are going to create those models and refine them, but you also need the bodies of data that you need to feed these algorithms in order to have good algorithms. So the barriers to entry for other nations and the barriers to entry by all the technology companies are going to be very, very high. It’s not going to be easy for any small company to say: Oh, now I’m a huge player in artificial intelligence. Because even if you may have created an interesting new algorithmic procedure, you don’t have the datasets that the huge companies have been able to amass and work on for the longest time. Every time you submit a question to ChatGPT, the ChatGPT experts are using their questions to refine the tool. The same way that when we were using voice recognition with Apple or Android or other companies, that we’re using those voices and our accents and our mistakes in order to refine their voice recognition technologies. So this is the power. We’ll see that the early bird gets the worm of those who are investing, those who are aggressively going for it, and those who are also judiciously regulating this can really do very well in the international arena when it comes to artificial intelligence. And so will their universities, because they will be able to really train those knowledge workers, they’ll be able to get the money generated from artificial intelligence, and they will be able to, you know, feedback one with the other. The advances in the technology will result in more need for students, more students graduating will propel the industry. And there will also be—we’ll always have a fight for talent where companies and countries will attract those people who really know about these wonderful things. Now, keep in mind that artificial intelligence was the core of this, but there are so many other emerging issues in information technology. And some of them are critical to higher education. So we’re still, you know, lots of hype, but we think that virtual reality will have an amazing impact on the way we teach and we conduct research and we train for certain skills. We think that quantum computing has the ability to revolutionize the way we conduct research, allowing us to do competitions that were not even thinkable today. We’ll look at things like robotics. And if you ask me about what is going to take many jobs away, I would say that robotics can take a lot of jobs away. Now, we thought that there would be no factory workers left because of robots, but that hasn’t happened. But keep adding robots with artificial intelligence to serve you a cappuccino, or your meal, or take care of your laundry, or many other things, or maybe clean your hotel room, and you realize, oh, there are lots of jobs out there that no longer will be there. Think about artificial intelligence for self-driving vehicles, boats, planes, cargo ships, commercial airplanes. Think about the thousands of taxi drivers and truck drivers who may end up being out of jobs because, listen, the machines drive safer, and they don’t get tired, and they can be driving twenty-four by seven, and they don’t require health benefits, or retirement. They don’t get depressed. They never miss. Think about many of the technologies out there that have an impact on what we do. So, but artificial intelligence is a multiplier to technologies, a contributor to many other fields and many other technologies. And this is why we’re so—spending so much time and so much energy thinking about these particular issues. FASKIANOS: Well, thank you, Pablo Molina. We really appreciate it. Again, my apologies that we couldn’t get to all of the questions and comments in the chat, but we appreciate all of you for your questions and, of course, your insights were really terrific, Dr. P. So we will, again, be sending out the link to this video and transcript, as well as the resources that you mentioned during this discussion. I hope you all enjoy the Fourth of July. And I encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Again, you send us comments, feedback, suggestions to [email protected]. And, again, thank you all for joining us. We look forward to your continued participation in CFR Academic programming. Have a great day. MOLINA: Adios. (END)
  • United States

    Carolyn Kissane, academic director and clinical professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, leads the conversation on the geopolitics of oil.   FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to the final session of the Winter/Spring 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record. And the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share these materials with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Carolyn Kissane with us to discuss the geopolitics of oil. Dr. Kissane is the academic director of both the graduate program in global affairs and the graduate program in global security conflict and cybercrime at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, where she is also a clinical professor. She also serves as director of the energy, climate justice, and sustainability lab in the School of Professional Studies at NYU. She was named in 2013 by Breaking Energy as one of the top ten New York women in energy, and top ten energy communicator. She’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and serves on several boards. So, Carolyn, thanks very much for doing this. We really appreciate it. I thought we could begin by talking about how has the geopolitics of oil changed, especially vis-à-vis Russia’s war in Ukraine and OPEC’s recent announcement to cut oil production? KISSANE: Well, first of all, I’d just like to say, thank you so very much for having me. I’m really delighted. I am a big fan of CFR’s Academic Webinars. So, to have the opportunity to participate in this—in this way is very meaningful to me. So, thank you. So, wow. There is so much happening in this space, the geopolitics of oil. This has been a tremendous fourteen months. Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine very much upended the geopolitics of oil because Russia is a significant producer, one of the top three in the world. And it’s—you know, it’s caused a kind of a reshaping, a kind of a remapping of the—of oil geopolitics. And we’ve seen some, you know, shifts in how countries think about oil security, in light of larger questions about broader energy security questions. And also, on top of that, is the ongoing energy transition, coupled with, you know, climate change, and the need to decarbonize. So, there’s just—it’s been quite a—you know, a year and a half, that has really sort of put energy security, and oil security, very much at the forefront of people’s minds. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. I thought maybe you had some really interesting data to show us. And if you could walk us through those—the trends you are seeing and really bring it to life, that would be fantastic. KISSANE: Sure. So, before I do—I have a couple of slides. And before I share my slides, I think it’s really important that, sort of, we understand how interconnected, sort of, the global energy system is, and how interconnected we are, when it comes to the flows of oil. You know, some countries are very well resourced-endowed, so they have oil. And other countries do not, so they need to import oil. There’s really no country in the world that doesn’t need oil for larger national security issues. And I think one of things that many people sort of are not necessarily aware of or think about, is the amount of oil that gets produced every day. So, every day, the world consumes over 100 million barrels a day. And every day, that 100 million barrels has to be—has to be moved. It has to be—you know, as part of getting it into the system, getting it to its respective destinations. And what we’re not seeing—which, maybe some people may have thought that we would see at this point—is we’re not seeing a reduction in demand, but we’re seeing an expansion in demand. And much of that global demand is coming out of Asia. And we’re also, of course, seeing the—with the reopening of China, lots of really interesting questions as to what oil demand will be in China for the 2023-2024 years, whether or not they will—they will, sort of, put extra pressure on global demand. And you know, Irina, just also, you know, it’s—I’m going to share this in my slides. But you know, last week’s decision from OPEC+ to reduce production, of course, had an impact on the price of oil. So when the decision was announced on Sunday, by Monday morning, we saw an uptick in the price. It’s stabilized, but we are sort of looking at $80-plus-a-barrel oil. And again, lots of uncertainty as to what that’s going to mean across economies that are in recessions, experiencing sort of the beginnings of a recession, and sort of what does it mean for the global economy, where we may see sort of more energy inflation. So, one of the things that I really like to do when I teach the geopolitics of oil is sort of show some visuals. Because I think, again, sort of, really reinforcing the interconnected nature of our global energy system, but also sort of seeing where in the world is oil produced, and where in the world are the—are the importers. And also, just a couple of sort of fun pieces on what we have seen, just this—you know, in the last week, of course, some of this—you’ll be familiar with, those in the audience—but this decision on the part of OPEC to reduce production by 1.2 million barrels a day—again, happening at a time, not when we have an excess supply, but when we’re seeing a tight supply across the oil market. So, it came as a bit of a surprise to—you know—to even the most, you know, longstanding analysts and OPEC observers. And again, part of this is directed probably toward self-interests on the part of Saudi Arabia and the oil producers that are really going to make the cuts. But of course, it also has an impact here for those of you that are sitting in the United States. What does it mean then for prices that Americans pay at the gas pump? So, the Biden administration sort of came out after this decision was made in sort of being disappointed, surprised that OPEC would make this decision. Now, it’s also important to sort of recognize that this is not just a singular OPEC decision. This is part of, now, a larger OPEC+. And OPEC+ does also include Russia, as well as other countries like Kazakhstan and Mexico. So, the OPEC that we have historically known is now different, because you have other countries that are not official members but nonetheless are part of what we now refer to as OPEC+. And these are the countries that are part of OPEC, and really the country that’s considered to be sort of in the driver’s seat of OPEC is that of Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia is the largest producer within the OPEC organization, producing anywhere from 10 to 11 million barrels a day. Venezuela has the largest reserves, but it is far from being at capacity, in terms of what it can—what it can produce. So, just to kind of put that into perspective, these are OPEC countries and their respective reserves. And then non-OPEC—the United States being a non-OPEC country, but again, this sort of—this chart to the right shows, you know, again, the world is consuming a little over 100 million barrels a day, expected to increase over 2023 and into 2024, question marks as to when we may see peak oil demand. But again, to sort of link this to energy security—energy security, especially when it’s in the context of oil security—is making sure that we have adequate supply at affordable prices. So, when we see a reduction in supply at a time of tight markets, that suggests that we’re also going to see higher prices that’s going to directly hit vulnerable economies. And so, again, just to sort of point out sort of where in the world sort of are the top three oil producers: the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Russia remains in the top three. Canada as well, our, you know, neighbor to the north. And China is also a producer of oil. The United States figure here also includes gas liquefied, so liquid petroleum, which the United States is endowed with a lot of both oil and natural gas. And then the top oil consuming countries, you have U.S., China, and India. Now, the United States is not the largest importer. That position is now held by China. But as far as consumption goes, we consume over 20 million barrels a day. Again, big question mark about China, in terms of whether or not we will see higher demand coming out of China over the next year, two years, with China’s reopening and what is being, you know, discussed as revenge tourism. And more Chinese who have accumulated a lot of savings, 2.1 trillion, how are they going to use that savings and whether or not, after three years of being under lockdown restrictions, whether or not we’ll see impacts to demand. And I think Russia is—there’s lots of questions about Russia. And this is now—we’re fourteen months into, you know, Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine—and I emphasize reinvasion, because oftentimes, we forget that, you know, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. But Russia is still moving its oil. And up until, you know, a few months ago, its overall production and exports were as high—at some points, even higher—than pre-invasion. Now, you have new countries that are takers of Russian oil, and they’re buying it at discounted prices. We see Turkey, Singapore, China has been a big buyer, as well as India, that they have been buying discounted Russian oil. Lots of interesting questions that we could discuss about the oil price cap and seaborne embargo to Europe. But I think the takeaway from this slide is that Russia continues to produce oil, continues to sell it, selling at a discounted price, but there are still many countries in the world that are eager to take Russian oil. And again, I’m not going to go into this, but I just love this slide, to just emphasize the—you know, the world’s pipelines. These are the pipelines that help sort of the transit of oil. Something also that’s really unique and interesting to look at is just tanker traffic, so, the tankers that carry oil around the world. But again, you know, there are a lot of pipelines, so twenty-three—two thousand, three hundred, and eighty-one operational oil and gas pipelines. Again, these are—it’s moving a lot of the oil that is consumed every day. And then finally, is this—is—you know, one of the things that we oftentimes—we think about the hundred million barrels a day that the world is consuming, over 75 percent of the world’s oil is controlled, managed by state-owned oil companies. So, Saudi Aramco being one, PDVSA of Venezuela being another. But it’s really important to sort of recognize the position that state-owned companies have. The rest is controlled or managed by international oil companies—ExxonMobil, Chevron, ENI, Total, and a host of other—host of other companies. But again, I think the—you know, to understand that NOCs, as they’re referred to, are very, very important for understanding their role in the larger context of the geopolitics of oil. And again, what we saw last week coming out of OPEC, this decision, this is also being driven by state budget concerns. This is—again, it’s about the production of oil, but it’s also about, you know, governments and their budgets. And oftentimes, you know, there is a desire to add more, rather than—you know, more revenues rather than less. So, those are the slides that I have. And I hope that they sort of provide some sort of context, and a little bit of, you know, that we can discuss in the questions that I really look forward to answering from the audience. FASKIANOS: Thank you, Carolyn. That was great. So now, we’re going to go to all of you for your questions and comments. (Gives queuing instructions.) All right, so I’m going to go to the first raised hand in the thing. Amadine Hom, go to you first, and please accept the—unmute yourself. (Pause.) You are still muted. (Pause.) OK, I don’t know—are you there? Oh, I think—OK. Let’s go to Morton Holbrook. Q: Yes, good afternoon. Dr. Kissane, what a shocking presentation—(laughs)—a hundred million barrels a day and it’s going up, notwithstanding the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. Is that agreement simply a dead letter, or is it having any effect on oil—on fossil fuel production, particularly oil production? Or what’s the best scenario, in terms of reducing dependence on fossil fuels, considering the oil market? Thank you. KISSANE: Well—hi, Morton, thank you so much for that excellent question. Yeah, that’s kind of why I emphasize that number, is because a lot of people sort of just aren’t aware of how much oil we continue to consume, and again, what the demand expectations are moving forward. And these demand expectations are, you know, coming out of forecasts from the International Energy Agency. So, I think there’s a big question as to when we see peak demand. And, you know, if you look at BP scenarios, they expect peak demand to happen, you know, before 2030, where, as, you know, others kind of contest that they—that they think that peak demand won’t happen until after 2030. I mean, again, a lot depends on, you know, what we are now experiencing in the energy transition, and how, sort of quickly are we—can we transition away from oil. I think what’s really critical, when we’re looking at oil, is oftentimes we think only about the transportation sector. So we’re thinking about cars, we’re thinking about planes, you know, we’re thinking about trucks, and tankers, and all these things. But it’s petrochemicals, you know? There’s just a lot of oil that also goes into fertilizer. So, it really is across our economy, and across economies, across the global system. One of the things that I always tell my students is even during COVID, where you had many countries, right, much of the world was experiencing some level of lockdown, we did have a reduction in oil demand, but it wasn’t—it wasn’t like 20 million barrels. It was under ten. So, the fact that now it’s 2023, the world has reopened, it’s really hard to sort of see, or to know with certainty, is when we’re going to see that—see that reduction in demand. Now, I think with the Paris Agreement, what’s also important is—to note is, you know, if you’re—if you’re in the oil and gas space—and I was just at a conference earlier this morning where this was a point of conversation—was, you know, what are the companies doing to reduce the emissions from production? So, how are they integrating carbon capture, sequestration, you know, how are they managing the emissions that come from the production of fossil energy—in this case that we’re talking about, oil. And I think one of the things that—I think if you sort of follow oil markets, or a country like Saudi Arabia, they are marketing low-emission oil. Now, we could—you know, we could sort of challenge, well, what does that—you know, what does that really mean? But you are having, you know, countries that are now sort of competing to state that they have lower emitting carbon in the production—in the production of oil. And that’s a whole other interesting sort of thing to look at, in the context of the geopolitics of oil, is to kind of understand the variation across emissions, across different countries, in the production of oil. So, we are—you know, again, we are going to be going into COP-28 this fall. Again, we are not seeing—you know, and we haven’t seen a, you know, reduction in fossil energy demand. Again, lots of people are sort of, you know, hoping that we’ll start to see it sooner rather than later. But for the time being—and again, you know, to Irina’s first question, that, you know, the last fourteen months, and with, you know, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has both shown us that, you know, Europe is sort of seeking to hasten the energy transition, by building out more renewable energy, and creating more opportunities to buy electric vehicles. But there’s still big swaths of the world that, you know, are still, and have yet to move towards, you know, really reducing—and that are actually going to see higher demand moving forward, as their economies grow. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Jovana Vujanic, who is a graduate student at Lewis University: How big of an—of an impact will the decision of the Saudi energy minister to cut oil production have on the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia? KISSANE: Love the question, thank you so much. Yeah, no, it’s a great one. So, my take is that, of course, this decision came as a bit of a surprise, and it wasn’t something that the United States, you know, wanted. But I would say that the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been very tense for the last ten years. And as part of that—there are lots of different reasons for that, but this is yet—kind of another thing that Saudi has done. And again, I think it’s also—Saudi has taken a non-alignment policy with relation to its position on Russia and Ukraine. So, it continues to—you know, it continues to have a relationship with Russia. It also has the relationship with Ukraine. As we saw, you know, China just brokered a very significant deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. You know, again, Saudi Arabia and Iran are two—are two important producers for China. So, China is a large importer of oil. So, if you go back to World War—the end of World War II, that’s when the United States established the oil-for-security relationship with Saudi Arabia. And as we have grown, sort of, more—I wouldn’t say independent, but our—as our own oil production has increased, especially through the shale revolution, our dependence on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia, more specifically, has shifted. So, I think we’re seeing a very different Saudi Arabia today, which I think is going to be a challenge for the United States. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what the summer holds. Last summer, the Biden administration did tap into the U.S. strategic petroleum reserves, the largest—the largest take in the history of the reserves, which started in 1975, you know, taking 180 million barrels out, you know, not because there was massive supply disruptions. But because, you know, as the administration said, it was—you know, it was—it was—it was a war—it was a war-specific decision, because the—you know, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was causing energy prices to skyrocket. And to cushion the American consumer, and to better cushion the, sort of, the global economy, the United States withdrew from the SPR. So I think the summer is going to be very interesting. But I think we’re going to see, definitely, much more attention in the years to come, between the United States and Saudi Arabia. It’s not the relationship of the past. This is a kind of a very new relationship. That’s a great question. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Thank you, let’s go Curran Flynn, who has a raised hand. Q: Hello? FASKIANOS: We can hear you, but we’re getting feedback. So you might have two devices open. Q: Can you hear me now? FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: That’s better. OK. FASKIANOS: That’s better. Thank you. Thank you so much. Q: So, I’m here at King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia, right next to Aramco, here with my class from international relations. And one of my students has a question, Nasser al-Nasir (ph). Here he is. Q: So, thank you, Mrs. Carolyn. My question is: How could Russia’s use of alternative transportation methods, such as the East Siberian Pipeline to China, impact the U.S. market, the domestic market, and the role of the SPR, given potential insurance workarounds from Russia’s side such as ensuring Russian tankers through their RDIF fund? And thank you to Mrs. Irina. KISSANE: Thank you. And, Dr. Flynn, thank you so much for having your students join this webinar. So, I’m a little—so, the question is about the East Siberian Pipeline? Just could you—would you mind repeating it? I just want to make sure I have it—I’m clear on the question. Q: So, how could Russia’s use of alternative transportation methods, such as the East Siberian Pipeline to China, impact the U.S. energy markets, I mean domestically, and the SPR, given potential insurance workarounds from Russia’s side such as ensuring Russian tankers to the RDIF fund? KISSANE: Yeah, and that’s a great question. You know, I think that, you know, begs a lot of things that we could be looking at, right, in terms of, you know, Russia’s kind of ability or capacity to sort of work around, or find workarounds, to the sanctions that were imposed. And I think we’ve seen sort of new markets—so, this kind of reshaping of the energy map with oil, we see that as—kind of in technicolor, right, whereas, you know, a lot of Russian oil would go west, is now going east, you know, China, India, being takers, and of course, you know, other countries as well. You know, what will be its impact on the—on the U.S. market? I think that’s—you know, again, I do think the sanctions were sort of carefully put into place, so that there wouldn’t be massive disruptions, so we—again, you know, Russia produces over 10 million barrels a day, and about 7 million of those barrels are exported. So, you know, if we lost all of that, that would be a—you know, that would cause some very significant economic disruption globally. We already saw, you know, impacts to sort of grains, grain exports, and food security in many different parts of the world. So, you know, Russia is finding different ways. You have shadow tankers that Russia is using to move—to move its oil—as you pointed out, the East Siberian pipeline. You know, I think there’s only so much the United States can do, or—and European countries that are part of the sanctions regime, can do to curtail Russian exports of oil. But I think that—you know, I think Russia, again, has a—has a desire, and also, you know, revenue needs—they’re funding a very expensive war—that they’re finding ways to get their—to get their oil out. I think an interesting question is, you know, what does this mean in the years ahead, the lack of investment, for example, that’s going into Russian energy infrastructure, a lack of, sort of, any kind of Western investment that is—that is going in, and what that is going to mean. But again, you know, I think, to your question, I think we will see some—you know, we are seeing some impacts, right? There’s a big question as to what—you know, what the next six months to a year will look like, with regards to the reduction from OPEC, and if we were to see a deeper curtailment on Russian oil. And you know, would the United States then tap more into the SPR? We’re now at—you know, we’re down to seven hundred thousand barrels, which, of course, is not insignificant. But we also sort of have to be, you know, judicious about how we use the SPR. But thank you for the question. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Michael—let’s see— Trevett, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi: China and other countries claim there are petroleum reserves under the South China Sea. What are your estimates of the potential amount there, and has China begun to extract any of this oil? KISSANE: Michael, thank you so much. That’s a great question. So, China already is an oil producing country, so you do have oil production in China. In the South China Sea, I can’t—I can’t say exactly. I know that there have been geological tests that have shown the reserves. Again, you do have—you know, you do have territorial concerns about sort of where—is this—you know, can China—can China tap those—or seek to explore and tap those reserves, again, if there are—if there is contention over the territory in which these reserves are located? So you know, China, again—one of the things that’s very interesting about China is that China is an oil producer, but China has seen, over the last, you know, the last decade, they have seen that they have experienced peak demand. So—I mean, sorry. Peak supply. So, they are not producing as much as they used to. And so you’re seeing a year-on-year reduction in the producing capacity. You know, if you go back maybe five or six years ago, there was lots of questions about if China could kind of replicate what happened in the United States around the shale oil revolution. I think one of the big challenges for China is that, of the—you know, where the shale reserves are located, it’s not near water, lots of questions as to—and some of it—basically, some of the tests have shown that it’s—it definitely is proving harder that, you know, they cannot sort of model the same level of development that we have seen in the United States. So, yeah, no, I think in the South China Sea, again, I think we—it’s potentially possible that we might see it. I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t say it’s soon. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m taking the next question from Rob Warren at the Anglo-American University of Prague. This question also got an upvote: How do you foresee Venezuela’s role in the global oil market changing moving forward? And can it be reintegrated into the global economy? KISSANE: Oh, these are all fantastic questions. Thank you all so much. Yeah, Venezuela is—again, you know, Venezuela has—they have the largest reserves in the world. As part of this webinar, right, you—CFR had a—kind of a primer on Venezuelan, and kind of—you know, you look at sort of where Venezuela is. And one of the biggest challenges confronting Venezuela is both its politics, but it’s also—it basically—you know, you don’t have—you don’t have international oil service providers in the country. I think the only—the only one now that the U.S.—the U.S. has sort of given a sanctions exemption to, is that of Chevron. But I think—yeah, I mean, if you were to see, you know, kind of shifts in the political regime, and you were to see more openness, then I think you could imagine, you know, Venezuela having an opportunity, or a pathway forward, to be more integrated into the global energy system, and the global oil system. You know, I think one of the big problems that Venezuela faces is that most of its infrastructure is really old at this point. And it would need a significant amount of reinvestment to get it up to a place that it could sort of meet its potential. So, you know, Venezuela is one of these countries that’s not producing as much as it could, right? It has the potential to be producing 2 million-plus more barrels per day. But you know, we’ve seen that they really have just—they went into freefall. So, I think that’s a big issue. And another big issue, which—God, it goes back to an earlier question—is that of emissions. So, the oil that comes out of Venezuela is a very, very heavy oil. So, it’s—it has very large carbon emissions associated with the production of that oil. So, that, I think, is—again, as we—you know, think about the emissions from oil production in countries that are sort of seeking to kind of market themselves as low-emission producers, you know, Venezuela definitely will have a very hard time recouping its—where its oil sector was. Again, it has the capacity, it has the reserves. But getting that—getting that oil out of the ground right now, you have a lot of significant above-ground risks. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Clemente Abrokwaa. Raised hand, so please unmute yourself. Q: Can you hear me, please? FASKIANOS: Yes, we can. Q: Thank you. Thank you so much for your—for your talk. I was also very shocked about the amount of barrels that we consume every day. (Laughs.) I didn’t know that. But anyway, I’m from Penn State University. And my question is: You just mentioned about the above-ground, you know, effects. And—so the movement towards, like, electric vehicles and so on, how do you think it is going to affect the African continent? KISSANE: Thank you. Q: I am—I’m thinking, you know, the economies, and then infrastructure. It will be very difficult for them to—(laughs)—move with the rest of the world in terms of electric vehicles, and so on. I just wanted your take on that. KISSANE: Thank you, Clemente. It’s an excellent question. Yeah, I mean, you have countries across the African continent that not only have oil reserves, but are already producing, right? Nigeria is a—is an oil-producing country, also has more capacity, but again, you have some above-ground risks. You also have the need for investment of new infrastructure. I think one of the things that has been very interesting—and I think it’s getting—it’s getting more attention, as it deserves, is how Western governments are—some of—I think a challenge across Africa is that a lot of Western governments have sort of said, listen, we’re not going to invest in fossil fuels—or also, financial institutions, Western financial institutions—we’re not going to invest in fossil fuels, or new projects that are fossil-based. And that—you know, that’s problematic when you look across the African continent, where you still don’t have, you know, 100 percent energy access. You know, the idea of the transition to electric vehicles, which is taking a very, very long time, even here across the—across developed economies—so the need for the infusion of more capital to go into, you know, across the continent of Africa for oil and gas, that’s for their economies and for their own economic growth, I think, is really, really pivotal. And I think this is something that, you know, is being discussed across multilateral financial institutions. And also, you know, is it hypocrisy, right, for Western banks that have, you know, kind of funded the oil and gas industry, or helped to fund the oil and gas industry in the United States and many different parts of the world, and that are now sort of not allowing those funds to flow to Africa. And they have the—again, they have the—they have the resources. So you know, is it—you know, the equity of some of these decisions that are being made, I think, is one that’s—is one that’s really important. And again, I—you know, I said earlier in this talk, is that, you know, all—most of the demand for oil is not coming from North America and from Europe. All of the demand that we’re seeing and new demand that we’re going to see, is coming from Asia, and is going to come from Africa. So again, you know, how are we going to make sure that that demand is met, again, going back to that idea of energy security, so there is—there is accessibility, so there is reliable sources of energy at affordable prices, you know, without sort of thinking about kind of a whole-of-energy approach. So, I think it’s very—it’s a very complex issue. And I think, you know, Western banks who have sort of taken very sharp positions on what they will and will not fund, when it comes to new oil and gas projects, are getting sort of challenged as to, you know, what does that mean, then, for, you know, countries across Africa that are still very much in need of more energy, not less. And again, recognizing that, you know, EVs that, again, are still—are—you know, we’re seeing adoption here in the United States and across Europe, but it’s a big, big, big adoption in China. But it’s very uneven. So how do we ensure greater energy security for the continent of Africa, I think, is a really critical question. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ll take the next question from Kyle Bales, who is a senior at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois: How is the war between Russia and Ukraine having an effect on the progress of the European Green Deal? Maybe you can tell us what the European—define the European Green Deal for us, Carolyn, give us the context for that. KISSANE: Yes, so, again, this is another fantastic question. Yeah, the European Green Deal, it’s—this is—this is great. Yeah, I mean, a lot of people would say that the European Green Deal now is—that the—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sort of said, hey, this is why the Green Deal is so important. This is why we really need to more quickly transition to renewable energy, because look what—look what happened when we were dependent on Russia for over 30 percent of our natural gas. And look, when Russia, you know, illegally invades Ukraine and suddenly weaponizes gas, we are left very energy-insecure. It affects—it affects consumers. It affects industry across the continent. So, I think we’re seeing, not just through the Green Deal, but we’re also seeing through, sort of European green industrial policy—so in some ways, akin to what, you know, we put into effect in—this past summer, is the Inflation Reduction Act. And we’re seeing almost, kind of, this industrial competition around clean energy technologies. And so, Europe is investing—you know, I think it’s about $250 billion, the United States, it’s about 370 billion—towards the—kind of the energy transition, and helping to support domestic industries and companies to—you know, to be able to, you know, develop the technologies, and to have the, you know, the opportunity to contribute to the energy transition. So, I think one thing, though—whenever I talk about Europe, it’s really important, is to sort of recognize that, you know, when you look across Europe, you have very different policies and kind of approaches, to sort of thinking about energy, and how quickly some countries want to transition and can transition, whereas others, you know, are probably going to experience a slower transition. So, just really interesting example, as you talked about the Green Deal, is the EU taxonomy, the green taxonomy, that went into effect in the—January of 2022. And there, you had, like, really a lot of contention between France and Germany, because France wanted to make sure that nuclear was part of the green taxonomy. Germany was opposed, right, but Germany wanted to make sure natural gas was part of the green taxonomy. So ultimately, in the end, both natural gas and nuclear—and again, this was—this predated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But in the EU green taxonomy, you have—you know, you have both nuclear and natural gas, in addition to other renewable energies that can make up this taxonomy, that includes specific measures towards adaptation and mitigation for climate change. So you know, I think you’re seeing this kind of—some people call it a race, a competition. You know, ideally, it’s—you know, we’re kind of working together to—because we’re all sort of going in the same direction—to, you know, support the transition, and to reduce—to reduce carbon emissions, and to bring in more, sort of, cleaner energy technologies into our system. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Dr. Laeed Zaghlami. Q: Yes, good afternoon. This is Laeed—good afternoon, Irina. Good afternoon, Carolyn. I’m very pleased to be part of your program. Just to—want to be back to Africa and particularly to Nigeria, how practical the two projects that Nigeria is advocating for pipelines, one from—through Algeria, and the other one to Morocco through western African countries? How practical are these pipelines to supply gas to Europe and parts of some African countries? FASKIANOS: And Dr. Zaghlami, you are at Algiers University, correct? Q: Indeed, Irina, yes. I am professor at University of Algiers, faculty of information and communication. FASKIANOS: Thank you. KISSANE: Dr. Laeed, can I—can I keep you on for just one second? Can I ask you, what is the—what is the status right now? Is it—it’s planned, under construction? Where is—what is the status of those two pipelines? My understanding is that it’s—they’re proposed, but— Q: Yes, well, actually in—practically, the pipeline between Algeria and Abuja, which means through Niger and so forth, is already in progress, whereas the other project, through thirteen western African countries, they are supposed to be implemented by 2047. But is it—is there any political game or something of strategic—(inaudible)—how practical, how logical, how efficiently will be for Nigeria to have two similar project(s)? KISSANE: Yeah, no, it’s—again, thank you for the question. You know, pipelines, again, that’s why I wanted to show the—(laughs)—kind of the map of pipelines, is because, you know, a lot of pipelines transverse, you know, multiple countries, right? And this is—this requires not just, you know, a lot of cooperation, but it requires technically. It also can be very complex to build—to build pipelines. And when you’re talking about something like, as you—as you point out, these are, you know, crossing many countries. You know, I think one of the—again, one of the issues is whether or not—since, you know, what already is under construction, I think you can, you know, with confidence, that one will be completed. Anything that’s not yet under construction—and again, the timeline, 2047, is way out there—a lot of—a lot of uncertainty as to what the status of those projects will be moving forward, for various reasons, in terms of making sure that the investments are there. Someone I know that studies pipelines, he says, you know, until the steel is in the ground, you don’t have the pipeline, and so until you know that you’ve got that, you know, you’ve got all the OKs, and you feel that kind of security of being able to build it, and being able to provide the resources to supply it and to move it. I think Algeria has been a really interesting case that hasn’t gotten enough attention, in terms of Algerian gas, that has—that has helped support Europe. Over the last years, we’ve seen an increase in Algerian gas going into Europe. Again, a lot of attention on U.S. LNG and the increase of liquefied natural gas exports into Europe, but also Algeria has been, you know, very important for helping to support European energy security, and make up for some of the losses of the—of the Russian gas. And I think we’ll see more attention on Algeria, and Algeria’s role as a—you know, as an important source of energy, especially, you know, gas, going into—going into Europe, moving forward. FASKIANOS: So, I’ll take the next written question from Vincent Brooks, who is at Harvard and Diamondback Energy board of directors: How do you view the purchasing of discounted Russian oil by India, in particular relative to the purchasing by China? How are they using the oil purchased? And are you seeing more internal usage or external profit-making sales in places like Africa? And what are the implications of all of this? KISSANE: Right, great. Great question. So, all of the above—(laughs)—in some ways, right? There is definitely sort of profits that are being made. You know, I was—I was talking about this last week with someone, and you know, if you sort of put your shoe—put yourself in the shoes of India, right, so, India is a—is a rapidly growing economy, 1.4 billion. You know, if you had—if you have very high energy inflation and high oil prices, that’s going to have ripples effects across the Indian economy. And so, you know, when you have a kind of opportunity to buy, you know, pretty steep discounted oil, which, you know, they had been able to buy from Russia, you know, for purposes of national security, they’ve been buying the oil. And one of the things that’s very interesting about India is that, actually, India has been building out its refining capacity. So, a lot of that oil is both for domestic, and some of it is being sort of re-exported. But I think what we’ve seen is that they’re using that oil to also sort of enhance their capacity and capabilities as a rapidly emerging, refining power in Asia. And we see that in some ways in China, too. So, China, even though oil demand was down in 2022, much of the oil that they were buying from Russia went into its strategic supplies, which, you know, they now have access to. And again, I think, you know, a big question is what we’re going to see moving forward around oil demand in China. Wood Mackenzie just published a really interesting piece, kind of very bullish, on the expectations for oil demand in China, so whether or not they’re going to continue to buy, you know, Russian oil—and again, sort of taking advantage of these lower prices, you know. And I think—I think one of the things that—it’s kind of an inconvenient truth, whereas a lot of this oil trading used to happen in Europe, so European trading houses were kind of the main—the main points of Russian oil trade. A lot of that has been moved out, so, you know, Russia has found ways to kind of bypass some of the sanctions, and have set up—in some cases, they’ve set up trading houses. And some of those trading houses have been sort of set up in places that, you know, that they can sort of, again, bypass the compliance to the sanctions. And you have some—you have some Russian oil traders that are making a lot of money—(laughs)—selling discounted oil, and then reselling it. A really interesting case, a couple of months ago, was out of Malaysia. Malaysia announced—or, in the, you know—that they were—that 1.5 million barrels were produced and sold, but only—Malaysia doesn’t produce that much. So, those were Russian barrels that were sort of being sold under, sort of, the Malaysian—under the Malaysian barrel. So, again, I think China and India have, you know, have taken advantage. Some of this has, again—as I said, has been re-exported. And some of it, you know, has been re-exported through petroleum products, because China and India, you know, both are building and have refining capacity. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Bhakti Mirchandani at Columbia University: What global trajectory do you see for nuclear? The Russia-Ukraine crisis has taken some of the refining capacity offline, and nuclear has the potential to change the geopolitics of energy. And so what steps can be taken to foster nuclear energy? KISSANE: Bhakti, thank you. And I was just at Columbia earlier today for the Center for Global Energy Policy’s conference. Yeah, nuclear is very interesting, right? So when we’re thinking about, you know, decarbonizing our energy systems, you know, nuclear plays a very important role, because it’s zero-emitting. So in certain parts of the world—China being one, Saudi Arabia—you know, you have a lot of new nuclear build. You know, in other parts of the world, you have a lot of contention about nuclear. We saw that even in Germany, which have, you know, three remaining nuclear power plants. And even in the midst of massive energy crisis over the last year, there was still sort of pushback about, no, those nuclear power plants need to be shut down, whereas you would think, OK, in light of energy insecurity, let’s keep them open. So, you know, France is an interesting country. France had planned to reduce its nuclear capacity by 50 percent. But this past year, they pivoted and they’ve said, no, we’re actually going to build out more nuclear, and we’re sort of—we’re totally scrapping that idea of reducing nuclear energy. And nuclear is very important for France’s electricity system. Sweden has also announced that they are going to build new nuclear, and they’re going to increase by, I think, almost 50 percent. Again, part of this is their—to meet their targets of net zero. We also see Japan. Japan, you know, the Fukushima disaster really turned Japanese—the Japanese public off of nuclear. Very, very deep opposition to restarting the nuclear power plants. But this past year, even though there’s still safety concerns on the part of the public, the public is also very concerned about energy insecurity and higher prices. So, nuclear being a domestic source of energy. So, I think when you look at, you know, net-zero pathways, I have not seen a net-zero pathway that does not include nuclear. So, here in the United States, the net-zero America project out of Princeton, very important place for nuclear. We just have a really hard time—(laughs)—building nuclear at cost, so it’s very expensive. Usually, it’s significant cost overruns. And of course, there is the—I think they have a really significant PR problem. People—there’s still a lot of concern about the safety of nuclear. So, I think to your point, it’s very, very important for decarbonizing energy systems, but you’re going to see, I think, very disjointed approaches. Some countries are going—are embracing nuclear, and other countries are sort of doubling down on their opposition, and are not going to allow nuclear to be part of the energy system. FASKIANOS: We have so many questions, and we are just not going to get to them all. So, I’m going to take the next question from Christian Bonfili, who’s at Torcuato di Tella University in Argentina. So, do you think, Carolyn, that the landscape resulting from the Ukraine invasion by Russia, vis-à-vis securitization of gas and energy between Europe and Russia, could accelerate energy transition toward greener energy? KISSANE: Great question. I think in Europe, it is. And I think, you know, many analysts would agree that—the IEA, for example—you know, you had the, you know—how does Europe continue—you know, to enhance and achieve energy security without the dependence on Russia gas? And a lot of that is through renewable energy. You also have a lot of new attention on hydrogen, and the role that hydrogen will play. I think—I think Europe is being cautious, and so they are not saying that they are going to completely move away from gas, so as earlier questions, are they getting gas from Algeria, or are they getting gas from Norway? Are they getting more gas from the United States in the form of liquefied natural gas? And then also an uncomfortable truth is they continue to get liquefied natural gas from Russia. So, we’ve seen an increase in LNG from Russia going into Europe. That said, I think all in, you are seeing that, you know, countries across Europe are saying, OK, you know, how can we enhance our energy security? How do we build more sort of domestic energy sources? Solar, wind, we’re seeing, you know, more rapid deployment. You’ve got a lot of questions about supply chains and things like that, but I think—overall, I think the answer would be that it’s quickening the energy transition. FASKIANOS: So, I will take the moderator prerogative to just ask the final question for you to close on. And just to give us your top three—what are the major challenges for the geopolitics of oil, as you look out over the next five- to ten-year horizon, that you would leave us with, to be looking for? KISSANE: OK. You know, so I think what we saw, right, tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States. We also have a, you know, a hot war, cold war, depending on, you know, the term you want to use, between the United States and China, and lots of sort of questions as to what that’s going to look like. I think there’s—you know, I think there’s concern that, you know, we’re not reducing demands, but we’re seeing tightening supply. And so that’s going to have, you know, very significant impacts for economies, especially economies that are already very fragile, economically fragile, politically fragile. So that concerns me a lot, in terms of, you know, what happens when, you know, economies don’t have adequate access to energy to make sure that their industries, that their—that consumers, you know, are able—that the lights can stay on, and you can get—you know, if you’re dependent on cars, you’re depending on trucks, like, all these kinds of things are really, really critical. So, I think we have to be very cautious moving forward, that we don’t take more out of the system before we have adequately set up the system to be resilient, and to be able to sort of meet the energy security demands that are not—are not—they’re not decreasing. I think they are increasing and becoming even more complex. So, I think there’s a lot of concerns and a lot of uncertainty. And you know, this definitely is going to be an area to watch in the years ahead. FASKIANOS: Carolyn Kissane—Kissane, excuse me—thank you very much for shaping and sharing this discussion, for sharing your terrific insights with us, and to all of you for your questions and comments. I’m really sorry that we could not get to them all. But we only have an hour. (Laughs.) KISSANE: Thank you. FASKIANOS: You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at @carolynkissane, and we will be announcing the fall Academic Webinar lineup in the CFR Academic Bulletin. If you’ve not already subscribed, you can email us to subscribe. Send us an email, [email protected]. Again, I encourage you to share with your students our CFR paid internships announcement. We also have fellowships for professors. You and they can go to, follow us at @CFR_Academic, and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you all again. Good luck with your finals. Carolyn Kissane, thank you so much. KISSANE: Thank you. It was a pleasure. Great. FASKIANOS: And we look forward to your continued participation in this series. KISSANE: Thank you very much. Appreciate everyone’s questions. Bye. (END)
  • Education

    Renee Hobbs, professor of communication studies and founder and director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, leads the conversation on media literacy and propaganda. FASK…
  • United States

    Brian Winter, vice president of policy at Americas Society and Council of the Americas and editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, leads the conversation on U.S. relations with South America. CASA: Welcome to today’s session of the Winter/Spring 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Maria Casa, director of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you all for joining us. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Brian Winter with us to discuss U.S. relations with South America. Mr. Winter is the vice president of policy for the America Society and Council of the Americas and editor in chief of Americas Quarterly. An influential political analyst, he has followed South America for more than twenty years and has served as a correspondent for Reuters in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. Mr. Winter is the author of several books including Why Soccer Matters, a New York Times bestseller he wrote with the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. He is a regular contributor to television and radio and host of the Americas Quarterly podcast. Welcome, Brian. Thank you very much for being with us. WINTER: Thank you, Maria. Thanks for the invitation. CASA: Can you begin with a general overview of current U.S. relations with South American countries? WINTER: I can try and actually, as a matter of fact, today is an extremely fortuitous day to be doing this and let me tell you why. A couple of weeks ago on February 10, Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, made a one-day trip to Washington. He met with President Biden while he was here. He brought his foreign minister with him as well as his chief foreign policy adviser, his finance minister, a couple other members of his Cabinet. One of the biggest sort of concrete results of this trip that Lula made up here was a U.S. donation to the Amazon Fund of $50 million. That is million with an M. Well, today, Lula leaves for China with about half of his Cabinet and a delegation of approximately two hundred and thirty leaders from Brazil’s private sector in what Brazilian media are calling the biggest foreign delegation ever to leave Brazil for another country. They will be in China for six days and there is a whole roster of deals on the table ranging from financing to infrastructure to education, environmental, and so on. So the point I’m trying to get across here is one of clear asymmetry and it really reflects kind of the new moment for U.S. relations with South America overall. As Maria mentioned, I started my career in the region as a reporter a little more than twenty years ago. I was in Argentina for four years. I was in Mexico for one year and Brazil for five, and in the course of that relatively short period of time we’ve seen kind of the power balance in how we think about Latin America but specifically South America. We’ve seen a significant change in how we think about that region. Back the early 2000s, certainly, during the 1990s, these were the final years of the so-called Washington Consensus, a period characterized by kind of the unipolar moment that came with the end of the Cold War, a certain consensus not only around democracy but around a certain set of liberalizing economic policies as well, and that ran its course. But really, it was around 2003 when everything started to change for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the one that I’ve already referenced, which is the growth of China as a trading partner for the region. China had always had a presence in Latin America. In fact, for the magazine that I run, Americas Quarterly, we ran a piece two years ago about the Chinese presence in Mexico going all the way back to the 1600s when they operated barber shops and other sort of forms of commerce. But what’s happened over the last twenty years is really remarkable. In numbers, Chinese trade with Latin America and the Caribbean overall went from 18 billion (dollars) in 2002 to a stunning 450 billion (dollars) in 2021. China is now the largest trading partner for Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay, and for South America as a whole if you take all those countries in the aggregate China now outranks the United States. When you look at Latin America, by the way, that includes Mexico. If you take that grouping then the U.S. is still the number-one trading partner but, again, that’s almost entirely because of that relationship—that trading relationship as a result of the former NAFTA and now USMCA. Along with that big growth in Chinese trade have come other changes. We’ve had a lot of talk in the U.S. media in recent days about the twentieth anniversary of the Iraq war. That was something—and I was living in Argentina at the time and you could really feel how that even then carried a cost for the U.S. reputation in some of these countries. I think that with the failure of the—the failures of the war over time I think that that only accentuated the view that—not only a long-standing view that the U.S. was an unwelcome, meddling, and in many cases imperialist presence but it also accelerated this narrative that the United States was in relative decline. More recent years we’ve seen kind of other things contribute to this diminished reputation of the United States and throughout many countries in the region—everything ranging from not just the election of Donald Trump, who, of course, was not popular in most of the region; but also specific decisions that were made by his government, such as the withdrawal from the TPP—the Trans-Pacific Partnership—that, of course, is the trade deal that was negotiated under the Obama administration that included several Latin American countries, including Chile and Peru—but also the weaponization of tariffs; and, you know, Trump’s repeated threats to even cut off Mexican imports. They did—those threats did have the effect of kind of forcing, first, President Peña Nieto in Mexico and then his successor, Andrés Manuel Lόpez Obrador, to cooperate with initiatives like management of migration policy. So in the short term, they, quote/unquote, “worked” but in the longer term it showed Mexico as well as other countries in the region that the U.S. was not a particularly reliable partner. Some of you may be listening to all this and thinking, well, this sounds like the viewpoints espoused by governments in the region that are leftist and have never really cared for the United States in the first place. But another interesting thing about this latest trend and the way that things have changed over the last ten years is that this desire to forge a middle path between China and the United States as their strategic competition escalates is shared by leaders across the ideological spectrum. South American countries in particular are not unlike the United States when it seems like virtually everything is polarized, and yet in this area and specifically the need—the perceived need to have closer relations with—I’m sorry, closer relations with China while maintaining a civil relationship but not siding too much with United States, some of the most enthusiastic proponents of that view in recent years have actually been governments on the center right and right such as Sebastián Piñera, the former president of Chile, Iván Duque, the former president of Colombia, Guillermo Lasso, the current president of Ecuador, who has worked extensively with China, and even Jair Bolsonaro, who was until recently the right-wing president of Brazil, ended up essentially going along with Beijing and allowing Huawei to participate in the recent auction of 5G mobile communications technology there. And so what we end up with as a result is a policy in many countries across the region that some are calling active nonalignment, the idea that governments in the region, regardless of their ideological stripe, need to seek an equidistant or middle path between Washington and Beijing, essentially taking advantage of their relative distance from not only potential conflicts between the U.S. and China but also looking at what’s happening in Ukraine right now and saying, look, we need to maintain our independence, not side too strongly with either of these emerging blocs, and see if we can benefit from this by selling our commodities to everybody, keeping in mind that these are economies, especially in South America, that rely extremely heavily on the sale of commodities exports to drive their economic growth. So, you know, in conclusion for these initial remarks that is a huge change in the course of a generation. We’ve gone in a little more than twenty years from this assumption that most Latin American countries are in the U.S. sphere of influence, to use a very outdated term, which I detest, that they were part of our, quote/unquote, “backyard” to an increasing realization in DC, and I think people are still getting their heads around that, that automatic support, automatic alignment, can no longer be expected whether it is in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, and then on down into South America, which I know is our focus today, governments like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, another country where we’ve seen a lot of change on this front even in the last couple years and, again, not just because there’s a leftist president in Colombia now because his predecessor, who I’ve already mentioned, Iván Duque, was one of the main people pushing this change. So that’s a lot to digest. I’m happy to take any questions and hear from you. So thank you. CASA: Thanks, Brian, for that comprehensive introduction. Now let’s open it up to questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) Our first question is a written question and it comes from Andrea Cuervo Prados, who is an adjunct instructor at Dickinson State University, and asks, what is your perspective regarding the new leftist president of Colombia and U.S. relations? What is the risk that Colombia could turn into another Venezuela? WINTER: Right. It’s a good question. I think that we are still figuring out exactly what Gustavo—not only who Gustavo Petro is but what his ambitions are for both Colombia and for his relationships with the rest of the region and the rest of the world. There is some distance between what he has said he wants to do and what he may be able to do. This is a president who, you know, talks in these grand sweeping terms but ultimately has to get things through congress, and to just cite a result or an example of this that doesn’t directly have to do with Colombia’s foreign relationships, he said—he gave a very dramatic speech at the UN General Assembly last September in which he talked about the need to legalize narcotics across the board, including cocaine. But then—it was a speech that generated a lot of attention in capitals all over the world and all over the region. But then in ensuing weeks when he was pressed on this he didn’t really have a lot of detail and admitted that it was not something that Colombia could do unilaterally, which is all to say that, again, there’s this gap where I think it’s important to pay careful attention to the gap between the rhetoric and what’s actually possible with Petro. I don’t personally—you know, the question of could X country become another Venezuela it’s a question that people have been asking all over Latin America for the last ten years. I think—I understand why people ask it because what happened in Venezuela was so awful and dramatic, not only with the country becoming a full-fledged dictatorship that represses political opposition but also the humanitarian crisis that has forced some 7 million people or about a quarter of the country’s population to leave the country. But, look, Petro is Colombia’s first president on the left and I don’t think it necessarily follows that—in fact, I’m certain that it doesn’t follow that every person on the left wants to go down the path of Venezuela. So I suppose I’m a little more optimistic not only that Petro is a pragmatist in areas like the economy—for example, his finance minister is a quite pragmatic figure, a Columbia University professor who is well respected by markets—and I’m also somewhat optimistic about Colombian institutions and their ability to stand in the way of any truly radical change. CASA: Thank you. Our next question comes from Morton Holbrook, who is an adjunct professor at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Morton? Q: Hello. Yes, I’m here. Morton Holbrook, Kentucky Wesleyan College. University of Louisville also. Thanks for your really interesting comments, especially about China’s relationship with Latin and South America. Can I turn north a little bit to Russia? Considering particularly the Brazilian president’s upcoming visit to China do you think he might want to go to Russia, too? Bearing in mind that the International Criminal Court just issued an arrest warrant for President Putin, how might that affect Latin American relations with Russia? Do you think some of them might now have second thoughts about Russia or inviting Putin to visit their countries? Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela have all signed the ICC statute promising to cooperate in the carrying out of arrest warrants. Thank you. WINTER: That’s a great question and one that is—I can tell you is very front of mind for Brazilian officials and I think others around the region right now. I was just in Brazil two weeks ago working on our—our next issue of Americas Quarterly will be on Brazil’s foreign policy and what it means for the rest of Latin America. This is a question that’s very front and center. Brazil’s foreign minister did say in the last couple of days—he did explicitly almost word for word repeat what you just said, which is that Brazil is a signatory to that treaty. That would seem to eliminate any possibility of Vladimir Putin visiting Brazil. I’m not sure that that was really on his list of things to do anyway. But it was not only a practical signal but a diplomatic one as well. Lula’s position on Russia and the Ukraine war has been inconsistent. He said during his campaign last year that Zelensky and Putin bear equal responsibility for the conflict. My understanding is that after that statement, you know, nobody wants to contradict the boss openly and sometimes not even in private. My sense personally based on conversations with others in Brasilia is that at the very least his foreign policy team regretted that he made that statement. Brazil has, in other form, condemned the Russian invasion. Other governments including Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and others have done the same. However, these are countries that, like most of the Global South, are firmly opposed to any sanctions and so their position, again, ends up being I suppose you could call it nuanced. They believe it’s important in part because of their own experience as nations to condemn invasions of one country by another. I, personally, think that it’s fair to think of what Putin is doing is a kind of imperialist aggression, which these are countries that have certainly objected to that when it’s the U.S. over the last, you know, 200-plus years and so you would think that it would be in their DNA to do so in the Ukrainian case as well, and in fairness most of them have. I would just add that, you know, the Brazilian position, I think, though, gets influenced also by two other things. One is, again, this notion of nonalignment. Most people talk about nonalignment in Brazil and Argentina, in Chile and Colombia, and they think about the U.S.-China relationship, as I noted during my introductory remarks. But they also think of it as a helpful guide to thinking about the conflict, the war in Ukraine, as well for reasons that are not firmly rooted in morals or values, let’s say, but in interests as, you know, foreign policy often is. To say it in a different way, I had a conversation a couple of years ago with former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who I helped him write his memoir in English back in 2006. He was president during the 1990s, and in talking with him about the China question he said, we have to take advantage of our greatest strategic asset, which is that Brazil is far. (Laughs.) And to just unpack that a little bit, I think the meaning of that is clear to all of you. But these are countries that really see an opportunity right now just by virtue of their geographic distance from these conflict zones to avoid being dragged in and also to potentially, at some level, benefit from it through strategic superpower competition for their support as well as through higher prices for some of the commodities that they produce. There’s one added element in the case of Brazil, which is that Lula, I’m told by people close to him, sees himself as almost a Nelson Mandela-type figure. He’s back now for his third term in the presidency twenty years after he was president the first time. Of course, I’m sure people on this call know that he went through some real struggles in the intervening years including nearly two years in prison over—on corruption charges that were later thrown out and, you know, he may see his presidency as an opportunity to kind of write the last chapter or two in his biography, and there’s talk that he wants a Nobel Peace Prize and that he sees potentially helping negotiate a peace deal for the Ukraine war as the best opportunity to do that. I actually think that that idea, which is—tends to be dismissed in Washington as well as in European capitals, I personally think that idea is not as crazy as some people here in Washington think. But maybe I can go into that a little bit later if anybody wants. CASA: Thank you. Next, we have two written questions from the same university that we can take together. They’re from Marisa Perez and Trevor Collier, who are undergraduate students at Lewis University. They would like to know what world leaders such as the United States can do to prevent deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and how they can do so without compromising Brazil’s sovereignty. WINTER: Well, it’s a really great question, in part because it mentions an issue that Americans don’t often think about, which is precisely the sensitivity on the sovereignty issue. Brazil, and specifically not only Brazil’s military but Brazil’s foreign policy establishment, have a long-standing concern that is part of their doctrine, I suppose you could say, that is concerned always about the possibility of territorial loss and about foreigners gaining influence or, in some cases, even control over the Amazon. And I have to say, you know, this is another one of those ideas that I think—I wish we were all together in a room. This Zoom is kind of the next best thing. I could see your faces that way. But sometimes when I talk about this I see people kind of roll their eyes as if it was some sort of imagined conspiracy. But the truth is that as recently as 2019 when the—the first year of Jair Bolsonaro’s government when the fires in the Amazon really became a huge controversy, driven in large part by social media and tweets from people like Justin Bieber and Cher, who, to be clear, were, I think, justifiably and quite heroically shining light on what was happening there. In the midst of all that Emmanuel Macron actually proposed that perhaps some sort of international force in the Amazon was necessary, that that deployment of that would be a good idea if Brazil was not capable of taking care of the Amazon itself. That proposal was disastrous because it just reinforced this long-standing fear that so much of the establishment in Brazil has always had, and it’s true that Bolsonaro was on the right but you, certainly, in conversations, I think, with people across the ideological spectrum this is something that people think about. So OK. So back to the original question, how can the U.S. help. Well, the U.S. could help by providing both logistical and financial resources beyond the $50 million, which is, you know, the equivalent of about seven seconds of what we’re spending in terms of supporting Ukraine right now. I don’t know—Norway is the biggest sponsor of the Amazon Fund. I don’t have that number in front of me but I think that their contribution is upwards of at least a billion dollars, probably more. Ultimately, though, I do believe that the Amazon is a local challenge and I know that can be unsatisfying to hear in forums like this where we’re sort of designed—you know, this is a CFR event. We’re supposed to be thinking of ways that the international community can get involved. But it’s going to be a big challenge. The good news is that Brazil has shown that it is capable of getting its hands around this problem before. During Lula’s first terms in office from 2003 to 2010 his government was able to reduce the level of deforestation by upwards of 75 percent. It was a very dramatic difference in a very short period of time. This was done through a variety of means, both things like satellite monitoring and new technology that let the authorities follow this in real time. They were also able to step up environmental enforcement agencies like IBAMA, whose inspectors are necessary. It’s necessary to have them on the ground in order to, you know, stop—actually stop illegal loggers from setting the fires that are the main driver of deforestation. They were also able to build political consensus around the need to reduce deforestation during those years. I don’t think it’s going to be—in fact, I’m certain it will not be as “easy,” quote/unquote, this time around. A lot has changed. The upwards of 60 percent increase that we saw in deforestation during the Bolsonaro years had the support, unfortunately, in my view, of local populations who believe essentially that slashing and burning will lead their day-to-day economic lives to improve. In the election that happened in October where Lula won and Bolsonaro lost but by a very small margin—the closest margin in Brazil’s modern democratic history—the strongest support nationally for Bolsonaro was in areas that have seen the most illegal deforestation over the last four years and what that tells you is that, again, these are local populations that believe that this will lead to greater wealth and greater well-being for all of them, this being deforestation. So that’s a big challenge for Lula with a—you know, at a time when resources are fairly scarce. It’s not like it was during his first presidency when all of this increase in Chinese trade was really boosting the amount of money in Brazil’s coffers. So he’s going to have to figure out a way to dedicate financial resources as well as convince local populations that this is in their interest to do it. It’s not going to be an easy road. CASA: Our next question comes from Mike Nelson, an affiliate adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Mike? Q: Thank you very much for an outstanding overview of what’s going on in U.S. relations to South America. I study international technology policy and data governance but my question is about corruption. You mentioned corruption in Brazil but it’s a problem throughout South America, and my three-part question, is it getting worse or better; are there any countries who have really done the right thing and have taken serious measures to address it; and how can the internet and some of the technologies for citizen journalism help expose corruption and make leaders less likely to dip into the public fund? WINTER: OK. Yeah. No, great questions, and reflective of if you look at opinion polling and remember that these are countries that many of them have been dealing with rising crime, rising homicide levels, economic stagnation, the pandemic, which hit Latin America by many measures harder than in any other region in the world at one point—I haven’t seen updated numbers on this but it was fairly consistently throughout the pandemic Latin America, which is about 8 percent of the world’s population, was accounting for about 30 percent of the world’s confirmed COVID deaths. Anyway, amid all of that, and the economic stagnation that has been such a problem over the last ten years, in a lot of countries and in public opinion surveys, the thing that people identified as the number-one problem in their country is corruption. That was not always true. If you look back at public polling twenty years ago, people tended to identify kind of more, what’s the word, basic needs—think, like, unemployment, hunger, misery, which often is kind of asked as a separate—that’s one of the boxes you can check. Twenty years ago, those were the issues. And as the region became more middle class, especially in the 2000s because of this China-driven economic growth that described during my introduction, a lot of people were able to move beyond their basic needs and focus on essentially what was happening to the money that they paid in taxes, keeping in mind that many people were paying taxes for the first time. Some of it surely was also driven by these things, as you mentioned, mobile phones that not only things like videos of people carrying suitcases of cash, but also the attention that was given to big corruption scandals. Previously in a lot of countries, governments were able to make pacts with newspapers and TV channels, and kind of tamp things down a little bit, and lower the temperature. In an era of Facebook and Twitter, that was no longer as easy for them to do. All of this culminated in several corruption scandals at once in the mid-2010s, the most emblematic of which was the so-called Lava Jato, or car wash, scandal, which originated in Brazil, but eventually had franchises, if you will, in almost a dozen countries throughout Latin America and the world. That story is complicated. Politicians all over the region went to jail. Business leaders did too. Lula was one of them. That was the case that put him in jail. In intervening years, we’ve discovered that there were abuses and procedural violations, both things on behalf of the prosecutors and the judge involved, who the Brazilian Supreme Court decided, I think in 2021, they ruled—maybe it was earlier than that—that the judge overseeing Lula’s conviction had not been—or, rather, it’s easier to say—had been partial in his rulings. And so that’s left us in a place today where populations are still angry about corruption, as I mentioned, but it is no longer driving conversation in most countries, like it did before. I still believe—and you can probably tell, this is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years and continue to watch. The first question you asked, in some ways, is the most important one. Is corruption getting worse or better? It’s impossible to know for sure. My hypothesis is actually corruption is about the same, and may in fact be getting better, which flies in the face of all of these headlines that we’ve seen. But to me, the operative question over these last ten years or so has been, you know, not why—I’ve heard people say, well, why are these—why are these countries so corrupt? And to me, the real question is, why are we suddenly seeing these cases of corruption? Because I think it speaks to not only the technological changes that I referenced, but also the improvement—(audio break)—these are countries many of which transitioned from dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s and early 1990s. And therefore, it really took a generation for independent prosecutors to show up, to have the training and political support that they needed to go after some very powerful people. So, in sum, I am a believer in the story of rule of law improving in many countries in Latin America. I would recognize, again, that it’s a very complex story, in part because of some of the problems around not just Lava Jato but in other countries, such as Peru and Guatemala. But progress is rarely linear. (Laughs.) And I still think that this is something that is likely to get better with time. CASA: Our next question is a written one from Mary Beth Altier at New York University. She asks: What role do you think misinformation and disinformation play in citizens’ perceptions of the U.S. versus China and Russia in Latin America? What could the U.S. do better from a strategic communications perspective, if anything? And then—I can repeat this other question later, which is kind of a follow up. So you think— WINTER: Yeah, maybe. Well, that first one—that first one is worthy of a book. All of these are—these are great questions. They’re difficult to answer in pithy fashion in three minutes. I am continually impressed by the quality of Russian propaganda in Latin America. Those guys are really good. You look at RT en Español—(changes pronunciation)—RT en Español—it has one of the biggest social media followings of any “media company,” quote/unquote, in the region. Even people who I know are—who I know to not be pro-Russia, let’s put it that way, I see sharing content and videos from RT, which, of course, is just as pure a propaganda arm as you can get of the Russian government. But also, you know, have a whole network of sites that are more subtle and that push very sophisticated and sometimes, you know, not particularly obvious narratives that are designed to undermine the United States or promote the views of China and Russia. I would recognize at the same time that—I referenced this during my introduction remarks, sometimes the United States does not need any help with it comes to undermining its reputation in the region. I mentioned some of the, quote/unquote “own goals” that we’ve seen over the last five to ten, even twenty years, going all the way back to the Iraq War. As far as actively pushing back, all I can say is this: You know, I think that they’re—on the one hand, I think there are concrete steps that are being used. We’re still trying to get our heads around this problem to fight misinformation. But I was just in a different forum this morning where I was asked, what—how can the U.S. help the cause of democracy in Latin America. And my answer to that is that the best thing the United States can do to help democracy in Latin America is to get its own house in order, to move past the polarization, the misinformation, and the scorched earth politics that have put our own democracy at risk over the last several years, and try to, you know, recapture some of the consensus, at least around basic democratic rules of the game and how we hold elections that characterized most of the previous two-hundred-plus years of our history. Because I do think that while—you know, look, I lived ten years in Latin America. I know that people roll their eyes at the notion of the United States as being kind of the shining city on the hill. And I understand why. And that was always true, in part because of the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America often showing, you know, some of our worst behaviors. On the other hand, as a Brazil specialist, I’ve seen how some of the tactics and even some of the same people that were behind our own democratic decay of the last five years, some of those same tactics were repackaged and exported to open arms in Brazil. So I do think that it makes a difference on the ground in places like Brazil, potentially, and other countries as well, when a strong democratic example is being set in the United States. And I think that’s the most powerful thing we can do. Some of the other stuff, like what’s happening on RT and Telesur and some of these other outlets is relatively outside our control. CASA: We have a complementary question from— WINTER: There was a second part of that question. CASA: Oh, no, you did end up answering, I think, what could the U.S. do better from a strategic communications perspective. I think you kind of covered that. We have another question from Gursimran Padda, a student at Stony Brook University, who asks: Does China’s strategy of gaining influence in Latin America differ from its tactics in Africa? And if so, why? WINTER: Gosh, all these great questions. China—I have to start from the beginning. I am not an African specialist. But I can tell you kind of the narrative of what happened in Africa through Latin American eyes, if that makes any sense, because this is a conversation I’ve had a lot over the years. The perception is that China went into some of these countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and engaged in infrastructure projects and other things that had abusive terms. In many cases, China imported its own labor to do some of these projects. They also engaged in some predatory lending practices. And that was all—essentially the takeaway from actions like that in places like Buenos Aires, Bogota, certainly Brasilia, was that the Chinese would not be allowed to come and engage in those same behaviors in Latin America. And I think, in practice, it seems that the Chinese have realized that. There have been examples, such as the construction of a dam in Ecuador, where the terms ended up being perceived as something of a debt trap. But my sense—again, and this is not so much my sense; it’s repeating what I’ve heard in numerous conversations about this subject with leaders across the ideological spectrum and throughout the region—is that they understand the risks involved in working with China, in part because of the experience throughout parts of sub-Saharan Africa. And they’re determined to not let those things happen in their home countries. You know, I know that that’s a view that, in places like where I am today—I’m on in the road in Washington, participated in this other conference this morning. That’s why my Zoom background is not quite as put together as it sometimes is, by the way. I know people roll their eyes at that notion here, and are constantly warning—you know, kind of wagging their finger a little bit at governments throughout South America, and saying that they need to be eyes wide open about the risks of engagement with the Chinese. The problem is that here in the U.S., I think they’re underestimating, in some cases, the sophistication of foreign ministries and trade ministries in places like Peru and Chile when they make those comments. Which is to say, I think that there’s something both visually and in terms of the context a bit paternalistic about it, that everybody picks up on and tends to make people in the region justifiably crazy. (Laughs.) And then, the other part is that the U.S. is not really offering much in the way of alternatives. We’re at a pretty unique moment in the history of the United States right now where we have both parties—the Republican and Democratic Parties—are pretty much closed to the idea of new free trade deals. That, in my lifetime, has never happened before. I mentioned the fact that Trump dropped out of TPP. Well, Joe Biden has not picked that back up. I think there are domestic political reasons that explain that, but what it means in practice for our relationships with governments in Latin America is that Washington doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. Because, unlike the Chinese, we can’t just order our companies to go invest someplace. That’s not how our economy works. It is very much how the Chinese economy works, where they can decide to make these decisions. They are not necessarily for a short-term economic payoff, but for medium-term reasons, or even decisions that have very little to do with dollars and cents or ROI, return on investment, and everything to do with geopolitics. So wanting to have beachheads in terms of, say, ports in places like El Salvador. So, you know, again, without that—without trade and without that ability to kind of dictate investment, there’s not a lot that’s left in Washington’s toolkit for counteracting this kind of influence. CASA: Our next question comes from Daniel Izquierdo, an undergraduate student at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Daniel. Q: Good afternoon, sir, ma’am. Thank you for taking the time. I just had a quick question on the increasing tensions between China and the U.S., and how that will kind of develop itself in Latin and South America. So given the strategic interests of Latin and South America, and the persistent political unrest, along with increasing tensions between China and the U.S., what do you believe the likelihood to be of proxy conflicts or foreign meddling, similar to what occurred during the Cold War, occurring in the region? And if not, how do you foresee the U.S. and China competing for influence in the region? WINTER: So another very good question. Thank you for that. Look, I think some of this ground we’ve covered already, but I would say that, you know, you’re the first to mention—I had not previously mentioned this idea of a new cold war. And this—you know, this is another reason why so many countries across the ideological spectrum are opting for this policy of nonalignment. Essentially because they believe that the first Cold War went badly, very badly, for Latin America. It resulted in all kinds of traumas, from the wars in Central America during the 1980s to U.S. support for coups in places like Chile, to, you know, Cuban meddling in places like Bolivia and elsewhere around the region during those years, which led to the rise of guerrilla movements like the FARC, that ended up killing very high numbers of people. And so essentially, you know, not to be glib about it, but the reaction that today’s generation has is: We want no part of this. Because it didn’t go well for us the first time. I think there are obvious differences between a conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union back in the 1950s and 1960s, and this strategic competition between Washington and Beijing, that thankfully has not quite reached those heights, at least not yet, here in the twenty-first century. But I have to tell you, and again this is based on conversations I’m having all the time, the fear is real. The perception is that the world may be headed back to that kind of conflict, being driven not only by what’s happening in the Ukraine but the increasing speculation of potential war over Taiwan. So this, again, as far as—as far as how it could play out in practice, I think it’s still early. I think it remains to be seen. Right now there is—you know, there are clear cases where I think the Chinese are, as I alluded to in my previous answer, making investments not for economic reasons but for strategic ones, with a long-term horizon I mind. Things like the, quote/unquote, “space base” that they’ve established in Argentina, which really is deserving of the full air quotes when we say the phrase “space base.” I think everyone senses that—you know, that that conflict—or, that competition, if you will, is likely to define the next twenty to thirty years. And I think there’s a determination in most countries, it makes a lot of sense to me personally, that they don’t want their countries used again as a chessboard amid that larger conflict. CASA: Our next question comes from Damien Odunze. He’s assistant professor at Delta State University who writes: Ideas in the long run change the world. Do you think a closer educational collaboration between U.S. universities and those in Latin and South America could help shape and strengthen liberal democratic values in those countries? WINTER: What an interesting question. Look, let me talk first about kind of the—that equation today. There’s already quite a lot of connectivity, especially at the—at, you know, not a word I love to use, but at the elite level, the elites in government and business and U.S. education systems. Which is an unnecessarily wordy way of saying that a large percentage of people in South America come from the elite classes and get educated at universities and sometimes even at high schools in the United States. That is one reason why, again, many of these governments are likely to at least forge a middle path between China and the United States, rather than going full-fledged in the direction of China. I think there’s a cultural affinity, family ties, cultural ties, educational ties, and other things that are probably kind of the strongest connection that the U.S. has with a lot of these countries right now. As to whether a strengthening of those educational ties would improve dedication and the strength of democracy, whew. It could, but I watched with dismay as poll after poll suggests that younger generations, not just in the United States but across the Western world, are less committed in theory to both democracy and democratic institutions than their predecessors. And so I wonder just—I don’t have an answer to this—but I wonder if even, quote/unquote, “even” within the United States, if we’re properly instilling an appreciation for democracy in today’s generations, which then raises the question of whether we’d be able to do so amongst the youth of other countries as well. I’m not sure. I think this is another area where, you know, in the U.S. we have some work to do at home before we start thinking about what’s possible in other countries. CASA: Our next question comes from Mary Meyer McAleese, who is a professor of political science at Eckerd College in Florida. Mary. Q: Yes. Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity. I have, well, two questions. I hope they’re quick. The first one is, what do you think the effect will be on Latin America or South America with regard to the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank? I read that a lot of Latin American businesses have had investments in that bank, so I wonder if you could say a bit more about the banking situation and the longer-term effects there. And also, gender violence, of course, is a horrible problem all around the world, but especially in Latin and South America. What do you think the United States and the Americas Society could do to support groups in the region that are fighting against gender violence? Thank you. WINTER: Well, thank you for both questions. Both very good questions. There’s been a lot of talk about SVB and possible effects in Latin America. What I’ve heard from people who are far more knowledgeable about the financial—excuse me—the financial system than I am, is that as long as it does not spread and become a more systemic risk, it should not pose much of an issue for Latin America. In part because—and this is another area where just like—where we were talking about the courts having, I think, been engaged in a thirty-year long process of improvement—I think the same can be said of banking and financial systems around most of Latin America. My first job was covering the financial crisis that Argentina went through back in 2001 and 2002. Which, for the uninitiated, that saw five presidents in two weeks, a freeze of bank deposits, and a 70 percent devaluation of the currency. It was quite a traumatic thing to be a part of. And during those years, we saw similar—well, not quite as bad—but at least thematically similar crises in Brazil, Colombia, and elsewhere, following other crises in the 1990s. Which is all to say, Latin America has been curiously quiet this time around in terms of financial contagion. The economies aren’t doing well, for the most part, but at least we’re not talking about a financial meltdown. And that is because of lessons learned. These are banking systems that now have stricter capital requirements than they did in the past. And the macroeconomic fundamentals, generally speaking, are better than they were twenty years ago. Argentina, of course, is kind of in trouble again with an inflation rate that just passed 100 percent. And that’s terrible. But again, the depth—(laughs)—everything’s relative. And the depth of just financial devastation is, thankfully, nothing compared to what it was when I was there twenty-plus years ago. So, you know, we’ll see. If the bank run spreads and we start seeing other banks come in trouble here in the U.S., then my sense is that, with the whole Credit Suisse thing, and we’re not out of the woods yet. But if it stays more or less contained, then the consensus, at least so far, is that Latin America should be fine. Your question about femicide is an excellent one. It has driven the political discussion in Brazil in recent years. It’s something that President Lula has spoken movingly about. It has also been, on the other end in Mexico, the feminist movement that has had femicides as one of the main areas of concern, has been one of the most effective opposition groups to President López Obrador, who has often been, sadly in my view, dismissive of the seriousness of that problem. As far as what the United States can do to help, or even what my own organization can do, I think that in a lot of cases these are—you know, like a lot of problems—there are things that the international community can do to help. And certainly, I see things from a journalist’s perspective, even though I’m more analyst than journalist these days. I think that shining light on these problems, using vehicles like—platforms like Americas Quarterly, which is the small publication about Latin American politics that I run, that’s, you know, my own insufficient contribution to looking at his problem. But it’s certainly one—I mean, we look at the numbers in places like Brazil. I don’t have those numbers on my fingertips, but it is just an incredibly serious problem, and one that deserves more attention. CASA: Thank you, Brian. We have so many other questions. I’m really sorry, though, we have to cut off now. We’re at the hour. But this has been a very interesting discussion. And you’ve covered an enormous amount of ground. Thank you to all of you participating for your great questions. I hope you will follow Brian on Twitter at @BrazilBrian. The next Academic Webinar will take place on Wednesday, March 29, at 1:00 Eastern Time. Renee Hobbs, professor of communication studies at the University of Rhode Island, will lead a conversation on media literacy and propaganda. In the meantime, I encourage you to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Follow at @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you, again, for joining us today, and we look forward to you tuning in again for our webinar on March 29. Bye. WINTER: Bye. Thank you. (END)
  • United States

    Dr. Haass, author of the New York Times best seller The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, discusses how to reenvision citizenship if American democracy is to thrive or even survive. His guide is particularly relevant for college students who are learning how to navigate and participate fully in life on campus and in civic society. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to today’s Educators Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have CFR President Richard Haass with us to discuss the themes in his new book, The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens. Dr. Haass needs no introduction, but of course I will say a few words. He is in his twentieth year as president of CFR. He has served as special assistant and senior Middle East advisor to President George H.W. Bush, served in the U.S. State Department as a director of policy planning under Secretary of State Colin Powell, and held various positions in the Defense and State Departments during the Carter and Reagan administrations. He is the author or editor of fourteen books on U.S. foreign policy, one book on management and, of course, this one on American democracy. So, Richard, thank you very much for being with us today to discuss this book. I thought we could begin with you giving us an overview of your book, why you wrote it and, more specifically, why the focus on obligations rather than on rights. HAASS: Well, thank you, Irina. Thank you all for giving us some of your time. So really two separate questions—why the book and why the focus on obligations. Why the book is, look, I’m a foreign policy guy, for better and for worse. But increasingly, when I thought about all the challenges this country faced in the world, they all presume that we would have a functioning democracy that others in the world might want to emulate, others in the world would feel comfortable depending on, relying on. Our foes in the world might be deterred by. That we would generate the resources we needed and the political unity we needed to act in the world. Increasingly all that came under—has come under question. So I don’t see how you can talk about American national security and just talk about the sort of stuff that the Pentagon or State Department do, but increasingly our ability to have a working democracy, to have a society that has the bandwidth and the unity to carry out our foreign policy. That’s in question. And that’s one of the lessons of the last few years. We assume these things are just fine at our peril. So, you know, that’s what led me to write this book. And I actually have come to see the state of American democracy as, in many ways, the biggest threat to our national security. More than China, or Russia, or climate change, or anything else, because this is the foundation of our ability to contend with all these external threats. Moving to the question of “why obligations,” look, no one should get me wrong here. Rights are central to this American experiment, as I expect all of you know. You know, the Bill of Rights was politically essential in order to get several states that were holding out to ratify the new Constitution. A lot of people understood that the Articles of Confederation were woefully inadequate, but it was something very different to say they were prepared to sign on for a much stronger federal government and a much stronger executive. And the condition that several states set then was, hey, we need this Bill of Rights which protects states and individuals from the reach of the federal government. Over the last nearly two and a half centuries, we’ve lived with the reality that there’s often a gap between our political realities and the Bill of Rights, you know, what Lincoln called the “unfinished work” of this country remains unfinished. I fully appreciate that. But just try a thought experiment: Just imagine that somehow we managed to close the gap between our reality and the Declaration of Independence, and suddenly rights were 100 percent what they ought to be. Then the question you have to ask yourself, if we were to reach that point, would American foreign policy be on safe, firm ground? And the answer is no. Because what would happen is someone would say, hey, the mother has an absolute right to choose. And someone else would say, no, the unborn, they have absolute rights. Or someone would say, I have all sorts of rights under the Second Amendment to bear arms and someone else would say, oh, hold on a minute, I’ve got rights to public safety, to physical safety, and so on and so forth. You know, it wasn’t by accident that Justice Steve Breyer said that the toughest cases before the court are right versus wrong, but rights versus rights. So what do we do? How do we avoid the clash of rights which, at a minimum, would mean gridlock, and worse yet, in all sorts of situations, one could imagine things descending into violence. If people felt that adamantly about their rights, and if their rights were not adequately recognized, from their point of view, what’s holding them back from political violence? And that’s what led me to this book. And that’s what led me to obligations. Obligation is the other side of the citizenship coin. Rights are essential. To use the political science idea, they are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. We need obligations. We need to complement rights, supplement rights with—we need obligations to one another—you to me, me to you, Irina, me to everybody on this Zoom—and vice versa. And then, second of all, we all need to think about our obligations to the country. What do we—in the spirit of John F. Kennedy—what do we owe this country? Only if we balance or complement rights with obligations do I think this experiment of American democracy has a good chance of surviving another two and a half centuries. FASKIANOS: So when you were writing this book, Richard—clearly we all need to read it—but what was your target audience? HAASS: It’s a good question. Let me give you a couple of answers. One is, and it’s something you and I know from our work here, I’m always interested in finding multipliers in American society. So in this case, it’s a lot of the kinds of people on this call, educators, because they all have students. So whether they’re administrators, classroom teachers, you know, university, four-year schools, two-year schools, colleges, at the high school level, what have you. So educators are my principal—if not THE principal audience, as the principal multiplier. Obviously, students as well because, you know, particularly if you think about it, college students by—well, we can talk about this more—but they’re a perfect audience for this. I’m also, though, interested in other multipliers in this society. One is journalists. They have tremendous reach. They have obligations. Religious authorities, the people who give the sermons. You know, tens if not even more than a hundred million Americans hear sermons every week. Well, why can’t religious authorities do things like discourage political violence, say nothing justifies violence, or civility is always called for, or compromise ought to always be considered. Or, how about this, you are your brother’s and sister’s keeper. You have an obligation to look out for the common good. Who better than a religious authority to do that? I think parents have certain special opportunities, if you will, to carry out these obligations, to model certain behavior. So I’m interested in all of them. And what I found is a lot of—you know, and the good news is I think it’s resonating. Particularly a lot of older people know there’s something amiss in this country. And what they want to make sure is that younger people get a chance to take this in. FASKIANOS: Right. So in your book, you have laid out ten principles. And under the ten principles— HAASS: We call them obligations, Irina. FASKIANOS: Ten obligations, yes. So what are the key insights that you would want, or the obligations that you would want educators and students to take away from reading this book, and that you would want educators to promote or to share with their students? HAASS: Well, first of all, all ten I think are valuable. You know, if we were in a religious context and you say which of the commandments would you jettison, you know, we all might have our favorite for jettisoning, but—Mel Brooks had his ideas in one of his movies. But I think all ten are necessary, in this case. I’d begin with being informed, which I think is particularly relevant to this kind of a group. You know, Jefferson’s notion of the informed citizen is basic to a democracy. And then I think it immediately then calls for a conversation on exactly what is it we mean by being informed in terms of the basics. What do we mean in terms of current issues that come and go? How then do you get informed? How do you avoid being misinformed? I think it’s a really rich conversation. Again, with students, we want to urge them, once they are informed, to get involved. To use an old quote of Ronald Reagan’s, we don’t just want patriotism we want informed patriotism. So we want people to be involved, but we want them to be involved once they are informed. You know, we can go through all of them, just things like behaviors, civility, compromise, observation of norms. Those are all important. Just kind of attitudes and behaviors become important. Then there’s more specific things. I’d love for younger people to get involved in public service. Several states have instituted, like California, a large public service program. I think it’s great. I think too many of us in this country are now leading very separate lives defined by geography, educational attainment, wealth, race, religion, gender, what have you. I love things that produce a bit of common experience, I think would be good. I’m obviously big, and we’ll probably get to this, about teaching civics. I think it’s simply wrong that anybody should leave a campus without having been exposed to civics. We wouldn’t let them leave the campus if they couldn’t read or write. Why would we want them to leave a campus if they didn’t have—if they weren’t, essentially, literate about citizenship, given how important that is. So, you know, I thought hard about the obligations. And I just think that this is what is required if American democracy is going to prosper. FASKIANOS: We’ve talked a lot about how this book is a perfect fit for the first-year experience and for incoming students to college campuses. And I thought you could talk a little bit about the connection of this book, and why it would be such a perfect fit. HAASS: Couple of things. One is, the average freshman is pretty close to eighteen. So what a perfect time to be doing this, because they’re going to have the right to vote. And we want them to vote. And we want them to be informed voters. So that’s one thing. But this is—the timing is perfect for people stepping onto campus. Second of all, in addition to voting, campuses, like any other, if you will, environment are political environments. And so over the course of their two, three, four, however many years on campus, students are going to be in all sorts of formal and informal, structured and unstructured, settings in which politics are going to come up. So I believe they need some help in navigating what they’re going to experience on a—in classrooms, over drinks, over coffee, study groups, what have you. I think it’s really essential there. I also like the idea of first-year experiences—and first principles—I love the idea that people read something and have it in common and they can talk about it. So whether you’re a flute major, or a physics major, or a computer sciences major, I love the fact that everybody’s reading something. And this is something with real, I think, practical payoffs, again, for the years on campus, and for life afterwards. So I actually think it’s a good thing. And, just to be clear, the book doesn’t tell them about what’s the, quote/unquote, “right” or “wrong” policy on any issue. It’s simply about how one approaches political life, whether it’s on campus or beyond. And I just think it’s—for eighteen-year-olds about to embark on a college experience and on a life experience, I think the timing’s pretty good. FASKIANOS: So we have a written question from Jim Zaffiro, who is a professor of political science at Central College. And he asks along the same lines— HAASS: Central College in Iowa? FASKIANOS: Yes. HAASS: I got a—I was lucky enough to get an honorary degree from Central College in Iowa. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place. FASKIANOS: So he would like to know, how would you present the nature and significance of this as a common reading for eighteen-year-olds? Like, how would pitch it to an incoming freshman about why they should read it? So from the student’s perspective? HAASS: It’s a good question. Like it or not, government is essential to our lives. And indeed, both whether you like it or not, that makes the case for learning about it. It’s going to affect you. But, more important, government is not some impersonal force. Government is affected by citizens. So I want students to understand that government is what we make of it. And it’s who we vote for. It’s who we reward or penalize politically. It’s who they work for. I’d love them to get involved themselves. Not just in campaigns, one day some of them may choose that as a career—I did for a long time—in public service. And it could be—in my case it was working on the policy side. It could be the military. It could be intelligence. I’ve got a daughter who works for the Department of Sanitation here in the City of New York. There’s all sorts of ways to have a public service kind of career. But even if you don’t, we still, as citizens, have the right—and I would say, the obligation—to vote. And if they don’t, well, that’s just another way of saying you’re going to let this other person decide what your future is. Why would anybody want to abdicate the chance to influence their own future and lets the person sitting in the seat next to them make choices that would affect them? So I would want students—I would want to remind them that government is responsive. That we’ve made enormous changes. I think a lot of young people have a really negative view of government. They see what’s happened in recent years—whether it’s the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or economic crises, or pandemics, or climate. And a lot of them are very down on government. And I get it. I get it. But government also, over the decades, has delivered in important ways. And even when it’s failed, the failure wasn’t inevitable. So I want to give students a sense of possibility. And that government is really important. And the good news, in a non-authoritarian, democratic system, is governments are potentially responsive, and that there are real opportunities to make an impact that will affect their future and the futures of others they care about. And, you know, as I’ve learned in life, for better and for worse, not acting—you know, if you will, omissions—are just as important as acting in commission. And so I want students to understand that it’s consequential not to get involved. And it’s probably consequential and bad in ways that are most – more likely than not, not to be good for them. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. So I’m just going to—people are already writing questions in the Q&A box. Love to see that. So if you do that, please also include your affiliation or I will try to pull out your affiliation. You can always also raise your hand on the screen to ask a question. And on an iPad and tablet, you can click the “more” button. For those of you who have written your question, if you want to ask it yourself please do raise your hand because we love to hear your voices. The first person, Miriam Kerzner, wants to know what you mean by “civics.” And I think that’s a good jumping off point for you to talk about civics and why it needs to be—how you think about it. HAASS: No, it’s a great—yeah, in a funny sort of way, everyone—well, not everyone—but almost everyone is in favor of civics until you drill down a little bit. (Laughs.) And then they go, oh, I didn’t mean that. So it’s not enough to be in favor of it in principle, but you’ve also got to be in favor of it in practice. So it seems to me, and it’s complicated, I get it. It ain’t going to be easy. I get it. But I think there’s certain things about our history, about certain documents people should be exposed to, certain, you know, dates and events that people should be exposed to, certain understandings about how government works at the national, the state, and then the local level people should be exposed to. Certain behaviors and attitudes that are consistent with a democracy that people should be exposed to. I think civics has got to do all of that. And I also think modern civics has to also take into account or include what is increasingly known as information literacy, to teach students to be critical consumers of this flood of information that’s coming at them. And it’s ironic. It’s almost strange that in an age in which we’re deluged with information, it’s also harder than ever to be informed. But there you have it. So I think modern civics has to teach elements of history, teach some of the elements or basics of the American political system. Probably teach some basic elements of American society, the economy, and so forth, foreign policy. Talk about attitudes, behaviors, almost the culture of democracy, get into things about rights and obligations, talk about information literacy. And it’s demanding. It’s going to be very hard to—it’s going to be impossible to satisfy not just everybody, probably anybody. This has now become a politicized terrain, probably a minefield’s a better metaphor. Again, I’m not naïve about that. But I don’t think we can throw up our hands and say it’s too hard. It’s probably impossible to get anything done at the national level just now, but not at the state level. I’ve already talked to several governors who are willing to take a try. I see certain schools are willing to take a try. I mean, Stanford’s going to introduce a civics module for all of its freshmen starting next winter term. Other schools have some things like it. The service academies have been doing work in this area for quite a while. I don’t mean to leave anybody out, but I know that schools like Purdue and Virginia, some others, have elements of this. Johns Hopkins is debating it. And so I just think it’s also that universities have far more flexibility because, you know, I think it’s tougher for public high schools, given the roles of state legislatures and politics. It’s probably somewhat tough also, obviously, for public universities, given the way they’re funded and the oversight. I think private colleges and universities have enormous discretion. There’s nothing stopping them. They could do it tomorrow. There are resource issues. I get it. And not everybody has the, shall we say, resource advantages of a Stanford. So I think, you know, for a lot of schools, they’re going to have to look at what’s not just desirable, but you’ve always got to ask what’s doable, what’s feasible. I get it. But I think every—I think this is a conversation faculties, administrators, boards, students, and others need to have. Which is, one, whether civics? I would say the answer to that is yes. And then, OK, then let’s have a follow-on conversation. What should go into it? And we can talk more about it, but I think particularly when it comes to history, which is probably the most controversial area, my own advice is to simply say there’s got to be certain things about history which are not terribly controversial. There are certain documents that are essential, certain Supreme Court decisions, certain speeches, certain commentaries. Certain things happen. There’s the factual spine of American history. Then there’s interpretations of what caused certain things, what are the consequences of certain things. OK. Well, there, I think the lesson is not to teach a single history, not to impose a vision of history, but to expose students to a range of responsible historical analyses and interpretations. And then maybe in the classroom provide mechanisms for debating them in a civics course. And, indeed, I could imagine lots of other ideas—and there’s teaching notes we just produced. One could imagine all sorts of model or mock legislatures where people—students would introduce certain legislation. One of the ideas I proposed was a model constitutional convention, and students would have a chance to propose amendments to the current Constitution and debate it out. So I think things like that. I think there’s all sorts of participatory things that one could introduce or incorporate into a civics curriculum without imposing a single vision or interpretation of history, which would obviously be unacceptable to, you know, significant constituencies. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. And Miriam’s at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington. So I’m going to go next to Larry Mead, who has raised his hand. And if you could identify yourself and accept the unmute prompt, that would be fantastic. HAASS: Or not. FASKIANOS: Larry, you still need to unmute, or not. All right, I will go next to Laura Tedesco, and we’ll come back to Larry. Or, we’ll try. Laura. There you go, Laura first, OK. Laura, you just muted yourself again. Q: OK, now? FASKIANOS: You’ve got it. Q: OK. Thank you very much. My name is Laura Tedesco. I’m working from Madrid, Spain, working at St. Louis University, in the campus that they have here in Madrid. And my question is basically how we are going to—I agree with you about, you know, the education of citizenship here. But how are we going to really make people understand—not only students in universities, but everybody else, you know—about the right and the need to act as citizens? For instance, in a country like the United States, where your vote is not obligatory, yeah? You know, how can we make people understand that, you know, democracy should not be taken for granted, and we should all work to improve democracy from the different positions we are? Thank you. HAASS: No, it’s a great question. How do we incentivize people not to take democracy for granted? One is to teach them in a civics curriculum a little bit about what are the structural strengths and advantages for democracy in terms of everything from the freedoms and rights they tend to provide and protect, to democracy’s ability to adapt and innovate. We also got a pretty good historical record. I mean, yes, this democracy and other democracies have made serious mistakes, and they’re imperfect to say the least, but there’s a lot that they have accomplished and a lot that they have provided and delivered. So I think we need to remind people about the record of democracies to—and to also—I’d be more than comfortable pointing out some of the shortcomings of the alternatives, because obviously the alternatives do have, shall we say, more than their share of flaws. And I—again, to encourage, you know, informed participation—I think you have to make the case that democracies are responsive, that individuals and groups can make a difference. There’s almost nothing that’s inevitable. And history is, in many ways, what we make it. And that’s what I want students to come away with, the sense of possibility and empowerment. I mean, what I came to conclude in writing this is if we wait for democracies to be delivered, if you will, or saved by someone at the top, it’s going to be a long wait. And what we really need to think about is empowerment, whether it’s young people or, again, these critical constituencies in American society from business to religious leaders, to teachers, to journalists, officials, and so forth. You know, we all have a chance to make a difference. And I want students to get excited about both why democracies are worth saving and the difference that individuals can make. And I think if we do that, we can generate some greater political involvement. And what the last two elections show is even minute amounts—you know, 1 percent here or there—of greater political involvement can have enormous impact. And that’s what I want, again, students to come away with. The, yeah, well my vote won’t matter. Well, probably not, if you’re talking about one vote. But it doesn’t take a whole lot of people getting involved in order to tip the scales. And so I want students to get a sense of empowerment. FASKIANOS: So you can build on—that starts to answer Robert McCoy’s question, who is at the University of Montana, in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center in Missoula, Montana. He says: Read the book. Think it ought to be mandatory reading for all, not just students. However, your opening chapters paint such a dire picture that I fail to see how today’s issues can be rectified. Can you speak to that? HAASS: Hmm. I’ll have to go back and reread the opening chapters. I thought the first chapter was kind of about the— is really neutral. It’s kind of the march of American history—American political history. It’s kind of how we got to where we are. You know, the second chapter is on backsliding. And the reason it’s that way is if things weren’t in a bad way, I wouldn’t have needed to write the book and I could have focused on my golf game and lowering my handicap. But because democratic backsliding in this country—and, by the way, in others—is a reality, I felt compelled to write this book. So I didn’t have confidence that it would just sort itself out by itself. I actually think very few things just sort themselves out by themselves, whether we’re talking about domestic political systems or international systems. I think it takes agency. And but again, small numbers could have really large impact. I mean, we just had a midterm here where roughly, I don’t know, 45 percent of the eligible voters voted. And which was, you know, slightly higher than traditional midterms. Still disappointing. But some of the outcomes were pretty impressive. And in terms of stabilizing American democracy. Very easily, though, there could have been other outcomes. And think of the consequences there. So the whole argument for making—you know, for obligations is that nothing’s baked into the cake, for better and for worse. So we shouldn’t assume that everything’s just going to turn out just fine. And we shouldn’t assume that it won’t. And I think, again, small numbers could have real impact. And, again, it’s an empowerment argument. And I think there’s a lot—there’s a lot of distributed authority—obligation, or authority, or potential for various groups within the society, various constituencies, as well as with individuals writ large. And I think possibly reminding people about how government over the years has adapted, I think people need to, in some ways, rediscover a bit of respect and admiration for government. And I look at some of the changes we’ve had over the course of, say, the last—take my last seventy-five years, or even, you know, from on domestic things. Civil rights, you know, extension of the vote to eighteen-year-olds, what we’ve recently done on gay marriage, and so forth. The degree of adaptability and change, government turns out to be quite flexible in this society. So I want students to get jazzed about the potential here, about the possibility, but to remind them it just doesn’t happen by itself. And people have to get involved. And politics is not dirty. It’s a calling. And so I want the best and brightest to do this. You know, I’ve had a career that’s been in and out of government, and I wouldn’t trade it for just about anything. And it’s really satisfying. I talk to them about careers and other things also. So I mean, not just people that are going to become doctors, and lawyers, and plumbers, and electricians, and whatever. And I want them to be involved, informed citizens. But I would love a chunk of the best and brightest to go into government and choose that as a calling. So again, one of the reasons I love the idea of a public service experience, say, for a year or two years after high school, before college, or during college, or after college, not only do would I think a lot of people come into contact with one another who ordinarily wouldn’t meet where people grow up, but I think they would see what government could do. They would see that public service can actually accomplish some things that are good for the public. So I think students need to realize that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next back to Larry Mead. And let’s see if we can get your technology—there we go. Q: Can you hear me now? OK. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Yes, we can. And identify yourself, please. Q: What I wrote was, I thought I was the only political scientist to write about obligation. I wrote a book about that back in the 1960s. It was about domestic policy, mainly. I think your book is—I think the second book to really focus on obligation. And my question is this: In fact, our system presumes a very high level of civic obligation. We are, in fact, one of the most civic countries in the world, one of the best governed in the world. And that all depends on that civic culture. So why then do we talk only about rights? HAASS: Great question. First of all, what’s your book? My research was inadequate. Tell me about your book. Q: (Laughs.) OK. It was called Beyond Entitlement: The Social Obligations of Citizenship. It’s about welfare, poverty, and reform of welfare. It makes a case for work requirements. And later on, I became the theorist of welfare reform. But the general argument is that freedom depends on obligation. And actually, freedom is a form of obligation. But people aren’t thoughtful about that. They somehow think that freedom is simply liberation from all sets of outside expectations. No. Our heaviest obligations are the obligations we set for ourselves in our own lives. We work very hard to achieve those things. So freedom isn’t free, and yet we don’t talk about it. HAASS: I agree. And good for you. Thank you. I will now make up for my impoverished scholarship and researching skills. Q: Well, I’m going to read your book, and I will write you a reaction, I promise you. HAASS: Thank you. Be kind. Look, there’s a lot of—in the course of writing this, I read some religious and political philosophers. And that was their argument, that freedom without obligation is dangerous. It actually leads you to anarchy. And but obligation and the rest without freedom denies you basic rights. And you’ve got to—you got to get both. Find it infused in religious and philosophical literature. I found it in some educational literature after World War II. So I’ve asked myself, to your question, how did we kind of lose the balance? Because if you go to early American history, there was such an emphasis on rights, and my hunch is people were much more conscious of rights because the entire context was not reimposing tyranny after getting out from under the yoke of Britain. I also think our culture was different. That a lot of obligations, or the notion of obligations, was assumed. It was implicit. It wasn’t missing. It was there. And when you go back—when I went back and read de Tocqueville, and Bryce, and others, you re-read a lot of this—even the Federalist Papers, they didn’t spend a lot of time hammering away on obligations. I think they saw it all around them. I think what’s happened, and it’s probably beyond my paygrade, or at least beyond my intellectual understanding—because I’m not an anthropologist or a sociologist—was somehow this notion of the balance between rights and obligations in American society, to use a technical phrase, has gotten out of whack. We’ve become much more rights focused, almost rights obsessed. What are we owed? Whether they’re political rights or economic rights. And we’ve lost a sense of what do we owe in turn. And, you know, how that happened is an interesting conversation. And it’s something I’ve been meditating about and thinking about. But however it happened, it happened. And that’s why I think we need something of a corrective. And I’m no longer confident it’ll just happen. The ship won’t right itself. And I think that we have to now be conscious about advocating for obligations, because they have the coin of citizenship has lost its balance there. And it’s gone way too much in one direction. So what I’m trying to do is by talking so much about obligations, decades after you did—is in some ways resurrect the idea and strengthen a recognition that we’ve somewhat lost our way. And, by the way, I think people know that. I got to tell you, I’ve been on the road a lot the last six weeks, talking about this book to all sorts of citizen groups. I did one last night about fifty miles from here. And people know it. I got to tell you, particularly people who are middle-aged and older, they look out their window, they get up and they look out at this society, and they go: This isn’t the American I remember. There is something amiss. There is something wrong. I’m not saying the old America was perfect. It was obviously flawed in some significant ways. But there is something wrong about our culture. I think if de Tocqueville were to come back, he would not be happy, in some ways. He would see things that were missing a little bit from the relationship between individuals and society, and particularly the obligation I have, say, about the common good. I think there’s a degree now of selfishness and individualism. And I think it’s gotten out of hand in American society. We saw a lot of that during the pandemic. And that, to me, was yet another message that we’ve got some work here to do. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Louis Caldera, who is a professor of law at American University. Can you talk about our democracy as an example to the world that is foundational to achieving our foreign policy and national security goals? Do you agree? Do we undermine our leadership in the world if our own democracy is undermined by things like gerrymandering, vote suppressing laws, unchecked special interest money, and so on? HAASS: In a word, yes, we do. We certainly undermine the appeal of democracy. It’s very hard to talk the talk if you don’t walk the walk. And January 6 was probably the low point. But again, when people look at American democracy or look not just at democracy but American society, I think our ability—and, how do I put this—we’re not quite the shining city on the hill we should be or could be. So, we can have—we can arm every diplomat with talking points about preaching democratic reform, but it’s not going to have any traction if it’s done against the backdrop of what we now have in this country. So I think that’s just a fact of life. So you’re spot on. And I also think the divisions in our society and the lurches, increasingly, in our politics have made us much less influential in the world, because we’re no longer seen as predictable or reliable. And allies, by definition, what have they done? They have essentially made a security choice to put a big chunk of their security in our hands. If our hands are no longer seen as reliable, predictable, or safe, they’re either going to put security in their own hands—and that’s a world of much more proliferation or something like that—or they’re going to defer to some powerful neighbors. That is not a pretty world. I also worry that our—my own guess, I can’t prove it—but Vladimir Putin was somewhat encouraged to do what did in Ukraine because he didn’t think the United States had the will to come together to resist. And so I take these things seriously. So, yeah. So I think, again, this is directly—what’s going on here, you know, to use the old line about Las Vegas, it doesn’t stay here. This isn’t Las Vegas. And it’s—if anybody’s on this from Nevada, I apologize. But it does have real foreign policy consequences. So I think you’re spot on. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Collette Mazzucelli, who has raised her hand. Q: Hello. Good afternoon, Dr. Haass. And I just wanted to ask you if you think that there’s a need for a new model of citizenship because of the evolution of the internet, the next phase that’s coming, the prevalence and, you know, omnipresent nature of misinformation, disinformation in our society, and also across the world. Thank you. HAASS: It’s a really thoughtful question. It was about, what, two weeks ago the Supreme Court had two days of oral hearings—or arguments on Section 230 of the 1996 law, the Communications Decency Act. I think we’re struggling with the internet, because these companies, or the pipes that they operate, are carrying millions and millions of messages from millions and millions of people. So the question is, can we—and if so, how, and the rest—can we in any way regulate the content? So I think there’s real issues. And social media is, in many cases, inflaming divisions within a society. It is encouraging some bad behaviors in many cases. But it’s not quite clear to me what the remedies are, what’s practical, and what’s desirable. Some things are simply impractical given the number of users, the volume of messaging. And some things may not be desirable because where do you draw the line on First Amendment rights, free speech, and so forth. And who does the drawing? Who’s in charge of line drawing? And do we want to necessarily delegate the ability to draw certain lines to some individuals who may be working for Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or what have you? So I think these are really tough issues. My guess is the Supreme Court will probably punt to Congress. Congress will not pick up the ball, would be my guess. There might be some movement. If you look at one of the cases heard before the court now, I think they’ll issue their decision in, say, June or so. Where it’s one thing for the companies to say they’re neutral, they can’t be expected to regulate content. OK. I think it’s different, though, when they highlight, or accelerate, or intensify certain content through algorithms or what have you. So I think there might be some pushback there, that they can’t necessarily police or regulate all the content. But they can be held accountable for not—or, regulator-required, not to highlight certain content. I think it might get at their business model, but I can live with that, to say the least. And then the other half of the coin is how do we make ourselves more critical consumers? And that gets at the whole information literacy movement that we’re seeing in New Jersey at the high school level, and other places. But I would think, again, on university campuses, the idea—if I had my way, there would be a mandatory civics course. And, again, one dimension of it would be information literacy. So even if we’ll never succeed in totally regulating what goes on social media, in whatever form. But I do think we can improve our ability to be critical consumers of it. And I think that is out there. But, look, when I look at democratic backsliding around the world, not just in the United States. We’re seeing it in Mexico, we’re seeing it in India, we’re seeing it in Israel. We’re seeing it in lots of places. The proliferation of media, social media, you know, my word for it is narrowcasting. We now live in an era of narrowcasting. And people are no longer exposed to common things, and they increasingly go into various social and regular media outlets, which tend to either confirm certain views or prejudices, what have you. I think it’s a real challenge for democracy. FASKIANOS: So we have a written question from Victoria Powers, who’s at Capital University in Ohio. I agree with you that teaching civics is critical, and I understand that it’s complex in the current environment for some high schools to teach civics. Although I hate to give up requiring civics in K-12 schools. Do you have ideas about what we could do to help provide an education in civics for all those young people who will not be headed to two- or four-year college or universities or community colleges, obviously. And, sorry, she is an adjunct at the Capital University Law School in Ohio. HAASS: Well, I think the takeaway I take from that question, and it’s a good one, is what we do on two- and four-year college and university campuses is part of the answer, it’s not the totality of it. And we’ve got to get to citizens younger. So that gets at what you do at high school, junior high school, even middle school. I mean, iCivics has been active in middle schools for a long time. And it also raises questions of what we do away from school. And that’s where, again, I think that those who give the sermons have a certain responsibility, media has a larger responsibility than it is often willing to carry out. Businesses, corporations have a responsibility. I think there’s got to be distributed obligations here. And I believe each one of these segments of society has obligations and should be pressured by citizens to carry it out. But I do think, yes, we ought to be pushing civics down younger, but we also—we need—as important as classrooms are, we’ve also got to do things beyond—outside the classroom. But the basic point is right, particularly since the only thing most Americans have to do is attend school through the age of sixteen. So we can’t afford to miss that opportunity. Irina, you’re on mute. FASKIANOS: Right. How long have I been doing this? OK. (Laughs.) HAASS: For about half an hour, but we’ve been waiting for you. (Laughter.) FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Jody McBrien, who is a professor of social sciences at the University of South Florida. I understand why young people feel powerless, especially when you consider gerrymandering voting and using misinformation. You mentioned state level, she lives in Florida, enough said. How do you suggest getting students engaged in spite of these issues that understandably cause a feeling of helplessness. HAASS: Well, again, you know, the people who are in power passing certain laws now, or redrawing lines, they weren’t always in those positions. They got there. So my view is if one disagrees with them, then one has to get them out of there and put other people in there. And that’s what political involvement is all about. There’s nothing inevitable. There’s nothing permanent. These things go in cycles and so forth. So I would tell students, yeah, channel your frustration. Channel your anger. But channel it in ways that will change the political realities. Don’t just protest. Don’t just get—certainly don’t give up. I mean, I think the worst thing is to walk away from it and saying it’s hopeless. That becomes self-fulfilling, because then, again, you leave your political future in the hands of others who are unlikely to have your best interests at heart. So I think the best thing is to sit down with students and talk about how politics have changed American time, and time, and time again. And they ought to essentially think about collective action. And that’s the history of American political life. FASKIANOS: I will take the next written question from Ali Abootalebi, who is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Would you comment on implications of your civic education argument for U.S. foreign policy? The American public is fundamentally divorced from U.S. foreign relations, leaving the foreign policy establishment free from certain obligations and in pursuit of narrowed interests. HAASS: Well, the latter we can have a debate about, to what extent does American foreign policy always served American interests. And I would say, at times it has and at times it hasn’t. I’m often a critic of what we do in the name of the national interest, which at times to me seems to be anything but. But that’s almost a case-by-case type thing. But, look, I would say that one part of being an informed citizen is understanding the world and understanding foreign policy. It’s one of the reasons about a decade ago here, at the Council on Foreign Relations, we made it a real priority to promote literacy in matters of the world and matters of foreign policy. And we’ve got an entire curriculum. We’ve got simulation resources. We’ve got resources aimed at younger students. We do now all sorts of public fora on our website, The most trafficked items tend to be the explainers of these complicated issues to give people a basic understanding of these issues. I think it’s part of being an informed citizen. So my own view is we want to have what we call global literacy, in addition to having what I would call civics literacy. I think they are both—since we live in a global world, where everything we do or don’t do affects the world and vice versa, everything that goes on the world affects us, for better and for worse, we want citizens to be aware of that loop, and to think about the consequences of certain policies or actions for that. So I think that as an extension of informed civic involvement. It’s just the content, in some cases, has to involve things international, and not just things domestic. FASKIANOS: All right. I’m going to take the next question from David Cheney. And I’m trying to pull up affiliation. While I am: How can young people stay accurately informed, given their reliance on social media? And how would you have them balance right-wing with left-wing media sources to arrive at a closer approximation of the truth? And he is at NYU. HAASS: I’ve heard of NYU. Look, a couple things. Yeah, I know what is not in my answer. TikTok is not the answer. Let me say that. A couple of things. One is, and in the book I have a whole section on where to go for more. And I also think—you know, because there are certain quality publications. Certain newspapers just tend to be good, or better than others. They’re not perfect, but they’re better. Certain magazines, certain television and radio shows, certain websites. So there are quality places to steer people to. I think as a rule of thumb we ought to encourage multi-sourcing, not to put all your—not to depend on a single source. It’s almost like a journalist. A journalist would never write a story based on a single source. They have to double-source it. And I almost feel as citizens we ought to double-source our information, and not just depend on one. I used to have a rule when I went to the gym in my pre-COVID life, when I went on the elliptical, I would divide my time among Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. And I’ll admit, I did cheat and ESPN would get a chunk of it as well. But the whole idea was the be exposed. It was just—it was interesting just to see the different “realities,” quote/unquote, that were put forward. But I think it’s important to—if you read a national newspaper, then read a local newspaper, maybe. Or if you do something of the left, do something of the right. Or if you read this book, as a professor or teacher, you’d encourage someone to read something else to—so you’re not, again, single sourcing. And I think that’s the—if I had a single rule of thumb, it would probably be that, to protect yourself from the structural biases. Because all authors or publications have a bias either in what they cover or how they cover it. I take that for granted. So the only way—the best way to protect yourself from it is a degree of multiple exposure. FASKIANOS: OK. I think we have time for one more. Dana Radcliffe at Syracuse University. President Obama in his farewell address referred to the citizen as “the most important office in a democracy.” The philosopher Joseph Tussman in 1960 offered an insightful characterization of “the office of the citizen.” Might the suggestion that citizen is a public office help advance the thesis that citizenship entails obligations as well as rights? HAASS: An interesting construct. I like it. It kind of adds a bit of heft, because we tend to sort of just talk about citizenship, almost dismiss it at times. Well, he’s just an ordinary person. But I like the idea of an office, that it’s—that you’re—because that suggests a degree of empowerment and a degree, again, of obligation. So I like the idea. I think it kind of—kind of it gets people to take the potential to make a difference a little bit more seriously. And I really like it. So that’s a useful construct. So thank you for that. FASKIANOS: OK. We have a few more minutes. Richard, is there anything you want to leave the group with that we haven’t covered? HAASS: I know I’m always supposed to say yes at this point, but no. It’s been a really wide-ranging conversation. No, and I think what I’m hoping is that people on a call such as this will think about how to promote—you know, particularly on campuses and schools—the teaching of civics. Both to create a mandate for it, and then we can debate the content. But the idea that—you know, one of the arguments often used that I encounter—I’m not in a position to judge its accuracy—is that too many of the constituencies on campus oppose this, particularly it’s often said to me, you know, faculty, or whatever. And I think the faculty could make an important difference by basically saying: Actually, no. We don’t oppose this. We think this is a swell idea. And we’re prepared to work with administrators, students, and the rest, to make it happen. And I think that would be fantastic. So, again, you’re the multipliers. And I think you’re in a special position to do this. So, again, I think freshman year experience is a good place to get the kids going, the students going with this. But I do think, whether it’s a course or a module at some point, it needs—but we need advocates for it. So I hope some of you on this call will be advocates, because I just think we’re missing not just an opportunity but, if you’ll pardon the expression, we’re missing an obligation to see that—to make sure that our students are prepared to do their bit, to do their share, for upholding democracy in this country. And so I just think universities and colleges have, again, a special opportunity and obligation both. And you’re all so instrumental to do that. So Godspeed in that effort. FASKIANOS: Well, with that, thank you very much, Richard. Thank you for writing, authoring, this book, The Bill of Obligations. Richard has also written teaching notes to go with the book that we will be posting on the website alter this week. If you’re interested in an exam copy, either digital or print, we can—we can honor that request. And if you want to try to make—put his book on the common reading list or incorporate it into your first-year experience, we can also think about having Richard address the incoming class virtually or perhaps in person. We appreciate all that you have done, Richard. He has really transformed CFR into an educational institution. You should check out Model Diplomacy and World 101. You can follow Richard on Twitter at @richardhaass, subscribe to his Substack newsletter which he just launched, called Home and Away, by going to We’ll include those links in our follow-up note with the link to this video and transcript. We will include the teaching notes as well. And I also encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic, visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Again, thank you all for being with us today, for the work that you do on your college campuses. And, Richard Haass, again, thank you for being with us. HAASS: Thank you, Irina. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. (END)
  • Foreign Policy

    Chris Li, director of research of the Asia-Pacific Initiative and fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, leads the conversation on U.S. strategy in East Asia. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to today’s session of the Winter/Spring 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR.  Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.  We’re delighted to have Chris Li with us to discuss U.S. strategy in East Asia. Mr. Li is director of research of the Asia-Pacific Initiative, and a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he focuses on U.S.-China relations, Asia-Pacific security, and technology competition. Previously, he was research assistant to Graham Allison in the Avoiding Great Power War Project, and coordinator of the China Working Group, where he contributed to the China Cyber Policy Initiative and the Technology and Public Purpose Project, led by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.  Chris, thanks very much for being with us today. I thought we could begin with you giving us your insights and analysis of the Biden administration’s foreign policy strategy in East Asia, specifically vis-à-vis China.  LI: Great. Well, first of all, thanks, Irina, for the invitation. I’m really looking forward to the conversation and also to all the questions from members of the audience and, in particular, all the students on this seminar. So I thought I’d start very briefly with just an overview of how the Biden administration’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific has shaped up over the last two years, two and a half years. What are the key pillars? And essentially, now that we’re about halfway through the first term—or, you know, if there is a second term—but President Biden’s first term, where things are going to go moving forward?  So as many you are probably familiar, Secretary of State Tony Blinken laid out essentially the core tenets of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, of which China, of course, is a focal centerpiece. And he did so in his speech last summer at the Asia Society, where he essentially described the relationship between the U.S. and China as competitive where it should be, cooperative where it can be, and adversarial where it must be. So sort of three different pillars: competition, cooperation, a sort of balance between the two. And in terms of the actual tenets of the strategy, the framing was three pillars—invest, align, and complete.  And so briefly, just what that meant according to Secretary Blinken was really investing in sources of American strength at home. Renewing, for example, investment in technology, investment in STEM education, infrastructure, and many of the policies that actually became known as Build Back Better, a lot of the domestic spending packages that President Biden proposed, and some of which has been passed. So that first pillar was invest sort of in order to o compete with China, we need to first renew our sources of American strength and compete from a position of strength.  The second element was “align.” And in this—in this pillar, I think this is where the Biden administration has really distinguished itself from the Trump administration. Many folks say, well, the Biden administration’s China policy or its Asia policy is really just Trump 2.0 but with a little bit—you know, with essentially a nicer tone to it. But I think there is a difference here. And I think the Biden administration’s approach has really focused on aligning with both traditional security partners—our allies, our alliances with countries like the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines—but also invigorating those nontraditional partnerships, with India, for example.   I think another part of this strategy, another part of this dimension, has also been reinvigorating U.S. presence and U.S. leadership, really, in multilateral organizations. Not only, for example, taking the Quad and reestablishing some of the leader-level summits, the ministerials, proposing, for example, a COVID cooperation regime among new members of the Quad, but also establishing newer frameworks. So, for example, as many of you have read about, I’m sure, AUKUS, this trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. when it comes to sharing of nuclear submarine technology. That’s been a new proposed policy. And I think we’re about to see an update from the administration in the next couple of weeks.  And even with elements of the region that have been unappreciated and perhaps under-focused on. For example, the Solomon Islands was the focal point of some attention last year, and you’ve seen the administration propose the Partners in the Blue Pacific Initiative, which seeks to establish greater cooperation among some of the Pacific Island nations. And there was actually a summit hosted by President Biden last fall with leaders of the Pacific Island countries. So that alignment piece I think has really been significant as a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.  The third element, of course, competition, I think is the most evident. And we’ve seen this from some of the executive orders on semiconductors, the restrictions on advanced chips, to elements of trade, to even sort of advocacy for human rights and greater promotion of democracy. You saw the Summit for Democracy, which has been a pillar of the administration’s foreign policy agenda. So that’s basically what they’ve done in the last two and a half years.  Now, in terms of where that’s actually brought us, I think I’ll make four observations. The first is that, unlike the Biden—unlike the Trump administration, where most of the policy pronouncements about the People’s Republic of China had some tinge of inducing change in China—that was the phrase that Secretary Pompeo used in a speech on China policy—I think the Biden administration largely has said: The assumption and the premise of all of our policy toward China is based on the idea that the U.S. government does not seek fundamentally to change the Chinese government, the Chinese regime, the leadership, the administration, the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.  So that is both a markedly important difference, but it’s also a part of the strategy that I believe remains ambiguous. And here, the problem is, you know, invest, align, and compete, competitive coexistence, where does that all actually take us? And I think this is where analysts in the strategic community and think tank world have said, well, it’s great to invest, of course. You know, there’s bipartisan support. Alignment with partners and allies is, of course, a pretty uncontroversial, for the most part, approach. And competition is, I think, largely a consensus view in Washington, D.C. But where does this actually take us?  You know, for all of its criticisms, the Trump administration did propose a specific end state or an end objective. And I think the Biden administration has just sort of said, well, it’s about coexisting. It’s about just assuming to manage the relationship. I think there are, of course, valid merits to that approach. And on an intellectual level, the idea is that because this is not necessarily a Cold War 2.0, in the words of the Biden administration, we’re not going to have an end state that is ala the Cold War—in essence a sort of victory or demise, you know, the triumph of capitalism over communism, et cetera. In fact, it’s going to be a persistent and sustained rivalry and competition. And in order to harness a strategy, we essentially need to manage that competition.   So I think that’s—it’s an intellectually coherent idea, but I think one of the ambiguities surrounding and one of the criticisms that has been proposed is that there is no clear end state. So we compete, we invest, we align, but to what end? Do we just keep—does the administration continue to tighten up and enhance alliances with partners and allies, and then to what end? What happens next? And sort of where does this lead us—leave us in ten years from now? So I think that’s the first comment I’ll make about the approach to the Indo-Pacific.  The second is that one of the tenets, of course, as I describe, is this compartmentalization of compete, cooperate. In essence, you know, we will compete—we, being the United States—with China on issues of technology, issues of economics, but we will also cooperate on areas of shared concern—climate change, nonproliferation. I think what you’ve seen is that while the Biden administration has proposed this idea, we can split—we can cooperate on one hand and also compete on the other—the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government, has largely rejected that approach.   Where you’ve seen statements from senior officials in China that have said, essentially, we will not cooperate with you, the United States, until you first cease all of the behavior, all of the negative policies that we don’t like. In essence, if you will continue to sell arms to Taiwan, if you continue, the United States, to restrict semiconductors, to crackdown on espionage, to conduct military exercises in the region, then forget about any potential cooperation on climate, or forget about any cooperation on global health, et cetera.   So in essence, being able to tie the two compartments together has prevented a lot of what the Biden administration has sought to achieve. And we’ve seen that very clearly with Special Envoy John Kerry and his relentless efforts to conduct climate diplomacy. And I think largely—for example, last summer in the aftermath of Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, you saw a lot of those collaborative efforts essentially derailed. That’s the second comment I’ll make, which is while this approach, again, logically to most Americans would seem sound, it’s actually met a lot of resistance because the Chinese reaction to it is not necessarily the same.  The third is I think we’ve seen increasingly, even though there has been an increased alignment since the Trump administration with allies and partners, there’s still a degree of hedging among countries in the region. And that makes sense because from the perspectives of many of those leaders of countries in the region, the United States is a democratic country. We have an election coming up in 2024. And there’s no guarantee that the next president, if President Biden is no longer the president in 2024 or even in 2028, will continue this policy.   And I think all of you, as observers of American politics, know the degree to which American politics has become largely one that is dysfunctional, is almost schizophrenic in a way. And so one would imagine that if you are a leader of a country in the Asian-Pacific region, to support the Biden administration’s engagement, but also to maintain a degree of strategic autonomy, as this is often called. And so what I think we’ll continue to see and what will be interesting to watch is how middle powers, how other countries resident in the region approach the United States in terms of—(inaudible). I think India will be key to watch, for example. Its defense relationship with the United States has increased over the years, but yet it still has close interests with respect to China.  The final comment I’ll make is that on the military dimension I think this is another area of concern, where the Biden administration has said that one of its priorities is creating guardrails, constructing guardrails to manage the potential escalation in the event of an accident, or a miscommunication, miscalculation that could quickly spiral into a crisis. And we needn’t—we need not look farther than the 2001 Hainan incident to think of an example, which was a collision between a(n) EP-3 aircraft and a Chinese intelligence plane. And that led to a diplomatic standoff.  And so I think the United States government is very keen on creating dialogue between militaries, risk reduction mechanisms, crisis management mechanisms. But I think they’ve encountered resistance, again, from the People’s Republic of China, because the perspective there is that much of the U.S. behavior in the region militarily is invalid, is illegitimate. You know, the Chinese government opposes, for example, U.S. transits through the Taiwan Strait. So the idea therefore that they would engage and essentially deconflict and manage risk is sort of legitimizing American presence there militarily. And so we’ve encountered that obstacle as well.  So I think going forward on all four elements, we’re going to continue to see adjustment. And I think, as students, as researchers, I think these are four areas where there’s fertile room for discussion, for debate, for analysis, for looking at history. And I look forward to a conversation. Hopefully, many of you have ideas as well because there’s no monopoly on wisdom and there are many creative proposals to be discussed. So I look forward to questions. I’ll stop there.  FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you, Chris. That was great. Now we’re going to go to all of you.  (Gives queuing instructions.)  Our first written question comes from Grace Wheeler. I believe a graduate student at the University of West Florida. Kissinger proposed the future of China-U.S. relations be one of coevolution instead of confrontation. Is it still realistically possible for the future of China-U.S. relations to be one of cooperation instead of confrontation?  LI: So terrific question. Thank you for the question. It’s a very interesting idea. And I think Henry Kissinger, who I know has long been involved with the Council on Foreign Relations, has produced through his many decades,strategic frameworks and new ways of thinking about cardinal challenges to geopolitics. I have not yet actually understood or at least examined specifically what the concrete pillars of coevolution entail. My understanding on a general level is that it means, essentially, the United States and the People’s Republic of China adjust and sort of mutually change their policies to accommodate each other. So a sort of mutual accommodation over time to adjust interests in a way that prevent conflict.  I think on the face—of course, that sounds—that sounds very alluring. That sounds like a terrific idea. I think the problem has always been what would actually this look like in implementation? So for example, on the issue of Taiwan, this is an issue where the Chinese government has said: There is no room for compromise. You know, the refrain that they repeat is: Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. It is part of sovereignty. And there is no room for compromise. This is a red line. So if that’s the case, there’s not really, in my view, much room for evolution on this issue, for example. And it’s an intractable problem.  And so I don’t necessarily know how to apply the Kissinger framework to specific examples. And, but, you know, I do think it’s something worth considering. And, you know, I would encourage you and others on this call to think about, for example, how that framework might actually be adapted. So I think it’s an interesting idea, but I would—I think the devil’s in the details. And essentially, to think about how this would be applied to specific issues—South China Sea, human rights, trade—would be the key to unpacking this concept.  I think the second part of your question was, is cooperation possible? And again, I think, as I stated in my remarks, the Biden administration publicly says—publicly asserts that they do seek to maintain a space for cooperation in climate, in nonproliferation, in global health security. I think, again, what we’ve encountered is that the Chinese government’s view is that unless the United States ceases behavior that it deems detrimental to its own interests, it will not pursue any discussion of cooperation.   And so I think that’s the problem we’re facing. And so I think there are going to be discussions going forward on, well, given that, how do we then balance the need for cooperation on climate, in pandemics, with, for example, also concerns about security, concerns about military activity, concerns about Taiwan, et cetera? And I think this is the daily stuff of, of course, the conversations among the Biden administration and senior leadership. So personally, my view, is I hope cooperation is possible, of course. I think there are shared issues, shared vital interests, between the two countries and, frankly, among the global community, that require the U.S. and China to be able to work out issues. But I’m personally not optimistic that under this current framework, this paradigm, there will be a significant space open for cooperation.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. Going next to Hamza Siddiqui, a raised hand.   Q: Thank you. Hi. I’m Hamza Siddiqui, a student from Minnesota State University, Mankato.   And I actually had two questions. The first was: What kind of role does the U.S. envision Southeast Asian states—especially like the Philippines and Vietnam—playing in their U.S. strategy when it comes to Asia-Pacific security issues, specifically? And the second is that for the last few years there’s been some discussion about Japan and South Korea being formally invited to join the Five Eyes alliance. And I wanted to get your take on that. What do you think are the chances that a formal invitation would be extended to them? Thank you.  LI: Great. Thank you for the question. Two terrific questions.  So, first, on the role of countries in Southeast Asia, I think that under the Biden administration they have continued to play an increasing degree of importance. So you’ve seen, for example, even in the Philippines, which you cited, I think just last month Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a visit there. And in the aftermath of the visit, he announced a new basing agreement. I haven’t reviewed the details specifically, and I’m not a Philippines expert, but in short my understanding is that there is going to be renewed American presence—expanded American presence, actually, in the region.   And the Philippines, just based on their geostrategic location, is incredibly important in the Indo-Pacific region. So I think that the administration is very active in enhancing cooperation on the defense element, but also on the political and economic side as well. So with the Quad, for example, in India, you’ve seen cooperation on elements of economics as well, and technology. I think there’s an initiative about digital cooperation too. So I think the answer is increasingly an important role.   On Japan and Korea, there have, of course, been discussions over the years about expanding the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to other countries in Asia as well. My assessment is that that’s probably unlikely to occur in a formal way in the near term. But I could be wrong. And that assessment is primarily based on the fact that the countries that currently are part of the Five Eyes agreement share certain elements of linguistic convergence. They all speak English. There are certain longstanding historical ties that those countries have. And I think that to necessarily expand—or, to expand that existing framework would probably require a degree of bureaucratic sort of rearrangement that might be quite difficult, or quite challenging, or present obstacles.  I think what you will see, though, is enhanced security cooperation, for sure. And we’ve seen that even with Japan, for example, announcing changes to its military, its self-defense force, and increased defense spending as well in the region. So I think that is a trend that will continue.  FASKIANOS: Next question I’m taking from Sarah Godek, who is a graduate student at the University of Michigan.   What do guardrails look like, from a Chinese perspective? Thinking how China’s foreign ministry has consistently put out lists of demands for the U.S. side, I’m wondering how guardrails are formulated by Wang Yi and others.  LI: Great. Thanks for the question.  So I guess I’ll step back first and talk about what guardrails, in my view, actually entail. So I think the idea here is that in the event of a crisis—and, most of the time, crises are not planned. (Laughs.) Most of the time, crises, you know, occur as a result of an accident. For example, like the 2001 incident. But an accidental collision in the South China Sea between two vessels, the collision accidentally of two planes operating in close proximity. And as Chinese and American forces operate in closer proximity and increasing frequency, we do have that risk.   So I think, again, the idea of a guardrail that essentially, in the military domain, which is what I’m speaking about, entails a mechanism in place such that in the event of an accident or a crisis, there are ways based on that mechanism to diffuse that crisis, or at least sort of stabilize things before the political leadership can work out a solution. In essence, to prevent escalation because of a lack of dialogue. And I think for those of you who’ve studied history, you know that many wars, many conflicts have occurred not because one power, one state decides to launch a war. That has occurred. But oftentimes, because there is an accident, an accidental collision. And I think many wars have occurred this way.  So the idea of a guardrail therefore, in the military domain, is to create, for example, channels of communication that could be used in the event of a conflict. I think the easiest parallel to imagine is the U.S. and the Soviet Union, where there were hotlines, for example, between Moscow and between Washington, D.C. during that era, where the seniormost national security aides of the presidents could directly reach out to each other in the event of a crisis.   In the China context, what has been difficult is some of those channels exist. For example, the National Security Council Coordinator for Asia Kurt Campbell has said publicly: We have hotlines. The problem is that when the Americans pick up the phone and call, no one picks up on the other side. And in short, you know, having just the structure, the infrastructure, is insufficient if those infrastructure are not being used by the other side.   I think with respect to the U.S.-China context, probably, again, as I mentioned earlier, the largest obstacle is the fact that guardrails help the United States—or, in the Chinese perspective—from the Chinese perspective, any of these guardrails would essentially allow the U.S. to operate with greater confidence that, in the event of an accident, we will be able to control escalation. And from the Chinese perspective, they argue that because the United States fundamentally shouldn’t be operating in the Taiwan Strait anyway, therefore by constructing that guardrail, by, for example, having dialogue to manage that risk, it would be legitimizing an illegitimate presence in the first place.   So that’s always been perennially the problem. And I think the argument that the United States has made is that, well, sure, that may be your position. But it is in your interest as well not to have an accident spiral into a conflict. And so I think we’ve seen not a lot of progress on this front. I think, for example, in the aftermath of Speaker Pelosi’s visit, there—you know, a lot of the defense cooperation ties were suspended.   But the last comment I’ll make is that that doesn’t necessarily mean that all dialogue has been stayed. There are still active channels between the United States and China. We have embassies in each other’s countries. From public remarks, it seems like during moments of enhanced tension there are still ways for both governments to communicate with each other. So I think the good news is that it’s not completely like the two countries aren’t speaking to each other, but I think that there are not as many channels for reducing risk, managing potential crises, in the military sphere that exist today, that probably should exist.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Michael Long. Let’s see. You need to unmute yourself.  LI: It looks like he’s dropped off.  FASKIANOS: It looks like he put down his hand. OK. So let’s go next to Conor O’Hara.  Q: Hi. My name is Conor O’Hara. And I’m a graduate student at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.  In one of my classes, titled America’s Role in the World, we often talk about how America really does not have a comprehensive understanding of China. Not only China’s military and state department, but really China as a society. How can Americans change that? And where does America need to focus its efforts in understanding China? And then also, one other thing I think of, is, you know, where does that understanding begin? You know, how early in someone’s education or really within, say, the United States State Department do we need to focus our efforts on building an understanding? Thank you.  LI: Great. Well, thanks for the question. It’s a great question. Very hard challenge as well.  I think that’s absolutely true. I think the degree of understanding of China—of actually most countries—(laughs)—around the world—among senior U.S. foreign policy practitioners, I think, is insufficient. I think particularly with respect to China, and also Asia broadly, much of the diplomatic corps, the military establishment, intelligence officers, many of those people have essentially cut their teeth over the last twenty-five years focusing on the Middle East and counterterrorism. And that makes sense because the United States was engaged in two wars in that region.  But going back farther, many of the national security professionals before that generation were focused on the Soviet Union, obviously because of the Cold War. And so really, you’re absolutely correct that the number of people in the United States government who have deep China expertise academically or even professionally on the ground, or even have the linguistic ability to, you know, speak Mandarin, or other countries—or, languages of other countries in East Asia, I think is absolutely limited. I think the State Department, of course, has—as well as the intelligence community, as well as the Department of Defense—has tried to over the last few years reorient and rebalance priorities and resources there. But I think it’s still—my understanding, today it’s still limited. And I think there’s a lot of work to be done.  I think your question on how do you understand China as a society, I think with any country, number one, of course, is history. You know, every country’s politics, its policy, its government is informed by its history of, you know, modern history but also history going back farther. And I think China is no exception. In fact, Chinese society, and even the Communist Party of China, is deeply, I think, entrenched in a historical understanding of its role in the world, of how it interacts compared with its people, its citizens, its foreign conflicts. And so I think, number one is to understand the history of modern China. And I think anyone who seeks to be involved in discussions and research and debate on China does need to understand that history.  I think the second point is linguistics is actually quite important. Being able to speak the language, read the language, understand the language is important. Because so much of what is written—so much of our knowledge as, you know, American think tank researchers, is based on publicly available information in China. And a lot of that primarily is in Mandarin. So most speeches that the senior leadership of China deliver are actually in Mandarin. And some of them are translated, but not all of them. A lot of the documents that they issue, a lot of academics who write about—academics in China who write about foreign policy and international relations, write in Mandarin.  And so I think that an ability to be able to read in the original text is quite important. And in fact, you know, a lot of the nuances, and specifically in the Communist Party’s ideology, how it sees itself, its role in the world, a lot of that really is best captured and best understood in its original language. Some of the—you know, the ideology, the campaigns of propaganda, et cetera.  And I think the last part of your question was how early. I am not an education scholar. (Laughs.) I don’t study education or developmental psychology. But, you know, I imagine, you know, as with anything, linguistics, language, is best learned—or, most easily learned early on. But I think that does not mean that, you know, someone who’s in college or graduate school can’t begin to learn in a different language. So I’d answer your question like that.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Lucksika Udomsrisumran, a graduate student at New York University.  What is the implication of the Biden administration’s three pillars of the Indo-Pacific strategy on the Mekong and the South China Sea? Which pillars do you see these two issues in, from the Biden administration’s point of view?  LI: OK. I think, if I’m understanding the question correctly about South China Sea, you know, I think in general the South China Sea probably would most easily fall into the competition category. There are obviously not only the United States and China, but other countries in the region, including the Philippines, for example, are claimants to the South China Sea. And so I think there’s always been some disagreement and some tensions in that region.  I think that that has largely been—the U.S. response or U.S. policy in South China Sea is just essentially, from the military perspective, has been to—you know, the slogan is, or the line is, to fly, sail, operate, et cetera—I’m not quoting that correctly—(laughs)—but essentially to operate wherever international law permits. And so that means Freedom of Navigation Operations, et cetera, in the South China Sea. I think that, of course, raises objections from other governments, mainly China, in the region.   So I would say that probably belongs in the competition category. And we spoke about earlier the idea of managing some of the risk that occurs or that emerges when the PLA Navy and the United States Navy operate in close proximity in that region. So from that perspective, if you’re talking about risk reduction and crisis management, that actually could fall into collaboration or cooperation. But I think primarily it’s competition.   FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Joan Kaufman. And, Joan, I know you wrote your question, but if you could ask it that would be great.  Q: Yes, will. Yes, certainly. Hi, Chris. Really great to see you here during this talk.  LI: Yeah, likewise.  Q: A proud Schwarzman Scholar.  I wanted to ask you a question about Ukraine and China’s, you know, kind of difficult position in the middle almost, you know, as sort of seemingly allied with Russia, or certainly not criticizing Russia. And then just putting forth this twelve-point peace plan last week for—and offering to broker peace negotiations and a ceasefire for Ukraine. You know, there’s no love lost in Washington for China on, you know, how it has positioned itself on this issue. And, you know, frankly, given China’s own kind of preoccupation with sovereignty over the years, how do you see the whole thing? And what comments might you make on that?  LI: Right. Well, first of all, thanks so much, Joan, for joining. And very grateful for all of—all that you’ve done for the Schwarzman Scholars Program over the past. I appreciate your time very much.  The Ukraine problem is an incredibly important one. And I think absolutely China is involved. And it’s a very complicated position that it’s trying to occupy here, with both supporting its security partner, Russia, but also not directly being involved in the conflict because of U.S. opposition and opposition from NATO. So I think it’s—obviously, China is playing a very delicate balancing role here.  I think a couple points. So the first is that I think my view is that, for the Chinese leadership, Ukraine—or, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a deeply uncomfortable geopolitical situation, where there is essentially not a—there’s no good outcome, really, because, as you mentioned, Ukraine is a country with which China has diplomatic recognition. It recognizes it. It has an embassy there. And the Chinese foreign ministry, Chinese foreign policy, has long very much supported the concept of sovereignty, and being able to determine your own future as a country. And I think, in fact, that’s been one of the pillars and one of the objections to many American actions in the past. So on one hand, it says: We support sovereignty of every country, of which Ukraine is a country that is recognized by China.  And on the other hand, though, Russia, of course, which has had long complaints and issues with NATO expansion, is a partner of China. And so it’s obviously supporting Russia. It has alignment of interests between Russia and China in many ways, in many dimensions, including objections to, for example, U.S. presence in Europe, U.S. presence in Asia. So it’s a delicate balancing act. And I think from what we’ve seen, there hasn’t been sort of a clear one-sided answer, where you’ve seen both statements, you know, proposing peace and saying that, you know, all sides should deescalate. But on the other hand, the U.S. government, the Biden administration, is now publicly stating that they are concerned about China potentially lending support to Russia.  So, you know, in short, I think it’s very difficult to really understand what exactly is going on in the minds of the Chinese leadership. But I think that we’ll continue to see sort of this awkward back and forth and trying—this purported balancing act between both sides. But I think, you know, largely—my assessment is that it’s not going to go very clearly in one direction or the other.  I think the other comment I would make is that I think, from Beijing’s perspective, the clear analogy here is one for Taiwan. Because—and this has been something that has been discussed in the think tank community very extensively. But the expectation I think among many in Washington was that Ukraine would not be able to put up much resistance. In short, this would be a very, very easy victory for Putin. And I think that was a—you know, not a universal consensus, but many people believed that, in short, Russia with all of its military might, would have no issues subjugating Ukraine very quickly.  I think people have largely found that to be, you know, a strategic failure on Russia’s part. And so today, you know, one year after the invasion, Ukraine is still sovereign, is still standing, is still strong. And so I think—from that perspective, I think this—the war in Ukraine must give many of the leaders in China pause when it comes to thinking about a Taiwan continency, especially using force against Taiwan. Because, again, I think the degree of support, both militarily, politically, economically, for the resistance that Ukraine has shown against Russia among NATO members, among other Western countries, I think has been deeply surprising to many observers how robust that support has been. And I think that if you’re sitting in Beijing and thinking about what a potential response to a Taiwan contingency might be, that would absolutely inform your calculus.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Lindsey McCormack, a graduate student at Baruch College.  How is the Biden administration’s compete, cooperate, limited adversarial approach playing out with climate policy? What are you seeing right now in terms of the Chinese government’s approach to energy security and climate?  LI: Yeah. It’s a great question. Thanks for the question.  You know, we mentioned earlier, you know, I think the Biden administration’s approach has been, you know, despite all of the disagreements between the United States and the Chinese government, there should be room for cooperation on climate because, as the Biden administration says, the climate is an existential risk to all of humanity. It’s an issue of shared concern. So it’s one that is not defined by any given country or constrained to one set of borders. I think it’s largely not been very successful, in short, because China has not seemed to display much interest in cooperating on climate with the United States. And, again, China has largely coupled cooperation, linked cooperation in climate—or, on climate to other issues.  And so, you know, I think it’s been reported that at several of the meetings between Secretary Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and their Chinese counterparts, the Chinese officials had essentially given the American officials a list saying: Here are the twenty-something things that we object to. Why don’t you stop all of these, correct all of your mistakes—so to speak—and then we’ll talk about what we can do next. And so I think, again, that—you know, that, to me, indicates that this framework of compartmentalizing cooperation and competition has some flaws, because the idea that you can simply compartmentalize and say: We’re going to cooperate at full capacity on climate, but we’re not going to—you know, but we’ll compete on technology, it just—it actually doesn’t work in this situation.  I think the other comment I’ll make is that what the Biden administration has done is—which I think has been effective—is reframed the notion of cooperation. Where, in the past, cooperation was sort of viewed as a favor that the Chinese government did to the Americans, to the American government. That if we—if the United States, you know, offered certain inducements or there were strong elements of the relationship, then China would cooperate and that would be a favor.   And I think the Biden administration has reframed that approach, where cooperation is now presented not as a favor that any country does to another, but rather sort of is shared here. And that this is something of concern to China, to the United States, to other countries, and so all major countries need to play their part, and step up their game, to take on. I think, unfortunately, it hasn’t been extremely successful. But I think that there—I hope that there will be future progress made in this area.  FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to Jeremiah Ostriker, who has raised—a raised hand, and also written your question. But you can ask it yourself. And you have to accept the unmute prompt. Is that happening? All right. I think I might have to read it.  Q: Am I unmuted now?  FASKIANOS: Oh, you are. Fantastic.  Q: OK. First, I’ll say who I am. I am a retired professor from Princeton University and Columbia University and was an administrative provost at Princeton.  And our China policies have puzzled me. I have visited China many times. And I have wondered—I’ll quote my questions now—I have wondered why we are as negative towards China as we have been. So specifically, does the U.S. foreign policy establishment need enemies to justify its existence? Is it looking around the world for enemies? And why should we care if other countries choose to govern themselves in ways which are antithetical to the way that we choose to govern ourselves? And, finally, why not cooperate with all countries on projects of common interest, regardless of other issues?  LI: Great. Well, first of all, thank you for the question—or, three questions, which are all extremely important. I’ll do my best to answer, but these are very difficult questions, and I think they touch on a more philosophical understanding of what is American foreign policy for, what is the purpose of America’s role in the world, et cetera. But I’ll try to do my best.  I think on the first part, does the United States need enemies, is it looking to make enemies? I think if you asked any—and these are, of course, my own assessments. I think if you asked any administration official, whether in this current administration or in previous administrations—Republican or Democrat—I don’t think anyone would answer “yes.” I think the argument that has been made across administrations in a bipartisan fashion is that foreign policy is fundamentally about defending American interests and American values. In essence, being able to support the American way of life, which obviously is not necessarily one clearly defined entity. (Laughs.)  But I think, therefore, all of our policy toward China is sort of geared at maintaining, or securing, defending U.S. interests in the region. And where the argument about your question comes into play is that I think a lot of—the Biden administration, the Trump administration, the Obama administration would argue that many of the concerns that the United States has with China are not fundamentally only about internal issues, where this is a question of how they govern themselves. But they touch upon issues of shared concern. They touch upon issues that actually affect U.S. interests.   And so, for example, the South China Sea is, again—is a space that is—contains much trade. There are many different countries in the region that access the South China Sea. So it’s not necessarily just an issue—and, again, this is Secretary Blinken’s position that he made clear—it’s not just an issue specific to China. It does touch upon global trade, global economics, global rules, and global order. And I think this is the term that has been often used, sort of this liberal international rules-based order.   And while that’s sort of an amorphous concept, in essence what I think the term implies is the idea that there are certain standards and rules by which different countries operate that allow for the orderly and for the peaceful and the secure exchange of goods, of ideas, of people, of—so that each country is secure. And I think this—again, this broader concept is why I think successive U.S. administrations have focused on China policy, because I think some of, in their view, China’s behaviors impinge on U.S. interests in the region.   I think the second question is why should we care about how other countries govern themselves? I think in a way, the answer the Biden administration—this current administration has given to that question is: The U.S. government under President Biden is not trying to fundamentally change the Chinese system of governance. And I think you’ve seen Jake Sullivan and Tony Blinken say that publicly, that they are not seeking the collapse or the fundamental change in the Communist Party’s rule of China. So I think in that sense, they have made that—they have made that response. I think, again, where there are issues—there are tensions, is when actions that the Chinese government take then touch upon U.S. interests. And I think we see that in Taiwan. We see that with economics. We see that with trade, et cetera.   And then finally, why not cooperate with every country in the world? I think obviously in an ideal world, that would be the case. All countries would be able to only cooperate, and all concerns shared among different nations would be addressed. I think unfortunately one of the problems that we’re seeing now is that large major powers, like China and Russia, have very different worldviews. They see a world that is very different in its structure, and its architecture, and its organization, than the one that the U.S. sees. And I think that’s what’s led to a lot of tension.  FASKIANOS: So we have a written question from Julius Haferkorn, a student at California State University and Tübingen University, in Germany.  Ever since the escalation of the Ukraine war, there are discussions about the risk that, should Russia be successful with its invasion, China might use this as a template in regards to Taiwan. In your opinion, is this a realistic scenario?  LI: Great. Thanks for the question.  I think there are definitely analogies to be drawn between Ukraine and Taiwan, but I think there are also significant differences. The first is the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is one of two sovereign nations that the United States and international community recognizes. I think with Taiwan, what has—going back to our history question—Taiwan is a very complicated issue, even with regard to U.S. policies. The United States does not recognize Taiwan formally as an independent country. The United States actually does not take a position on the status of Taiwan. Briefly, the One China Policy, as articulated in the three communiques, the three joint communiques, essentially says that the United States government acknowledges the Chinese position that there is one China, and Taiwan is part of China, et cetera, et cetera.  And that word “acknowledge” is pretty key, because in essential its strategic ambiguity. It’s saying, we acknowledge that the PRC government says this. We don’t challenge that position. But we don’t necessarily recognize or completely accept. And, obviously, the Mandarin version of the text is slightly different. It uses a term that is closer to “recognize.” But that ambiguity, in a way, permitted normalization and led to the democratization of Taiwan, China’s economic growth and miracle, its anti-poverty campaign. So in essence, it’s worked—this model has worked for the last forty-something years.  But I think that does mean that the situation across the Taiwan Strait is very different, because here the United States does not recognize two countries on both sides of the strait. Rather, it has this ambiguity, this policy of ambiguity. And in short, the only U.S. criterion for resolution of issues across the Taiwan Strait is peace. So all of the documents that the U.S. has articulated over successive administrations essentially boil down to: As long as the resolution of issues between Taiwan and the PRC and mainland China are peaceful, then the United States is not involved. That the only thing that the United States opposes is a forceful resolution—use of military force, use of coercion. And that’s what is problematic.  I think what you’ve seen increasingly over the last few years is a sort of—it’s not a formal shift away from that policy, but definitely slowly edging away from that policy. Now, any administration official will always deny that there are any changes to our One China Policy. And I think that’s always been the refrain: Our One China Policy has not changed. But you’ve actually seen within that One China Policy framework adjustments, accommodations—or, not accommodations—but adjustments, recalibrations. And the way that the successive U.S. administrations defend that or justify it, is because it is our—it is the American One China Policy. Therefore, we can define what that One China Policy actually means.  But you have seen, in essence, greater increased relations and exchanges between officials in Taiwan, officials in the United States. I think it was publicly reported just a couple weeks ago that some of the senior national security officials in Taipei visited the United States. Secretary Pompeo at the end of his tenure as secretary of state changed some of the previous restrictions on—that were self-imposed restrictions—on interactions between the government in Taiwan and the government in the United States. So we’re seeing some changes here. And I think that has led to—or, that is one element that has led to some of the tensions across the Taiwan Strait.   Obviously, from Beijing’s perspective, it sees that as the U.S. sliding away from its commitments. Now, on the other hand, Beijing, of course, has also started to change its policy, despite claiming that its policy is exactly the same. You’ve seen greater military incursions in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, with planes, fighter jets, that are essentially flying around the island. You’ve seen greater geoeconomic coercion targeted at Taiwan in terms of sanctions. So you’ve seen essentially changes on all sides.  And so the final point I’ll leave here—I’ll leave with you is that the refrain that the United States government articulates of opposing any unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, to me, is actually quite ambiguous. Because there’s never been a status quo that has truly existed. It’s always been a dynamic equilibrium between Taipei, Beijing, and Washington, D.C. Where Beijing is seeking to move Taiwan toward unification. Taiwan, at least under its current leadership, under Tsai Ing-wen, is obviously seeking, in a way, to move from at least—at least to move toward de facto or maintain de facto independence. Whether it’s moving toward de jure is a topic of debate. And then the United States, of course, is enhancing its relationship with Taiwan.  So there’s never been a static status quo between the three sides. It’s always been a dynamic, evolving and changing equilibrium. Which is why the concept of opposing unilateral changes to the status quo, in my view, is almost paradoxical, because there has never been a status quo in the first place.  FASKIANOS: There has been some talk that Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, is planning a trip to Taiwan. Given what happened with Speaker Pelosi, is that a—what do you think of that musing, to go to Taiwan, to actually do that?  LI: Mhm, yes. I think that’s obviously been reported on. I think it’s an area of close attention from everyone watching this space. I haven’t seen any reports. All I can say is based on what I’ve seen reported in the media. And it seems like, based on—because of domestic preoccupations, that trip, whether it happens or not, is right now, at the moment, on the back burner. But I think that if he were to go, I think it would certainly precipitate a quite significant response from China. And I think whether that would be larger or smaller than what happened after Speaker Pelosi’s visit, I think is something that is uncertain now.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. We’ll go next to Autumn Hauge.  Q: Hi. I’m Autumn Hauge. I’m a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  So my question is, since a focus of the Biden administration’s foreign policy is the relationship between the United States and China, and another focus is to invest and grow a presence in the Indo-Pacific region, specifically looking at the relationship between the United States and the Micronesian country of the Republic of Palau, whose government has openly shared their support for Taiwan, do you think that the United States’ long history with the Republic of Palau, and their connection to their support—the Republic of Palau’s support to Taiwan, halters the ability for the U.S. to grow a positive relation with China? Thank you.  LI: Great. Thanks for the question. It’s a great question.  I am not an expert on Palau or its politics. I do know that Palau has enhanced its exchanges, it relationship with Taipei, over the last few years. I think we saw Palau’s president, I think, visit Taipei. I think the U.S. ambassador to Palau actually visited Taipei. And there have been increasing—during COVID, there was a discussion of a travel bubble between Taiwan and Palau. So there’s definitely been increasing exchange.  I think in general this has always been a key obstacle to U.S.-China relations, which is any country that still recognizes the Republic of China—that is the formal name of the government currently in Taiwan—I think presents a significant issue. Because for the PRC, recognition of the One China—what they call the One China Principle, the idea that there is one China, Taiwan is part of that China, and the legitimate government of China is the People’s Republic of China, is a precondition for any diplomatic normalization with Beijing. And so I think certainly, you know, there are a small handful of countries that still recognize the ROC, but I think that they—you know, for those countries and their relationships with the PRC, of course, that’s a significant hindrance.  In what you’ve seen in the U.S. government in the past few years is that for countries that derecognize Taipei and sort of switch recognition to Beijing, the PRC, there’s been discussion—I think, there have been several bills introduced, in essence, to punish those countries. I don’t necessarily think that those bills have ended up becoming law, but I think there is, given the current political dynamics, the sort of views on China in Washington, D.C., there is this sense that the U.S. needs to support countries that still recognize Taiwan, the ROC, and be able to provide support so that they don’t feel pressured to switch their recognition.  My personal view is that I think that that is, on the whole, relatively insignificant. I won’t say that it’s completely not significant, but I think that in general issues around the Taiwan Strait, cross-strait relations, I think military issues, I think political issues related to exchanges between Taiwan and Beijing, I think those issues are much more important and much more critical to driving changes in the relationship across the Taiwan Strait.  FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to try and sneak in one last question from Wim Wiewel, who’s a student at Portland State University.   Given your pessimism about cooperation combined with competition, what do you think is the long-term future for U.S.-China relations?  LI: OK. Well, thanks for the question. I’m not sure that I can provide a satisfying answer. And, in fact, I don’t have the answer. You know, I think if anyone had the answer, then they should immediately tell the Biden administration that they’ve solved the problem.  Even though I am pessimistic about this current framework, just because of its demonstrated effects, I still think that in general the likelihood of a real war, which I think people have floated now—you know, Professor Graham Allison, who I used to work for, wrote a book called Destined for War? I still believe that the probability of all-out great-power conflict in a kinetic way, a military way, is still relatively low. I think that there are significant differences today compared to the era during World War I and World War II era.   I think that the degree of economic interdependence between China and not only the United States but the rest of the world, I think is a significant gamechanger in how countries position themselves vis-à-vis China. I think Europe is the great example here of how there are many countries that invest, have business relationships, have trade with China. And so therefore, their policy on China has been a little bit more calibrated than what the United States has been doing.   And so on the whole, I think most people still recognize that any great-power war between the United States and China would be utterly catastrophic. And I think that despite all the tensions that exist today, I think that that recognition, that consensus is pretty universally held, that a great-power war between the U.S. and China would be extremely bad. I think that is—that is probably something that is understood by Republican administrations, Democratic administrations, folks in Beijing, folks around the world, in the region. And so I think that, hopefully, that idea, that despite disagreements, despite political tensions, the need to prevent all-out global conflict is quite important, is a vital interest, I think, hopefully, to me, provides some optimism. And hopefully we’ll be able to continue to carry our relationship with China through.  And I’m hopeful especially that all of you students, researchers, who hope to study, and write about, and even perhaps participate in American foreign policy, will continue to think. Because so much of the future of the U.S.-China relationship and U.S. foreign policy is going to be determined by your generation. So with that, I guess this would be a perfect place to stop. And I thank you for the question.   FASKIANOS: Absolutely. Well, Chris, this has been fantastic. I apologize to all of you. We had many more—many questions in the written part and raised hands. And I’m sorry that we could not get to all of them. We’ll just have to have you back and continue to cover this issue. So we really appreciate your insights, Chris Li. So thank you again.  The next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, March 22, at 1:00 p.m. (EDT). Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly will lead a conversation on U.S. relations with South America. And in the meantime, please do learn more about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at You can follow us at @CFR_academic, and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. And I’m sure you can also go to the Belfer Center for additional analysis by Chris Li. So I encourage you to go there as well.  Thank you all, again, for being with us, and we look forward to continuing the conversation on March 22. So thank you, all. Thanks, Chris.  LI: Thank you.  (END) 
  • United States

    Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown distinguished chair for leadership in global affairs and professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin, leads the conversation on how to teach the history of American democracy. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Thank you for being with us. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share it with your colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Jeremi Suri with us to discuss teaching the history of American democracy. Dr. Suri is the Mack Brown distinguished chair for leadership in global affairs and professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin. He has received several accolades for his research in teaching, including the Pro Bene Meritis Award for Contributions to the Liberal Arts and the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas at Austin. He writes for major publications and is the author and editor of eleven books on contemporary politics and foreign policy. And his latest book is entitled Civil War by Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy, which was published by PublicAffairs. So, Jeremi, thanks very much for being with us. I thought we could begin by just diving right in, for you to tell us about what you think about when you’re teaching the history of American democracy, and what it means to you. SURI: Thank you so much, Irina. It’s really a pleasure to be here with so many fellow educators, CFR members, and various others—even some former students of mine, I think. And this is a great time to be teaching American democracy. It’s not necessarily a great time for democracy, but it’s a great time to be teaching American democracy because I think one of the things we do well as scholars is to help people understand and make sense of the confusion in their world. We don’t offer solutions. That’s really the world for policymakers to try to come up with solutions. It’s our job to help people understand the complexity and confusion in their world, to provide narratives. And, what we as historians do most of all, to provide people with an origin, a deeper understanding for what they confront today, which helps people to think about then alternatives for moving forward. We study the past, not because the past repeats itself—it doesn’t—but because the past opens up other opportunities for thinking about the present. If you don’t understand the past of our democracy, you think we’re stuck with all the problems we have today because they seem unavoidable. But if you go to the past, you can study the choices that our society has made at different moments and how those choices—which might have made sense in their own time—can be rethought today. So you’re not playing Monday morning quarterback, but you’re rerunning what Stephen Jay Gould calls the tape of evolution. And you’re rerunning that tape to see how there are alternatives in the past that can be alternatives for our present as well. So you study the past to look forward. And this is a great moment to teach the history of American democracy, because our students—and I mean students broadly defined, not just our eighteen to twenty-one year old students, our graduate students, our public students, various others—they see democracy as a topic that needs analysis as they might not have thought before. It’s not a topic now that’s prima facie fixed. It’s not a topic that’s prima facie set for us in the world. And what I try to do is begin by making the point to any group I’m talking to, like this group, that democracy in the United States has always been a work in progress. There was no founding definition of democracy. Different founders thought about it differently. And, yes, they thought we were a democracy. Let me make that absolutely clear. They thought we were a democracy that was also a republic. But they believed that we were a democracy. But they differed on what that meant. There’s no one single totemic document. The Constitution itself is not a totemic document on this. Our democracy’s always been a work in progress. And it has had peaks and valleys in the nature of its development. We’re in one of those valleys now. I think three questions that I always like to teach and pose that I think are at the core of the historical evolution of our democracy. First, what kind of democracy are we going to be? Back to Jefferson and Adams, of course, there was a debate right there as to whether this would be a democracy that would be built upon the yeomen farmers that Jefferson revered—even though he really wasn’t one himself—or a more deferential democracy as Adams thought about it, with a more Brahmitic—Boston Brahmitic elite that was able to set the standards. That debate, of course, goes on through Jacksonian America. And, from my recent book, the Civil War is the second American Revolution. I take that term from James McPherson, the great Civil War historian. It’s the second American Revolution, because it’s the moment when initial compromises on what our democracy should be are fundamentally rethought. And the question coming out of the Civil War, that remains unresolved today, is the question of what role should the federal government have versus state governments. Everyone on this call I think knows that coming out of the Civil War the apparent losers, the former Confederates, make a very strong argument for states’ rights. They even try to remake the war into a war over states’ rights. Which it wasn’t. It was a war over slavery, obviously. But the argument against federal power, in fact, grows in some ways. But the reality of federal power grows as the argument against federal power grows. Welcome to our world today. And one of the things I like to point out to students of all kinds is that this is an ongoing debate that has meant different things in different times. And we can understand both positions today, even if the actors themselves don’t as legacies, as extensions of that debate. And people play into it. The rhetoric that gets used—often horrible rhetoric—seems legitimate because it has been there for a long time. I’ll give you one example. Claims of fraud in elections, especially when the federal government steps in to different states that are not running fair elections, that is an old trope that has been used repeatedly. Used by Democrats, as I show in my book, in the 1870s and 1880s, used, of course, by some Republicans today. Second question: Democracy for whom? Democracy for whom? And this is a central element of my book, something I became deeply interested in, watching the difficulties of the last five to seven years and our society today. Democracy is, in a sense, the standard discourse of American society, but for whom has not been resolved. And the Civil War leaves that deeply unresolved. As I show in the book, very vividly I think, many figures who were former Confederates come out of the Civil War still believing that democracy is only for certain white men, or other groups. But fundamentally, that certain groups should be excluded. Ben Tillman is one of many examples. President Andrew Johnson is another example. Many, many figures. I show in the book that there are a lot of figures who never even accept that they lost the war. It’s not even a lost cause. It’s a continued cause. And their argument is a very simple one. That if I’m in a community that has ten white slave owners, or former slave owners, and there are a hundred slaves, and we go to a system of actually single person franchise across races, I, the ten white people, are losing our democracy. We’re losing our say in our community. Or that’s how it’s perceived. That, ladies and gentlemen, of course, is the same argument that’s going on about replacement theory, immigration today. It’s an argument, of course, that continues in the late nineteenth century. The multiracial argument also grows in strength, of course, after the Civil War. It’s the argument of the then-Republican Party. It’s the argument of Ulysses Grant. And it’s the argument of many communities that come into the United States. But I think it’s important for us to see today that our debate is drawn on exactly those lines, and to see how the exclusionary, non-multiracial democratic argument—although many of us might have thought that was a creature of the past—has resilient power. And you see that in its history across time. We shouldn’t undercount that. Most of us on this call probably lean towards the multiracial democracy argument, but it’s not only crazies who see the exclusionary, non-multiracial argument. And we have to be conscious of that and think about how, from history, we can learn to be better and more persuasive about that. And then the third point, the one that I really want to underline and that my book tries to underline, is how we’ve never really resolved how change should occur, when we want to change our democracy. The amendment procedure is very difficult. Hardly ever works. Impeachment never works. I talk about this in the book, and we’ve learned that more recently. Elections don’t resolve our differences. I point out in the book that from 1870 to 1900, all of our elections are closer than the last two presidential elections—closer, and unresolved. And that’s one of the reasons we don’t even remember who the presidents were between Grant and William McKinley. And so these things that we think that we’re taught in civics class that resolve our differences, don’t. Two things resolve differences in our history. One is the force of legislative supermajorities. And I want to remind everyone, and I want to remind all of my students always, that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments, three of the most important amendments in our history, right, ending slavery, equal protection under the law, and all that follows from that in the Fourteenth Amendment, at least in theory, and, of course, voting rights—or, prohibition of stopping some voting based on race. Those three amendments passed with zero Democratic votes. It takes a Republican supermajority to push those through, similar to FDR’s supermajorities during a New Deal, and similar to Lyndon Johnson’s supermajority in 1964 and 1965 to get us the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. We have this vision that there was this bipartisan moment when people came together. This is the Cold War narrative, the Cold War myth that many of us, as Cold War historians, bought into for a long time. Change doesn’t happen that way in our system. Change happens with supermajorities or change happens through violence. And we are a very, very violent democracy. Gun ownership is only one version of that. Recently when—I forget the name of the gentleman who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house and attacked Paul Pelosi—when he was—when he was discussing why he did what he did with the FBI, the affidavit’s available online, he said—he used words that were exactly the same, exactly the same, as the words I quoted, before he did this, by Ben Tillman in my book. Ben Tillman was a South Carolina white supremacist. And what the man who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s house said was: I wanted to break her knees and wheel her into Congress so that the Democrats would see the results of their action, and act differently. Ben Tillman said in 1870 in South Carolina that he wanted to cut off the arms of all the Republicans and Black men who voted so that they would show other Black men and Republicans what happens if they try to vote. Bullying, and of course lynching, is the semi-institutionalized way this goes on until the 1960s in our country, and one could argue might still go on within some elements of criminal justice today. Bullying and violence is, unfortunately, another way that change happens in our society. Sometimes, as in the Civil War and the Union Army, violence is somewhat necessary. But the nonstate violence, the non-Weberian violence in our society. So supermajorities and violence are two parts of our history. We should today, as we’re looking at our democracy, not be surprised that we see problems with both, and that both are elements of what’s happening. I think many of us believe that we need supermajorities to get things changed in many parts of our society. Certainly, if we want to have voting rights we’re going to deal with the gerrymandering. And we also have seen an uptick in violence. And we shouldn’t be surprised by that. We need to be ready. I would say I think our democracy will survive, but we’re going to see more violence, I think. The historical record would lead us to think, not less. The last point I want to close on, because I know people have so many more smart things to say and ask about, but the last thing I want to close on, it’s a statement I make in the book toward the end. And I really believe this, and it’s strange for me to quote myself but I want to make sure I get the words right. (Laughs.) I think the historical record shows that democracies do not come together when they glorify their past. That’s an easy way to become a cheerleader, but they don’t come together that way. They come together when they strive to repair their past. I’m an American patriot. I’m the child of immigrants. I couldn’t do what I do if the United States had not taken in my immigrant parents and grandparents from Russia and from India. So I love this country, but I kind of approach it, and I think historians should help us to approach it, as good parents approach parenting. Which is you love your country and your kids, you support them, but you hold them accountable. And you say, because I love you, I want you to reach the values we believe in. I love my country. It’s the role of historians to point out the good things we’ve done—reconstruction of Germany and Japan that I’ve written about myself after World War II—but also the things, the places where we’ve not done well, and how we can do better. Not because we want to trash our country, but because want us to live up to our values. I think that’s crucial for our foreign policy. And I’ll close it on this point. In my study and my writing on the Cold War, and I’ve written a lot on U.S. foreign policy for prior books and articles, it seems to me we’ve been at our best, just as George Kennan predicted, when we’re setting an example for the world rather than running the world. And if we want to have the influence and want to return to a democracy agenda internationally, which I hope we return to at some point, we got to get our own democracy doing better. Our work in progress has to improve, learning from this history, if we want to have that influence in Ukraine, and elsewhere, going forward. So thank you for listening to my opening. That’s all I have to say for now. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: Jeremi, that was fantastic. Now let’s go to all of you for your questions, comments. (Gives queuing instructions.) Which we have our first question from Todd Barry, who’s an adjunct professor at Hudson County Community College. In light of the fact that many of America’s founding fathers were slaveowners, how can we encourage our students to still feel patriotic? SURI: Great question, Todd. And I get that question a lot, especially as, I’m sure many of you do, when Thomas Jefferson comes up. And it’s not just that they’re slaveholders. They’re hypocrites, right? And we can find for any figure—(laughs)—certainly ourselves—but certainly any figure who deserves more reverence than us, we can certainly find evidence of a gap, a big gap, between ideals and behavior in our history. And so I don’t think we should apologize for the slavery of Thomas Jefferson and others, but I think what we should do is, first of all, we should show how many Americans struggled with this, as probably some of us struggle with environmental issues today. My kids think I don’t do enough to deal with climate change. They’re probably right. They don’t like the fact that I fly on planes too often to go and give talks places because it’s bad for the environment, right? They want me to do more through Zoom. I don’t think they want me more at home, they just want me to not fly. (Laughs.) Not fly as much, because it’s bad for the environment. And I think we struggle with that. I feel guilty sometimes, right, about some of our wasteful habits. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the environment. It doesn’t mean that Thomas Jefferson didn’t care about human rights and civil rights. But it means he himself was dependent upon the slaves on his farm. He was trying to work his way through that. That does not apologize for his behavior, but I think it shows the humanity of the individual. And I think we have to avoid trying to create men of marble, but we also have to avoid trashing men of marble also. We have to treat them as human beings. And so I try to avoid getting people to say he’s a slaveholder and horrible or we should excuse his slaveholding because of the times he’s in, and more to understand the struggles of the individual. And then for us to think about, and as a scholar of leadership what all leaders struggle with, which is your ideals and your reality. I don’t think we should hold people in condemnation because they live short of their ideals. We should judge them on how well they try to reconcile their ideals with the world they’re in. And here, then I would stand with Annette Gordon-Reed, and Peter Onuf, and others. I think figures like Jefferson deserve our reverence for the thoughtfulness with which they approached these problems. But they also deserve our criticism for the moments where they fall into exploitive behavior that they don’t need. That’s the whole Sally Hemings story, right? That was not economically necessary for Jefferson. So I want people to be patriotic by seeing good people struggling even when they do bad things, believing in our ideals, and giving us models how we can struggle today. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Jennifer McCoy, who has raised her hand. Jennifer, if you can give your affiliation that would be great. Q: Hi. I’m a political science professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Thanks, Jeremi, for that great overview. When I talk to groups or to students about, you know, how we can get out of this current situation that we’re in, you know, we face the chicken and egg thing. How can we make the changes when the institutions are so rigid and our polarization is so rigid. So I wanted to ask your two solutions of violence and supermajorities, to get supermajorities, again, would require a realignment, it seems. But it seems there may be a third one. I wanted to ask you about this as well. What about bottom-up pressure? Although, I believe most of our problems are elite-driven, I’m thinking back to the Progressive Era, when bottom-up organization could be effective. So I wondered how you view that and how you kind of teach that. What I’m trying to do is give people hope that they can do something, empower them basically. (Laughs.) SURI: I have hope. And I’m a hopeful person. And I think—I often tell people, I’m hopeful most of all because I think the last few years have unmasked deep problems that many of us didn’t pay—myself, I didn’t pay enough attention to. Even as someone who’s paid to do it, even as a historian, I didn’t pay as much attention to these—to some of these issues. So I think that’s the gift of the last few years. I think—let me just go through your points here, which were so well-said, Jennifer. Our institutions are rigid. They’re designed, in a sense, to be rigid and hard to change. And then people double down in power that’s organized around that. But they are changeable, still. And that’s the thing about democracy, unlike an authoritarian or autocratic system. They are changeable. And, first of all, I think we have to be deft at finding the ways where we can make changes. And often that occurs, and maybe this connects to your bottom-up point, by starting local, starting within cities, and states, and places like that. And that is the progressive tradition, right, to use the city and the state as the laboratory. Now, that’s not going to work in the state of Texas, where I am. But it does work, to some extent, in the city of Austin. And it can work in other communities. So I often tell young people to really double down on learning about these issues at the local level, because you can start to make change there that can have a huge effect upon people. And that is one of the strengths of our system, of a federalist system. And it’s also a strength of learning the details, learning procedure, learning political science, learning actually how institutions operate, taking that seriously. It’s not good enough to just be right. You’ve got to figure out how to work through the institutions, what Rudi Dutschke called two generations ago, right, the long march through the institutions. I think when I talk about violence, there I’m obviously not advocating violence. I’m not even advocating peaceful revolution. What I am advocating, though, is the use of state power and, when necessary, with controlled violence in the Weberian sense, to control those who break the law, and to recognize how violence is being used by those who want to prevent change and want to harm our institutions, and to use law enforcement, true law and order, in that way. One of the best things I think we’ve done since January 6 is actually prosecute those who broke the law on January 6 as part of an insurrection. And we need to do more of that. And let me state very clearly, I think the historical record shows that if we want law-abiding behavior, we have to hold everyone accountable. And so if the evidence rises higher, as it might, we need to hold other individuals accountable. And those who have information must be required to share their information with regard to criminal behavior. So I’m getting a little—I don’t want to get lost in this. But I do want to say, the former Vice President Mike Pence will be in Austin on Friday. And if I have a chance, when I’m at an event with him, I intend to ask him this. Why will he not testify as a patriot about what happened? I’m sure I know the answer, but I think we need to press people to be part of the law enforcement process, because that’s how you deal with violence. And that is the legitimate use of the force of the state to protect our institutions and to protect against the bullying. I am for bottom-up change. I wrote a book about this years ago, actually, on the 1960s. I revere a lot of the bottom-up work that was done by civil rights activists in the U.S., activists in Germany, and France, and elsewhere, activists in the Czech Republic, or it was Czechoslovakia, that led to such important change. So I revere that. But I think that has to work by also getting into the institutions. And that’s what I mean by supermajorities. By getting into the institutions, by getting elected to office, by taking ownership of our institutions. What worries me, even though I’m optimistic, is when I hear young people say: Well, we’re disillusioned. You can’t do this through our institutions. No, I think we have to work through the institutions. We have to be supportive of that in one way or another. And I actually don’t think we’re that far from supermajorities on certain issues. Certainly where we stand as a citizenry, right? On many issues, there’s 75 percent agreement in our country, for example, that if a woman is raped that she should have the choice over whether to give birth or not. Seventy-five percent think that eighteen year olds shouldn’t be able to buy AR-15s, right? There are places where we have a supermajority of opinion. We have to force that in, and—this is the last point I’ll make, Jennifer—I think a lot of that comes through generational change. A lot of that comes through generational change. And that’s where our students have to be the next set of bottom-up leaders who get in and make a difference. FASKIANOS: Thank you. We’ll take the next question from Muhammad Kabir, who is a faculty member at Queens College. What do you think of the idea that political parties are gatekeepers in American democracy? SURI: Great question, Muhammad. Of course, they are. It’s a very learned and accurate question. They have always been gatekeepers. They still are gatekeepers. But they gatekeep in different kinds of ways. Right now, I think they’re gatekeeping more for those who can raise the most money. There was a time they were gatekeeping for certain ideological positions or certain various other interests, often related to money. It’s not unique to this—to this moment. But there’s no doubt that parties play a gatekeeping role. And some gatekeeping is good. Some gatekeeping is good, I think. We have to have a debate over what that gatekeeping should look like. I think the problem now, I’m going to say the obvious, is that for both parties, but particularly for the Republican Party, a very, very small group of people do the gatekeeping deciding in primaries. The primary system, as everyone knows, was created to open up parties, to get rid of the smoke-filled room. And I, as a historian, am not nostalgic for the smoke-filled room. If we went back to the smoke-filled room, we’d have an even less representative group of people. So I don’t want to go back to the smoke-filled room in choosing candidates for parties. But the primary system has turned out to actually be a pathological way to prevent representative figures from becoming party nominees. Let me just give you the numbers on Texas, which are extraordinary, right? So, in Texas, there are about thirty million citizens. About one million people—one million, probably a little less, decide who the nominee—the Republican nominee—for governor is. So one million people chose Greg Abbott in a state of thirty million people. That’s a real problem. That’s a real, real problem. That’s not democracy. Again, the smoke-filled room’s not better, because that’s going to be five hundred people choosing someone. (Laughs.) We need to have a system that’s more inclusive. And the parties need to be gatekeeping in a way that’s more representative—not purely majoritarian—but representative of our society. So what would I do? I would change the way our primaries work. I would open it up in ways that make it much easier for people to participate in the choosing of who leads the parties. I would require that the person running in the primary get enough votes that they’re actually representative of something like a large proportion of those in the state. And we could go on and on. We could take the gatekeeping process and make the gatekeeping process more inclusive, to still be gatekeeping. We’ve all learned to do this, right? We all are on search committees. And it used to be a search committee was run by three men who looked the same, and they chose someone who went to the same graduate school who they knew. Now we have procedures to make sure—it's not perfect—to make sure we have representative search committees. They’re still gatekeeping. But they’re doing a job that’s designed to be more representative. And we need to have that conversation about our primaries. This is an ongoing debate, back to the history, that’s been going on in our history for a long time. FASKIANOS: OK. Going next to Jin In, who has a raised hand. Q: Thanks, Jeremi. My name is Jin. I’m the assistance vice president for diversity and inclusion at Boston University. And I say that actually diversity and inclusion is the twenty-first century repackaged version of e pluribus unum. And that’s—and so as far as democracy is concerned, this isn’t just about political party. How do you address this to a whole group of diverse group where they don’t feel that they’re part of democracy? SURI: Great question, Jin. And thank you for all the work you’re doing. And I get that question from lots of students, actually, and lots of activists. It’s obviously probably the most important question. So I’m glad you put it so succinctly and so eloquently for us. Diverse—we have to begin by recognizing diversity’s hard. Diversity’s very hard, because of what Richard Hofstadter wrote about seventy years ago, one of the truly great historians of the twentieth century. That people, no matter who they are, don’t like to give up status and power, right? And the challenge with diversity is that those—there are those who have power, and there are those who are coming into our society and have gained and merit access for all kinds of reasons. And those with power don’t want to share power. Many call this—and you know this literature better than I do, I’m sure—the hording of privilege, right? And I’ll tell you, I feel this personally. I mean, as much as I pontificate about this, you know, my wife and I intentionally lived in a part of Austin where our kids would be able to go to good schools. And our daughter’s in college, our son just got admitted to college. And, you know, we’ve done all the things to get them access to go to privileged institutions, right? So we can pontificate about this all we want. We have to take a deep, hard look at ourselves. And so I think that to get people involved in this issue, to get them to see there’s a chance is, first, for them to recognize that this is a long-term struggle. That we’ve been in this struggle for a long, long time. And that should not make us despondent. It should make us to see that our time horizon has to be a broad one. Doesn’t excuse problems today, but we have to see ourselves as part of a long time horizon. And then, second, we have to be smart about finding the things we can do, the institutional levers we can push and pull that can have a disproportionately positive effect opening up access to people. That things that will help—and I’ll give you a few examples of things I think a lot from my historical work. It’s a central part of this—of my new book is voting. There are a lot of things we do that make it hard for people of color to vote. I’m Asian American myself. My father’s an immigrant from India. And I see Asian communities in Texas that have actually lower voter turnout not only than white communities, but than Black communities. And in Texas, Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations, but their turnout percentage is actually lower than African Americans, which is, of course, lower than white Americans. And I think this is true in many parts of the United States. And I think there are things that the state of Texas does, if you look closely, that actually make it harder for Asian immigrants, particularly immigrants from Southeast Asia and elsewhere—to feel comfortable registering to vote, to feel comfortable going to vote. And Filipino nurses, for example, in Houston, there’s been a lot written about this, they tend to work shifts that make it hard for them on one day to go vote. And the state makes it harder for them not to vote if they don’t vote on the Tuesday in Houston, right, during the day. They had twenty-four voting two years ago. The state is now not allowing twenty-four-hour voting in Houston. Who doesn’t get to vote? So we have to be conscious of those things that sometimes don’t look like barriers, in addition to the obvious barriers, and push to change those. Make the case to change those. And work piece by piece. And how I try to get my students and others to be optimistic and engaged is to show them places where we have made progress and where we can continue to make progress in that way. States that have eliminated onerous registration requirements. States that have—and places that have made it easier to vote. It was a victory for us at the University of Texas in the midterm election. We added voting booths, and we intentionally put them in the parts of campus where we had more minority students. We didn’t put them in the places where the faculty were. We put them where our students were, and things of that sort. So we can do those things. We can start at home. And we can start to build upon that. But we should be realistic. We’re not going to fix this in one year, or two years, or five years. Q: Well, thank you. I’ll just say hook ’em, ’Horns. SURI: (Laughs.) Thank you. FASKIANOS: All right. So I’m going next to a written question. Trelaine Jackson, who’s the disability services coordinator for Fort Valley State University. What are your thoughts on the ongoing debate about critical race theory (CRT)? SURI: Thank you for asking that question, Trelaine. I hope I’m pronouncing your name correctly. I get this question a lot. I do a lot of work with teachers through the Gilder Lehrman Institute. I’m sure many of you work with Glider Lehrman, and through various humanities councils, including the one in Texas. This comes up all the time. And I give that background because I think on an average year, through workshops and things of that sort, I probably work with about five thousand different teachers. And I am yet to find one who teaches or knows what critical race theory is. History teachers are not teaching critical race theory. This is—this is a total made-up issue. It’s a total—it’s like fraud in elections, right? (Laughs.) It’s a total made-up issue, right? History teachers—I can’t comment on law professors. It might be different, right? But, again, law professors are not teaching undergraduates or high school students, right? (Laughs.) Among history teachers at the high school and college level, I don’t know anyone who’s teaching critical race theory. And I really don’t know anyone who could identify and tell you what it is. This is a made-up boogeyman. You know, once there were reds under the bed and communists everywhere. Now there seem to be critical race theory proponents everywhere. What most teachers are trying to do, even at the collegiate level, is get students to sit on their butts, turn off their phones, and listen, and read. (Laughs.) That’s what they’re trying to do. And they’re not indoctrinating. They’re not indoctrinating. Of course, everyone has biases. I have biases. Everyone has biases. But that’s actually not what’s driving any of the issues that people care about, really. All it is is a boogeyman to scare people one way or another. If you want more points of view to be taught, here is what I think should be done. If you want more points of view, create more opportunities for students to hear other points of view, but don’t try to cut off the legitimate teaching. And don’t disrespect teachers, who are every day doing their best. What teachers need—and this is why I work through Gilder Lehrman and Humanities Texas, they need exposure outside the classroom to material they don’t have time to learn because they don’t have the privilege I have of being a tenured professor who gets paid to sit and read and do research. They’re so busy. They have a harder job than me. Teachers, especially in the high school, or at a college where they have a four-four load, have so much more work to do than I do. They are in the classroom all day. They’re dealing with all kinds of student problems that I don’t see at a research one institution. What I try to do is to offer them workshops where they actually get paid to show up, and they can hear from me and other scholars about new research that then can then bring into the classroom. If you care about getting a more set—a diverse set of viewpoints offered, invest in that. Invest in the teachers. Educate the teachers. Do not attack the teachers. Do not make things up. And I’ll say what I’m sure Trelaine and others know really well, which is that the challenge we face—in part because of the CRT attacks—is lots of teachers are leaving the profession. And that’s a real problem. That’s a real problem. We need more talented teachers, not fewer. And we don’t need to attack them. So the CRT stuff, it’s a boogeyman. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Karl Inderfurth of St. Johns—actually, I don’t know—he’s with—let me get this. OK, he’s at George Washington University. St. John’s College is known for its great books curriculum. What would be your short great books list for teaching American democracy? He is just finishing up Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln, and just finished a chapter entitled “America -Whither.” Still asking that question today. (Laughs.) SURI: Great question, Karl. And I am a believer in great books. I think our great books can be old and new. If we weren’t talking just in an American context, right, there’s no reason we can’t go Plato to Toni Morrison, right? We can have great books, they don’t all just have to be from people of another age. So I’ll give you my four that I think are essential. And this is in addition to reading the Constitution and reading—(laughs)—the Declaration of Independence. The first is also a primary document, The Federalist Papers. I think everyone should read The Federalist Papers and grapple. They are great for discussions because there’s so much meat in them, and they don’t agree all the time, even internally. Even the ones Hamilton wrote himself, or Madison wrote himself. So The Federalist Papers. Then I really like the classic book by Edmund Morgan, American Freedom, American Slavery. And that book makes the point, focusing on Virginia—written, I think, in the 1960s or 1970s—focusing on Virginia. Makes the point that American—the definition of freedom in the United States was connected to slavery. That Virginians thought they were free because they held slaves. And these are not contradictions. And that’s so important in thinking about how we think about race going forward. Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which captures so many concepts. It’s empirical in the time, but also captures concepts about social capital, associationalism that are so important to us going forward. And then I would—I’m going to actually give you five. I already had three, I have two more I want to—(laughs)—two more I want to mention here. I think it’s absolutely crucial that students get a sense of what happened in the Civil War and the Civil War’s legacies. I wrote a book on this, but I think the best book for anyone to read is James McPherson’s Battle Cry Freedom, which captures the politics of the war, the nature of the war, and the legacy of the war, as such. And then I really love the classic book that was written years ago by William Leuchtenburg on Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, which just gives you a basic—I think it’s from the 1950s—it was a classic book that gives you a basic overview of what the New Deal was about. There’s a more recent version, not quite as detailed, by Eric Rauchway, I think called What the New Deal Did [sic: Why the New Deal Matters], something along those lines. David Kennedy’s also written a book, Freedom from Fear. But one of those New Deal books I think is really, really important. And, you know, I gave you five, I’m now thinking of another eight I want I want to say, but we’ll stop there for now. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: That’s great. All right. There’s a raised hand. Stan Gacek. Q: Yes, thank you, Professor Suri. Absolutely an enlightening discussion. I am the senior advisor for global strategies of a—we argue that we are the largest union of workers in the private sector, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. My question is the following, Professor Suri. From a historian’s point of view, you have mentioned, quite insightfully, you know, what the role of supermajorities, and how supermajorities have been necessary in order to get things changed. But how would you, from a historian’s point of view, how do you assess now what are really anti-majoritarian institutions in our constitutional system, most notably the Electoral College? And from a historian’s point of view, why is it that we, as the American people, have not been able to change this system over time? SURI: Great question, Stan. And I struggle with this myself. So the Electoral College is a—is a really interesting phenomenon. First of all, almost no one understands it. I always ask my students, who have taken AP history before they come into my class, where the Electoral College meets. They think there’s, like, some college of cardinals somewhere that—I mean, people don’t understand how this thing works. People don’t understand who electors are. Most of us don’t really understand it. And it’s never been popular. It wasn’t even popular among the founding fathers. I wrote about this in an earlier book, and many of you know this, the Electoral College was a last-minute compromise. They couldn’t figure out how to elect a president. The founders believed that Virginia would always put up someone, Massachusetts would always put up someone, New York would—and how would they—how would they come to an agreement? And so they created this jerry-rigged system that they never thought would last. They actually expected that most elections would work the way the 1824 election worked, where things went to Congress. They actually thought that you were going to have multiple candidates, no one would have a majority, and Congress would have to decide. Which has only happened a few times in our history. Most famously, again, 1824, 1800 to some extent too, though that’s a more complicated example. So this is something that shouldn’t exist. The problem is, we can’t agree on what to replace it with. So this is a classic case of suboptimality, where we’re stuck with something because we can’t agree on what to do in place of it. That is something I tell another generation they’ve got to work on that. Every student I met thinks it’s silly we have an Electoral College. It’s time that we actually put work into something that would replace it, and building support for that. Now, that’s a long-term issue. That’s not going to happen overnight. But there are anti-majoritarian elements that have been misused recently that we can use history to help us un-misuse. (Laughs.) And one of them is the filibuster. And I’m sure you know this, Stan. The filibuster exists because Aaron Burr changes the rules of the Senate. But for the most part, the filibuster is rarely used and, when used, the barrier to use it is pretty high. Until the late twentieth century. It is consistently used on race issues, which is interesting. It’s consistently used to protect slavery and then to go against civil rights. But the barrier to use it is high. And it is rarely invoked. We have gone to a system in the last thirty years where on every issue if you don’t have sixty votes you can’t go forward. And so that means in the Senate that basically forty-one senators can stop anything from happening. And you can actually have forty-one Senators who represent less than 40 percent of the population. So thirty-some-odd percent of the population is holding things hostage, such as voting rights. I am a firm believer, as a historian, that the filibuster should not work that way. No one intended it to work that way. It is not good for our democracy. And that can be changed tomorrow. It can be changed in 2025 if one party has enough people who just change the rules. All you need is fifty-one, or fifty-plus-one, with the vice president’s vote. And I’m a believer that that should be changed. It’s already been changed for Supreme Court nominations, right? You got rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. Let’s just get rid of it for everything. Let’s go to reality and say if you have fifty-one votes you have a majority, and forty-one people don’t get to stop us. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Patrick Duddy at Duke University. The immense flow of undocumented migrants over our southern border and recently over our northern border have alarmed many and aggravated certain nativist elements in African—I’m sorry—American society. The numbers are startling. More undocumented migrants have crossed our border in the last year than there are citizens in a dozen U.S. states. But we are a nation shaped by immigration. How do you approach the history of immigration in the U.S. in view of the current political discourse on the subject? SURI: Great question, Patrick. And also thank you for being fact-based, because a lot of people talk about this without being fact-based. And I think you clearly know the details, probably know them better than I do. Look, the first thing a historian would say is that immigration has always been a problematic issue in our country. We are a nation of immigrants. I proudly stand by that, as a child of immigrants myself. But we’ve always been a country that has had strong nativist impulses, as you point out, and done a lot to restrict immigration. The most infamous example being the 1924 Immigration Act, that actually, between 1924 and 1965, created a quota system that made it very difficult for people like my father to come into the country. My father came into the country from India in 1965, after Lyndon Johnson passed the reform act of 1965 that actually allowed Indians, South Asians, to come into the U.S. in any significant number for the first time. And it changed everything, right? Silicon Valley, Austin, look at the South Asian communities. So this is a long-term problem. It’s not new to today. But what I will say is what has been not necessarily new but been striking about the last thirty years is our inability to pass any legislation. So the challenge that we have, particularly on the southern border, is we don’t have effective legislation to deal with exactly what you pointed to, which is the processing of people who want to come and deciding who gets to come in and who doesn’t. As much as I, in theory, would like an open border, we can’t have one, for what you implied. But we have to let people in. We need them economically. The Austin miracle—Austin’s the fastest-growing city in the U.S., right—is because of immigrants. There was a shortage of computer programmers every day in Austin, Texas, and we’re hiring educated people from India and Mexico. There’s a brain drain from those countries to Austin. We need immigrants, as our country does. You know, our demographics also. We don’t have the replacement rate population. And if you want to look at the country that doesn’t bring in immigration, what happens, look at Japan and the economic stagnation they have faced. So we need immigrants, as well as wanting immigrants ideologically. But we don’t have a process—an effective process that helps us to have the resources and to have fair laws that are actively applied to determine who comes in and who doesn’t. I believe that we should not allow families to come in, I think we should do more for political refugees—those who can prove they’re political refugees. We should do more also for skilled workers. And we can have various other categories—DREAMers and others. Some of my best students, by the way, every semester, are DREAMers, in my classes at the University of Texas. But that’s not to say we’re letting everyone in. And we should hold people accountable to the law. But right now we have a system of laws that are outdated. The last legislation was in the Reagan administration. We have poorly funded and mis-funded institutions. We have states like Texas and Florida that are sending ill-trained forces down to the border to do things that are intentionally not matched up with the federal government. And then, it has to be said, we are creating not only hateful rhetoric but misallocating resources in building walls, or pieces of walls, that don’t keep anyone out of anywhere. It is long time that members of Congress sit down and work toward the passage of legislation. There was a majority that agreed to a legislative package during the Obama administration. And it was filibustered, back to that—back to that point. So the best way to deal with this issue is to update our laws based on our values. That won’t solve the problem, but that can do a lot better. And I am deeply frustrated that we haven’t had the historical will or the political will in the last thirty years. That has to change. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Jennifer Brinkerhoff at GWU. Do you think Supreme Court reform is needed to keep our democracy strong? SURI: Yes. And I have a strong historical argument for that, Jennifer. Thank you for asking that excellent question. Here is the thing about both the Supreme Court and Congress. I think most people know this, but it’s worth resaying. From the late eighteenth century until the early twentieth century, we expanded Congress every ten years. So we need more members of Congress for more representation. And we brought in more states. We need to bring in Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, as states. And we changed the composition and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. I point this out in my book, the Supreme Court numbers, the number and jurisdiction of the court, the actual operation of the court was changed by Congress three times between 1861 and 1872. To change the number of justices—for a time there were ten, then there were eight—to change their jurisdiction. And this was what everyone assumed was Congress’ role. Congress doesn’t get to decide the cases, but Congress sets the framework within which the Supreme Court operates. Since the late nineteenth century have we not only kept Congress at about the same size—so we now have 750,000-800,000 people per member of Congress in the House—but we’ve also—we’ve also kept the Supreme Court at the same size. We all know that the legal structure of the United States has multiplied in its complexity and scale since the late nineteenth century. And why we think that nine cardinals is still the appropriate number, and the jurisdictional demarcations make the same sense, it doesn’t fit with our world. We need to update that. And we could do something that would be very fair. We could follow the model of our appellate courts where, let’s say, we created nineteen, eighteen Supreme Court justices. And they rotated randomly in groups of nine to hear cases? So that way, you couldn’t also game who your Supreme Court judges were for the cases you were bringing. There’s no reason we couldn’t do that. We could give every president a guaranteed number to appoint, and then have others that are appointed when people pass away or retire. We could do this in a way that initially might give one side an advantage, but would set up a fair system, a fair rotational system, which is what we do for our appellate courts. And I think it’s long time we do that. I think something like this was recommended, Jennifer, you probably know more details, but by the committee that was brought together to advise on this. I think this was recommended. And let me say one other thing. That’s not packing the court, what I just described. What FDR was trying to do with the alleged packing of the court was actually trying to change the judges in real time so he’d get the outcome he wanted at that moment. I’m not talking about doing that. I’m talking about creating a long-term process that would make for a court that would be less political, because you couldn’t choose exactly which justice, and because every president would get to appoint. And a court that would be able to cover more issues more appropriately. FASKIANOS: Jeremi, just as a follow up, do you think that there should be term limits, both in terms of the Supreme Court and in Congress? And is there any historical evidence that that might make a difference? SURI: Well, I think the term limits on the court might make sense, because I will say, as a historian, the founders and most who have written about this through the twentieth century never assumed people would serve on the court as long as they have, right? Because life expectancies were not the same. People were actually not appointed as young, chosen by the Federalist Society or things like that. So I do think there’s an argument to be made. It think it would be a long term limit you would want. But I think you could say you’re dealing with the historical intent by assuming people don’t get to be Supreme Court justice for fifty, sixty, seventy years. That does seem like a very, very long time, in a sense. So I would—I’m not saying I’m advocating that, but I think one could make a historical argument for that. My problem with term limits at the congressional level is one that’s always been the historical objection, which is that in some ways further empowers parties and further empowers lobbyists, right, because if you’re constantly rotating, the new person who wants to run is dependent upon the party and dependent upon people who raise the money. So I’m not sure that’s the best way to deal with things, although I do think there is at some point enough time that someone has been in office. But I’d like to make it easier for people to run, and easier for people through primaries, as well as through general elections, to vote someone else in. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Damian Odunze. I hope I pronounced that correctly. Assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Delta State University in Mississippi. How can we address the structural problems that confront the criminal justice system, for instance police use of excessive force? Do we have a problem of a few rotten apples, or do we need to address institutional inadequacies? SURI: So this is a great question, Damian. A question my students are asking all the time. And this is one I’m actually optimistic on. I think we’ve made progress since George Floyd, or in the aftermath, or around this period, despite what recently happened in Memphis and what happens in Austin quite often here. We’ve made progress, because people are much more aware of these issues. I think we start by understanding the very severe problems of the criminal justice system by talking about precisely the history we’ve been talking about today. Our criminal justice system is not entirely, but is in part, an extension—an extension of a slave system, slave enforcement system, and even more so a post-Civil War system of protecting white supremacy in our society. And that’s incontrovertible when you look at the evidence. Let me make this as clear as I can. I show this in the book, and I could have shown it even more. There’s only so much about this you can write about in one book. But most of the violence that occurs in major areas after the Civil War, which involves rioting and violence to prevent people from voting, to prevent African American and Jewish communities, and immigrant communities living places. The Memphis riot in 1866, New Orleans, Colfax, 1873. Almost all of this involves local policing not simply allowing this to happen, being responsible for much of it. Almost every one of these police forces are involved with the violence. Now, current police officers are not those people. Many of my students have become police officers. My cousin just retired from, I think, twenty-eight years on the New York City Police Department, where he survived. I’m so—he’s one of the best public servants I know. Richard Mack is his name. I have a deep respect for police officers. That’s not the problem. The problem is the structure of policing, the attitudes that are encouraged, the practice and behavior, the violence that is used and now has gone upscale with new weapons that are acquired. It’s a classic case of what you call, Damian, right, structural or institutional racism. Doesn’t make the individuals racist. But we need to understand that—I’ll give a very concrete example of this. My wife happens to be on the city council here in Austin. And she looked at the curriculum for cadets. And the curriculum for cadets was not teaching them to understand the communities they were dealing with. In fact, just the opposite. They were taught a civics course that did not mention slavery in Austin, Texas. And how can you understand that—in Austin 1924, there was forced segregation. Entire community of African Americans were forced to move from one part of town to another. Police officers are not taught that history. Now they are, because my wife got involved. That’s a classic case, I think, not of the racism of the officers, but of the institutionalized racism. And I’m optimistic, Damian, not because I don’t see resistance to changing that, but because we are all more aware. Every one of my students now has seen a video of something like what happened to George Floyd. And every one of my students recognizes it as a problem. And you can’t solve a problem till you recognize it. And we’re farther along now in recognizing it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Question from Julie Hershenberg from Texas, Collin College in Plano, Texas. I’m always struggling to find unbiased news sources for my students to help them stay current. What are your suggestions? SURI: Great, great question on that. I don’t think there’s one. I think what we’re teaching our students to do is to go to real, serious sources that try to be unbiased, even though they are not. And that’s the big difference. Is the source fact-based, as best as it can? And is it self-reflective on its own biases? And is it trying to get beyond those biases? So I’m very predictable on this. I want my students to read the New York Times. I want them to read the Wall Street Journal. I want them to read either the Financial Times or the Economist, particularly on the U.S., how those sites view the U.S. I want them, of course, to read Foreign Affairs on foreign policy, and the Foreign Affairs website. And others as well, right? But the point is, there’s a difference—this is what I’m trying to get across to my students—there’s a difference between those sites and sites that have not the same elements of fact-checking nor the same effort to be unbiased. Whether you like Fox News or not, Fox News is not trying to be unbiased. That’s now documented. MSNBC I don’t think tries to be unbiased. I like MSNBC. I sometimes go on MSNBC as a guest. But I don’t think MSNBC tries to be unbiased either. So I think it’s a lot better than Fox News personally, but I don’t think it's—that’s as good a source as the others. And so those are the things. For basic news coverage day to day, especially students who want to follow international affairs not just U.S. affairs, I still think the gold standard is the BBC. You know, I find to be the best. If I want to know what’s going on in Turkey, that’s what I look at. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Let’s go to—back to Todd Barry, Hudson County Community College. Is another constitutional convention possible? And would it be meaningful with new constitutional amendments? Or could it be dangerous, with too much change? SURI: Yeah. I have a colleague, a wonderful, very distinguished colleague, Sanford Levinson, who has been arguing for a new constitutional convention for, like, thirty years. And he’s arguing for it from the left. And then my governor, Greg Abbott, is arguing for a constitutional convention from the right. I think a constitutional convention would be a disaster. The last thing I want us to do is throw away two hundred years of wisdom and try to start again. But I do think we need amendments to the Constitution. And our Constitution makes it hard, but we can rewrite the Constitution. So I’m for rewriting the Constitution. I’m not for starting over, because I’m a Burkean. I’m not for revolution. I’m for building on the wisdom of the past. And we have a lot of wisdom to build on. My problem is not that we don’t have the wisdom. I mean, I’m a historian so I’m obviously going to say this. It’s not that the problem is the absence of wisdom. It’s whether we’re willing to learn it and use it. So let’s study the Constitution, and then let’s change it. Let’s not try to throw it away and start again. FASKIANOS: And, Jeremi, I’ll ask you the final question. Do you think, as you’re seeing students come into your university, do you think that there should be more systemized teaching of civics and history across the states? Because each state, as you mentioned with what the officers are studying, their civics didn’t mention slavery. So what does that look like for students, and how it’s being taught in different states—history? SURI: Yes. I think civics should be taught. I think we should be less prescriptive. I am for empowering teachers. I think we should—in the same way we invest a lot in educating science teachers, and math teachers—we don’t do enough, obviously, but we do a lot in that—we should be doing more to invest in an attractive career path for people to teach civics, to each constitutional and American history, and to teach it across the board, to be supported in doing that, to be given material and then left to their devices to teach. And that should be something supported not just by the federal government financially, it should be encouraged by our country as a whole. What I have witnessed is actually students are coming into my classrooms from all over the country, from very good high schools. It’s very hard—to get into UT now you have to be in the top 5 percent of your class, at least. It’s really hard to get in. They come from great schools with lots of AP credits. And they haven’t learned basic—they haven’t read the Constitution. They don’t understand basic things. And that shouldn’t be the case. We can do better. I don’t think we’re worse than we were, but we can do better. We can do better. And I think that should be a national mission. But I don’t want that to be civics taught just one way. I want use to actually train teachers to do it, and then let them run, let them do—let them do the teaching. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much for this hour. This was fantastic. We really appreciate your insights, and for all your work on this. Again, I commend Jeremi Suri’s book Civil War by Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy. If you haven’t already read it, you should. And we really appreciate your being with us. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeremisuri. SURI: And if I might, Irina, I also have a podcast called This is Democracy, where each week we talk about these issues. We bring on people to talk. We just had Jonathan Alter on this week to talk about Jimmy Carter and his legacy, positive and negative, for our democracy. We had John Sipher on last week or the week before talking about the CIA and its role in our democracy. So please listen. It’s called This is Democracy. It’s free. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. And we are going to continue this conversation on the future of democracy with our next webinar with CFR President Richard Haass on Tuesday, March 7 at 3:00 p.m. As many of you know, he’s written a book entitled The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, and feels very strongly about how we need to be training and teaching young adults about their obligations. SURI: It’s a great book. I just want to—I want to pitch for Richard. He’s a friend, so I’m biased. But it’s a great book, and I hope you all will come and—read my book first, and then read his book. But you should— FASKIANOS: Oh, OK, but—(laughs)—I won’t tell him you listed it, but I will share your endorsement. (Laughs.) SURI: Tell Richard—tell Richard I was pushing his book. It is a great book. I highly recommend it. It’s very readable for students also. I’ve actually already given some of it to my students to read. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. So in the meantime, please do follow us at @CFR_Academic, go to,—Jeremi already mentioned Foreign Affairs—and for research and analysis on global issues. It was great to be with you all, and with you, Jeremi. Wishing you all a good rest of your day. SURI: Thank you, everyone. Thank you. (END)
  • Technology and Innovation

    Margaret O’Mara, Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Chair of American history and professor at the University of Washington, leads the conversation on big tech and global order.   CASA: Welcome to today’s session of the Winter/Spring 2023 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Maria Casa, director of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you all for joining us. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website,, if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Margaret O’Mara with us to discuss big tech and global order. Dr. O’Mara is the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Chair of American history and professor at the University of Washington. She writes and teaches about the growth of the high-tech economy, the history of American politics, and the connections between the two. Dr. O’Mara is an Organization of American Historians distinguished lecturer and has received the University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award for Innovation with Technology. Previously, she served as a fellow with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. O’Mara served in the Clinton administration as an economic and social policy aide in the White House and in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is the author of several books and an editor of the Politics and Society in Modern America series at Princeton University Press. Welcome, Margaret. Thank you very much for speaking with us today. O’MARA: Thank you so much, Maria, and thank you all for being here today. I’m setting my supercomputer on my wrist timer so I—to time my talk to you, and which is very apropos and it’s really—it’s great to be here. I have a few slides I wanted to share as I talk through, and I thought that since we had some really interesting meaty present tense readings from Foreign Affairs as background for this conversation as well as the recent review essay that I wrote last year, I thought I would set the scene a little more with a little more history and how we got to now and thinking in broad terms about how the technology industry relates to geopolitics and the global order as this very distinctive set of very powerful companies now. So I will share accordingly, and, Maria, I hope that this is showing up on your screen as it should. So I knew I—today I needed to, of course, talk—open with something in the news, this—the current—the ongoing questions around what has—what was in the sky and what is being shot down in addition to a Chinese spy balloon, which is really kind of getting to a question that’s at the center of all of my work. I write at the intersection of economic history and political history and I do that because I’m interested in questions of power. Who has power? What do they value? This is the kind of the question of the U.S.-China—the operative question of the U.S.-China rivalry and the—and concern about China, what are the values, what are the—and Chinese technology and Chinese technology companies, particularly consumer-facing ones. And this is also an operative question about the extraordinary concentration of wealth and power in a few large platform companies that are based on the West Coast of the United States—(laughs)—a couple in my town of Seattle where I am right now talking to you, and others in Silicon Valley. It’s very interesting when one does a Google image search to find a publicly available image and puts in Silicon Valley the images that come up are either the title cards of the HBO television comedy, which I was tempted to add, but the—really, the iconic shot of the valley as place is the Apple headquarters—the Spaceship, as it’s called in Cupertino—that opened a few years ago in the middle of suburbia. And this is—you know, the questions of concentrated power in the Q&A among the background readings, you know, this was noted by several of the experts consulted about what is the threat of big tech geopolitically and concentrated power, whether that’s good, bad, if that’s an advantage geopolitically or not. It was something that many of those folks brought up as did the other readings as well. And this question of power—who has power and taking power—has been an animating question of the modern technology industry and there’s an irony in this that if you think about the ideological granddaddy of Apple itself is the Whole Earth Catalog, which I—and this is—I quote from this in the opening to my review essay that was part of the background readings and I just thought I would pop this up in full for us to think about. This is Stewart Brand. This is the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog. The full issue is digitized at the Internet Archive as are so many other wonderful artifacts and primary source materials about this world, and this is right here on the—you know, you turn—open the cover and here is the purpose: “We are as gods and might as well get used to it. So far, remotely done power and glory as via government, big business, formal education, and church has succeeded to the point where gross obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the Whole Earth Catalog.” The audience of the Whole Earth Catalog was not a bunch of techies, per se. It was back to the landers, people who were going and founding communes and the catalog was—you know, which was more a piece of art than it was an actual shopping guide, had all sorts of things from books by Buckminster Fuller to camp stoves and to the occasional Hewlett Packard scientific calculator, making this kind of statement that these tools could actually be used for empowerment of the individual because, of course, the world of 1968 is one in which computers and AI are in the hands of the establishment. We see this playing out in multiple scales including Hollywood films like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which, of course, follows, what, four years earlier Dr. Strangelove, which was also a satiric commentary on concentrated power of the military industrial complex, and computers were, indeed, things that were used by large government agencies, by the Pentagon, by Fortune 50 companies. And so the countercultural computer or personal computer movement is very much about individual power and taking this away from the global order, so to speak. This is the taking—using these tools as a way to connect people at the individual level, put a computer on every desk, connect everyone via computer networks to one another, and that is how the future will be changed. That is how the inequities of the world would be remedied. The notion of ultimate connectivity as a positive good was not something that originated with Facebook but, indeed, has much, much deeper origins and that’s worth thinking about as we consider where we are in 2023 and where things are going from there. It’s also worth thinking about the way in which global—the global order and particularly national security and government spending has played a role—an instrumental role—in the growth of the technology industry as it is. Take, for example, the original venture-backed startup, Fairchild Semiconductor, which is legendary as really starting the silicon semiconductor industry in the valley. It is the—it puts the silicon in the valley, and the eight co-founders known as the Traitorous Eight because they all quit en masse their previous job at Shockley Semiconductor working for William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor, and they went off and did something that one does not—did not do in 1957 very often, which was start your own company. This was something that you did if you were weird and you couldn’t work for people. That’s what one old timer told me, reflecting back on this moment. But they, indeed, started their own company, found outside financing and in this group contains Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, the two co-founders of Intel, as well as Gene Kleiner, co-founder of Kleiner Perkins, the venture capital firm. This is really the—you know, the original—where it all began, and yes, this is a story of free-market entrepreneurialism but it also is a story of the national security state. This is a—Fairchild is founded at a moment when most of the business in the Santa Clara Valley of California, later known as Silicon Valley, was defense related. This is where the jobs were. This is the business they were doing, by and large. There was not a significant commercial market for their products. A month after they’re incorporated—in September ’57 is when Fairchild incorporates itself. October 1957 Sputnik goes into orbit. The consequent wave of space spending is really what is the literal rocket ship that gets Silicon Valley’s chip business going. The integrated circuits made by Fairchild and other chip makers in the valley go into the Apollo guidance system. NASA is buying these chips at a time that there is not a commercial market for them and that enables these companies to scale up production to create a commodity that can be delivered to the enterprise. And so by the time you get to the 1970s you are not talking about defense contractors in any way. These are companies that are putting their chips in cars and in other—all sorts of one time mechanical equipment is becoming transistorized. And Intel is Intel, still one of the most important and consequential—globally consequential tech companies around at the center of the action in the CHIPS Act of last year, not to mention others. But this longer history and this intertwining with the military industrial complex and with broader geopolitics—because, of course, the space program and the Apollo program was a Cold War effort. It was about beating the Soviets to the moon, not just doing it because we could. But that really kind of dissipates and fades from collective memory in the Valley and beyond with the rise of these entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, young, new-time CEOs that are presenting a very, very different face of business and really being consciously apolitical, presenting themselves as something so far apart from Washington, D.C. And this notion of tech, big or little, being something separate from government and governance is perpetuated by leaders of both parties, not just Ronald Reagan but also by Democrats of a younger generation that in the early 1980s there was a brief moment in which lawmakers like Tim Wirth and Gary Hart were referred to as Atari Democrats because they were so bullish on high-tech industries as the United States’ economic future. And the way in which politicians and lawmakers from the 1980s forward talked about tech was very much in the same key as that of people like Steve Jobs, which is that this is a revolutionary—the tools have been taken from the establishment, and this is something that is apart from politics, that transcends the old global order and is a new one. And, in fact, in the speech in May 1988 in Moscow at the end of his presidency Ronald Reagan delivers a—you know, really frames the post-Cold War future as one in which the microchip is the revolutionary instrument of freedom: “Standing here before a mural of your revolution”—and a very large bust of Lenin—“I talk about a very different revolution that is taking place right now. Its effects are peaceful but they will fundamentally alter our world, and it is—the tiny silicon chip is the agent of that, no bigger than a fingerprint.” This is really remarkable, if we sit back and take a deep breath and think about it, and particularly thinking about what happens after that. What happens after that are decades in which, again, leaders of both parties in the United States and world leaders elsewhere are framing the internet and understanding the internet as this tool for freedom and liberation, a tool that will advance democracy. Bill Clinton, towards the end of his presidency, famously kind of said, effectively, that I’m not worried about China because the internet is going to bring—you know, internet is going to make it very hard to have anything but democracy. And this notion of a post-Cold War and beyond the end of history and tech and big tech being central to that that, in fact, aided the rise of big tech. That was a rationale for a light regulatory hand in the United States, allowing these companies to grow and flourish and so big, indeed, they have become. But I want to end on a note just thinking about the—you know, why this history is important, why this connective tissue between past and present actually does matter. It isn’t just that, oh, this is nice to know. This is useful. Lawrence Preston Gise was the second—sorry, the first deputy administrator of DARPA in 1958, created in the wake of the Sputnik—post-Sputnik panic, originally called ARPA, now DARPA. He later ran the entire Western Division of the Atomic Energy Commission—Los Alamos, Livermore, et cetera. Longtime government public servant. In his retirement he retired to his farm in west Texas and his young grandson came and lived with him every summer. And his grandson throughout his life has talked about how—what a profound influence his grandfather was on him, showing him how to be a self-sufficient rancher, how to wrangle cattle and to build a barbed wire fence. But the grandson—you know, what the grandson didn’t mention that much because it wasn’t really relevant to his personal experience was who his grandfather was and what he had done. But when that grandson, Jeff Bezos—a few years ago when there was—when Google employees were writing their open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai saying, we are not in the defense business. We are—we don’t like the fact that you are doing work with the Pentagon, and pressuring Google successfully and other companies to get out of doing work with the Pentagon, Bezos reflected, no, I think we’re—I think this is our patriotic duty to do work—do this kind of work. And as I listened to him say that on a stage in an interview I thought, ah, that’s his grandfather talking because this little boy, of course, was Jeff Bezos, the grandfather of Lawrence Preston Gise, and those—that connective tissue—familial connective tissue as well as corporate and political connective tissue, I think, is very relevant to what we have before us today. So I’ll leave it there. Thanks. CASA: Thank you, Margaret, for that very interesting introduction. Let’s open up to questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) While our participants are gathering their thoughts would you start us off by providing a few examples of emerging technologies that are affecting higher education? O’MARA: Yeah. Well, we’ve had a very interesting last three years in which the debate over online learning versus in-person learning very quickly was not necessarily resolved. We did this mass real-time experiment, and I think it made—put into sharp relief the way in which different technologies are shaping the way that higher education institutions are working and this question of who’s controlling the—who controls the platforms and how we mediate what learning we do. Even though I now teach in person again almost everything that I do in terms of assignments and communication is through electronic learning management systems. The one we use at UW is Canvas. But, of course, there are these broader questions—ethical questions and substantive questions—about how our AI-enabled technologies including, notably, the star of the moment, ChatGPT, going to change the way in which—it’s mostly been around how are students going to cheat more effectively. But I think it also has these bigger questions about how you learn and where knowledge, where the human—where the human is necessary. My take on it is, aside from the kind of feeling pretty confident in my having such arcane prompts for my midterm essay questions and research projects that ChatGPT, I think, would have a very hard time doing a good job with it but although I’m looking forward to many a form letter being filled by that technology in the future, I think that there is a—you know, this has a history, too. The concern about the robot overlords is a very deep one. It extends from—you know, predates the digital age, and the anxiety about whether computers are becoming too powerful. Of course, this question of artificial intelligence or augmented intelligence kind of is the computer augmenting what a human can do rather than replacing what a human can do or pretending to have the nuance and the complexity that a human might be able to convey. I think there’s, you know, these bigger questions and I’m sure—I imagine there are going to be some other questions about AI. Really, you know, this is a—I think this is a very good learning moment, quite frankly, to think more—you know, one of the things I teach about a lot is kind of the information that is on the internet and who’s created it and how it is architected and how it is findable and how those platforms have been developed over time. And what ChatGPT and other AIs like them are doing is they’re scraping this extraordinary bounteous ocean of information and it is as good as the—it’s as good as its source, right. So whatever you’re able to do with it you have—your source materials are going to determine it. So if there is bias in the sources, if there is inaccuracy in the sources, there is—that will be replicated. It cannot be—you know, I think what it is is it’s a really good rough draft, first draft, for then someone with tacit knowledge and understanding to come into, and I like to think of digital tools as ones that reveal where things that only people can do that cannot be replicated, that this—where human knowledge cannot be, where a machine still—even though a machine is informed by things that humans do and now does it at remarkable speed and scale it still is—there is—we are able to identify where humanity makes a difference. And then my one last caution is I do—you know, the one thing you can’t do with these new—any of these new technologies is do them well really fast, and the rush to it is a little anxiety inducing. CASA: Thank you. Our first question is from Michael Leong from the—he’s a graduate student at the University of Arizona. Michael, would you like to unmute and ask your question? Q: Yeah. Hi, Dr. O’Mara. Hi, Ms. Casa. Sorry for any background noise. I just had a, like, general question about your thoughts on the role big tech plays in geopolitics. Specifically, we’ve seen with SpaceX and Starlink especially with what’s going on in Ukraine and how much support that has been provided to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and potentially holding that over—(inaudible)—forces. So, basically, do we expect to see private companies having more leverage over geopolitical events? And how can we go forward with that? O’MARA: Yeah. That’s a really—that’s a really great question. And you know, I think that there’s—it’s interesting because the way—there’s always been public-private partnerships in American state building and American geopolitics, and that’s something—it’s worth kind of just noting that. Like, from the very beginning the United States has used private entities as instruments of policy, as parastatal entities, whether it be through, you know, land grants and transcontinental railroad building in the nineteenth century all the way through to Starlink and Ukraine because, of course, the Pentagon is involved, too—you know, that SpaceX is in a very—is a significant government contractor as ones before it. I think that where there’s a really interesting departure from the norm is that what we’ve seen, particularly in the last, you know, the last forty years but in this sort of post-Cold War moment has been and particularly in the last ten to fifteen years a real push by the Pentagon to go to commercial enterprises for technology and kind of a different model of contracting and, I should say, more broadly, national security agencies. And this is something, you know, a real—including the push under—when Ash Carter was in charge of DOD to really go to Silicon Valley and say, you guys have the best technology and a lot of it is commercial, and we need to update our systems and our software and do this. But I think that the SpaceX partnership is one piece of that. But there has been a real—you know, as the government has, perhaps, not gotten smaller but done less than it used to do and there’s been more privatization, there have been—there’s been a vacuum left that private companies have stepped into and I think Ian Bremmer’s piece was really—made some really important points in this regard that there are things that these platform companies are doing that the state used to do or states used to do and that does give them an inordinate amount of power. You know, and these companies are structurally—often a lot of the control over these companies is in the hands of very, very few, including an inordinate unusual amount of founder power, and Silicon Valley, although there’s plenty of political opinionating coming out of there now, which is really a departure from the norm, this kind of partisan statements of such—you know, declarations of the—of recent years are something that really didn’t—you didn’t see very much before. These are not folks who are—you know, their expertise lies in other domains. So that’s where my concern—some concern lies where you have these parastatal actors that are becoming, effectively, states and head of states then and they are not, indeed, speaking for—you know, they’re not sovereign powers in the same way and they are speaking for themselves and speaking from their own knowledge base rather than a broader sense of—you know, they’re not speaking for the public. That’s not their job. CASA: Our next question is from Michael Raisinghani from Texas Woman’s University. Michael, if you could unmute. Q: Thank you, Ms. Casa and Dr. O’Mara. A very insightful discussion. Thank you for that. I just thought maybe if you could maybe offer some clarity around the generative AI, whether it’s ChatGPT or Wordtune or any of this in terms of the future. If you look, let’s say, five, ten years ahead, if that’s not too long, what would your thoughts be in this OpenAI playground? O’MARA: Mmm hmm. Well, with the first—with the caveat that the first rule of history is that you can’t predict the future—(laughs)—and (it’s true ?); we are historians, we like to look backwards rather than forwards—I will then wade into the waters of prediction, or at least what I think the implications are. I mean, one thing about ChatGPT as a product, for example, which has been really—I mean, what a—kudos for a sort of fabulous rollout and marketing and all of a sudden kind of jumping into our public consciousness and being able to release what they did in part because it wasn’t a research arm of a very large company where things are more being kept closer because they might be used for that company’s purposes. Google, for example, kind of, you know, has very in short order followed on with the reveal of what they have but they kind of were beaten to the punch by OpenAI because OpenAI wasn’t—you know, it was a different sort of company, a different sort of enterprise. You know, a lot of it are things that are already out there in the world. If we’ve, you know, made an airline reservation and had a back and forth with a chatbot, like, that’s—that’s an example of some of that that’s already out in the world. If you’re working on a Google doc and doing what absolutely drives me bonkers, which is that Google’s kind of completing my sentences for me, but that predictive text, those—you know, many things that we are—that consumers are already interacting with and that enterprises are using are components of this and this is just kind of bringing it together. I think that we should be very cautious about the potential of and the accuracy of and the revolutionary nature of ChatGPT or any of these whether it be Bard or Ernie or, you know, name your perspective chatbot. It is what it is. Again, it’s coming from the—it’s got the source material it has, it’s working with, which is not—you know, this is not human intelligence. This is kind of compilation and doing it very rapidly and remarkably and in a way that presents with, you know, literacy. So I’m not—you know, does very cool stuff. But where the future goes, I mean, clearly, look, these company—the big platform companies have a lot of money and they have a great deal of motivation and need to be there for the next big thing and, you know, if we dial back eighteen months ago there were many in tech who were saying crypto and Web3 was the next big thing and that did not—has not played out as some might have hoped. But there is a real desire for, you know, not being left behind. Again, this is where my worry is for the next five years. If this is driven by market pressures to kind of be the—have the best search, have the best—embed this technology in your products at scale that is going to come with a lot of hazards. It is going to replicate the algorithmic bias, the problems with—extant problems with the internet. I worry when I see Google saying publicly, we are going to move quickly on this and it may not be perfect but we’re going to move quickly when Google itself has been grappling with and called out on its kind of looking the other way with some of the real ethical dilemmas and the exclusions and biases that are inherent in some of the incredibly powerful LLMs—the models that they are creating. So that’s my concern. This is a genie that is—you know, letting this genie out of the bottle and letting it become a mass consumer product, and if—you know, OpenAI, to its credit, if you go to ChatGPT’s website it has a lot of disclaimers first about this is not the full story, effectively, and in the Microsoft rollout of their embedding the technology in Bing last week Microsoft leaders, as well as Sam Altman of OpenAI, were kind of—their talking points were very careful to say this is not everything. But it does present—it’s very alluring and I think we’re going to see it in a lot more places. Is it going to change everything? I think everyone’s waiting for, like, another internet to change everything and I don’t know if—I don’t know. The jury’s out. I don’t know. CASA: Thank you. Our next question is a written one. It comes from Denis Fred Simon, clinical professor of global business and technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He asked, technology developments have brought to the surface the evolving tension between the drive for security with the desire for privacy. The U.S. represents one model while China represents another model. How do societies resolve this tension and is there some preferred equilibrium point? O’MARA: That is a—that’s the billion-dollar question and it’s—I think it’s a relevant one that goes way back. (Laughs.) I mean, there are many moments in the kind of evolution of all of these technologies where the question of who should know what and what’s allowable. If we go back to 1994 and the controversy over the Clipper chip, which was NSA wanting to build a backdoor into commercially available software, and that was something that the industry squashed because it would, among other things, have made it very difficult for a company like Microsoft to sell their products in China or other places if you had a—knew that the U.S. national security agencies were going to have a window into it. And, of course, that all comes roaring back in 2013 with Snowden’s revelations that, indeed, the NSA was using social media platforms and other commercial platforms—consumer-facing platforms—to gather data on individuals. You know, what is the perfect balance? I mean, this is—I wish I had this nice answer. (Laughs.) I would probably have a really nice second career consulting and advising. But I think there is a—what is clear is that part of what has enabled the American technology industry to do what it has done and to generate companies that have produced, whether you think the transformations on balance are good or bad, transformative products, right. So everything we’re using to facilitate this conversation that all of us are having right now is coming from that font. And democratic capitalism was really critical to that and having a free—mostly free flow of information and not having large-scale censorship. I mean, the postscript to the Clipper chip—you know, Clipper chip controversy is two years later the Telecom Act of 1996, which was, on the one hand, designed to ensure the economic growth of what were then very small industries in the internet sector and not—and prevent the telecoms from ruling it all but also were—you know, this was a kind of making a call about, OK, in terms when it comes to the speech on the internet we are going to let the companies regulate that and not be penalized for private—when private companies decide that they want to take someone down, which is really what Section 230 is. It’s not about free speech in a constitutional sense. It’s about the right of a company to censor or to moderate content. It’s often the opposite of the way that it’s kind of understood or interpreted or spun in some ways. But it is clear that the institutions of—that encourage free movement of people and capital have been—are pretty critical in fueling innovation writ large or the development and the deployment and scaling of new technologies, particularly digital technologies. But I think you can see that playing out in other things, too. So that has been, I think, a real tension and a real—there’s a market dimension to this, not just in terms of an ethical dimension or political dimension that there does need to be some kind of unfettered ability of people to build companies and to grow them in certain ways. But it’s a fine balance. I mean, this sort of, like, when does regulation—when does it—when do you need to have the state come in and in what dimension and which state. And this goes back to that core question of like, OK, the powerful entities, what are their values? What are they fighting for? Who are they fighting for? I don’t know. I’m not giving you a terribly good answer because I think it’s a really central question to which many have grappled for that answer for a very long time. CASA: Thank you. Our next question comes from Ahmuan Williams, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma. Ahmuan? Q: Thank you. Hi. I’m wondering about ChatGPT, about the regulation side of that. It seems like it’s Microsoft that has kind of invested itself into ChatGPT. Microsoft had before gotten the Pentagon contract just a few years back. So it’s kind of a two-part question. So, first of all, how does that—what does that say about government’s interest in artificial intelligence and what can be done? I know the Council of Foreign Relations also reported that the Council of Europe is actually planning an AI convention to figure out how, you know, a framework of some type of AI convention in terms of treaties will work out. But what should we be worried about when it comes to government and the use of AI in political advertisements and campaigns, about, basically, them flooding opinions with, you know, one candidate’s ideas and, therefore, them being able to win because they’re manipulating our opinions? So what would you say would be kind of a regulation scheme that might come out of these type—new flourishing AI devices? O’MARA: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. That’s a good question. I think there’s sort of different layers to it. I mean, I see that, you know, the Pentagon contract—the JEDI contract—being awarded to Microsoft, much to Amazon’s distress—(laughs)—and litigious distress, is a kind of a separate stream from its decision to invest 10 billion (dollars) in OpenAI. I think that’s a commercial decision. I think that’s a recognition that Microsoft research was not producing the—you know, Microsoft didn’t have something in house that was comparable. Microsoft saw an opportunity to at last do a—you know, knock Google off of its dominant pedestal in search and make Bing the kind of long—kind of a punch line—no longer a punch line but actually something that was a product that people would actively seek out and not just use because it was preinstalled on their Microsoft devices. That is—so I see that as a market decision kind of separate from. The bigger AI question, the question of AI frameworks, yes, and this, again, has a longer history and, you know, I kind of liken AI to the Pacific Ocean. It’s an enormous category that contains multitudes. Like, it’s—you know, we can—oftentimes when we talk about AI or the AI that we see and we experience, it’s machine learning. And part of why we have such extraordinary advances in machine learning in the last decade has—because of the harvesting of individual data on these platforms that we as individuals use, whether it be Google or Meta or others, that that has just put so much out there that now these companies can create something that—you know, that the state of the art has accelerated vastly. Government often is playing catch up, not just in tech but just in business regulation, generally. The other—you know, another example of this in the United States cases with the—in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century, with what were then new high-tech tech-driven industries of railroads and oil and steel that grew to enormous size and then government regulators played catch up and created the institutions that to this day are the regulators like the FTC created in 1913. Like, you know, that’s—of that vintage. So, I think that it depends on—when it comes to—the question about electoral politics, which I think is less about government entities—this is about entities, people and organizations that want to be in charge of government or governments—that is, you know, AI—new technologies of all kinds that incorporate ever more sophisticated kind of, essentially, disinformation, that—information that presents as real and it is not. The increased volume of that and the scale of that and the sophistication of that and the undetectability of it does create a real challenge to free and fair elections and also to preventing, in the American context, international and foreign intervention in and manipulation of elections but true in every context. That is, you know, getting good information before voters and allowing bad actors to exploit existing prejudices or misassumptions. That is an existing problem that probably will be accelerated by it. I think there’s—there’s a strong case to be made, at least in the U.S. context, for much stronger regulation of campaign advertising that extends to the internet in a much more stricter form. In that domain there’s—I think we have pretty good evidence that that has not been—you know, having that back end has made the existing restrictions on other types of campaign speech and other media kind of made them moot because you can just go on a social platform and do other things. So there’s—you know, this is—I think the other thing that compromises this is the rapidly changing nature of the technology and the digital—and the global reach of these digital technologies that extends any other product made—you know, any other kind of product. It just is borderless that—in a kind of overwhelming way. That doesn’t mean government should give up. But I think there’s a sort of supranational level of frameworks, and then there are all sorts of subnational kind of domain-specific frameworks that could occur to do something as a countervailing force or at least slow the role of developers and companies in moving forward in these products. CASA: Thank you. Our next question is a written one. It comes from Prashant Hosur, assistant professor of humanities and social sciences at Clarkson University. He asks, how do you—or she. I’m sorry. I’m not sure. How do you think big tech is likely to affect conventional wisdom around issues of great power rivalry and power transitions? O’MARA: Hmm. I don’t—well, I think there are a—these are always—these definitions are always being redefined and who the great powers are and what gives them power is always being reshuffled and—but, of course, markets and economic resources and wealth and—are implicated in this for millennia. I think that tech companies do have this—American tech companies and the tech platforms, which I should preface this by saying, you know, none of the companies we’re talking about now are going to rule forever. Maybe that just goes without—it’s worth just note, you know, this is—we will have the rise and fall. Every firm will be a dinosaur. Detroit was the most innovative city in the world a hundred and ten years ago. There’s still a lot of innovation and great stuff coming out of Detroit, but if you—if I queried anyone here and said, what’s the capital of innovation I don’t know if you would say Detroit. But back in the heyday of the American auto industry it was, and I think it’s a good reminder. We aren’t always going to be talking about this place in northern California and north Seattle in this way. But what we have right now are these companies that their products, unlike the products of Henry Ford or General Motors, are ones that are—go across borders with—you know, the same product goes across borders seamlessly and effortlessly, unlike an automobile where a—to sell in a certain country you have to meet that country’s fuel standards and, you know, safety standards, et cetera, et cetera. You have a different model for a different market. Instead, here, you know, a Facebook goes where it goes, Google goes where it goes, YouTube goes where it goes, and that has been kind of extraordinary in terms of internationalizing politics, political trends. I think what we’ve seen globally is very—you know, the role of the internet in that has been extraordinary, both for good and for ill, in the last fifteen years. And then the kind of—the immense—the great deal of power that they have in the many different domains and, again, Ian Bremmer also observed this kind of the—all the different things they do and that is something that is different from twenty-five years ago where you now have companies that are based on the West Coast of the United States with products designed by a small group of people from a kind of narrow, homogenous band of experience who are doing things like transforming taxis and hotels and, I mean, you name it, kind of going everywhere in a way that in the day of the—you know, the first Macintosh, which was like this cool thing on your desk, that was—yes, it was a transformative product. It was a big deal and Silicon Valley was—became a household word and a phrase in the 1980s and the era, too. That was—you know, everyone’s getting online with their AOL discs they got in the mail. But what’s happened in the twenty-first century is at a scale and—a global scale and an influence across many different domains, and politics, this very deliberate kind of we are a platform for politics that has really reshaped the global order in ways that are quite profound. This is not to say that everything has to do with big tech is at the root of everything. But let’s put it in context and let’s, you know—and also recognize that these are not companies that were designed to do this stuff. They’ve been wildly successful what they set out to do and they have a high-growth tech-driven model that is designed to move fast and, yes, indeed, it breaks things and that has—you know, that has been—they are driven by quarterly earnings. They are driven by other things, as they should be. They are for-profit companies, many of them publicly traded. But the—but because, I think, in part they have been presenting themselves as, you know, we’re change the world, we’re not evil, we’re something different, we’re a kinder, gentler capitalism, there has been so much hope hung on them as the answer for a lot of things, and that is not—kind of giving states and state power something of the past to get its act together that instead states need to step up. CASA: Our next question is from Alex Grigor. He’s a PhD candidate from University of Cambridge. Alex? Q: Hello. Yes. Thank you. Can you hear me? O’MARA: Yes. CASA: Yes. Q: Yeah. Hi. Thank you, Ms. O’Mara. Very insightful and, in fact, a lot of these questions are very good as well. So they’ve touched upon a lot of what I was going to ask and so I’ll narrow it down slightly. My research is looking at cyber warfare and sort of international conflict particularly between the U.S. and China but beyond, and I was wondering—you started with the sort of military industrial complex and industry sort of breaking away from that. Do you see attempts, perhaps, because of China and the—that the technology industry and the military are so closely entwined that there’s an attempt by the U.S. and, indeed, other countries. You see increase in defense spending in Japan and Germany. But it seems to be specifically focused, according to my research, on the technologies that are coming out of that, looking to reengage that sort of relationship. They might get that a little bit by regulation. Perhaps the current downsizing of technology companies is an opportunity for governments to finally be able to recruit some good computer scientists that they haven’t been able to—(laughs)—(inaudible). Perhaps it’s ASML and semiconductor sort of things. Do you see that as part of the tension a conscious attempt at moving towards reintegrating a lot of these technologies back into government? O’MARA: Yeah. I think we’re at a really interesting moment. I mean, one thing that’s—you know, that’s important to note about the U.S. defense industry is it never went away from the tech sector. It just kind of went underground. Lockheed, the major defense contractor, now Lockheed Martin, was the biggest numerical employer in the valley through the end of the Cold War through the end of the 1980s. So well into the commercial PC era and—but very—you know, kind of most of what was going on there was top secret stuff. So no one was on the cover of Forbes magazine trumpeting what they’ve done. And there has been—but there has been a real renewed push, particularly with the kind of—to get made in Silicon Valley or, you know, made in the commercial sector software being deployed for military use and national security use and, of course, this is very—completely bound up in the questions of cyber warfare and these existing commercial networks, and commercial platforms and products are ones that are being used and deployed by state actors and nonstate actors as tools for cyber terrorism and cyber warfare. So, yes, I think it’s just going to get tighter and closer and the great—you know, the stark reality of American politics, particularly in the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, is the one place that the U.S. is willing to spend lots of money in the discretionary budget is on defense and the one place where kind of it creates a rationale for this unfettered—largely, unfettered spending or spending with kind of a willingness to spend a lot of money on things that don’t have an immediately measurable or commercializable outcome is in national security writ large. That’s why the U.S. spent so much money on the space program and created this incredible opportunity for these young companies making chips that only—making this device that only—only they were making the things that the space program needed, and this willingness to fail and the willingness to waste money, quite frankly. And so now we’re entering into this sort of fresh—this interesting—you know, the geopolitical competition with China between the U.S. has this two dimensions in a way and the very—my kind of blunt way of thinking about it it’s kind of like the Soviet Union and Japan all wrapped up in one, Japan meaning the competition in the 1980s with Japan, which stimulated a great deal of energy among—led by Silicon Valley chip makers for the U.S. to do something to help them compete and one of those outcomes was SEMATECH, the consortium to develop advanced semiconductor technology, whose funding—it was important but its funding was a fraction of the wave of money that just was authorized through last year’s legislation, the CHIPS Act as well as Inflation Reduction Act and others. So I’m seeing, you know, this kind of turn to hardware and military hardware and that a lot of the commercial—the government subsidized or incentivized commercial development of green technology and advanced semiconductor, particularly in military but other semiconductor technology and bringing semiconductor manufacturing home to the United States, that is—even those dimensions that are nonmilitary, that are civilian, it’s kind of like the Apollo program. That was a civilian program but it was done for these broader geopolitical goals to advance the economic strength and, hence, the broader geopolitical strength of the United States against a competitor that was seen as quite dangerous. So that’s my way of saying you’re right, that this is where this is all going and so I think that’s why this sort of having a healthy sense of this long-term relationship is healthy. It’s healthy for the private sector to recognize the government’s always been there. So it isn’t though you had some innovative secret that the government is going to take away by being involved. And to also think about what are the broader goals that—you know, who is benefiting from them and what is the purpose and recognize often that, you know, many of the advanced technologies we have in the United States are thanks to U.S. military funding for R&D back in the day. CASA: Our next question is written. It’s from Damian Odunze, who is an assistant professor at Delta State University. Regarding cybersecurity, do you think tech companies should take greater responsibility since they develop the hardware and software packages? Can the government mandate them, for instance, to have inbuilt security systems? O’MARA: Hmm. Yeah. I think—look, with great power comes great responsibility is a useful reminder for the people at the top of these companies that for—that are so remarkably powerful at the moment and because their platforms are so ubiquitous. There are—you see, for example, Microsoft has really—is a—I think what they’ve done in terms of partnering with the White House and its occupants and being—kind of acting as a NSA first alert system of sorts and kind of being open about that I think that’s been good for them from a public relations perspective, and also—but I think it also reflects this acknowledgement of that responsibility and that it also is bad for their business if these systems are exploited. Yeah, I think that, again, regulation is something that—you know, it’s like saying Voldemort in Silicon Valley. Like, some people are, like, oh, regulation, you know. But there’s really—there can be a really generative and important role that regulation can play, and the current industry has grown up in such a lightly-regulated fashion you just kind of get used to having all that freedom, and when it comes to cybersecurity and to these issues of national security importance and sort of global importance and importance to the users of the products and the companies that make them there’s, I think, a mutual interest in having some sort of rules of the road and that—and I think any company that’s operating at a certain scale is—understands that it’s in their market interest to be—you know, not to be a renegade, that they are working with. But I think having—you know, there can be a willingness to work with but they’re—having a knowledge and an understanding and a respect for your government partners, your state partners, whether they be U.S. or non-U.S. or supranational is really critically important and sometimes tech folks are a little too, like, oh, politics, they don’t know what they’re doing, you know. We know better. And I think there needs to be a little more mutual exchange of information and some more—yes, some more technical people being able to be successfully recruited into government would probably be a help, too, so there’s—on both sides of the table you have technically savvy people who really understand the inner workings of how this stuff is made and don’t have simplistic answers of like, oh, we’ll just take all the China-made technology out of it. You’re, like, well, there’s—like, it’s kind of deep in the system. You know, so having technologists in the conversation at all points is important. CASA: Thank you. I think we have time for one more question. We’ll take that from Louis Esparza, assistant professor at California State University in Los Angeles. Q: Hi. Thank you for your very interesting talk. So I’m coming at this from the social movements literature and I’m coming into this conversation because I’m interested in the censorship and influence of big tech that you seem to be, you know, more literate in. So my question is do you think that this—the recent trends with big tech and collaboration with federal agencies is a rupture with the origin story of the 1960s that you talked about in your talk or do you think it’s a continuity of it? O’MARA: Yeah. That’s a great way to put it. The answer is, is it both? Well, it’s something of a rupture. I mean, look, this—you know, you have this—you have an industry that grows up as intensely—you know, that those that are writing and reading the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 the military industrial complex is all around them. It is paying for their education sort of effectively or paying for the facilities where they’re going to college at Berkeley or Stanford or name your research university—University of Washington. It is the available jobs to them. It is paying for the computers that they learn to code on and that they’re doing their work on. It is everywhere and it is—and when you are kind of rebelling against that establishment, when you see that establishment is waging war in Vietnam as being a power—not a power for good but a power for evil or for a malevolent—a government you don’t trust whose power, whose motivations you don’t trust, then you—you know, you want to really push back against that and that is very much what the personal computer movement that then becomes an industry is. That’s why all those people who were sitting around in the 1970s in Xerox Palo Alto Research Center—Xerox Park—just spitballing ideas, they just did not want to have anything to do with military technology. So that’s still there, and then that—and that ethos also suffused other actors in, you know, American government and culture in the 1980s forward, the sort of anti-government sentiment, and the concerns about concentrated power continue to animate all of this. And the great irony is that has enabled the growth of these private companies to the power of states. (Laughs.) So it’s kind of both of those things are happening and I think, in some ways, wanting to completely revolutionize the whole system was something that was not quite possible to do, although many—it is extraordinary how much it has done. CASA: Margaret, thank you very much for this fascinating discussion and to all of you for your questions and comments. I hope you will follow Margaret on Twitter at @margaretomara. Our next Academic Webinar will take place on Wednesday, March 1, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Chris Li, director of research of the Asia Pacific Initiative and fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, will lead a conversation on U.S. strategy in East Asia. In the meantime, I encourage you to learn about CFR’s paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Follow at @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you again for joining us today. We look forward to you tuning in for our webinar on March 1. Bye. (END)  
  • Climate Change

    FASKIANOS: Thank you, and welcome to today’s session of the Winter/Spring 2023 CFR Academic Webinar series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website if you would like to share it with your colleagues or classmates. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Arunabha Ghosh with us to discuss climate compensation and cooperation. Dr. Ghosh is an internationally recognized public policy expert, author, columnist, and institution builder. He’s the founder and CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water. He previously worked at Princeton University, the University of Oxford, the UN Development Program, and the World Trade Organization. He’s also contributed to the creation of the International Solar Alliance and was a founding board member of the Clean Energy Access Network, and he currently serves on the government of India’s G20 Finance Track Advisory Group, has co-chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Clean Air, and is a member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group and on the board of directors of the ClimateWorks Foundation. And he is joining us—it is, I think, after 11:00 p.m. where he is, so we appreciate your doing this so late your time. So, Dr. Ghosh, thank you very much for being with us today. We saw in November a historic climate compensation fund approved at the UN climate talks. It would be great if you could give an overview of what it means to compensate developing countries for losses and damages caused by climate change, as well as share your recommendations for how countries can more effectively cooperate on such efforts and maybe the interplay between mitigation, adaptation, and compensation—how are we attacking all of these things. So over to you. GHOSH: Well, good day to everyone out there. It’s good evening at my end. It’s nearing up on midnight. But thank you, Irina, for having me as part of this conversation and thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations. I think the way you framed it right at the end is really the way to start—how does mitigation, adaptation, and compensation all come together? Before I dive into the specific issue of loss and damage I want to just up front state for those listening in that I see climate change and the responses to climate change as not one market failure but at least three market failures that we are simultaneously trying to solve for. The first market failure is that climate risks are nonlinear in nature and, therefore, we don’t have the normal approaches to insuring ourselves against climate risks. You can predict the probability of an earthquake of a certain intensity in a particular region without predicting an exact time of an earthquake but you can actually insure it by looking at the averages. But you can’t do that with climate risk because the risks that we face today is less than the risks that you will face in 2030 and then it will exponentially rise in 2050. So your normal approaches towards insurance don’t work. That’s market failure number one. Market failure number two is, put very simply, money does not flow where the sun shines the most. We have a severe problem of climate-related investment in absolute terms not being sufficient globally and in relative terms significantly insufficient, especially in the regions where you actually have very good natural resources, particularly sunshine, for solar power, and the very same regions where sustainable infrastructure needs to be built between the tropics where countries continue to be developing and need to raise their per capita incomes. The third market failure is that even as we move towards or at least expend efforts towards moving to a more sustainable planet, we haven’t really cracked the code on how do we narrow the technology gap rather than widen it. And this matters because, ultimately, the response to climate change, while it’s a global collective action problem, because it is nationally situated it does raise concerns about national competitiveness, about industrial development, about access to technology and, of course, the rules that will—that would embed our moves towards a more free and more sustainable marketplace at a global level. And if we cannot crack the code on how technologies are developed and technologies are diffused and disseminated then it will continue to serve as a hindrance towards doubling down on developing the clean-tech technologies of tomorrow. So it’s against this backdrop of multiple market failures that we have to understand where this whole loss and damage story comes through. Loss and damage has been discussed for decades, actually, in the climate negotiations. It was put formally on the agenda in 2007. But it was only at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt that there was finally an agreement amongst all the negotiating parties that a loss and damage financing facility would be set up. Now, what is loss and damage itself? Is it the same as adaptation? Clearly, not. It refers to the adverse impacts that vulnerable communities and countries face as a result of a changing climate including the increase in incidence and intensity of natural disasters and extreme weather events, as well as the slow onset of temperature increase, sea level rise, and desertification. So it’s not just the hurricane that comes and slams on the coast. It’s also repeated rounds of drought which might be impacting smallholder farmers in another part of the world. Now, adapting to a changing climate is different from compensating for the damages that you’re facing and that is why there was this call for a separate financing facility for loss and damage. Now, this is the agreement thus far but it’s not—it’s not a done deal yet. What the decision did was basically said there will be now a transition committee developed dedicated to loss and damage with equal representation for rich and poor countries, and so on and so forth, but that transition committee would then have to figure out the funding arrangements, the institutional arrangements, where would this money sit, figure out how alternative sources of funding would come through only through existing mechanisms and ensure that it all gets delivered by COP28, which will be held in the UAE later this year. Now, my belief is that a political decision, while it’s a strong signal, it’s only, you know, just—you’re just getting off the blocks and several other building blocks will be needed to make this work properly. Number one, we will need a much more granular understanding of hyperlocal climate risk. Today, if you wanted to buy a house in Florida, for instance, there’s a high chance that there will be a neighborhood by neighborhood understanding of flooding risk, hurricane risk, et cetera, which is then priced into the insurance premiums that you had to pay for purchasing that property. But in many other parts of the world, when you look at climate models they treat entire countries as single pixels, which is not good enough. My own organization, CEEW, has trying to develop the first high-resolution climate risk atlas for India, a country of a billion and a half people. We now have a district-level vulnerability index looking at exposure to natural disasters sensitivity based on the economic configuration of that district and the adaptive capacity of the local communities and the administration. Based on that then we can say where do you need to double down on your efforts to build resilience. But that kind of effort is needed across the developing world in order to actually understand what it means to climate-proof communities and what it means to actually understand the scale of the problem that loss and damage financing facility will have to address. The second thing that has to happen is more development of attribution science. What is attribution science? Basically, a bad thing happens and then you figure out using the latest science how much of that bad thing happened because of the changed climate. Now, here’s the problem. Only about—about less than 4 percent of global climate research spending is dedicated, for instance, to Africa but nearly 80 percent of that spending is actually spent in Europe and North America. So what I’m trying to say is that even as we try to build out attribution science we need a lot more capacity that has to be built in the Global South to understand not just global climate models but be able to downscale them in a way that we’re able to understand what the next hurricane, the next flooding event, the next cyclone means in terms of the impacts of climate change. The third thing that has to happen is something called Early Warning Systems Initiative. Basically, the idea—it was unveiled at COP27—is to ensure that every person is protected by early warning systems within the next five years or so. So the next time a tsunami is coming you’re not reacting after the fact but you’re able to actually send out information well in advance. I’ll give you an example. In 1999 a big cyclone—super cyclone—hit an eastern state of India, Odisha, and about ten thousand lives were lost. A huge effort was put in for early warning systems subsequently along with building storm shelters, et cetera. So twenty years later when a similar sized cyclone hit the same state in 2019 less than a hundred lives were lost. Ten thousand versus a hundred. So this is the scale of impact that properly designed early warning systems can do to save lives and save livelihoods. And, finally, of course, we have to build more resilient infrastructure. So the next bridge that is being built, the next airport that is being built, the next bridge that is being built, or a highway that’s being built, all of that is going to get impacted by rising climate risks. So how do you bring in more resilient infrastructure? There’s something called the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure that India has promoted. It has about thirty-five countries as members already and many multilateral institutions. It itself has started a program on infrastructure for resilient island states—for the small island states. So what I’m trying to tell you here is that the loss and damage—when we talk about compensation it’s not just the monetary resources that are needed. There’s a lot of technical resources needed to do the hyperlocal climate risk assessment, the infrastructure that is needed to do early warning initiatives, the scientific capability that is needed for attribution science, and the sort of organizational administration capability at a district level but also all the way at an international level. If all of that comes together then maybe we have a better architecture rather than just an announcement around compensation. But that just solves or begins to solve the first market failure. Let me maybe pause there and we can use the rest of the hour to talk about this and the other market failures I highlighted. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much. It really is daunting what needs to happen for sure in all the three market failures. We want to go now to all of you for your questions. You all should know how to do this. You can click the “Raise Hand” icon on your screen to ask a question. On an iPad or a Tablet click the “More” button to access the raise hand feature and when you’re called upon accept the unmute prompt and state your name and affiliation and your question. Please keep it brief. And you can also write a written question in the Q&A box and, please, you can vote for questions that you like but if you do write a question it would be great if you could include your affiliation along with your name so that it gives us context. So the first question I’m going to take we’ll go to Morton Holbrook. Morton, please identify yourself. Q: Hi. I’m Morton Holbrook at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Kentucky. Thanks, Dr. Ghosh, for your presentation. I confess I haven’t paid enough attention to COP27. Can you enlighten me as to what the United States committed to and, more importantly, whether the Democratic bill—the bill passed in Congress in December was able to add—actually commit funds to the loss and damage project? GHOSH: Should I answer that, Irina, or are you taking a bunch of questions at a time? FASKIANOS: No, I think it’s better to take one at a time— GHOSH: One at a time? OK. FASKIANOS: —so we can have more in-depth— GHOSH: Sure. Sure. Thank you, Morton. Well, the decision on loss and damage was agreed to by all the member states negotiating at COP27. But, as I said earlier, this only suggests the setting up of a financing facility. How it’s going to be funded is yet to be determined. Will this be a reallocation of overseas development assistance that is redirected towards loss and damage or is this new money that’s put on the table? All of that has to be decided. In fact, the developed countries did take a position that some of the larger developing countries that are big emitters should also contribute towards this loss and damage financing facility. Of course, on the other side the argument is that these are also the countries that are continuing to be vulnerable. So there is a difference now that is coming up in the conversation around loss and damage around vulnerability versus developing in the sense that even emerging economies could be vulnerable to climate change, whereas developing countries might be poorer than emerging economies that are also vulnerable to climate change but in some cases might not be as vulnerable. So the focus is actually on vulnerability in terms of the exposure to climate risks and, as I said earlier, the sensitivity of the communities and the economic systems. Now, with regards to the U.S. legislation, I am not sure of the legislation you’re referring to for December. The one I’m aware of is the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed prior to COP27. But if there is something specifically that you’re referring to that was passed through Congress in December then I’m not aware of it. FASKIANOS: OK. Let’s go to Clemente Abrokwaa. Q: Thank you. Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. Q: Oh, good. Thank you, Dr. Ghosh. Very interesting your explanation or discussion. I’m from Penn State University and I have two short questions for you. One is base compensation. How would you monitor that? If you give a bunch of money or a lot of money to a country, especially those in the third world societies, third world countries, how would you monitor where it goes? Who controls the funding or the money? And I have a reason for—reasons for asking that question. And the second is I was a little surprised about the—what you said about the 80 percent of the money given to Africa is spent in Europe, unless I got you wrong. Yeah, so those—why should that be if that’s true? GHOSH: So let me answer the second question first. That is, I was referring to climate—global climate research spending that happens. Of all the global climate research spending that happens less than 4 percent is dedicated to climate research on Africa. But that climate research 80 percent of that less than 4 percent is actually spent in research institutions in Europe and North America. So it wasn’t about money going to Africa for climate. It’s about the climate modeling research that goes on. So the point I was trying to make there was that we need to build up more climate research capacity in the Global South, not just in Africa and Asia and South America and so forth, in order to become better at that attribution science when it’s related to the extreme weather events but also to understand in a more localized way the pathways for more climate-friendly economic development pathways. For instance, my institution CEEW, when we did net zero modeling for India we were looking at multiple different scenarios for economic development, for industrial development, for emissions, for equity, for jobs impact, et cetera, because we were able to contextualize the model for what it meant for a country like India, and now we’re doing similar—we’ve downscaled our model now to a state level because India is a continent-sized country. So that’s the point I was trying to make there. With regards to how to monitor the compensation, now, I want to make two points here. Number one is that, of course, if any money is delivered it should be monitored, I mean, in the sense that it’s—transparency leads to better policy and better actions as a principle. But we should be careful not to conflate compensation for damages caused with development assistance. Let me give an analogy. Suppose there is—someone inadvertently rams their car into my garage and damages my house. Now, I will get a compensation from that person. Now, whether I go and repair my garage or whether I go on a holiday as such should not matter because what matters is that the damage was caused and I was due compensation. That’s different from my neighbor coming and saying, I see that your garage, perhaps, needs some repair. Let me be a good neighbor and give you some money and help you rebuild your garage. In that case, it would be unethical for me to take that money and go on holiday. So there is a difference between compensation for loss and damage and money delivered for development assistance. However, I want to reiterate that once that money reaches any—whether it’s a developing country government or a subnational government there should be—there should be mechanisms put in place for transparently monitoring where that money is going. That should be reported whether it’s in a—I have often argued for climate risk assessments to be—annually reported at a national level. So the expenditure on all of this should also be reported. That should be tabled in a country’s parliament. So I think it’s important to use democratic processes to ensure that monies are deployed for where they are meant to be. But it should not be a reason that if I cause you damage, I will not pay you unless I think you are good enough to receive my money. No, I caused you damage. I owe you money. That is the basic principle of loss and damage. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Lindsey McCormack, raised hand. Q: Hi. I would love to hear your thoughts on lessons from the successful response to Cyclone Fani in 2019. I believe you mentioned it was over a million people were evacuated in India and Bangladesh, saving many lives. You know, I am a student at Baruch College in New York and you probably saw that terrible blizzard upstate. People were stranded and died. And I was just comparing their response capacity and the preparedness in that situation versus in the cyclone where you have over a million people moved out of harm’s way. I’m really interested to hear what goes behind making that kind of preparation possible. GHOSH: Well, thanks for the question, Lindsey. This is extremely important. I think what happened—before I talk about Cyclone Fani let me go back again twenty years. There was the super cyclone in 1999 and then just a few years later there was also the tsunami in 2004 and, of course, there have been natural disasters from time to time. In fact, between 1990 and 2005 there were about 200-odd extreme weather events that we faced in India. But since 2005, we’ve already faced well over three hundred. The frequency of extreme cyclones has gone up 3X between the 1980s and now. So there is this constant need, obviously, to upgrade your systems but that investment that was put in in early warning systems at a sort of regional scale using satellites, using ground sensors in the sea, et cetera, help to monitor and help to predict when—the movement of cyclones’ landfall and so forth. Along with that is—has been a lot of local administration capacity building of how do you then get this word out and how do you work with local communities. So there are, for instance, again, Odisha women run self-help groups who have become managers of storm shelters so when the community voices are telling people to get out of harm’s way it has, perhaps, more social capital attached to it. In another part of the country in a hilly state in Uttar Pradesh—Uttarakhand, I’m sorry—there is a community-run radio station that sends out information about forest fires and things like that. The third thing has been around the rebuilding. So saving of lives is one thing but saving livelihoods is another critical issue and that’s why it’s not just getting people out of harm’s way but often, for—the early warning helps to get livestock out of harm’s way as well because, you know, for a small marginal farmer losing their cattle itself becomes a major loss of livelihood. So these are ways in which there have been attempts to ensure that the scientific or the technical capacity building is married with the social capital and the local administrative capital. But that does not mean that this is consistently done all the time. It’s all work in progress and a lot more needs to be done in terms of the coverage of—and that’s why this Early Warning Systems Initiative that was talked about in COP27 is important because you’ve got to—I mean, we, again, are working with some private sector entities that provide early warning systems for hundreds of millions of people. So how do their—how do our ground-level data and their sort of AI-based kind of modeling capacity marry together to offer those services to much larger numbers of people, literally, in the hundreds of millions. So it’s very important that this becomes—and since the title of this conversation is about climate compensation and cooperation I would argue that this is a no regrets approach towards bridging the North and the South. 2022 has demonstrated that a long-held assumption that the rich would escape and the poor would somehow adapt is kind of gone. You know, we’ve all been slammed with extreme events and I think, of course, there will be positions on which the North and the South and the East and the West will be on different sides of the table. But building a resilience against nonlinear climate risk is a no regrets approach on which we could certainly be cooperating. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take a written question from Caden Hicks, who is at Lewis University. Of the 197 nations involved in these annual conferences of the parties when wealthy and powerful nations such as the United States and China do not meet their pledges are there any consequences for them? If they decide to drop their participation in this council how would they—what would the consequences be? GHOSH: This is at the heart of the climate problem. I talked about three market failures and there is one political failure, which is that we don’t have an accountability mechanism, so to speak, that can hold everyone to account, the largest polluters but also everybody else. And that’s why the climate regime is different from the trade regime, which has a dispute settlement mechanism, or the international financial regime where you have annual surveillance of what you’re doing in managing your fiscal deficit, for instance. So when it comes to holding actors to account, I see that we need to make efforts both within the FCCC framework and with outside. Within the FCCC framework, the Article Fifteen of the Paris Agreement is something that can be leveraged more to ensure that the Compliance Committee has greater powers, that those that are not compliant are able to then—for instance, in Article Six, which has yet to be operationalized in terms of internationally trading of carbon credits, if you are not compliant with your domestic nationally determined contributions, then Article Thirteen compliance should demand that you have to buy more carbon credits than otherwise would have been possible. That’s one idea. The second is that the—and I’ve written about this recently—that we need to stop making the COPs just platforms for announcing new initiatives, that every alternate COP should be designed as an accountability COP, which means that we come there and we report not just on what we are emitting and automating in terms of the biannual update reviews, but have a genuine peer review conversation as it happens in many other international regimes. Right now no one asks tough questions and no one answers tough questions. So it’s—I mean, I said this quite publicly at—in Sharm el-Sheikh that, unfortunately, the COPs have become mutual admiration societies. Every year we come and make announcements. We form some initiatives. We say something will happen on methane, something will happen on finance, something will happen on agriculture and forests. And the next year we come and make new announcements. We never really ask what happened to the announcement you made twelve months ago. So how do we shift from being mutual admiration societies to mutual accountability societies? But beyond the COP process I think there are two other ways in which parties can be held to account. Number one is domestic legislatures and domestic courts. It’s important that the pledges that are being made are legislated upon at a national level so that parliaments can hold executives to account, and if that is not happening then you can go to court and hold your governments to account. But, equally, it’s not just about state parties. There are the nonstate actors. And last year I also served on the UN secretary-general’s high-level expert group on net-zero commitments of nonstate entities, which means the corporations that are promising to get to net zero, or the cities and the states and the regions that are promising to get to net zero, and we laid out some clear principles on what it would mean to claim that you’re headed towards net zero. Where are your plans? Where are your interim targets? Where are your financing strategies? How is this linked to your consumer base so you’re not just looking at scope one or scope two but also scope three emissions. So there are ways in which then the shareholders and the consumers of products and services of corporations can hold them to account. It’s a much more complicated world. But in the absence of the FCCC haven’t been able to deliver genuine compliance. We’ve got to get creative in other ways. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Stephen Kass, who has raised his hand. Also wrote a question but I think it’d be better if you just shared it yourself. Q: I’m an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and at NYU Center on Global Affairs. As you know, COP27 included these remarkable but belated obligations to make payments but without any enforceable mechanism or a specific set of commitments. Some years ago the New York City Bar Association proposed an international financial transaction tax on all transfers of money globally with the proceeds dedicated to climate adaptation. This would not be intended to replace the COP27 obligations but I wonder how you feel about that proposal. GHOSH: This is, again, a very interesting question, Stephen, because the need to be creative of—about different sources of money that can capitalize a loss and damage financing facility or an adaptation financing facility is absolutely essential because governments—I mean, we recognize that governments have limited fiscal resources and it has become harder and harder to get any money—real money—put on the table when it comes to the pledges that have been made. So I have recently been appointed to a group of economists that are looking at this issue. There is this approach, of course, of taxing financial transactions. There is another idea around taxing barrels of oil. Even a single dollar on a barrel of oil can capitalize a huge amount of fund. There are other ways, taxing aviation or the heavy kind of—heavy industries that—you know, shipping, aviation, et cetera. Then there are approaches towards leveraging the special drawing rights (SDRs) on the International Monetary Fund, which are basically a basket of currencies that can then be used to capitalize a—what I’ve called a global resilience reserve fund. So you don’t make any payout right now from your treasuries but you do use the SDRs to build up the balance sheet of a resilience fund, which then pays out when disasters above a certain threshold hit. So these are certainly different ways in which we have to be thinking about finding the additional resources. See, when it comes to mitigation—this goes back to Irina’s very first point—when it comes to mitigation there is—at least it’s claimed there are tens of trillions of dollars of private investment just waiting to be deployed and that brings me to that second market failure that I referred to, that despite those tens of trillions of dollars waiting to be deployed, money does not flow where the sun shines the most. But when you pair it with, say, adaptation, let me give you an example. India has the largest deployment of solar-based irrigation pumps and it plans to deploy millions of solar-based irrigation pumps so you’re not using diesel or coal-based electricity to pump water for agriculture. Now, is a solar-based irrigation pump a mitigation tool or is it an adaptation tool or is it a resilience tool? I would say it’s all of the above. But if we can define that through the International Solar Alliance, it’s actually trying to also fund the deployment of solar-based irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa as well. So the point I’m trying to make here is if we can find ways to aggregate projects, aggregate demand, and reduce that delta between perceived risk and real risk, we can lower the cost of finance and drive private investment into mitigation-cum-adaptation projects. But when it comes to pure compensation, the kind that we are talking about when it comes to loss and damage, disaster relief, et cetera—especially when climate shocks have compounding effects—that you’re not just doing an after the event, you know, pitching a tent to house the displaced population, but we’re building in real resilience against even the slow onset of the climate crisis, in some aspects. Then we have to get a lot more creative about the resources because private resources are not flowing there and traditional kind of vanilla-style public resources don’t seem to be available. So your idea is very much one of those that should be considered. FASKIANOS: So I’m going to take a written question from Allan Victor Cortes, who’s an undergrad at Lewis University: To what extent do you believe that small motivated groups can truly make a global impact on the climate scene? What incentivizes larger bodies, be it states or multinational corporations, to listen to these collaborations of small governments or firms and their proposed environmental solutions? GHOSH: This is a very interesting question because it has a normative dimension to it and an instrumental dimension to it. The normative dimension—I was having another public event just yesterday where we were talking about this—is what is the value—when you’re faced with a planetary crisis what is the value of individual or small group action? The value, of course, is that there is agency because when we talk about, say, lifestyle changes, and India announced this national mission called Mission LiFE in October in the presence of the UN secretary-general—Lifestyle for Environment—the idea was how do you nudge behavior, to nudge behavior towards sustainable practices, sustainable consumption, sustainable mobility, sustainable food. You can think about creating awareness. You can think about giving more access to those products and services and, of course, it has to be affordable. But there is a fourth A, which is that it only works when individuals and communities take ownership or have agency over trying to solve the problem. But that is one part of the story. But there is an instrumental dimension to it, which is what I call the enabling of markets beyond just the nudging of individual or small group behavior. So, again, let me give an example of—from India but which is applicable in many other parts of the world. It is the use of distributed renewable energy. Now, distributed renewable energy is smaller in scale, smaller in investment size, even less on the radar of large institutional investors, and yet has many other benefits. It makes your energy system more resilient. It actually creates many more jobs. We calculate that you create—you get seven times more jobs per megawatt hour of distributed renewables or rooftop solar compared to large-scale solar, which creates more jobs than natural gas, which creates more jobs than coal, and it is able to drive local livelihoods. So we mapped this out across India of how distributed renewables could drive livelihoods in rural areas whether it’s on-farm applications or off-farm applications, small food processing units, textile units, milk chilling and cold chain units, and so on and so forth, and we were baffled when we realized or we calculated that the market potential is more than $50 billion. In sub-Saharan Africa the market potential of solar-based irrigation is more—about $12 billion. So then suddenly what seems like really small individual efforts actually scales up to something much larger. Now, if we can figure out ways to warehouse or aggregate these projects and de-risk them by spreading those risks across a larger portfolio, are able to funnel institutional capital into a—through that warehousing facility into a large—a portfolio of a number of small projects, if we are able to use that money to then enable consumer finance as has been announced in today’s national budget in India, then many things that originally seemed small suddenly begin to gain scale. So we, as a think tank, decided to put our own hypothesis to the test. So we evaluated more than one hundred startups, selected six of them, paired up with the largest social enterprise incubator in the country, and are now giving capital and technical assistance to six startups using distributed renewables for livelihoods. Within two and a half years we’ve had more than thirteen thousand technology deployments, 80 percent of the beneficiaries have been women who have gone on to become micro entrepreneurs, and India is the first country in the world that’s come out with a national policy on the use of distributed renewables for livelihood activities. So the normative value is certainly there about agency. But the instrumental value of converting that agency into aggregated action is also something that we should tap into. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Tombong Jawo, if you could ask your question—it also got an up vote—and identify yourself, please. Let’s see. You have to unmute yourself. You’re still muted. OK. We’re working on that. I’m going to take a quick question from Mark Bucknam, who’s the chair of Department of Security Studies at the National War College. What is the best source for statistics on how much money is being spent on climate research? GHOSH: There are multiple sources depending on where you—I mean, the study I was referring to came from a journal paper that was written by Indra Overland, “Funding Flows for Climate Change Research.” This was in the journal Climate and Development. But I would think that the IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—would probably have some estimates aggregated in terms of this and you could check there. But let me also check with my modeling teams to see if they have better sources and get back to you on this. FASKIANOS: Fantastic, and we will be sending out a link to this webinar—to the video and transcripts—so we can include sources in that follow-up. So since Tombong could not unmute I will ask the question. Tombong is an undergraduate student at Cavendish University Uganda. Climate compensation and cooperation is undoubtedly a step in the right direction if all stakeholders adhere to the laid down rules and regulations. However, what mechanisms are put in place to ensure that it gets to the people who matter the most and not diverted for political gains by politicians? GHOSH: I mean, this is similar to the question that Clemente asked earlier, and I understand and I think it’s important now that we start thinking about what are the national-level efforts that would be needed to build in the monitoring of where the funds go and what kind of infrastructure is built. So you can do this at multiple levels and this, again, goes back to the first thing I said about loss and damage, that we need this hyperlocal assessment. Let’s say a hundred thousand dollars have been given to a small country for resilience. Now, how you deploy that needs to be a conversation that first begins with the science. Now, where are you going to be impacted the most? What is the kind of climate risk that you’re going to be impacted by? Is it a flooding risk? Is it coastal degradation? Is it crop loss? Is it water stress? Accordingly, the monies should be then apportioned. Once it’s apportioned that way it should immediately get down to a much local-level kind of monitoring. That requires itself a combination of state-level reporting but I would argue also nonstate reporting. So, again, we spend a lot of our efforts as a nonprofit institution tracking not just emissions but also tracking how moneys are deployed, the scale of projects, where the projects are coming up. We do a lot of ground surveys ourselves. We do the largest survey in the world on energy access, that data that helps to inform the rollout of energy access interventions. We’ve now paired up with the largest rural livelihood missions in two of our largest states to ensure that this work around distributed energy and livelihoods and climate resilience is tied up with what the rural livelihood missions are promising at a state legislature level. So I think that it is very important that the science dictates the apportionment of the funds but that there is a combination of government reporting and nongovernment assessment to track the progress of these projects. Of course, with advanced technology—and, I mean, some have proposed blockchain and so forth—can also track individual transactions, whether it’s reaching the person who was intended to be reached, and so on and so forth, and those kinds of mechanisms need to be developed regardless of this loss and damage financing facility. If we talk about offsets, all the activity in voluntary carbon markets that are going on, the level of rigor that is needed for when, so you’re trying to offset your flight and saying, well, a tree is going to be planted in Indonesia for this long-haul flight that you’re taking, how do you know that that tree truly was planted? And also if trust is broken then it’s very hard to rebuild and that’s why, again, I said earlier in answer to a different question that transparency has its own value in addition to improving the trust of the market. But it has its own value because it guides policy development and policy action and individual action in a far better way. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Charles Fraser, who has raised his hand. Q: You can hear me? FASKIANOS: We can now. Thank you. But identify yourself. I know you also wrote your question. So— Q: Sure. I’m a graduate student at the Princeton School of International Public Affairs. My question is about access to finance issues. The UNFCCC has produced—has decreed other climate funds in the past, the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund for example, and often beyond issues of how much money is mobilized to those funds issues about how recipients can access the funds is a prominent thing that’s discussed. How do you think that the—this new fund on loss and damage can be set up to address those issues and, perhaps, demonstrate ways to get around those problems? GHOSH: Firstly, in the case of the loss and damage financing facility we should make sure that it is not designed as a development assistance fund because, as soon as you do that, then you get into all those other questions about is this—is this going to be spam, should we really send it there, are they really ready to receive the money, and then so on and so forth. It has to be a parameterized one in the sense that if certain shocks are hitting vulnerable communities and countries above a certain threshold it should be able to pay out and that’s why that hyperlocal climate science and the attribution science is absolutely critical. On top of that it has to—you know, this is not an investment fund in the sense that this is not a fund manager that has to then see where do I get best returns, and is the project application good enough for me to invest in this, whether it’s a mitigation project or adaptation project. No. This is a payout fund. So most of the effort for loss and damage financing facility, in my opinion—I don’t sit on the—that technical steering committee that is designing it—but in my opinion most of the effort has to go in figuring out what was the vulnerability, what was the baseline, and how much about that baseline did the—was the damage caused and therefore how much has to be paid out. That is really where a lot of the effort has to go, and the second effort that has to go goes back to what Stephen Kass was suggesting in terms of alternative ways to capitalize this, because with rising climate risks we will quickly run out of money even if we were able to capitalize it with some amount of money today. So these two will have to be the basis and the governing board has to basically decide that is the science that is guiding our understanding of a particular event robust enough for us to make the payout. It should not be contingent and that’s—it’s the same as one, say, an investigator from an insurance company does before a payout is made for a house that’s burned down. But if you keep the victim running around from pillar to post asking for the money that they deserve as compensation, then it will quickly lose legitimacy like many of the other funding schemes that have come out of the climate regime thus far. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the last question from Connor Butler, who’s at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. In the near future do you see wealthy developed countries collaborating with poorer lesser-developed countries in order to build a resilience toward and combat climate change, or do you think that the North will always work together without involving the South? GHOSH: Connor, thank you for this question because this gives me a segue into my third market failure, which is should we build or are we building a sustainable planet which widens rather than narrows the technology divide. I analyzed about three dozen so-called technology-related initiatives emerging in the climate and energy space over the last decade and a half and there were only four that did any kind of real technology transfer and that to—none at scale. Basically, what happens is when you talk about technology, when you talk about cooperation on new technologies, usually these initiatives get stopped at, you know, organizing a conference and you talk about it. Sometimes you put in a—there’s a joint research project that begins. Very few times there’s a pilot project that actually you can physically see on the ground, and almost never does it get used at scale. So I have been increasingly arguing for technology co-development rather than technology transfer, because it’s a fool’s errand to hope that the technology will be transferred. Now, why is technology co-development important not just from the point of view of Global South? It’s important from the point of view of Global North as well. Let’s take something like green hydrogen. It is a major new thrust in many economies. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act provides a $3 subsidy for production of green hydrogen. India has just announced the largest green hydrogen mission in the world aiming to produce 5 million tons of green algae by 2030. But green hydrogen is not just—it’s not easy to just take water and split it. You need a lot of energy. To make that—to split the water you need electrolyzers. For that, you need critical minerals. You need membranes that are developed in certain places. You need manufacturing capabilities that can build this out at scale. I mean, India alone will need 40 (gigawatts) to 60 gigawatts of electrolyzers by the end of the decade. So, ultimately, if we have to build a cleaner energy system and a cleaner economic system we will actually have to move away from islands of regulation towards a more interdependent resilient supply chain around clean energy and climate-friendly technologies. So rather than think of this as a handout to the Global South, I think it makes more sense—and I can talk about batteries, critical minerals, solar panels, wind turbines, green hydrogen, electric vehicles—and you will see again and again we are actually mapping economy by economy where strengths, weaknesses lie and how the complementarities come together. We can see that this technology co-development can become a new paradigm for bridging the North and the South rather than technology transfer being a chasm between the North and the South. FASKIANOS: I think that’s a good place to conclude, especially since it is so late there. This was a fantastic conversation. We really appreciate your being with us, Dr. Ghosh, and for all the questions. I apologize to all of you. We could not get to them all. We’ll just have to have you back. And I want to commend Dr. Ghosh’s website. It is So that is the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water website and you can find, I believe, a lot of the studies that you’re talking about and your papers there. So if people want to dig in even further they should go there, also follow you on Twitter at—oh, my goodness. I need—I need—I think it’s midnight here. GHOSH: So ghosharunabha. It’s my last name and my first name—at @ghosharunabha FASKIANOS: Exactly. Right. So thank you again for doing this. We really appreciate it. The next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, February 15, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time with Margaret O’Mara, who is at the University of Washington, and we will be talking about big tech and global order. So, again, thank you, and if you want to learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships you don’t have to be in New York or Washington. We do have virtual internships as well. You should please reach out to us, and we also have fellowships for professors. You can go to and do follow us at @CFR_Academic and come to,, and for research and analysis on global issues. So, again, Dr. Ghosh, thank you very much for today’s conversation and to all of you for joining us. GHOSH: Thank you, Irina. Thank you, CFR. Thank you very much. (END)
  • United States

    Ashley Holben, interim manager and project specialist with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange and executive specialist to the chief executive officer at Mobility International USA, leads the conversation on disability inclusion on campus and in international affairs. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, if you’d like to share it with your colleagues. You can enable the closed captioning by clicking on the icon on your laptop or on your iPad in the “More” button. If you click on that you can show captions. So I encourage you to do that. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Ashley Holben with us today to discuss disability inclusion on campus and in international affairs. Ms. Holben is interim manager and project specialist with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, and executive specialist to the CEO at Mobility International USA. In these roles, she develops initiatives and resources to increase participation and inclusion of students with disabilities in international exchange. So, Ashley, thanks very much for being with us. Let’s just get right to it. If you could discuss and share with us the importance of disability inclusion in higher education institutions and international affairs, and share what you have found to be some of the best practices to do so on college campuses. HOLBEN: Certainly. Well, thank you so much, Irina, and thanks so much to the entire CFR team for putting this topic on the agenda of this webinar series. It’s such a fantastic opportunity to discuss an often misunderstood topic but a very prominent community, which is people with disabilities in higher education. And so really appreciate all of those who are joining today to tune in, and welcome. And, you know, the CFR team shared with me the roster of folks who were planning to attend and one thing that really stood out to me is kind of the really wide breadth of expertise and departments represented and positions represented. So it’s really encouraging to see so many different types of leadership wanting to discuss this further and wanting to share practices. So I’m looking forward to doing that today and I really hope to hear from some of those who are tuning in with your expertise and observations and activities as well, and I am delighted to share some—just observations of my own in this role at the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE). As Irina said, this is a project that’s housed at Mobility International USA since 1995. But we’re sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, really, in order to promote the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the U.S. and other countries, and that is to say kind of to the end we provide tips and strategies for people with disabilities and international program staff on how to prepare for an inclusive international exchange. So, before I kind of dive in, I just wanted to define these terms a little bit because it’s not always clear what we mean by international exchange. But, basically, we’re talking about everything from study abroad, teach abroad, volunteering, research, professional visitor exchanges. Also, cultural like arts, sports programs. So try to picture a U.S. college student going abroad for a semester or an international student coming to the U.S., a Peace Corps volunteer, Fulbright scholars, and so on. And we’re—the genesis of this project is really because people with disabilities are taking advantage of these same opportunities as nondisabled people in order to advance their educational/career goals, their personal goals. And that kind of brings me to kind of another definition—a loose definition—that people often wonder, well, what do you mean by people with disabilities, and by that that includes people with physical or mobility disabilities, sensory disabilities, chronic health conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities. That includes mental health disabilities, neurodiversity learning disabilities. And then keep in mind that disabilities can be apparent or nonapparent. And then also somebody’s disability might be apparent certain times and not others—for example, if they use assistive devices on some days but don’t need them on other days. So one topic that I really—is close to our hearts in our world is this theme of disability as diversity, and I saw on the roster—I was really excited to see that there were some folks who registered who are, for example, the director of diversity and inclusion, DEI specialists, and so on, and it’s so encouraging to see that higher education is really embracing this diversity, equity, and inclusion, implementing DEI strategies kind of throughout all areas of higher ed. And so, with this in mind it’s really vital to recognize that disability is part of diversity and not separate from it. Too often folks want to separate the two. Or, disability is an aspect of diversity that can get overlooked in diversity initiatives, we find, too often. So that inclusion of people with disabilities is really fundamental to be able to—and acting on that commitment to diversity at the institutional level. And then, for many, disability is an important facet of their identity, connecting someone to a larger disability community—for instance, disability pride, disability culture, history, and more. So it’s really important to keep that in mind in any discussion related to DEI. And just as important, many people with disabilities have identities in addition to their disability identity. So, for example, a person with a disability can also be a person of color, a first-generation college student, LGBTQ, an immigrant. And so one thing that we find often when we’re talking to people with disabilities about their experience is, there was so much focus on my disability that we completely forgot—(laughs)—to talk about these other aspects of myself that are important to me. So I think that’s definitely a good lesson. If anyone out there is more interested in this topic of disability intersectionality, I want to just kind of do a little plug for a publication that I’m really excited about that we put forth last year on Intersections Abroad, which I’m holding up to the screen. I think it might be blurred out, unfortunately, but—(laughs)—oh, here we go. FASKIANOS: It’s a little blurry but we’ll— HOLBEN: It’s a little blurry. FASKIANOS: (Inaudible)—anyway. HOLBEN: But it’s Intersections Abroad: “Travelers with disabilities explore identity and diversity through a lens of international exchange.” So it’s a series of travelers’ stories, interviews with people with different types of disabilities including people who are blind or have chronic health conditions or who are on the autism spectrum but who also want to describe what their study abroad experiences in different countries was like as a person of color or as someone with a religious identity or someone who brings all these unique experiences to their international exchange experience itself. For those of you who—I know we have a lot of different folks joining the call. On the higher education campus, people with disabilities not only includes students but also faculty, staff, administrators, campus leaders, visitors, and institutions often have dedicated staff or offices to support individual level disability accommodations and also to promote disability access more broadly across campus. So I noticed some folks who registered for this event come from, for example, Office of Student Accessibility, Office of Disability Services, Office of Student Support and Success. We had—I saw an access and accommodations coordinator, an ADA compliance coordinator. So these are all some examples of the types of folks who are working to help promote access at the—in higher education. You can also find counseling centers, tutoring centers. There are a growing number of campuses that are providing services tailored for students on the autism spectrum and also those that are tailored for students with intellectual disabilities, which is really interesting. And if you want to learn more about that I encourage you to check out the organization Think College. But in addition to campus accessibility and disability support services you’re going to find other entities that help promote disability community, disability history, disability rights, representation and visibility. For example, student groups led by and for students with disabilities. I saw one of the registrants—there were a couple of registrants on this event who are representing the Harvard Law School Project on Disability to, as they describe, use their learning in comparative and international law to advance understanding regarding disability law, policy, and education around the world. So it’s really exciting to see just kind of all the different ways in which higher education can support and promote disability access and inclusion in different ways in representation. Another topic that we are really passionate about at the NCDE is disability-inclusive campus internationalization, especially when it comes to the international exchange aspect of internationalization. So take education abroad, for instance. For the most part, I think a huge bulk of our resources relate to students—college students with disabilities who study abroad. That’s a big chunk of our resources, and we get a lot of questions about that from international exchange administrators and international study abroad advisors and coordinators about how can we provide some support to these students who want to study abroad who might have some specific disability-related accommodations they might need abroad, or everything from how can we attract students with disabilities to participate in our programs, and so on. So you’re going to find a lot of those types of resources in our library. But, education abroad that can also encompass faculty with disabilities leading trips abroad, and it’s really exciting to be able to connect with some faculty with disabilities who can share some of their stories with us about arranging these types of exchange programs. And the programs that they’re leading may or may not have a disability theme, depending on what their scholarly background is. However, I’ve observed that some education abroad curricula does include disability-related themes. So one example is at California State University in Northridge. One of their faculty led an exchange program called “Black Deaf Activism: Culture and Education in South Africa,” bringing together a lot of students from their campus who identify either as deaf, as Black, or both, and more. So that was really exciting to follow their journey through South Africa, again, with those different lenses. And then, of course, people with disabilities working in the international exchange field—in the international education field as advisors, administrators, and more, and that’s always something that we get really excited about at the Clearinghouse. We kind of proselytize a little bit to people with disabilities about, oh, have you thought about entering a career in international education so that we can see more disability representation and leadership within that field. A lot of students with disabilities are—and without disabilities are kind of blown away in a good way to see some of that disability representation in the kind of leadership level of that field and so that’s something that we try to encourage in some different ways that I’ll get to a little later. And then on the flip side of education abroad we also want to see disability-inclusive campus internationalization in the form of international student recruitment, so welcoming international students and scholars with disabilities to U.S. higher education, and that comprises another large segment of the resources housed at NCDE. So for those of you who advise international students and scholars on your campus or who are connected to the recruiting side to bring students with disabilities to the U.S., or bring international students to us, ESL offices and instructors. We want to work with them to make sure that they’re aware of the international students with disabilities. These are fantastic opportunities for them, too, and but they also might have some different cultural expectations related to disability. They might be used to a different type of system of accessibility and accommodations or a lack thereof. And, most recently we’ve talked to a lot of international students who are expressing an interest in connecting with other students with disabilities during their stay in the U.S., whether it’s other American students or other international students with disabilities. And so one thing that we’re excited to do in the near future is think of some ways that maybe we can help facilitate these types of connections on kind of a peer-mentor type model. Another focus of campus internationalization can be offering coursework on international disability rights. One prominent example in my mind is the University of Oregon’s “Global Perspectives on Disability” course because it’s co-taught by MIUSA’s own CEO, Susan Sygall, who is a woman with a disability, and what’s interesting is that that course is cross listed on campus with international studies, special education, and disability studies. So, you know, disability is such a cross-cutting issue. There’s really no topic or department or educational focus that doesn’t—that can’t touch upon disability, inclusion, and access. And so the “Global Perspectives on Disability” course at the U of O is one that’s been running for several years and it’s fantastic. We’re able to bring some guest presenters who are often disabled women leaders from countries around the world to share about their experiences in disability rights, disability policy, movement building, and so on. And then, one last example I’ll share, but not to say the last one, is access to foreign language learning and ESL and really ensuring that, you know, those are so vital to promoting campus internationalization and often they’re linked to these international exchange experiences, education abroad, and so on. But, sometimes we hear from people with disabilities that they were discouraged from taking a foreign language class because of assumptions about what they’re able to do. So, for example, like a person who is deaf, there might be some assumptions that they can’t participate in a foreign language class. And so, we would really promote any person with a disability to see if learning a foreign language is something that would help further their goals, personal, career wise, or otherwise. And so, I do want to hear your—all of your questions and your—not just questions but also just sharing from your experiences. But before we do that, I do want to just say a little bit about NCDE resources so that you’re aware of what we have in our library. That is to say they all touch on this crossover of disability inclusion in international exchange and include everything from tips for recruiting people with disabilities in international exchange programs, disability-specific tips for international travel. So, if your wheelchair gets broken when you’re abroad, what might you do? Or, what are some different types of accommodations that a blind student might use or someone with dyslexia might use? Best practices from various U.S. higher education institutions. And I think that’s going to really appeal to the folks who are on this webinar today. We have—just like we’ve been able to interview international exchange alumni, students who’ve come back from their experiences abroad, and others, we’ve also really relied on higher ed professionals to share their best practices with us because, really, our resource is a compendium of expertise from the field. And so I would really encourage anyone here who maybe they have a best practice to share from their own campus that they’re working on and we would love to be able to add that as a resource to be able to share with our broader community. So if that’s of interest please get in touch. We also offer sample disability accommodation forms and questionnaires, which is really handy for those out there who are wanting to start a conversation around disability access but maybe don’t know the—don’t have the vocabulary or don’t have the language. These are kind of helpful guides that can help you take those next steps. And then, finally, one thing that I am really excited to share because this is a new—relatively new initiative on our part is we’ve started hosting an access to exchange externship for—and this is a resource you can share with your students—this is for students with disabilities, recent graduates and others, who want to use their experiences to further the mission to promote disability inclusion in international exchange. So they’re tasked with coming up with some kind of either a webinar or event or a country guide, some kind of resource that can help further this mission. And so some of them have created resources for peers like prospective study abroad students with disabilities or for the folks who are working in the international education field so that they can be more cognizant of—you know, from a disabled person’s point of view what are the supports needed or what can they be doing. And then our seminar—access to exchange seminar is for people with disabilities who have not had any international exchange experiences and, you know, or maybe it’s a little intimidating to take that first step, and so our seminar is really just trying to break it down and make it feel a little bit more comfortable to ask questions and help try to just instill some confidence in future international exchange participants with disabilities. So, well, let me stop there for the time being and let me put it to all of you. What I’d like to know is, given, again, just this very—all of the different types of departments and expertise that you’re all bringing with you today what are some of your own experiences, observations, activities, around disability inclusion on your campus and in international affairs. So I’d really like to hear from you all and I wonder if anyone would like to start. FASKIANOS: Great. Great. Thank you, Ashley. This is terrific and, yes, we want to go to everybody on the call. You can click the raised hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or tablet click the more button to access the raised hand feature, and when I call on you, you can accept the unmute prompt. Please state your name and affiliation followed by your question. You can also write your question in the Q&A box. If you do that, please say who you are. And we do have our first written question from Pearl Robinson, who is an associate professor at Tufts University: Does the Peace Corps offer opportunities for people with disabilities? HOLBEN: Thank you for that question. Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Absolutely. The Peace Corps encourages people with disabilities to participate in—as volunteers and, indeed, we have seen so many returned Peace Corps volunteers with disabilities come back and share their experiences. I think I referred earlier to a person who was discouraged from learning a language because she’s deaf, and she often shares, she really pushed back against that, insisted she wants to learn French and one of the happy results of her advocating for herself to be able to pursue French despite being discouraged from doing so is it enabled her to be able to serve in the Peace Corps in Francophone Cameroon, which was a life-changing event for her. And, actually, I know that there is an upcoming webinar that’s going to be hosted by a Peace Corps staff on volunteers with disabilities that will feature a number of returned Peace Corps volunteers. And so if that—I think that is coming up pretty soon. So I’ll share that information with Pearl individually or unless other people are interested I can share with you, Irina. But also the Peace Corps also has opportunities for shorter-term programs for folks with unique expertise and who have a specific area of specialized focus. And so we recently interviewed someone who took part in that program—it’s called Peace Corps Response—which worked out really well for her because she has some chronic health conditions and mobility disabilities that made that format work quite well for her. But, yes, we have lots of returned Peace Corps stories on our website about people with different types of disabilities who served and it’s really fun to read their stories and just really eye-opening as well. FASKIANOS: Great. So we have another question from Deena Mansour with the Mansfield Center: We’ve appreciated using some of your resources on our State Department exchanges. Could you speak to some of the most important ways you prepared others in a cohort, a predeparture orientation to support a colleague with disabilities, given that many countries have less—far less exposure and support than we have had in the U.S.? HOLBEN: Mmm hmm. Yeah. I would say—and that’s fantastic that you’re working with—being able to implement State Department exchanges as well. We’re really excited by any time we can provide resources related to, for instance, the Global UGRAD program or the Mandela Fellowship or Fulbright, whatever it might be. And then, as for predeparture orientations, this has been a topic that we’ve explored both in terms of international students coming to the U.S., which we just kind of put—created some new resources for that. But it sounds like what you’re asking is for folks going abroad—maybe coming from the U.S. and going abroad. I think it’s just really important that people with disabilities who are preparing to go abroad are—have a chance to research a bit about the country’s disability rights—not only disability rights laws but disability culture and context. We really encourage folks to try to do outreach to a disability-led organization, if possible, and some people who’ve been able to do that it’s led to a really fruitful relationship and really enhanced their experience to be able to meet with local people with disabilities who can share kind of the real experience on the ground, what it might be like. I think a lot of people are also—maybe aren’t prepared for just the feeling of kind of being—standing out and others are unprepared for—well, just to use an example from our Intersections Abroad publication that I shared earlier, one student who studied abroad who is blind, she really thought that people would only be interested in her blindness and only have questions about her blindness, and she was really surprised that when she arrived people had wanted to know about other things about her, too. And so I think just allowing some room for all aspects of yourself there can be really beneficial. It’s something that sounds simple but people might forget. And so kind of evaluating different identities that you have, what you want to get out of the experience. But it sounds like what you’re asking about is kind of more just on-the-ground—those logistics, those environmental barriers. And you can’t foresee all of them, but I think just one thing that’s really helpful is just getting an idea of, how do people in that destination approach disability access because, if you call a hotel or something like that and you say is this going to be disability accessible, I really encourage just trying to get a little bit more specific, because they might say yes because their idea of disability access is having some burly people lift you up over some stairs, whereas that might not be at all your idea of accessibility. And so some of these things you’re not going to know until you arrive. But if you can connect with another—a person with a similar disability who has traveled abroad or someone who has gone to the place where you’re going that can really be helpful, or talking to locals with disabilities. And then our resource library, that’s one of the things that, I think—I really hope is helpful to folks planning their trips abroad is to be able to read about the experiences of other travelers and kind of the types of things unexpected that they encountered during their travels that might help other folks just get into that mindset of what might be on the horizon. FASKIANOS: There’s a question from Kwaku Obosu-Mensah at Lorain County Community College: Do students with disabilities need special insurance to travel abroad in an exchange program? HOLBEN: That’s a great—thanks for that question. Not always. Some students who have maybe chronic health conditions have been able—sometimes their study abroad program, for instance, has been able to negotiate, like, a group rate of health insurance for—for example, if it’s a group of students who are going abroad, in case there’s some additional coverage needed related to preexisting conditions or disabilities. However, we’re also seeing a best practice in the form of international exchange departments and offices budgeting for some funds to be able to provide for students with disabilities in those instances where something’s not going to be covered by. It’s kind of an extenuating circumstance, whether it’s related to getting access to health care, kind of an emergency fund, or being able to help pay for some private transportation when the local public transportation is not accessible, to use a couple of examples. So I think you’re going to have to—it’s really important to check with the insurance company and find out what their policies are around that but also to consider negotiating what they’re able to cover to be as inclusive as possible. And that’s not always going to be able to happen in that way, in which case those contingency funds are going to help supplement whatever the insurance is not able to. FASKIANOS: Great. And people can also raise their hand and ask their questions and share best practices. But I will have another question—written question—from Kimberly Pace, University of Alaska Anchorage, which goes along with Kwaku’s question, which was—you just answered about health care for students—faculty with disabilities when engaged in study abroad programs. So it’d be great if you could elaborate on that. HOLBEN: So, with health care, I guess just some additional considerations related to health includes mental health. Some folks with chronic health conditions might need to just get some—do some extra preparation—not only chronic health conditions but other types of disabilities. People with disabilities planning to go abroad will sometimes need to just take some extra steps for preparation, for example, those who are taking medications in the U.S. Certain types of ADHD medications in the U.S. are not legal in certain countries where people study abroad, and so trying to get information about what types of health care you’re able to receive abroad, what types of prescriptions you’re able to bring into the country abroad, working with your health care professionals about whether or not to adjust any medications prior to travel, and then where are you going to be able to access medical supplies in case yours get depleted or are lost or stolen or break—you know, where to go if your mobility equipment breaks. And we do have some tip sheets kind of on these different types of disability topics related to, what happens if you get into this dilemma, how can you try to, for example, keep your mobility equipment or your medications—how do you travel with those things in such a way that kind of helps mitigate some of the risks of having things break or confiscated or flagged or whatever it might be. So it’s not, like, a simple answer but it’s absolutely really important predeparture. Part of the —it’s part of the research. It’s part of the process for going abroad and, unfortunately, it typically means building in some extra time for planning to go abroad. So we always encourage students with disabilities, even if you think you might possibly go abroad at some point in your college career it’s not too early to start planning for it now and start looking into some of these questions, and some of the guides that we have on our website are helpful just for thinking through what those questions might be because, as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. And people will often think, well, I’ve got that taken care of, no problem. But they’re only considering it from a home environment perspective and not really thinking about how, well, is the host city infrastructure going to be able to support this accessibility software that I use or whatever it might be. So not just in terms of health care but other types of accommodations as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Can you elaborate on the difference between access and inclusion? I think it would be helpful to give those. HOLBEN: Well, I don’t think there needs to be a broad difference. But one thing that I would want to emphasize is, there’s—on one hand, we’re talking about disability inclusion and how can we make sure that—they’re really—they go hand in hand. Inclusion is how can people with disabilities access these—all of the same programs, all of the same services—really, just kind of everything that nondisabled people can access and—but I think inclusion is not quite the full picture. It’s not really enough. And so what we would say is how can we go beyond inclusion—the inclusion piece—which is just making sure can you participate to sometimes you have to kind of take the first step to get people with disabilities to see these things as belonging to them or see these—sometimes people will self-select out of things because they’ve grown up with these messages that this isn’t for them, or they have to wait until it’s a special disability-focused program or activity for them to participate. And so one message that we tell people with disabilities is to kind of think of it as an infiltration where you’re, like, find these nondisability-focused activities and if you want to be part of it then be part of it. But on the flip side, we’re also thinking a lot about reverse infiltration, which is the folks that are managing different projects and opportunities and activities sometimes you might have to go out of your way a little bit to invite in people from the disability community, meet them where they are, really make sure that they are expected, anticipated. So it’s not really just enough to say, well, we wouldn’t turn a person with a disability away so that makes us inclusive but, really, how can you be more proactive and intentional in your strategy to make sure that disability is represented. So I think that that would be one distinction. And then, furthermore, beyond just disability inclusion—are they participating—then I think another important step to look at is disability leadership, and so that’s kind of where—why I say we get really excited when people with disabilities are entering leadership positions in higher education, whether that’s working in the study abroad office or as faculty leaders and others who are taking part in these decision-making roles and, how can we create kind of a pipeline for people with disabilities to become leaders in these different areas and be that kind of next generation of leadership. So I would keep that at the forefront as well. FASKIANOS: Great. HOLBEN: And, you know— FASKIANOS: Uh-huh. HOLBEN: Oh, go ahead. FASKIANOS: Oh, I was just going to call on Kimberly Pace. She raised her hand. HOLBEN: Oh, perfect. Yes. Looking forward to hear Kimberly. FASKIANOS: From the University of Alaska Anchorage. Q: That’s brilliant. Oh, I’m just so appreciative of this forum, and thank you both so much. As a person with a physical disability it never occurred to me as a college student to ever go—even ask the question about study abroad and I—certainly, you’re blowing my mind that there are resources to allow students to do this. I teach international relations and comparative politics, and I am just beyond giddy that there—(laughter)—are options for students because that’s something that, personally, I, you know, never got to experience and never, certainly, was encouraged to do that. So I’m very excited. I just want to say thank you very much for the information. So thank you. HOLBEN: We’re right there with you, Kimberly, as far as the giddy factor. And, you know, thank you so much for sharing that experience because, actually, that is—I think that inclusive, that welcoming, encouraging messaging is so important and we kind of go into detail about that on one of our tip sheets about inclusive recruitment. But even just something as simple as a message on an opportunity that says people with disabilities encouraged to apply, you never know who that’s going to make all the difference in the world to and one prime example is our organization, Mobility International USA, might not exist if our CEO, who is a wheelchair rider, hadn’t done her Rotary exchange program in Australia, which kind of spawned this idea of what Mobility International USA should be, and what led her to participate in that Rotary exchange program was seeing just a simple ad in the newspaper that said people with disabilities encouraged to apply. And who was responsible for putting in that little line? We’re not sure. But it kind of led to this chain of events that kind of brought us to where we are here. And, you know, there are so many folks in the field in higher education who are—they don’t have all the answers and they don’t have a lot of—they might not have personal experience with disability. But I think if they can help be a champion, an ally, and be kind of someone who says, well, let’s figure this out, or let’s see what’s possible and not shut it down, I think that that’s often what has led to all of these amazing outcomes and impact stories from the folks who have shared their experiences with us on our website and then who knows how many more are out there. So, sounds simple, but it can have an important impact. FASKIANOS: So we have a written question from Mark Scheinbaum, who’s at the Florida International University: What updates or guidance do you have for students with de jure and/or de facto comfort pets that are needed for completion of usual and customary academic tasks? HOLBEN: If you can leave the questions up a little longer. Then I can— FASKIANOS: Oh, sure. Sure. Sorry. HOLBEN: That’s OK. FASKIANOS: I’ll put it back. HOLBEN: Well, I would just, first of all, make sure that you’re familiarizing yourself with the distinction between—you kind of use two different terms here. So there are comfort animals or emotional support animals, and then there are service animals, which are trained to do a specific service. Comfort animals and emotional support animals aren’t necessarily trained to perform a specific service related to a disability-related accommodation whereas a service animal is. So maybe that service is helping to detect the onset of an epileptic seizure, or the service is being able to help the person open doors or pick up items from the floor, or, of course, sight dogs for folks who are blind or visually impaired, for mobility. And so, anyway, that’s going to be a really key distinction for whether or not it’s going to be appropriate to have a service animal or an emotional support animal in a higher education setting, and especially that becomes more complicated when you’re talking about going abroad to another country where you’re also considering factors—not just the laws but also the cultural factors whether dogs are welcome in every restaurant or if it’s an animal that’s very taboo and you don’t keep them as pets, let alone travel around with them. And so all of those questions are going to come into play. We do have some tip sheets on our website that go into more detail around some preparation for bringing animals abroad, what you should know related to quarantine, vaccinations, and things like that. So search for animals on the MIUSA website to access some of those tips. FASKIANOS: Great, and we’ll send out links to that section, Ashley, after this so people can access it easier. HOLBEN: Oh, great. Yeah. FASKIANOS: So another written question from Erin Reed, and I will leave it up so you can see it— HOLBEN: Oh, thanks. FASKIANOS:—who’s the student services and admissions advisor/DSO at California State University San Marcos: What are your suggestions for a university study abroad program that is not made aware of a student’s disability prior to the student’s arrival? HOLBEN: I think my number-one suggestion would be rather than waiting for one student to participate start thinking about it now what are some ways we can build in some inclusive practices into our programming. So one thing that some programs might do is, well, maybe people aren’t disclosing their disability because we’re not giving them the opportunity to do so. So including questions in some of those post-acceptance forums that ask how can we make this program—how can we help set you up for success in this program. Might also ask specifically, including related to disability accommodations so that folks know that—I think it’s really important for prospective students or otherwise to just know that they’re being anticipated, that someone is thinking, yes, like, we’re totally expecting that at some point some students with disabilities will participate in this program. And I think that that can be—really signal to students, OK, this—we’re coming from a place that or we’re going to be interacting with folks who are anticipating me and, even if they don’t know all the answers to my questions they’re not going to shut me down. So I think that some of those types of—whether it’s just amending some of your forms or putting information on your program website, having inclusive images such as if there are images of people with apparent disabilities participating in the program, seeing themselves reflected in those images can be just as important as an inclusive written message. Let me go back to that question. Sorry. It went away again. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: If you click on the answered question. HOLBEN: I got it. Yeah. FASKIANOS: OK. And then I have two more written questions. Everybody’s sending in their questions at the end here. (Laughs.) HOLBEN: But just also, going back to Erin Reed’s question, if the program—it sounds like, we didn’t know that there was a student with a disability planning to arrive. Now we—we have this—these things that we need to figure out in the meantime. One more thing I’ll just say about how to maybe avoid that situation is working with—oh, this is so important—collaborating with the disability services office and other similar services on the campus to be able to arrange some kind of system. So a lot of institutions—for example, their study abroad offices will share a list of all of the students who are enrolled in study abroad for that upcoming semester and they’ll share it with the disability services office so that they can kind of go through and say, oh, well, we recognize—and this is all just privately on the disability services side to protect the students’ privacy—but they will kind of flag, oh, this is a student that we work with. And so what they might then do is connect with that student directly and say, hey, we learned that you’re going abroad—do you want to talk about some of the questions you might have or is there anything that we can do to support you and can we—are you comfortable with inviting those—the international advisors into this conversation so that we can just kind of put everything out in the open and we can figure out all the best ways to support the—that student. So, I would say, that’s so important that we used to at NCDE pay people to take each other to lunch from the study abroad office and the disability services office because too often we heard, oh, yeah, they’re just right across the—you know, their office is literally right over there. I can see them from our office. But we’ve never talked to them or—and we don’t really know what they do. So I think just to have it breaking some of that ice early on and not waiting for the time when there’s a student with a disability there but just kind of building that into your process, and that can also be helpful for collecting data as well. The Institute for International Education has an annual Open Door survey that provides data and statistics around who is participating in an international exchange and they’ve started including a question—some questions related to disability so that, hopefully, over time we can kind of see is disability—are people with disabilities being represented in international exchange in greater numbers, what types of disabilities do they have, and so on. So working with the disability support office is one great way to also collect that type of information too, which is going to really help the field and, hopefully, help more people with disabilities to be able to participate in international exchange. FASKIANOS: So we have a question from Andrew Moran from London Metropolitan University: In the U.K. inclusion is not just about access or being in a classroom. It is also about inclusive assessment methods. I wonder if you have any resources—if you know of any resources that suggest assessment methods that would allow neurodiverse or physically disabled students to fully engage and not be excluded. They’ve done away with exams because you can’t rely on an elevator to work to get to an exam room, let alone the barriers in the exam might pose for neurodiverse students. And he’s leading a working group on allowing students to choose, create their own assessment method to enable greater diversity and meet students’ needs but always looking for new ideas. HOLBEN: Oh, that’s really interesting. Thanks so much for sharing that, Andrew, and for sharing the example at your own institution as well. And I would love to hear other folks respond to this, too. As far as—one, again, I would really encourage you to check out Think College as a prospective resource for—especially just because you mention neurodiverse students. So Think College operates at different campuses right now—for now, I think, only in the U.S. Perhaps their network is growing beyond that as well. But it’s kind of this network of professionals who work with—to try to get students not only with intellectual disabilities but also those who are neurodiverse, including those who are on the autism spectrum. And so they are really a fantastic source of expertise for everything from inclusive education or specialized support and accommodations and pedagogy. So I think that they would be probably the ones to connect with about this question in particular. But if other folks have other ideas in response to Andrew, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it. And maybe while we’re thinking of that, we’ll check out this next one. FASKIANOS: Right. McKennah Andrews with the Mansfield Center: We have a blind participant on an upcoming international program taking place here in the U.S., and MIUSA’s resources have been so valuable. Can we touch on the topic of personal assistants? What advice or testimonies might you have regarding engaging with personal assistants during a program? HOLBEN: Yes, absolutely. So personal assistants can look like a couple—many different things, actually. You might even—since you mentioned having a blind participant, this might not be what you meant but some—for some folks who are blind they may have had some sighted guides during their exchange programs abroad. So that’s another example where a student who—or a person who is used to one type of access accommodation or assistive devices or technology in their home environment might have to look into some different ones for their host environment. So we’ve known some people who are really—have great cane skills for orientation and mobility and strong independent mobility skills in their home environment but have felt more comfortable having the program help arrange a sighted guide for them when they’re going to, perhaps, countries where—or environments that are a little more chaotic or where, for whatever reason, their usual skills might not work out. Or, again, if that person uses a service dog in—or service animal in their home environment and that wouldn’t really be feasible in the home environment then having that kind of human guide or a personal assistant might be one method that they look into. Personal assistants might also provide everyday living services—you know, feeding or using the bathroom or just getting ready throughout the day, assisting with lifting and transferring, and that’s going to—might—again, as somebody who—we’ve seen some instances where people in the U.S. who don’t use personal assistant services might opt for that when they’re going to a place where, you know, they might need to be lifted more often because the infrastructure is not as—going to be as smooth or not as accessible. And so we’ve seen different situations where sometimes they are—the personal assistant in question is someone they’ve worked with a long time in the U.S. Sometimes it might be a peer who attends their school. Sometimes it’s a parent who travels. I’ve definitely seen all kind of different types of—oh, and also a local person that’s hired in the country to provide personal assistant care. So it’s really interesting just to kind of be aware of all of the different ways that that might look and check out—again, we have a specific tip sheet about that—actually, a series related to personal assistant services. So, yes, we can talk about personal assistant services and we have kind of a suite of resources related to that so there’s a lot that can be said. So thanks for bringing that up. FASKIANOS: Terrific. We are almost out of time, and I did see that there was a raised hand from Justice Chuckwu— HOLBEN: Fantastic. Let’s hear from Justice. FASKIANOS: —disability rights, Oregon. He lowered his hand but—oh, there we go. And if you can ask it quickly and unmute yourself that would be great. HOLBEN: I think we’ve met before, Justice. Hello. HOLBEN: Oh, hi. There’s Justice. Q: Hello. HOLBEN: Hello. Q: Yeah, I think we met a couple times. Yeah. So my name is Justice and, yeah, I’m so much appreciative of this program. And I always have a simple question and the question is how do we—how do we unify orientation for international students with disabilities, given the fact that they come from different backgrounds and most times there are just maybe one or two or three in one university or one college and may not be able to really understand the environment early enough. Maybe by the time they would get to understand the environment they might be getting to the mid-semester. So my question is, is there a way to kind of unify the orientation, especially since we now have online—things could be done online to unify the orientation to make sure that students—international students with disabilities are not left behind. HOLBEN: Mmm hmm. Yes. Thank you, Justice. And, actually, it was your bringing that to light that kind of got—we started incorporating that question into some of our resources and, in fact, you helped contribute to one of our webinars on this very topic of support for international students with disabilities coming to different campuses in which you kind of described that feeling of how do I connect with other people with disabilities, especially other international students with disabilities, who might be able to share in some of these experiences so I don’t feel so alone in this. And I really—that really sparked a lot of ideas but one of which is, might there be some kind of opportunity for a student group of international students with disabilities but bringing together students from different campuses to be able to share their experiences. And so that’s something that we at the NCDE are exploring more. But as for existing resources, in addition to the webinar that Justice contributed to we also added some others related to just sharing some best practices from our—MIUSA leads an orientation for high school exchange students with disabilities who are arriving to the U.S. for a State Department-funded scholarship program and we—as part of this orientation we incorporate information about your rights as a person with disabilities while you’re in the U.S. and how to advocate for yourself if there’s something that you need but aren’t getting, how to fully participate in all of the opportunities while you’re there. So I think that those are the—some of the same messages that could be really beneficial to folks entering U.S. higher education from different parts of the world and just learning about U.S. disability culture and those steps for taking advantage of all of the resources available to you. So, yeah, you’re absolutely right, Justice. There’s more work to be done, and I think fo