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.
  • Health

  • India

  • 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

  • Education

  • 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 folks like you who are voicing kind of those needs—those firsthand gaps that you’ve identified is kind of one of the first steps in helping to build out some of these resources. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Well, we are out of time. In fact, we’re a little over. HOLBEN: Oh. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: So, Ashley Holben, thank you so much for doing this. We really appreciate it, and to all of you for your questions and comments. Again, we will be sending out a link to this webinar transcript as well as to the resources that Ashley mentioned. So stay tuned for that. Our next Higher Education Webinar will be on Wednesday, February 22, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time with Jeremi Suri, who will lead a conversation on teaching the history of American democracy. And just please do follow us at @CFR_Academic and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Ashley, again, thank you very much for doing this. We appreciate it. HOLBEN: Thank you. Thank you for—to everyone who attended for your time and thanks to CFR for getting this on the agenda. I really appreciate it also. FASKIANOS: Great. We look forward to everybody continuing to participate in this Higher Education Webinar series. Have a good rest of your day. (END)
  • Ukraine

    Liana Fix, fellow for Europe at CFR, leads the conversation on the global ramifications of the war in Ukraine. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to the first 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, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Liana Fix with us to talk about the global ramifications of the war in Ukraine. Dr. Fix is a fellow for Europe at CFR. She is a historian and political scientist, with expertise in German and European foreign and security policy, European security, transatlantic relations, Russia and Eastern Europe. Prior to joining CFR, Dr. Fix was program director for international affairs at Körber-Stiftung in Berlin. She has also served as a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and the Robert Bosch Foundation Multilateral Dialogues. And from 2014 to 2016, Dr. Fix was the a doctoral fellow at the German Institute for International Security Affairs and associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of A New German Power? Germany’s Role in European Russia Policy, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan. So, Liana, thank you very much for being with us today. We are about a month shy of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Can you begin by giving us context on where things stand in Ukraine, and talk about the global ramifications of this war in Ukraine that Russia has mounted? FIX: Thank you so much, Irina. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this Academic Webinar and to lead this webinar just really at a very good time, just short of the one year—the tragic one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And what I would like to discuss today, and perhaps to offer also as some input for the discussion, three questions. First of all, looking back at the last year, at what have we actually learned from the last year and from the war in Ukraine, that we would not have known before, and a lesson that we should take with us for the future. The other second point is what can we actually expect for this year? What can we expect for the second year of the war? And then the third question, what are the global ramifications and how will they continue to affect beyond the war in Ukraine in this year? So coming to the first point, and that is the lesson learned from the war so far, and from the last year. I have one lesson learned to offer, which seems to me to be the most important one because it summarizes many other surprises and lessons learned that we had throughout the last year. And this lesson is the fallacy of linear thinking. And what do I mean by that? I mean by that, that throughout the war we have continued to think in the moment from where we stood and where we were. So the first example is perhaps the most obvious one, the assumption that a Russian attack on Ukraine would immediately result in Moscow’s military victory. And even after Russia’s defeat in the Battle of Kyiv, it took months for policymakers and analysts to internalize that Russia’s initial failures in this war were not only a temporary setback, but that Russia is actually on the losing side in this war. The second example that explains why we always continue to fall for this fallacy of linear thinking is the prediction of a stalemate that we hear again and again, and that we heard very often in the last year, often with a comparison of the First World War, the concern that we would end up in a trench warfare between Ukraine and Russia back in their relative positions. This prediction has, in the last year, repeatedly been refuted by Ukrainian counteroffensives. And it is also not what we should expect for the next year. Just because we now have a period of one or two months when things seem to be a little bit slower, it would be a fallacy of linear thinking to assume that this is how the war will continue to take place in this year. So actually, right now, both sides are preparing for the spring counteroffensives. And those don’t have to be as successful as we have seen in the past, but we do see a very dynamic battlefield development, which suggests that this war is actually more likely to produce surprises instead of continuities. And perhaps a third example of linear thinking, which I find particularly intriguing and interesting to think about, is that despite all kinds of speculations about domestic unrest in Russia, about regime destabilization, what kind of potential successes could we have to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, we most often continue to think that someone or something, some system following Vladimir Putin in power would be bound by his legacy and somewhat molded in his image. So the question comes up, would it be worse? Would it be better than Vladimir Putin? But in reality, we really don’t know how different what after Vladimir Putin comes it will be. And it would be wise to prepare for exactly the opposite scenarios than the ones we consider now. I have written three scenarios with my colleague Michael Kimmage for a piece in Foreign Affairs where we have offered a scenario of a Russian defeat after negotiations, a Russian defeat after escalation, and a Russian defeat after regime change. Those are only three options that we have analyzed, but they suggest that we should also not be overly optimistic for what comes afterwards. We will probably not see a golden age of stability and security just because Russia was defeated in Ukraine. But we can see, and we can expect in many regions of the world, especially in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia, a vacuum of power where other actors will move in and try to replace Russia’s role there, if Russia is defeated and its power and hold over its near neighborhood, as it’s often called, is crumbling. So that’s what I think we have learnt from the last year. Looking ahead for this year, what is it that we can expect? And there are many indications that suggest that 2023 may be a year where we will see decisive action in the war in Ukraine. The first, that was a surprise to many who thought that the West had some kind of war fatigue, especially the Europeans, after this tough winter with high energy prices, that we would end up in a stalemate in this war, is that we have an announcement of new heavy weapon deliveries to Ukraine coming from the United States, France, and Germany. And that is interesting, not only because for the first time we have light tanks that are sent to Ukraine, but it seems that there is a consensus in the West that decisive action is necessary to equip Ukraine with the material that it needs for a successful counteroffensive in the spring. And that prolongs, or can prolong, into an assumption that this war should not become a forever war, but that this war needs to end in 2023. Also, because 2024 will be a much more complicated year on a political level. We will have elections in the United States in 2024, which is perhaps the most important factor because the United States has been such a leader in this war so far. So elections and the instability that they might bring or, indeed, the uncertainty that elections in the United States might bring are a good reason why 2023 has to become a decisive year. We will also have elections in Ukraine in 2024, and some kind of elections, if they’re even worth calling it that way, in Russia in 2024. So again, 2023 really seems to be the year where decisive action should be taken. Can it be taken, and can it be taken successfully? That very much depends on two factors. The first is the Western support that Ukraine gets. The light tanks, the dozens of light tanks that have been announced now, will not be enough. Ukraine’s asking for hundreds of those models. And the second is obviously how will Russia react, and what are Russia’s plans for 2023? And we’ve seen some interesting changes. We’ve seen that Russia has brought again a change in the leadership structure of this war. General Surovikin, who was actually quite successful in leading the war in the last three months, or at least he had narrowed the gap between reality and what Vladimir Putin looks how this war looks like, has been—has been demoted to a position under General Gerasimov. So we do see that this—both the structures, but also the alliance of reporting on the Russian side have changed, which suggests that there’s just no plan that has worked so far, which explains why it is renewed again and again. And the other factor, from the Russian side, is the expectations that Russia will recruit another cohort of conscripts into this war. Three hundred thousand have been recruited in the first wave, and more are expected to come. So these two factors will impact what we will see in 2023 in this war. And now let me move on how this war will have global ramifications beyond Europe also in 2023. What have we seen in global ramifications in 2022? It was very clear that this war is not just a European regional war, but truly a war with global effects very clearly, because of the energy shock that we have seen. So energy wholesale prices have, in some parts, increased fifteenfold in Europe. Because of the economic slowdown that this war has caused, we actually had quite an optimistic outlook for 2022 because many countries were coming out of the pandemic with a hope of economic recovery. And then the war started. And the energy price shock led to an incredible high inflation rate for many countries, which is double digit in Europe, for example, which, again, contributes to a cost of living crisis in many parts of the world. And then, obviously, the impact of food shortages, the blockade of crucial Ukrainian grain transport, which has only been resolved through Turkish intervention, affects the Global South immensely. And we also see the role of China in this war, especially when it comes to the nuclear dimension, that the West felt compelled to ask China for some kind of help in deescalating Russia’s nuclear rhetoric. So while it is a war that is focused in Ukraine, we don’t see NATO involvement, it does have global impact and ramifications that extend beyond the war. So I think it’s very fair to argue that it is more than a regional European war, and it will remain more than a regional European war in this year. And I think I’ll leave it at that for the moment. FASKIANOS: Liana, thank you very much. That was terrific. We’re going to turn to all of you now for your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) OK, so now let’s go to the group. And let’s see. Oh, good, we have—already have three raised hands. I’m going to start with Hamza Siddiqui. And excuse my pronunciation. You can correct me. (Laughs.) Q: Thank you. I’m Hamza Siddiqui. I’m a student at Minnesota State University in Mankato. I actually have two somewhat related questions. The first was that—do you agree that, according to—do you agree with some reports that there is apparently an internal power struggle that has broken out in Russia with the security services and the military on one side and the Wagner Group and Ramzan Kadyrov on the other side? And, secondly, in a scenario in which Putin does end up getting removed from power, is there any one individual within Russia who has the same amount of influence and power that Putin had, who would be able to fill in that power vacuum? Thank you. FIX: Thank you. I think those are two really excellent questions, and not that easy to answer. So the first, I think, you’ve described quite correctly the internal power struggle that we’ve seen. What is interesting is that the Russian president himself sort of knows about this power struggle. So we can only—we have no indication of what he thinks about the dispute between the traditional security forces, the defense ministry and the Russian Army, and this new not secret anymore group of Wagner and Prigozhin, who really have challenged the defense ministry and the Russian military leadership in the past. So they have allowed their soldiers to post videos basically insulting the leadership or the lack of success, criticizing them for their failures. And what the head of the Wagner Group has been doing very successfully is to be the one who has the pictures and the videos of himself in the trenches with the soldiers. That’s something that we don’t see from Vladimir Putin. He’s always detached in his—in his office in the Kremlin, or wherever he might be. So we do see that there was a fight to—for this role of the leader of this war in military affairs. It could be an indication that General Gerasimov has been put back in charge of the whole operation. That this is a weakening of the Wagner Group and Prigozhin, and of those paramilitary groups. But I think this is a dynamic that will go back and forth. What if Putin is removed from power? So what Putin has done very successfully in the years of his term is to replace any candidates that might be potential successors to himself. So the last wave of big changes that we’ve seen in the Russian administration were the introduction of so-called technocrats. So Putin has surrounded himself with technocrats that are successful, or meant to be successful, managers around him, but that don’t have the kind of political standing that would question his position. Dimitry Medvedev, who has already replaced Vladimir Putin once, has become a war hawk, sometimes with absurd commentaries on the war which might rule him out as a successor. But, again, the reasoning that Vladimir Putin has changed the constitution and allowed himself to stay in power until 2036 is, and he said that, because he does not want his elites to be distracted by these power struggles. So it’s really very difficult to see where this successor can come from and who it can be. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. I’m going to take the next question, written question, from Lucas McMillan from Lander University. How would you describe the ramifications for the European Union (EU) as an institutional body and in its future goals? FIX: I think that’s a multilayered question. So, for one, the European Union has become more geopolitical in its outlook. So when we see what the European Commission under the leadership of von der Leyen has done, it has been quite significant. And so the sanctions packages that have been agreed upon, the support for Ukrainian refugees. For the first time we have a peace facility, some kind of defense fund that European member states have set up to refund member states for the arms payments—the arms deliveries that they have given to Ukraine. So we do see that the European Union has become more geopolitical, has sort of pooled its power together in this war, and the instruments that it has available. But—and we also have to say that it has been relatively successful in managing the energy crisis so far. But what we don’t yet see is that the European Union really has stepped up in terms of defense policy. So when it comes to a new defense policy, it is very much NATO that has benefitted from this war, benefitted from increases in defense spending, and not the EU, which also tried to set up defense structures in the past. I mean, there’s always the question of, you know, how can this relationship between EU defense structures and NATO work at all? And it’s a difficult relationship. But we see that the EU as a geopolitical actor has been strengthened. But as a military actor, it is very much NATO that has been strengthened. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Pam Chasek. Q: Hi. I hope you can hear me OK. I’m Pam Chasek. I’m a professor at Manhattan College in New York. FASKIANOS: Pam, you’re a little bit—can you get closer to the mic? You’re a little hard to hear. Q: Yeah. Sorry, I forgot my headphones today. (Laughs.) Can you hear me better now? FASKIANOS: Yes. And if you can repeat your affiliation, that would be fantastic. Q: Yes. Pam Chasek, Manhattan College in New York. While this may not be on everyone’s radar screens, the United Nations has become another front in this war. Not just the Security Council, but the Eastern European Regional Group has been unable to nominate members to leadership of various treaty bodies and other organizations within the UN. Russia has also rejected consensus on other members. And this is really hamstringing the work of these bodies. And I’m wondering if you’ve seen other diplomatic side effects of this war. FIX: Well, that’s a very interesting point that you mention. I think the UN has struggled in multiple dimensions when it comes to this war. I think one of the interesting diplomatic side effects is what we’ve seen in part in the voting results in the UN. So there’s really this struggle to isolate Russia as much as possible, but then on the other side this—the refusal of many countries in the Global South, like India, to outrightly condemn Russia as a sole instigator of this war, with the argument, well, this war is taking place in Europe. There were so many other wars that Europe was not paying attention to. So why should we now pay so much attention to this war? And I think this has resulted in an interesting—there’s been an interesting new category of in-between states that are sort of in-between this new competition, this new rivalry, between the West and Russia, but also somewhere between the West, Russia, and China. And these in-between states not only include India. We also see Serbia as some kind of in-between state. And to some extent within the European Union we also see Hungary as some kind of in-between state, that really is taking the EU hostage in many regards. And that is something which reminds of Cold War times, but has a different dynamic right now. And I do think we see this also in the voting behavior of the UN. So I think next to what you mentioned, as a very interesting development, that’s also something to look out for in the future. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to next to William Weeks, who wrote his question. Why don’t you just ask it and identify yourself please. Q: Sorry. My name is Will. I am from ASU in the History Department. And my question is—to Liana, it’s what do you believe is the level of cooperation and coordination between China and Russia? FIX: Yeah. That’s an excellent question. Well, there is this—there was this hope throughout this war that there might be a way to bring China on the Western side, and to really bring China to put pressure on Russia. And especially on this issue of the nuclear statement and sort of decreasing the nuclear tensions. There was a lot of hope in Europe, I would say, that China’s intervention, saying that, you know, nuclear threats are unacceptable, somehow signaled that China is trying to distance itself from Russia. And, I mean, it’s fair to say that the war definitely has not gone according to plan also from a Chinese perspective. And it’s fair to say that the war brings Russia in a position of even more dependence on China than Russia has been before. But I would be cautious this narrative of China is really distancing itself from Russia, and sort of the partnership—limitless partnership has been—has been damaged by this war. Because I do think Beijing is very skillful at analyzing what is needed in its specific relationships at the moment. And I think the analysis is that in its specific relationship with Europe, it is good to present yourself as distancing yourself from Russia, trying to use your leverage with Russia, because that’s what has upset the United States and Europe at the beginning of this war, that China seemed to be on Russia’s side. What happens behind the scenes on Russian-Chinese dialogue and interaction is on a completely different page. So we have not seen obvious weapons deliveries from China to Russia. I mean, there are rumors that those might have taken place, but not in any kind that have been obvious so far. And I think China is very careful with – if it supports Russia with weaponry, it’s very careful to probably not leave traces, to not impact the relationship with the West and with Europe. And that, again, the economic dependency. And that, Russia is definitely only sliding deeper into the dependence on China that was there in the past. And so I would say it is—it continues to be a close partnership. There continues to be a lot of exchanges between Russia and China. And I would not sort of too quickly buy this argument that China is trying to distance itself from Russia, that this is a genuine argument. I do think at the moment it’s a diplomacy from China towards Europe and the West. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Michael Oppenheimer, who has a raised hand. Q: I teach at NYU. I’m in complete agreement with you about the implausibility of stalemate. It surprises me how people that should know better, you know, continue to insist that there’s something inherently stalemated about this conflict. My question really relates to the longer term, beyond next year, and whether there’s sort of at the root of policy disagreements about how much we should support Ukraine, and how much risk we should take in providing offensive weapons. There’s a difference of opinion about the stakes in Ukraine. And that’s a question that’s not often made explicit, but I think there are some people who think that this is another local conflict, that we can survive without long-lasting damage to the international system. As against those who kind of see this as a 1930s-like, you know, kind of pivotal moment in international politics. What are your views on that? And what kind of policy consequences ensue if you take one or the other of those positions? FIX: Thank you. I think that’s a very correct analysis here. And I think the further away you move from Europe the more opinions do you get that this is, you know, just a regional war in Europe that, you know, just has to end, as far as possible. The closer you’re sort of—the nearer you are in Europe, the more it feels like a system-transforming war, which really changes the international order. And I think that two sort of consequences of both pathways going—(inaudible). If it’s a system-transforming war, then really Russia’s defeat is sort of a priority not only for Ukraine, but for the whole Western—for the whole international order. Which is fine to assume as an assumption, but the question then is what happens after Russia is defeated? Because the analogy that many draw to 1939 doesn’t work in 2022, because there’s just no way that Russia can be—or, Russian leadership can be changed in a way that German leadership was changed in 1945—“changed,” in quotation marks. So the question then becomes, even if Russia is defeated in Ukraine, how do we deal with the Russia that we have identified as a threat to our system? And how do we construct a future within Russia? Do we go back to containment? I think that’s the crucial question where there are no answers for. So there’s a lot of tactical thinking right now about the war, and how far to go, but less of a strategic thinking about what is Russia to us after this war, and how do we want to deal with it? And the other line of argument to take is, well, if it’s just a regional war, it sort of implicitly and—you know, we can survive this one—it implicitly assumes that there is some—or, there is no danger to the system as it is if Russia sort of retakes its old form as a Soviet—as a Soviet hegemon. It might affect Ukraine. It might affect Moldova at some point. It might affect Georgia. But it sort of assumes that after that, there would be a wall and Russia’s imperial expansionist drive would not expand further and would not dare to expand in any kind of NATO territory, even if Russia would then have moved closed to NATO territory. And that is a line that one can argue. But certainly the security—the military threat that a Russia poses that is closer to NATO’s borders, which has Ukraine under its control, which is threatening Moldova, would require in any way a rearmament of Europe not seen since Cold War times. So it might actually be the cheaper option to defeat Russia in Ukraine than to have Russia move closer to NATO, because then it really comes back to Cold War times defense spending and defense of Europe. And I think that’s why, apart from all the other normative reasons, that is just, for me, a logical consequence why giving Ukraine the opportunity to win against Russia is the cheaper and the better option for the West. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Rob Warren from the Anglo-American University in Prague. As by far the largest military donor in the conflict, what do you see as being the United States’ long-term goals? Is this simply an issue of Ukrainian sovereignty and European security? FIX: I think that’s an important part of the equation, containing Russia in Europe, containing the Russian threat in Europe. But I do think another dimension is also the signaling towards China. So for the United States not letting Russia win in Ukraine is an important signal towards China to suggest, well, this is not the pathway for authoritarian countries to go, and for just easily and quickly occupy another country. So I think for the U.S. it has this dual dimension, which it doesn’t necessarily have for Europeans. Europeans don’t really care about the signal that this war sends to China, because they don’t perceive China as the same kind of competitor as the United States perceives China. But for the United States, it’s a credibility question towards Russia, but also towards China. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, a raised hand, from Autumn Hauge. Q: Hi. I’m Autumn Hauge, and I’m a student at Mankato State in Minnesota. And the question that I have—so, throughout history and today Russia has been known for their very large and strong military. But there has been evidence of Russia losing in this war against Ukraine. So my question is, what are some factors or reasons that you could elaborate that are causing the military—the Russian military to perform so poorly? Especially with Russia being one of the global superpowers today. FIX: Thank you. That’s a big question actually many had at the outbreak of the war, when they expected that Russia would just roll through Ukraine. And it’s a question very many military analysts ask themselves. So what did they—what did we get wrong? I think the first answer to that lies with the Russian military. So after the war in Georgia in 2008, Vladimir Putin started a military modernization of the Russian forces, which looked very good on paper but, as we know now, has changed less in the structures of the Russian Army than one would have thought. So in Georgia in 2008, the Russian Army was in a terrible state. But the modernization processes were also, because of corruption, not as successful as they were expected to be. The second argument which explains this is that the Russian Army just has never fought this kind of adversary that it now has in Ukraine. It was in Syria. It captured Crimea. But those were all operations on a different level. So in Crimea, there was almost no resistance. In Syria, it was mostly an air campaign not an occupation campaign. And then, I mean, Ukraine is a huge country. I mean, it’s incredibly big. And obviously the third element to that was wrong intelligence, which led to incredible losses of the Russian Army at the beginning. So this war was prepared like a black op—like black op intelligence operations, where mostly the intelligence services were providing the information, and not as a war which is conducted as—by the military leadership and by the defense ministry as the land war that it turned out to be. So I think these are the three elements that explain why Russia’s military is just not up to the task, and it never was, to occupy Ukraine in full. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Asher Cohen, who’s a master’s candidate at American University. If there is any negotiated cessation to the war, do you think Putin would look to frame this as a victory for Russia? If so, how? FIX: He will definitely try to do this. I mean, there’s just no other way how he could frame it. And I think what he hopes to do, and that’s what he has signaled in the past, is that he can tell the Russian people, look, historical Russia has expanded. We have these new Ukrainian regions as our part of Russia. So this war was a historical victory for us. So basically, make people forget that the initial objective of this war was to get Kyiv and to change the Ukrainian leadership. So make this more about territory and about the historic lands that Russia has regained. Then again, another narrative that has been used in the past is that if Russia would have fought this war just against Ukraine it would have won, but it’s fighting this war against NATO. And that’s why it is unfair, because NATO is sort of not coming in itself but it’s sending its own weaponries. And that’s why sort of Russia would have won a war against Ukraine proper, but cannot win a war against NATO, which is obviously not half true because it’s Ukrainians that are fighting there and have fought there at the beginning of the war, in the first weeks, when there was not a lot of NATO weaponry. But the other question for him, or the most important question in this negotiation solution for Ukraine is, is a negotiated solution for Russia just a break to buy time? Because where will this imperialist drive go? Why should it disappear? Why should Russia not try to, after a humiliating defeat, try to attack Ukraine again? So the question for Russia is how would a negotiated solution threaten regime stability? So Russia might lose this war, but Vladimir Putin might not be able to lose this war. And I think that’s a very crucial difference we should keep in mind. FASKIANOS: And just to follow on that, there’s a written question from Jill Dougherty of Georgetown University. Zelensky today at Davos said that Russia’s role in the world will be as a terrorist nation. Is that just a figure of speech? Or could it be true? You know, should there be war crimes tribunals, reparations, all of—all of that at the end of this? FIX: Yeah, this is a Ukrainian advocacy campaign to have Russia—to make Russia—to make Russia designated as a terrorist state. It’s a campaign that so far has not been successful in the United States and with the White House. It’s in Europe, in some corners, it has been picked up. If I’m not mistaken, the European Parliament has submitted a resolution on that question, should Russia be designated a terrorist state? I think what is more important is the question of what can be the right framework to prosecute Russian war crimes. And there, the German prime minister, for instance, has come out in favor of a tribunal of—an international tribunal, because the question really is where can this take place without a Russian veto right? And who should be—who should be represented there? And I think this aspect of accountability in the end, I mean, regardless of how it works out, is so important, just for the discussion, because it gives—it sends a signal that there is no impunity to other actors. That regardless of how this tribunal might look like, who might be in front of there, that it’s not outside of legal accountability, the kinds of war crimes that Russia has conducted. So I think discussing this at a high level is, for me, more important than designating Russia as a terrorist state. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Clemente Abrokwaa. You need to unmute yourself. There you go. Q: Thank you. Thank you very much. My name is Clemente Abrokwaa, Penn State University. And the—one question I wanted to ask has already been asked. (Laughs.) But the other question that I have is we’ve been hearing about Putin’s health. Today you read that, you know, he’s very sick. Tomorrow nobody talks about that. And I’m just wondering where the truth lies. And then a second question is, what if—this was at the beginning of your discussion—hoping that the war ends in this year. What if it doesn’t? What will be the scenario, especially for U.S. and NATO? What are they going to—what will they do? And what will be the impact on the rest of the world? FIX: Yeah. I think the health question I can easily answer it with what William Burns, CIA director, said. He’s probably too healthy for the world’s—good for the world’s sake. (Laughs.) So there’s little evidence that suggests anything to—one side or another. Which makes sense, that any health data of the Russian president are kept—are kept secret. What if the war doesn’t end in this year? I think it will be much more challenging to the domestic publics of both the United States and Europe to continue the kind of support for Ukraine that it now gets in that year. And I mean, just because of elections in the United States, which will make the United States very domestically focused. And in Europe, because at some point the costs of this war are also piling up. And so I think Ukraine’s very aware of that. And in the—what we might see if the war continues, if we see even Russian advances heading into next year, is that probably the calls for a negotiated solution, which might be a negotiated solution on Russian terms, will become louder. And that is something that I think Ukraine is very well aware of, and tries to prevent exactly with this kind of support, a new push that it now tries to give to the dynamic on the battlefield. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take a written question from Kazi Sazid at Hunter College. So while most of the conversation is on military aid, et cetera, something that’s of particular interest is rebuilding Ukraine. What issues, both policy and financial, do you see arise in rebuilding Ukrainian infrastructure? And he contrasts this to the Middle East, which that is still laying in tatters after the disastrous interventions there—Western interventions. FIX: Yes. It’s a very fair question. And I think rebuilding Ukraine is an opportunity, one has to say. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it will probably be a higher priority than rebuilding parts of the Middle East, just because it’s closer to Europe. And having a failed state which doesn’t work, which doesn’t have infrastructure, just next to its borders, next to the border of Poland, is just not—is difficult to accept both for economic reasons but also for normative reasons, for an entity like the European Union. So the question of rebuilding really is what kind of framework will guide the reconstruction efforts. So will it be a leadership effort by Europeans, by the United States? Will it be the G7 framework? What institution will take the leadership there? And the other question is who will pay most of the rebuilding costs? And there, we do see that the discussion, also here in Washington, DC, tends towards arguing that rebuilding Ukraine is really a European task, because the U.S. is contributing so much military aid to Ukraine that rebuilding it should be a task for the wealthy Europeans. And to some extent, it also makes sense because rebuilding Ukraine could be fit into the EU accession process for Ukraine, which is ongoing since Ukraine has been accepted as a candidate—as a candidate member for the European Union. So framing it in the context of the EU accession process also helps to add conditionality on certain elements of reconstruction and rebuilding that will help to support the rule of law and that will help to prevent corruption becoming an issue there. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ll take the next raised hand from Michael Leong. Q: Hi, there. I’m a grad student at the University of Arizona. And I just have a question pertaining to China, because you touched on that earlier. I guess, how—what lengths do you think China will go to keep up this relationship it has with Russia, given Russia’s heavy economic dependency on it? And what would basically Russia turn to, should China decide not to support Russia? And, sorry, the other question I have—these are probably not related, or very distantly—with all the military support that the West has been providing Ukraine, you also mentioned the potential rearmament of Western Europe and NATO. How difficult would that be, given the amount of ordnance being sent to the front line? FIX: Yeah. On China, I think if China turns away from Russia, well, Russia has really little left, little political support, little economic support. So it would be a worst-case scenario. But I do think it’s very unlikely that China will do that because, from a Chinese perspective, having a dependent Russia on its side is just perfect. You know, you have another UN Security Council member, you have Russia with nuclear powers, which are actually matching those of the United States. So in sort of the greater picture of anti-Westernism that both Russia and China share, it absolutely makes sense, from a Chinese perspective, to have Russia close at its side, and to have Russia as a disruptive power in—sort of acting, ideally, in lockstep with China. And we’ve seen that before the outbreak of the war we had this meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping, where for the first time China adopted NATO talking points that Russia had in the past, and was criticizing NATO for its role in Europe, which was not happening before. And the trade of that for China is obviously Russia’s position on the Taiwan question, and in case of an escalation over Taiwan. On the question of rearmament and how is that possible, well, it’s a good question, especially as I’m looking at Germany, my home country. Because Germany right now realizes how difficult it is, actually, to spend the money. So it’s not only finding the money. I mean, there’s a real military threat perception right now in Europe, so not many citizens complain if defense spending goes up. But how do you quickly enough spend the money? So Germany, for instance, was promising that from this year on it would spend every year more than 2 percent on defense. It turns out, it has provided the money but the whole structures and processes to order new military equipment and to get it just takes so long that it will only spend 2025, probably, 2 percent on defense. So it’s not only the question of money, but it’s also the question of how do the industrial defense structures and the bureaucratic structures in NATO countries that were focused on peacetimes for so long work? And how can they be sped up to become perhaps not a war economy but at least more generic and flexible to react to the situation. For instance, the discussion about NATO battle tanks for Ukraine right now. The Germany industry said that they will need a year to get those battle tanks that they have right now in shape, and to send them to Ukraine. I mean, that’s way too long. And it’s a question that also the United States sees, with how to replenish its stockpiles with a production rate that is a peacetime production rate. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Tomas Castillo Bukakis. Oh, I think he might have lowered his hand. OK, so never mind. We’ve got so many questions. I’m going to go to Wim Weiwel of Lewis & Clark College: Is it realistic to think Ukraine can drive Russia out of eastern Ukraine? If not, under what conditions will Ukraine agree to negotiate and what would a resolution look like? FIX: Mmm hmm. If it’s realistic to drive Russia out of Ukraine? I mean, I think it very much depends on the—on the means that Ukraine is provided with. I mean, if Ukraine gets the means and the equipment that it needs, it’s definitely possible. There’s nothing that suggest it’s impossible, or that Russian troops are so good or so dominant that they cannot be driven out. I think the question of Crimea is a different question. Ukraine will certainly put pressure on Crimea, but Crimea has a different standing in Russia than the eastern parts of Ukraine that Russia tried to annex. Under which conditions—so, President Zelensky has laid out his conditions. And the main condition is that Russia has to withdraw from Ukrainian territory. Those conditions have changed throughout the war because there was a realization that this war is far from the Russian side not as a war with a negotiated outcome, but as a war of occupation and subjugation. I think we will come to the point where we can talk about conditions and negotiations once Ukraine has further advanced closer to the February lines, to the war—when the war started. And then, I think it really is a question of—the most difficult question will be the question of what kind of solution can be found for Crimea. Will Ukraine has to retake Crimea militarily? What kind of escalation concerns are coming with that? Or is there any kind of negotiated solution to be found over Crimea? I think this will be the main—can be the main stumbling block. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next—oops, sorry—to Karen Sokol. Q: Hi. Thanks so much. Karen Sokol. I’m a visiting fellow at Princeton this year. And thanks so much. I’m really learning a lot from this, and appreciate your insights. A lot of particularly international legal scholars are calling for the establishment of a court to try Putin, other Russian officials, for the crime of aggression, because of the loopholes that exist in the current Rome Statute. And this call is backed by the argument that this is basically essential—a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, condition for restoring the global legal order. And I just wondered if you had thoughts about that position. FIX: I think it may—sort of the idea to call for a separate court instead of the International Criminal Court, I mean, is understandable because exactly of the limitations that Russian’s leader options there gives the International Criminal Court, and because of the—yeah, of just the—how blatantly and war of aggression this war has been. I think it’s a good question what the court at the end sort of—what is the main goal that it should have? Is it to strengthen the international legal order? Yes, this makes sense as an argument. From a Ukrainian perspective, it is certainly also to talk about reparations. I mean, this war and the destruction have just been immensely, immensely costly. And then the other question is it is also—and many people have this concern, comparison in mind—something that would sort of help to move on after this war, to have sort of the legal closing chapter to that. Many think of Milosevic and how he has been tried back then. I think it’s—from my perspective, I do think it’s an important pathway to go down and not to, as has been the case in Syria with so many activists, have gathered evidence, and where it has become so difficult to put this on trial, sometimes with courts in, for instance, Germany doing these prosecutions. I think it’s useful to have a central—a central mission and a place for that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next, try again with Tomas Castillo Bukakis. Q: Hello. Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: Yes. Thank you. Q: Hi. Sorry. I had technical difficulties. Hi. I’m from USC. As more weaponry is being delivered to Ukraine, alongside with economic aid, and given the history of the U.S. and these European powers of being responsible when they’re engaging in proxy wars or supporting wars, what processes or regulations are being set in place so the weaponry don’t fall in the wrong hands currently or after the war ends, and to make sure the aid is delivered to the sectors that are required. FIX: I would perhaps not necessarily classify this war as a proxy war, because there was no interest whatsoever from the Western side to conduct this war at the beginning, to have Ukraine—a war in Ukraine as some kind of weakening of Russia. So I think it’s fair and it reflects Ukraine’s agency in this war to say that it’s not only about, you know, United States and Russia global supremacy, but this is really a war about Ukraine itself as a nation. And I think the question that you raised about what happens to the weaponry is very important. So due to the huge amount of weaponry that is sent, it’s obviously difficult to track everything. Ukrainians are quite aware of that, and they’re doing many efforts to give back to both the U.S. side and the European side as many information as possible about where the weapons are and where they continue to be sent. So there is a system in place from the Ukrainian side to track these weapons. And when it comes to the aid—sort of the financial aid that’s given to Ukraine, the concern there of corruption is something which has been—has been there. But what Ukraine has is a very active civil society, which also in the past has been very active on battling corruption. So that is one mechanism which helps. And so far we have not had any major cases of where we would have heard from Ukrainian civil society of embezzlement of corruption of funds. The other question really is what happens to these weapons after the war ends at some point. And Ukraine will continue to need weapons. So if this war ends, this will not be the end of Russia’s threat to Ukraine. So I do think these weapons will have to stay in Ukraine. And probably what is needed is an even closer system of tracking and following up on the weapons that we have now, once the immediate fighting has receded. FASKIANOS: I think—we have so many questions, I’m sorry that we can’t get to them all. But I want to end with a question—written question from William Harbert of the University of Pittsburgh. History doesn’t repeat but sometimes it echoes. What do you feel is the closest historical analogy to this war and its possible outcome? I appreciate none may exist, but I’m curious of your response. FIX: Yes, it’s always a difficulty with historical comparisons. I’m a historian myself, but I think so. (Laughs.) As I said before, I think the 1939 comparison to some extent holds true, in terms of, you know, how sudden it was of an attack and of an invasion. But then it becomes very difficult to continue this analogy for the ending of this war. What I think is another useful historical comparison is the Finnish-Soviet Winter War. So the war when Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union and bravely fought back this attack. It has a similar dynamic of this kind of David against Goliath that we’re seeing right now in Ukraine. No one expected Finland at the time to be successful. They were, because they were using such innovative methods. I mean, there are great pictures of the Winter War where you see Finns on skis and then white clothes sort of hiding in the woods among the snow to attack Soviet tanks back then. What happened in the first Winter War was that Finnish forces were able to push Soviet forces back, but then had to agree to a negotiated outcome where they lost 11 percent of their territory, because there was not enough international support coming out for Finland at that point. And that would obviously be a sad comparison to Ukraine, which I hope will not take place. But it’s certainly a possible comparison. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Liana Fix. FIX: Thank you! FASKIANOS: I hope—this has really been great. And just as a reminder, we did send out in advance of this discussion Dr. Fix’s Foreign Affairs article. It was in the January/February 2023 issue that she co-authored with Michael Kimmage. So if you haven’t had a chance to read it, I commend it to you all. So thank you, again, for being with us. And the next Academic Webinar will be on Wednesday, February 1, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And the conversation will be on energy, environment, and water. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out CFR fellowships for educators at This is, of course, for your professors. Follow at @CFR_Academic on Twitter. And visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Thank you again to all of you for being with us and to Dr. Fix for her time today. We appreciate it. FIX: Thank you so much. Thank you, everyone. FASKIANOS: Take care. (END)
  • Education

    Mike Hoa Nguyen, assistant professor of education, faculty affiliate at the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, and faculty affiliate at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University, leads the conversation on affirmative action. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. 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, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Mike Hoa Nguyen with us to discuss affirmative action. Dr. Nguyen is assistant professor of education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He’s also a faculty affiliate at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and a faculty affiliate at NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. Additionally, Dr. Nguyen is a principal investigator of the Minority Serving Institutions Data Project. And prior to coming to NYU he was at the University of Denver. He has extensive professional experience in the federal government and has managed multiple complex, long-term intergovernmental projects and initiatives, focusing on postsecondary education and the judiciary and has published his work widely, including in Educational Researcher, The Journal of Higher Education, and The Review of Higher Education. So Mike, thanks very much for being with us today to talk about affirmative action. Could you give us an overview of where we are, the history of affirmative action, where we are now, and examples of criteria that are used by different institutions? NGUYEN: Well, hello. And thank you so much, Irina. And also thank you to the Council on Foreign Relations for having me here today. It’s a real honor. And thank you to many of you who are joining us today out of your busy schedules. I’m sure that many of you have been following the news for Harvard and UNC. And, of course, those cases were just heard at the Supreme Court about a month ago, on Halloween. And so today thank you for those questions. I’d love to be able to spend a little bit of time talking about the history of sort of what led us to this point. I also recognize that many joining us are also experts on this topic. So I really look forward to the conversation after my initial remarks. And so affirmative action, I think, as Philip Rubio has written, comes from centuries-old English legal concept of equity, right, or the administration of justice according to what is fair in a particular situation, as opposed to rigidly following a set of rules. It’s defined by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1977 as a term that is a broad—a term, in a broad sense, that encompasses any measure beyond a simple termination of discriminatory practice adopted to correct for past or present discrimination or to prevent discrimination from recurring in the future. Academics have defined affirmative action simply as something more than passive nondiscrimination, right. It means various organizations must act positively, affirmatively, and aggressively to remove all barriers, however informal or subtle, that prevent access by minorities and women to their rightful places in the employment and educational institutions of the United States. And certainly one of the earliest appearances of this term, affirmative action, in government documents came when President Kennedy, in his 1961 executive order, where he wrote that the mandate stated that government contractors, specifically those that were receiving federal dollars to, quote, take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated during employment without regard of their race, creed, color, or national origin. Certainly President Kennedy created a committee on equal employment opportunity to make recommendations for this. And then later on President Johnson later expressed—I’m sorry—expanded on President Kennedy’s approach to take a sort of more active antiracist posture, which he signaled in a commencement speech at Howard University. In the decades following, of course, political-legal attacks have rolled back on how affirmative action can be implemented and for what purposes. So in admissions practices at U.S. colleges and universities today, really they can only consider race as one of many factors through a holistic process or holistic practices if so-called race-neutral approaches to admissions policies have fallen short in allowing for a campus to enroll a racially diverse class in order to achieve or reap the benefits of diversity, the educational benefits of diversity. Federal case law established by the courts have affirmed and reaffirmed that colleges may only consider race as one of many factors for the purposes of obtaining the educational benefits in diversity. So starting with the Bakke decision in the late 1970s, the Court limited the consideration of race in admissions and replaced the rationale for the use of race, specifically the rationale which was addressing historic and ongoing racism or systemic and racial oppression, instead in favor of the diversity rationale. So, in other words, if a college or university wishes to use race in their admissions, they can only do so with the intention of enhancing the educational benefits of all students. It may not legally use race as a part of their admissions process for the purpose of acknowledging historical or contemporary racism as barriers to equity in college access. If we fast-forward to something more recent, the two cases out of Michigan, the Grutter and Gratz case, what we saw there were really—significant part of the discussions of these two cases were really informed and conversations really about the educational benefits of diversity. That was really a key aspect of those cases. Lawsuits challenging the use of race in college admissions after those two cases now can sort of be traced to Edward Blum, a conservative activist, and his organization, Students for Fair Admission, or SFFA. So Blum has really dedicated his life to establishing what he calls a colorblind American society by filing lawsuits with the goal of dismantling laws and policies seeking to advance racial justice. This includes redistricting, voting rights, and, of course, affirmative action. So in 2000—in the 2000s, he recruited Abigail Fisher to challenge the University of Texas in their admissions program. The Court, the Supreme Court, ultimately ruled in favor of Texas in the second Fisher case—Fisher II, as we call it. And so that’s actually where we saw Ed Blum alter his tactics. In this case he established SFFA, where he then purposefully recruited Asian Americans as plaintiffs in order to sue Harvard and UNC. So the cases now at Harvard—are now certainly at the Supreme Court. But one sort of less-known case that hasn’t got a whole lot of attention, actually, was—that was sort of on the parallel track, actually originated from the U.S. Department of Justice more recently, during the Trump administration, which launched an investigation into Yale’s admissions practices, which also focus on Asian Americans. And this was around 2018, so not too long ago. And certainly Asian Americans have been engaged in affirmative action debate since the 1970s. But these lawsuits have really placed them front and center in sort of our national debate. And so I think it’s really important to also note that while empirical research demonstrates and shows that the majority of Asian Americans are actually in support of affirmative action, a very vocal minority of Asian Americans are certainly opposed to race-conscious admissions and are part of these lawsuit efforts. But interestingly enough, they’ve received a large and disproportionate share of media attention and sort of—I stress this only because I think popular press and media have done a not-so-great job at reporting on this. And their framing, I think, sometimes relies on old stereotypes, harmful stereotypes, about Asian Americans, and written in a way that starts with an assumption that all Asian Americans are opposed to affirmative action when, again, empirical research and national polls show that that’s certainly not the case, right, and much more complex than that. But anyway, so back to what I was saying earlier, in sort of the waning months of the Trump administration the Department of Justice used those investigations into Yale to file a lawsuit charging that Yale in its admissions practices discriminates against Asian Americans. This lawsuit, the DOJ lawsuit, was dropped in February of 2021 when President Biden took office. So in response to that, SFFA submitted its own lawsuit to Yale based upon similar lines of reasoning. So I think what’s—why bring this up? One, because it doesn’t get a lot of attention. But two, I think it’s a really interesting and curious example. So in the Yale case, as well as in the previous DOJ complaint, Ed Blum notes specifically that they exclude Cambodian Americans, Hmong Americans, Laotian Americans, and Vietnamese Americans from the lawsuit, and thus from his definition of what and who counts as Asian American. I think this intentional exclusion of specific Southeast Asian American groups in Yale, but including them in Harvard, is a really interesting and curious note. I’ve written in the past that, sort of at the practical level, it’s a bit—it’s not a bit—it’s a lot misleading. It’s manipulative and advances a bit of a false narrative about Asian Americans. And I think it engages in what we call sort of a racial project to overtly reclassify the Asian American racial category, relying again on old stereotypes about Asian American academic achievement. But it also sort of counters state-based racial and ethnic classifications used by the Census Bureau, used by the Department of Education, used by OMB, right. It does not consider how Southeast Asian Americans have been and are racialized, as well as how they’ve built pan-ethnic Asian American coalitions along within and with other Asian American subgroups. So the implications of this sort of intentional racialized action, I think, are threefold. First, this process, sort of trying to redefine who is Asian American and who isn’t, demonstrates that SFFA cannot effectively argue that race-conscious admissions harms Asian Americans. They wouldn’t be excluded if that was the case. Second, it illustrates that Ed Blum and his crusade for sort of race—not using race in college admissions is actually really not focused on advancing justice for Asian Americans, as he claims. And then finally, I think that this maneuver, if realized, will really disenfranchise educational access and opportunity for many Asian Americans, including Southeast Asian Americans and other communities of color. Of course, this case hasn’t received a lot of attention, given that we just heard from Harvard and UNC at the Supreme Court about a month ago. But I think it provides some really important considerations regarding the upcoming Supreme Court decision. Nonetheless the decision for Harvard and UNC, we’re all sort of on pins and needles until we hear about it in spring and summer. And I was there in Washington for it, and so what I’d actually like to do is actually share some interesting notes and items that sort of struck out to me during the oral arguments. So I think in both cases we heard the justices ask many questions regarding the twenty-five-year sunset of using race in college admissions, right, something that Justice O’Connor wrote in the Michigan case. I think the solicitor general, Solicitor General Prelogar’s response at the conclusion of the case was really insightful. She said—and I’m sort of paraphrasing here about why we—in addressing some of the questions about that twenty-five-year sunset, she basically said that society hasn’t made enough progress yet. The arc of progress is slower than what the Grutter court had imagined. And so we just suddenly don’t hit 2028—that’s twenty-five years from the decision—and then, snap, race is not used in college admissions anymore. There was also a lot of discussion regarding proxy approaches to so-called race-neutral admissions, right, yet still being able to maintain some or similar levels of racial diversity. I think what we know from a lot of empirical research out there is that there’s really no good proxy variables for race. Certainly Texas has its 10 percent plan, which really only works to a certain extent and does not actually work well for, say, private schools that draw students from across all fifty states and the territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific. And again, as the solicitor general stated, it doesn’t work well for the service academies either, for really similar reasons. I do think the line of questioning from the chief justice again related to what sounded like a carveout exemption for our U.S. military schools, our service academies. What’s really interesting, and might be of actually specific interest for the CFR community, of course, our service academies practice affirmative action and are in support of it. And this was also argued in an amicus brief written by retired generals and admirals. And they argued that race-conscious admissions is necessary to build a diverse officer corps at both the service academies as well as ROTC programs at various universities across the country, which, in their words, they say builds a more cohesive, collaborative, and effective fighting unit, especially, quote, given recent international conflicts and humanitarian crises which require our military to perform civil functions and call for heightened cultural awareness and sensitivity in religious issues. And so, to a certain extent, I think that same line of logic can also be extended to, for example, our diplomatic corps, and certainly many corporations. We also saw briefs from the field of medicine, from science and research, have all written in support of race-conscious admissions, along the same sort of pipeline issues as their companies and organizations. And they argue that their work benefits from a highly educated, diverse workforce. But what was interesting, was that there wasn’t much discussion about Asian Americans. It was only brought up sort of a handful of times, despite the fact that certainly that’s sort of the origin story of the sets of lawsuits. And perhaps—to me perhaps this is simply an indication that the case was really never about Asian Americans from the beginning. And certainly the finding from the district court shows that Asian Americans are not discriminated in this process at Harvard. And so we will all sort of see how the Court rules next year, if they uphold precedent or not, and if they do not, how narrow or how broad they will go. Justice Barrett did have an interesting question in the UNC part of the case about affinity groups and affinity housing on campus. So, for example, my undergraduate alma mater, UC Berkeley, has this for several groups. They have affinity housing for Asian Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, women in STEM, the LGBTQ+ community, Latinx students, among many, many others, actually. So I think a possible area of concern is if they go broad, will we see a ban on these types of race-based practices on campus? Would that impact sort of thinking about recruitment efforts? So these so-called race-neutral approaches, sort of recruitment and outreach services for particular communities. Or would that impact something like HBCUs and tribal colleges, HSIs and AANAPISIs, or other MSIs? How does that all fit in, right? I think that line of questioning sort of sparked a bit of concern from folks and my colleagues. But I think, though, in conversation, we don’t think the Court has really any appetite to go that far. And I’m certainly inclined to agree. But end of the day, that line of questioning was rather curious. And so, with that, I thank you for letting me share some of my thinking and about what’s going on. And I would really love to be able to engage in conversation with all of you. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you so much. And we’d love to hear now from you all questions and comments, and if you could share how things are happening on your campuses. Please raise—click on the raised-hand icon on your screen to ask a question. If you’re on an iPad or tablet, you can click the More button to access the raised-hand feature. I’ll call on you, and then accept the unmute prompt, state your name and affiliation, followed by your question. You can also submit a written question in the Q&A box or vote for questions that have been written there. And if you do write your question, it would be great if you could write who you are. I’m going to go first to a raised hand, Morton Holbrook. And there you go. Q: I’m there, yeah. Morton Holbrook from Kentucky Wesleyan College in Kentucky. Thanks, Professor Nguyen. Sort of a two-part question here. One is, how do you reconcile apparent public support for affirmative action with the number of states, I think ten or twelve states, that have banned affirmative action? Are their legislators just out of touch with their people, or what? And the second part is, a recent article in the Washington Post about UC Berkeley’s experience, where the number of African American students simply plummeted down to about 3 percent, and at the same time that campus is still very diverse in other respects. Have you made a study of all the states that have banned affirmative action? Have they all had that same result with regard to African Americans? Or where does that stand? Thank you. NGUYEN: Thank you. Thank you for the really excellent question. I think it’s about—I think you’re right—around nine, ten or so states that have banned affirmative action. You know, I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m really just familiar with the bans that were instituted both in California and in Michigan, and those were through state referendums, right, and not necessarily legislature. So in this case, this is the people voting for it. And so I think that’s a really tough nut to crack about how do you reconcile these bans at the state level versus sort of what we see at the national level. And so I think this is sort of the big challenge that advocates for racial equity are facing in places like California. They actually tried to repeal this in California recently, in the last decade. And again, that failed. And so I think part of the issue here is there’s a whole lot of misinformation out there. I think that’s one key issue. I sort of said in my opening remarks there that, at least in some of the popular media pieces today about these cases, the way Asian Americans are sort of understood and written about is really not aligned with a lot of the rich empirical research out there that shows quite the contrary, as well as sort of historical research that shows quite the contrary. And so I think there’s a lot of public opinion being formulated as well as, again, just sort of misinformation about the topic that might be leading folks to think one way or another. To your second question about UC Berkeley, my alma mater, you’re right. After that Prop 209 ban, you saw a huge decline in undergraduate enrollment, specifically of African American students. And so Berkeley has been trying every which way to figure out a race—a so-called race-neutral approach in order to increase those numbers. And I think they are trying to—they are really trying to figure it out. And I think that’s why UC Berkeley, UCLA, other institutions submitted amicus briefs in support of Harvard, in support of UNC, because they know that there are not a lot—when you can’t use race, that’s a result that you end up with. And that’s because there are just not good proxy variables for race. SES or economic status is often talked about a lot. That again isn’t a good variable. Geography can—to a certain extent can be used. All these can sort of certainly be used in some combination. But again, they do not serve well as proxy variables. And I think that’s why we see those numbers at Berkeley. And I think that’s why Berkeley was so invested in this case and why all those campus leaders submitted amicus briefs in support of Harvard and UNC. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question or first written question from Darko Spasevski, who’s at the University of Skopje, North Macedonia: Do you think that in order to have successful affirmative actions in the higher education this process should be followed by affirmative actions in the workplace? Are the benefits—if the affirmative actions are only promoted at the level of higher education but are not at the same time continuing at the workplace? I guess it would be the opposite. Is it—you know, basically, should affirmative action be promoted in the workplace as well— NGUYEN: Yeah, I think— FASKIANOS: —once you get past the higher education? NGUYEN: Got it. Yeah, I think I understand that question. Actually, this was something that came up during this recent Supreme Court case. Again, the solicitor general was talking about specifically the briefs from the retired generals and admirals, as well as from various executives and corporations, talking about how affirmative action is so important at the university level because then it helps build a pipeline to recruit folks to work at those organizations or serve in the military, as well as that it trains all students, right, and lets them access and achieve the benefits of diversity and use that in their future employment, which research from areas of management show that that increases work productivity. It increases their bottom line, et cetera, et cetera. And so actually, in that argument, the—I think it was Justice Alito that asked, are you now arguing for this in the private sector, in corporations? And the solicitor general quickly said no, no. The context of this lawsuit is specifically or the position of the United States is specifically just focused here on higher education. And I think that certainly is relevant for this conversation today, as well as sort of my own area of expertise. But I think my colleagues in the areas of management and a lot of that work shows, I think, similar types of results that, when you have diverse workforces, when you have folks who can reap the benefits of diversity interactions, interracial interactions, then there are certainly a lot of benefits that come from that, in addition to creativity, work efficiency, so many things. And so, again, I’m not here to sort of put a position down regarding affirmative action in professional settings, only because that’s not my area of expertise. But certainly other areas of research have pointed in similar directions as what’s sort of shown in the higher-education literature. FASKIANOS: (Off mic) Renteln? And let’s see if you can unmute yourself. If you click on the unmute prompt, you should be able to ask your question. Not working? Maybe not. OK, so I will read it. So— Q: Is it working now? FASKIANOS: It is, Alison. Go ahead. Q: Thank you. I’m sorry. It’s just usually it shows me when I’m teaching. Thank you for a really interesting, incisive analysis; really enjoyed it. I wanted to ask about whether it’s realistic to be able to implement policies that are, quote, race-neutral, unquote, given that people’s surnames convey sometimes identities, ethnic and religious identities, and also activities that people participated in in professional associations. And when people have references or letters of recommendation, information about background comes out. So I’m wondering if you think that this debate really reflects a kind of polarization, a kind of symbolitics, and whether, while some worry about the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decisions, this is really something that’s more symbolic than something that could actually be implemented if the universities continue to be committed to affirmative action. NGUYEN: Really great question. Thank you so much for asking it. This was actually a big chunk of the conversation during oral arguments for both at UNC and both at Harvard, right. The justices were asking, so how do you—if you don’t—and this was sort of the whole part about when they were talking about checking the box, checking sort of your racial category during the application process. And so they asked, if you get rid of that, what happens when students write about their experiences in their personal statements or, as you said, recommenders in their letters in about that? And so this was where it got really, really—I think the lawyers had a really hard time disentangling it, because for people of color, certainly a lot of their experiences, their racialized experiences, are inextricably linked to their race and their identity. And so removing that is, at an operationalized level, pretty hard to do and pretty impossible, right. So they actually had some interesting examples, like one—and so they’re asking hypotheticals. Both lawyers—both the justices on all the various spectrum of the Court were asking sort of pointed questions. Where I think one justice asked, so can you talk about—can you talk about your family’s experiences, particularly if your ancestors were slaves in the United States? And so the lawyers—this is the lawyer for SFFA saying that would not—we cannot use that. They cannot be used in admissions, because that is linked to their race. But can you—so another justice asked, can you talk about if, you know, your family immigrated to the United States? Can you—how do you talk about that? Can you talk about that? And the lawyers said, well, that would be permissible then, because that doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to a racial group or a racial category. So again, it’s very—I think what they were trying to tease out was how do you—what do you actually—what would actually be the way to restrict that, right? And so I guess, depending on how the justices decide this case, my assumption is or my hope is, depending on whatever way they go, they’re going to—they will, one way or another, define or sort of place limits if they do end up removing the use of race. But I completely agree with you. Operationally, that’s not an easy thing to do, right? And when do you decide what fits and what doesn’t fit? And that will be the—that will be a big, big struggle I think universities will face if the courts ban the use of race in college admissions. FASKIANOS: Let me just add that Alison Dundes Renteln is a professor of political science at the University of Southern California. So I’m going to go to the next written question, from Clemente Abrokwaa at Penn State University: Do you think affirmative action should be redefined to reflect current social-demographic groups and needs? NGUYEN: Oh, that’s such a fun question, and particularly for someone who studies race and racial formation in the United States. And so I—you know, this is—this is an interesting one. I think—I think sort of the way we think about—at least folks in my profession think about race versus sort of the way—the way it’s currently accounted for in—by state-based classifications/definitions, those tend to be a little bit behind, right? That’s normal and natural. But I think what we’ve seen in the United States over time is race has—or, racial classifications and categories have changed over time and continue to evolve, right? The Census—the Census Bureau has an advisory group to help them think through this when they collect this data. And so—and so I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a good answer for you, actually. But I think—I think that certainly, given the fact that racial categories do shift and change over time and the meaning ascribed to them, we certainly need to take a—if we continue using approaches for—race- or ethnic-based approaches in college admissions, that’s something that absolutely needs to be considered, right? But at the same time, it also means, as we think about sort of the future and what does that look like—and maybe, for example, here we’re talking about folks who are—who identify as mixed race. But at the same time, we need to look historically, too, right? So we don’t want to—the historical definitions and the way people would self-identify historically. And so I think—I think, certainly, the answer, then, would be—would be both, right? But what a fun question. Thanks for that question. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the moderator prerogative here and ask you about: How does affirmative action in higher education in the United States relate to, you know, relations abroad? NGUYEN: Yeah. Well— FASKIANOS: Have you looked at that connection? NGUYEN: Sure. I think—I think that—I think that’s really, really interesting. So something that we wrote in our amicus brief particularly regarding—it was sort of in response to SFFA’s brief and their claim, which was about sort of why Asian Americans here were so exceptional in their—in their academic achievements. I think that’s a—tends to be a big stereotype, model minority stereotype. That is how Asian Americans are racialized. So one thing that we sort of wrote in our brief was this actually is really connected to a certain extent, right—for some Asian American groups in the United States, that’s linked to U.S. foreign policy and U.S. immigration policy about who from Asia is allowed to immigrate to the United States, what their sort of educational background and requirements are. And so I think when we think about the arguments being made in this lawsuit and the way Asian Americans are discussed, certainly one key aspect there is certainly connected to historic U.S. foreign policy, particularly around—as well as immigration policy, particularly around the 1965 Immigration Act. So certainly they are connected and they’re linked. And something that we—that I wish more people could—more people would read our brief, I guess, and get a good understanding of, sort of to add to the complexity of this lawsuit. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go back to Morton Holbrook. Q: Yes. Still here at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Speaking of amicus briefs, what do you think of the Catholic college brief from Georgetown University? Here we have a Court that’s been very partial towards religious beliefs, and they’re arguing that their religious beliefs requires them to seek diversity in college admissions. How do you think they’ll fare in that argument? NGUYEN: Yeah. This was also brought up in—during oral arguments. I can’t remember if it was during the UNC part or the Harvard part. And I’ll be completely honest with you, I haven’t read that brief yet. There’s just so many and I wasn’t able to read them all. But this was a really interesting—really interesting point that was sort of raised in the courts. And I don’t—I don’t—I don’t have a good answer for you, to be completely honest. I’m not sure how they’re going to, particularly given that these—that this Court seems to be very much in favor of religious liberty, right, how they would account for that amicus brief from the Catholic institutions. And so that will be an interesting one to watch and to see—to see how it’s framed, and certainly it would be interesting if they played an outsized role in the justices’ decision-making here. But great question. Great point to raise and something I’ll add to my reading list for this weekend. FASKIANOS: So Alison Renteln came back with a question following on mine: Why are numerical quotas acceptable in other countries like India but not in the United States? NGUYEN: Yeah. Great, great question there. You know, also in other places like in Brazil. And so we, in fact, used to use numerical quotas before the Bakke decision. It was the Bakke decision, University of California v. Bakke, that eliminated the use of racial quotas, also eliminated the use of what I said earlier about sort of the rationales for why we can practice race-conscious admissions, which was it cannot be used to address historic racism or ongoing racism. In fact, the only rationale for why we can use affirmative action today as a—as a factor of many factors, is in order to—for universities to build campus environments—diverse campus environments of which there are benefits to diversity, the educational benefits of diversity that flows for all students. And so, yeah, it was the—it was the Supreme Court in the late 1970s that restricted the use of quotas among many other—many other rationales for the practice of race-conscious admissions. Thank you for that question. FASKIANOS: Great. And I’m going to go to next to raised hand from Emily Drew. Q: Great. Thank you. I’m listening in from Oregon, where I’m a sociologist. Thank you for all of these smart comments. My question is a little bit thinking out loud. What do you think about—it feels like there are some perils and dangers, but I’m hoping you’ll reframe that for me, of some racialized groups like indigenous people saying, well, we’re not a race anyway—we’re tribes, we’re nations—so that they’re not subject to the ban on race-conscious practices, which, it’s true, they’re a tribe. They’re also a racialized group. And so I’m struggling with groups kind of finding a political way around the ban or the potential ban that’s coming, but then where does that leave us in terms of, you know, each group, like, take care of your own kind of thing? Can you just react a little bit to that? NGUYEN: Yeah. Thanks for that really wonderful question. Fascinating point about, yeah, the way to say: We’re not a racial group. We’re sovereign nations or sovereign tribes. I think what we’re going to see, depending on how the courts go, are folks trying—schools potentially trying a whole host of different approaches to increase diversity on their campuses if they’re not allowed to use some of these racial categories like they’ve been doing already, in a holistic approach. And so, yeah, that might be a fascinating way for indigenous communities to advance forward. I will say, though, there was one point, again, in the—during oral arguments where they started talking about sort of generational connections to racial categories. And so they’re saying if it’s my grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents, right, so sort of talking almost about, like—at least the way I interpreted it, as sort of thinking about connecting one to a race via blood quantum. And so when does that—when does that expire, right? And so is it—is it—if you’re one-sixteenth Native American, is that—does that count? So there was a short line of questioning about that, and I think the—I think the lawyer tried to draw a line in the sand about, like, at what point do you not go—what point does it count and when does it not count. And I think that’s actually a bit of a misstep, primarily because that should be determined by the sovereign nation, by the tribe, about who gets to identify as that—as a member of that nation or that tribe and how they—I think—you know, I think, talking to indigenous scholars, they would say it’s about how you engage in and how you live in it, rather than—rather than if it’s just a percentage. So, again, those will be the tensions, I think, that will—that already exist, I should say, regardless of the Court decision. But a fascinating point about states sort of exercising indigenous law there to see if that would be a way to counter that. Certainly, I should—I should have said at the top of this I’m not trained as a lawyer. And so I have no idea how that would be sort of litigated out, but certainly I imagine all different entities will find ways to move through this without—in various legal fashions. And I was talking to a colleague earlier today about this and he said something about at the end of the day this might be something that, if Congress decided to take up, they may—this would be an opportunity for Congress to take up, to maybe develop a narrow path for institutions. But certainly it’s—the courts seem to be the favored way for us to talk about affirmative action. FASKIANOS: There’s a written question from John Francis, who is a research professor of political science at the University of Utah: If the Court were to strike down affirmative action, would state universities give much more attention to geographic recruitment within their respective states and encourage private foundations to raise scholarship funds to support students of color who live in those areas? NGUYEN: Great, great question there. And I think that would be one of many things that universities are doing. We’re seeing schools where the states have banned affirmative action do things like this, in Michigan and certainly in California. But to a certain extent, it actually doesn’t work—I guess in California’s context—that well. I think, if I’m not mistaken, the head of admissions for UC Berkeley said in one of many panels—he’s wonderful, by the way—on one of many panels, like, that doesn’t work very well in the California context because only so many schools have sort of that large concentration of African American students and for them to sort of go there and recruit out of that. So it’s not a—the sort of geographic distribution is not so easy and clean cut as—I think as one would normally perceive. And so it actually develops a big, big challenge for state institutions, particularly state flagship institutions, in particular geographic contexts. Now, I don’t know if that’s the case, say, in other parts of the country. But certainly within the UC system, that seems to be a prevailing argument. And I think more than ever now, everyone has been looking to the UC system for insight on what they—on how to approach this if the courts decide next year to ban the use of race. I should also admit that—or, not admit, but proudly declare that I’m a product of the UC system. All of my postsecondary education is from those schools. And so I know that this has been a constant and ongoing conversation within the UC system, and I imagine that will be the case for schools both public and private across the country. But I think part of that calculation then requires institutions to think about not just from private donors, but really from state legislatures as well as the institutions themselves have to really think about how they want to dedicate resources to achieving diversity if they don’t—if they’re unable to use race. I think a tremendous amount of resources. So, to a certain extent, it’s going to make institutions put their money where their mouth is. And so we’ll see if that—this will all be interesting areas to investigate, depending on how the courts decide come next year. FASKIANOS: There’s a raised hand or there was a raised hand from Jeff Goldsmith. I don’t know if you still have a question. Q: Yeah. So I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I might want to pose this question, but I was struck by—sorry, this is Jeff Goldsmith from Columbia University. I was struck by the line of questioning that you mentioned from Justice Barrett about affinity housing and your thoughts about how narrow or far-reaching a decision striking down affirmative action might be. And I guess it seems like there is the potential for at least some gray area. And you know, we run things like summer research programs that are intended to bolster diversity. There are in some cases—you just sort of mentioned the scholarship opportunities focused on increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds. And I guess I’m just sort of curious if you have any speculation about how narrow or far-reaching a decision might be. NGUYEN: Thanks for that question. Yeah. So I think this was—we—prior to the—to oral arguments, people had sort of talked about this a little bit. Would this be consequential? And I—in fact, the day before—the day before oral arguments, I was on a different panel and I sort of brought this up. And actually, a federal judge in the audience came up to me afterwards and said, you know, I don’t think the Court’s got a lot of appetite for that. And I said, hey, I completely agree with you, but certainly, you know, we’ve—in recent times we’ve seen the Court do more interesting things, I guess, if you’ll—if I can use a euphemism. And so—and so, it almost feels like everything’s on the table, right? But I think, generally speaking, I’m inclined to agree that if the courts strike down race-conscious admissions, they will do it in a very narrow and highly-tailored way. That was my feeling going in. That was my feeling on October 30, right? Then, on Halloween—October 31—while listening to the—to the oral arguments, you had that very short exchange between Justice Barrett, specifically during the UNC case, ask about affinity groups and affinity housing, and it felt like it sort of came out of left field. And not—and so I think that raised some curiosity for all of us about what—about why that was a line of questioning. But nonetheless, I think at least my—I’ve never been a gambling person, but if I were I would say that if they do strike it down that I think the justices wholesale don’t—I don’t think they would have a large appetite to do something so broad and sweeping like that. At least that’s my hope, if that’s the direction we’re moving in. But I guess that’s why I said earlier that we’re sort of all on pins and needles about that. And if that is struck down, then I think that’s got a lot of consequences for scholarships, recruitment programs, summer bridge programs, potentially minority-serving institutions, and all of the above. So, yeah, I—again, it seems like that’s a big reshaping of postsecondary education, not just in admissions but sort of the way they operate overall. And I don’t know if that would happen so quickly overnight like that. But that, at least, is my hope. FASKIANOS: (Off mic.) There you go. Q: (Laughs.) Thank you so much for your talk. Clemente Abrokwaa from Penn State University. And my question is, right now there is a push for diversity, equity, and inclusion in many areas. How is that different from affirmative action? NGUYEN: Well, great question. And actually, that’s a really difficult one for me to answer only because I think if we were to go and ask ten people on the street what did we mean by diversity, equity, and inclusion, everyone would give you sort of a very different and potentially narrow or a very broad definition of what it means, right? But I think with respect to affirmative action, particularly in a higher-education context, it is specifically about college admissions, specifically about admissions and how do you review college admissions. And in this case here, there is a very narrow way in which it can—it can be used for race—in this case for race, that it’s got to be narrowly tailored, that it can only be a factor among a factor in a broad holistic approach, that you can’t use quotas, that it can’t be based on rectifying previous or historical racism, and that the only utility for it is that it is used to create learning environments where there are educational benefits that flow from diversity and the interactions of diversity. Versus, I think, broader conversations about DEI, while of course centered on admissions, right, which is sort of one of many dimensions in which you achieve DEI, right? We like to think that—and I’m going to be sort of citing a scholar, Sylvia Hurtado, out of UCLA, who argues that, admissions help contribute to one dimension, which is the composition of a university, the sort of just overall demographics and numbers of that university. But there are many other dimensions that are important in order to create learning environments in which we can achieve DEI-related issues. That means that we have to look at the institution and the way it’s acted historically and contemporarily. We have to look at behavioral interactions between people on a university. There are psychological dimensions, among many others. And so that’s how I think about it. I think that’s how at least my area of scholarship and in our academic discipline we think about it and for folks who study education think about it. And so hopefully that answers your question. And, yeah, hopefully that answers your question. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the next question from Alison Renteln: What policies appear to be the best practices to increase diversity at universities, including disability? And what are the best practices from other countries? NGUYEN: Oh, wow, that’s a really good question. So we—you know, I think—I think a lot of other countries use quotas. Brazil might be sort of the example that most folks think about when they think about the way affirmative action’s practiced abroad. And certainly that’s not something that we can do here in the United States. So that’s—that—really, really important consideration. Sort of other practices that I think that are—that are not sort of the ones that are narrowly tailored by the courts are what I said earlier about sort of what the UC system has to really do and has to really grapple with, right, are using every sort of—everything that they can think of under the sun to go out and try to do outreach and recruit and build those pipelines throughout the entire education system. There’s been some work by some wonderful folks in our field—Dominique Baker, Mike Bastedo—who looked at even sort of just a random sampling, if you were able to do a lottery system, and that has actually found that that doesn’t actually increase diversity either, and so—racial diversity either. And so I think that’s—so, again, this all points to how crucial affirmative action is in being able to use race in order to achieve compositional diversity on a college campus, and that other proxy variables just don’t even come close to being able to help estimate that. And so, yeah, that’s—I should also note that really, we’re only talking about a dozen or so schools. Oh, I’m sorry, more than a dozen, but a handful of schools that this is really a big issue for. Most schools in the United States don’t necessarily—are not at this level of selectivity where it becomes a big issue of concern for the national public. Nearly half of all of our college-going students are at community college, which tend to be open-access institutions. And so something also to keep in mind when we talk about affirmative action. FASKIANOS: Thanks. We only have a few minutes left. Can you talk a little bit more about the work of NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools? NGUYEN: Yeah. So I’m a faculty affiliate there, and maybe I’ll preface by saying I’m new to NYU. I just came here from the University of Denver, and so I’m still learning about every wonderful thing that Metro Center is doing. It’s led by a wonderful faculty member here named Fabienne Doucet and really focused on sort of a handful of pillars—certainly research on education, but also a real big tie for communities. So real direct engagement with schools, school systems in order to advance justice in those schools. And so they have a lot of contracts with school districts and public entities, as well as nonprofit groups that come in and work as an incubator there on a host of issues. And so I think the work there is really exciting and really interesting. It tends to be—and I should say also very expansive. So the whole sort of K-12 system, as well as postsecondary. And I think that’s the role that I’m looking to play there, is to help contribute to and expand their work in the postsecondary education space. FASKIANOS: Great. And maybe a few words about your other—you have many, many hats. NGUYEN: Oh. (Laughs.) FASKIANOS: NYU’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. NGUYEN: Yeah. They do some really wonderful, interesting work. And it’s really, actually, a center and a space for faculty to come in and run a lot of their research projects, including my own, which is the MSI Data Project, where we are looking at all the various different types of minority-serving institutions in the United States, how they change over time, and how the federal government thinks about them and accounts for them, as well as how do the schools themselves think about them, all with the goal here in order to work with students of colors and give them access and opportunity. I should say, depending on how you count them, MSIs enroll a huge and significant proportion of all students of color, almost half, in the country, despite making up such a small percentage, about 20 percent, of all college and universities. And so this is—certainly when we talk about affirmative action, we—I think a lot of folks center it around racial justice or social justice. I think sort of the other side of the same coin here are schools like minority-serving institutions which enroll and provide access to and graduate a really significant proportion and number of students of color and certainly an area that we need to bring a lot more attention to when we talk about issues of race and education. FASKIANOS: OK, I’m going to take one—try to sneak in one last question from John Francis, who’s raised his hand. You get the last one, John. Q: OK, can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. Q: Oh, that’s great. So my question is—has a certain irony to it, but there’s been a great deal of discussion of late that men are not succeeding in college, but that women are, and that certainly should be encouraged, but also there should be ways to find perhaps even changing when people start out in elementary school how that may be shifted to help men later on. And in this discussion, when we’re looking at that issue and it’s gaining some latitude, some strength, should we think about that as a possible consideration that universities should have greater latitude in making decisions to reflect the current set of demographic issues, be it race or gender or others? Has this argument come to play any kind of role? NGUYEN: Great question and a good last one, and if I can be completely honest, not an area that I’m—gender-based issues are not an area that I’ve done a whole lot of work in, if really any work, but I will attempt to answer your question as best as I can here, which is, I think—and sort of connected to sort of the larger conversation and question that we had that someone posed earlier about sort of the complexity and changing nature of racial and ethnic categories and what does that mean, and how do universities address that? And I think this is again where it requires universities to have some flexibility and nimbleness and autonomy to be able to address a lot of these issues, including what you’re talking about, John, depending on the context and the times in which we are in. You know, certainly one big area also connected to—for men in postsecondary education is sort of the huge gap we see for men of color from particular groups, and really we see foundations, we see the Obama administration really play—invest in this work. So, John, from what it sounds like, it sounds like I agree with you here about—that universities need flexibility and autonomy to be able to address these issues. Now, that may—at the same time, we don’t want to dismiss the fact that the experiences of women in postsecondary education—while certainly we see numbers increasing in enrollment in a lot of aspects, in certain disciplines we see a sharp decline; we see—in STEM and engineering fields, in the way those disciplines may be organized to sort of push out women. And so I think, again, this is why it requires some nimbleness and some autonomy from the universities to be able to design approaches to support students of different types of diversity on their campuses, in particular areas, disciplines, and majors. And so I think that’s the—I think that’s the challenge, is that we need to be a lot more intentional and think more precisely and run our analyses in ways that make sense for particular intersectional groups on campus and in the areas of which they’re studying. So yeah, I think that’s the—one of the big challenges that universities are facing today and certainly depending on how the courts rule, we’ll see if that ends up restricting autonomy and removing tools or allowing those tools to remain for various types of targeted interventions for various minoritized groups. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Well, Mike Nguyen, thank you very much for this terrific hour and to all of you for your questions and comments. This is really insightful and we appreciate it. Welcome to New York, Mike, your first New York—holidays in New York. So we will be resuming the series in January and we will be sending out also the lineup for our winter/spring semester of the Academic Webinar series, which is really designed for students, later this month. We do wish you all luck with administering finals this week and grading them and all those papers; I don’t envy you all. We have different deadlines under—at the Council that we’re working on right now, so it will be a busy month, but we hope that everybody enjoys the holidays. We will resume in January, in the new year, and I encourage you all to follow us at @CFR_Academic on Twitter. Visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Again, thanks, Mike, for this, and to all of you. NGUYEN: Thank you so much for having me. Really an honor. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Take care, everybody. (END)
  • Religion

    Susan Hayward, associate director of the Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative at Harvard Divinity School, leads the conversation on religious literacy in international affairs.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to the final session of the Fall 2022 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 it with your classmates or colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Susan Hayward with us to discuss religious literacy in international affairs. Reverend Hayward is the associate director for the Religious Literacy and Professions Initiative at Harvard Divinity School. From 2007 to 2021, she worked for the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), with focus on Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Columbia, and Iraq. And most recently serving as senior advisor for Religion and Inclusive Societies, and as a fellow in Religion and Public Life. During her tenure at USIP, Reverend Hayward also coordinated an initiative exploring the intersection of women, religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, partnership with the Berkley Center at Georgetown University and the World Faith Development Dialogue. And she coedited a book on the topic entitled Women, Religion and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen. Reverend Hayward has also taught at Georgetown and George Washington Universities and serves as a regular guest lecturer and trainer at the Foreign Service Institute. And she’s also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. So, Susan, thank you very much for being with us today. Can you begin by explaining why religious literacy is so important for understanding international affairs? HAYWARD: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Irina. And thanks to the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting me to be a part of this webinar. And I really appreciate you and the invitation, and I appreciate all of you who have joined us today, taking time out of what I know is a busy time of year, as we hurdle towards final exams and cramming everything into these last weeks of the semester. So it’s great to be with all of you. I am going to be—in answering that broad question that Irina offered, I’m going to be drawing on my work. As Irina said, I worked at the—I work now at Harvard Divinity School’s Religion and Public Life Program. And what we seek to do here is to do here is to advance the public understanding of religion in service of a just world at peace. And we do that, in part, by working with professionals in governments and foreign policy, and in the humanitarian sector, as well as working with our students who are seeking to go into vocations in those professional spheres. And then my fourteen years with the Religion and Inclusive Societies Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace. So I’ll say a little bit more about both of those as we go along, and those experiences, but I’m also happy to answer any questions about either of those programs when we turn to the Q&A. And I should say that I’m going to be focusing as well—given that a lot of you all who are joining us today are educators yourselves or are students—I’m going to be focusing in particular on how we teach religious literacy within international affairs. So I wanted to begin with the definition of religious literacy, because this is a term that is increasingly employed as part of a rallying cry that’s based on a particular diagnosis. And the diagnosis is that there has been insufficient deep consideration of the multiple and complex dimensions of religion and culture that impact international affairs at all levels across the world. And that the result of that lack of a complex understanding of religion in this arena has been the—the hamstringing of the ability of the international system to operate in ways that are effective in bringing justice, peace, democracy, human rights, and development. So I’m going to circle back to that diagnosis in a bit. But first I want to jump to the prescription that’s offered, which is to enhance religious literacy using various resources, trainings, courses, and ways that are relevant for foreign policymakers and those working across the international system, as well as those students who are in the schools of international affairs, or other schools and planning to go into this space, into this profession. So the definition that we use here at Harvard Divinity School—and this is one that has been adopted by the American Academy of Religion, which is the scholarly guild for religious studies—defines it in this way: Religious literacy is the—entails the ability to discern and analyze the fundamental intersections of religion and social, political, and cultural life through multiple lenses. So specifically, one who is religious literate will possess a basic understanding of different religious traditions, including sort of fundamental beliefs and practices and contemporary manifestation of different religious traditions, as well as how they arose out of and continue to be shaped by particular social, historical, and cultural contexts. And the ability to discern and explore the religious dimensions of political, social, and cultural expressions across time and space. So this gets broken down in two different ways—three, according to me. But that definition focuses on two in particular. One is often referred to as the confessional approach or the substantive approach. So that’s looking at understanding different religious traditions and their manifestations in different places. That’s understanding something fundamental about the difference between Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism, for example. Or how Islam is practiced, and dominantly practiced in Nigeria, versus in North America, for example. The second approach is the religious studies approach. Which is sometimes also called the functional approach. So that’s the ability to be able to analyze the ways in which religions in complex ways are really intersecting with social, and political, and economic life, even if not explicitly so. But in implicit, embedded ways shaping different kinds of economic systems, social systems, and political systems, and being able to analyze and see that, and so ask particular questions and consider different kinds of policy solutions—diagnoses and solutions that can take that into account. And then finally, I add the religious engagement approach. That particularly comes out of my work when I was at USIP and working with foreign policymakers in the State Department and elsewhere. To some extent, overseas as well, those in the diplomatic sector. Which I understand is determining whether, when, and how to engage with specifically defined religious institutions, actors, and interests, including on issues related, for example, with religious freedom, in ways that are inclusive, just, strategic, and, importantly for the U.S. context, legal. So abiding by the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Now, all three types of religious literacy defined here depend on three principles or ideas. So the first is that they understand religions as lived, as constituted by humans who are constantly interpreting and reinterpreting their religious traditions. This means that as a result they are internally diverse, sometimes very internally contradictory. They’ll have different religious interpretations with respect to particular human rights issues, particular social issues, issues related to gender, and so on and so forth. That they change over time. That that sort of complex interpretive process that is going on within religious traditions also leads to kind of larger normative changes within religious traditions over history in different temporal contexts. And that they’re culturally embedded. So as the question I was asking earlier, how is Islam, as it’s understood and practiced in Nigeria, different from how it’s understood and practiced in North America, for example. There are ways in which the particular religious interpretations and practices of a tradition are always going to be entangled with specific cultural contexts in ways that are near impossible to disentangle at times. And that means that they just manifest differently in different places. And this—these ideas of religion as lived pushes against an understanding of religions as being static or being monolithic. So that then leads us to ensure that there’s never—that it’s always going to be a problem to make sweeping claims about entire religious traditions because you’ll always find somebody or some community within those religious traditions that don’t believe or practice according to the claim that you just made about it. And that applies to situations of violent conflict and with respect to human rights, on global issues like climate and migration. This idea, the internal diversity in particular, is what is at play when you hear the phrase “Ambivalence of the Sacred” that was coined by Scott Appleby in his—in this very influential book by the same name. I’ll throw in here a quote from Scott Appleby from that book, this idea that religions are always going to show up in ambivalent or contradictory ways across different places, but also sometimes in the very same contexts. So I think we can see that, for example, in the U.S. right now, and that there’s no one, let’s say, religious position with respect to reproductive rights, for example. There’s a great deal of internal plurality and ambivalence that exists across religious traditions and interpretations within the Christian tradition and beyond about that specific issue. Moreover then, what religion is, what is considered religious, what is recognized as religious and what isn’t, and how it manifests in different contexts depends on just a complex array of intersecting factors. I’m going to come back to—that’s kind of meaty phrase just to throw out there, so I’m going to come back to that in a minute. So the second principle or idea of religious literacy that I want to highlight here is the idea of right-sizing religion. This is a phrase that Peter Mandaville used quite a bit when he was in the State Department’s Religion and Global Affairs Office under the Obama administration and has written about. So I’ll turn you to that article of his to understand more about it. But the central idea is that we don’t want to over nor underemphasize religion’s role in any given context. So just by way of a quick example, in looking at the Rohingya crisis or the ethnic cleansing of Rakhine State in Myanmar, one could not say it was all about religion, that it was about Buddhist nationalists who are anti-Muslim wanting to destroy a particular religious community. Nor could you say it had nothing to do with religion, because there were these religious dimensions that were at play in driving the violence towards the Rohingya and the larger communities’ acceptance of that violence against the Rohingya community. But if you were to overemphasize the religious roles, the religious dimensions of that crisis, then your policy solutions—you might look at religious freedom tools and resources to be able to address the situation. And that would address the situation in part, but obviously there were other economic and political factors that were at play in leading to the Rohingya crisis. And including certain economic interests with oil pipelines that were being constructed across lands that the Rohingya were living on in Rakhine state, or the political conflict that was taking place between the military and the National League of Democracy, and so on. So addressing the crisis holistically and sustainably requires that we right-size the role that religion is playing in that particular crisis. And that goes across the board, in looking at conflicts and looking at the role of religion in climate, and addressing climate collapse, and so on and so forth. We need to always neither under nor overestimate the role that religion is playing in driving some of these issues and as a solution in addressing some of these issues. OK. So with that definition and principles of religious literacy in mind, I want to go back to the diagnosis that I gave at the—that I mentioned at the top, for which religious literacy is offered as a solution. The diagnosis, if you remember, was that there’s been insufficient consideration given to the multiple and complex dimensions of religion and culture that impact international affairs. So I’m going to demonstrate what it means to apply the religious studies approach to religious literacy, or the functional approach to religious literacy, to help us understand why that might be. And remember, the religious studies approach is seeking to discern and explore the religious dimensions of political, social, and cultural expressions and understandings across time and place. So this approach, in trying to answer that question and consider that diagnosis, it would invite us to look historically at the development of the modern international legal and political systems in a particular time and place in Western Europe, during the European Enlightenment. As many of you may well know, this came about in the aftermath of the so-called confessional or religious wars. Those were largely understood to have pitted Protestants against Catholics, though it’s more complicated in reality. But broadly, that’s the story. And the modern state, on which the international system was built, sought to create a separation between religious and state authority. For the first time in European history, this separation between religious and state authority that became more rigid and enforced over time, in the belief that this was necessary in order to ensure peace and prosperity moving forward, to bring an end to these wars, and to ensure that the state would be better able to deal with the reality of increasing religious pluralism within Europe. So this was essentially the idea of secular political structures that was born in that time and place. And these secular political structures were considered to be areligious or neutral towards religion over time, again. In the process of legitimating this sort of revolutionary new model of the secular modern state, and in the process of creating this demarcated distinction that had not previously existed—at least, not a neat distinction of the secular or the political authority and the religious—the religious authority—there was an assertion as part of that ideologically legitimate and support that. There was an assertion of the secular as rational, ordered, and associated with all of the good stuff of modernity. Meanwhile, the religious was defined in counter-distinction as a threat to the secular. It was irrational, backwards, a threat to the emerging order. A not-subtle presumption in all of this is that the new modern state and the international system would serve as a bulwark against archaic, dangerous, religious, and other traditionally cultural, in particular, worldviews and practices in—it would be a bulwark against that, and a support for this neutral and considered universal international law and system—secular system. Now, I realize I’m making some, like, huge, broad historical sweeps here, given the short amount of time I have. But within that story I just told, there is a lot more complexity that one can dig into. But part of what I seek to do in offering religious literacy in international relations theory and practice to students, and to practitioners in this realm, is to help those operating in the system think through how that historically and contextually derived conception of religion and the co-constitutive conception of secularism continues to operate within and shape how we interpret and respond to global events within the system. And this occurs—I see this happening in two dominant ways. One is, first, in thinking about religion as a distinct sphere of life that can be disentangled entirely from the political, when in reality religion is deeply entangled with the political, and vice versa. And scholars like Talal Asad and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd have done really great work to show how even our understanding of the secular and secular norms and so on is shaped by Protestant Christian commitments and understandings. And saying within that, our understanding of what religion is—like, a focus on belief, for example, which has been codified in a lot of religious freedom law, as part of the international system—again, tends to emphasize Protestant Christian understandings of what religion is and how it functions. So that’s the first reason for doing that. And then second, in understanding religion to be a threat to modernity, and sometimes seeing and responding to it as such rather than taking into account its complexity, its ambivalence, the ways in which it has been a powerful force for good, and bad, and everything in between, and in ways that sometimes let the secular off the hook for ways that it has driven forms of violence, colonialism, gender injustice, global inequalities, the climate crisis, and so on. So those are the consequences of when we don’t have that religious literacy, of those potential pitfalls. And, on that second point, of the ways in which religion continues to be defined in ways that can overemphasize its negative aspect at time within the international system, I commend the work of William Cavanaugh in particular and his book, The Myth of Religious Violence to dig into that a little bit more. So what we’re seeking to do, in bringing that kind of religious literacy to even thinking about the international system and its norms and how it operates, is to raise the consciousness of what Donna Haraway calls the situatedness of the international system, the embedded agendas and assumptions that inevitably operate within it. And it invites students to be skeptical of any claims to the systems neutrality about religion, how it’s defined, and how it’s responded to. So I recognize that that approach is very deconstructionist work. It’s informed by, post-colonial critical theory, which reflects where religious studies has been for the last couple decades. But importantly, it doesn’t, nor shouldn’t ideally, lead students to what is sometimes referred to as analysis paralysis, when there’s sort of groundedness within hypercritical approaches, only looking at the complexity to a degree that it’s hard to understand how to move forward then to respond constructively to these concerns. Rather, the purpose is to ensure that they’re more conscious of these underlying embedded norms or assumptions so that they can better operate within the system in just ways, not reproducing forms of Eurocentrism, Christo-centrism, or forms of cultural harm. So the hope is that it helps students to be able to better critique the ways in in which religion and secularism is being—are being discussed, analyzed, or engaged within international affairs, and then be able to enter into those kinds of analysis, policymaking, program development, and so on, in ways that can help disrupt problematic assumptions and ensure that the work of religious literacy or religious engagement is just. So I’m just going to offer one example of how this kind of critical thinking and critical—the way of thinking complexly about religion in this space can be fruitful. And it speaks back to one of the things Irina noted about my biography, the work I had done looking at women and religion and peacebuilding. So while I was at USIP, in that program, we spent several years looking specifically and critically at forms of theory and practice, and this subfield that had emerged of religious peacebuilding. And we were looking at it through the lens of gender justice, asking how religion was being defined in the theory or engaged in the peacebuilding practice and policy in ways that unintentionally reinforced gender injustice. And what we found is that there were assumptions operating about certain authorities—often those at the top of institutions, which tended to be older, well-educated men—representing entire traditions. Assumptions made about their social and political power as well. When in reality, we knew that those of different genders, and ages, and socioeconomic locations were doing their own work of peacebuilding within these religious landscapes, and had different experiences of violence, and so different prescriptions for how to build peace. So we began to ask questions, like whose peace is being built in this field of religious peacebuilding that was emerging? And the work that USIP had been doing in this space of religious peacebuilding? Whose stories were being left out in the dominant analyses or narratives in the media about religious dimensions of certain conflicts, and what are the consequences of that? So these kinds of questions are grounded in the recognition of, again, the internal diversity, the change over time of religious traditions. And they help ensure that analysis and policy actions aren’t unintentionally reproducing forms of harm or structural violence. I’m almost done. So please do bring your questions so that we can engage in a discussion with each other. But I wanted to end by offering a couple examples of resources that I think might be helpful to both enhancing your own religious literacy but also as potential pedagogical tools in this work. So first is Religious Peacebuilding Action Guides that were produced by the U.S. Institute of Peace, in partnership with Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. There’s four guides. They’re all available for free online. Once I close down my PowerPoint, I’m going to throw the links for all of these things I’m mentioning into the chat box so you can all see it. But one of the things—I’m just going to dive in a little bit to the analysis guide, because one of the things that I think is useful in helping, again, to help us think a little bit more complexly about religion, is that it takes you through this process of thinking about the different dimensions of religion as defined here—ideas, community, institutions, symbols and practices, and spirituality. So it’s already moving beyond just an idea of religious institutions, for example. And it takes you through doing a conflict assessment, and asking the questions related to religion with respect to the drivers of the conflict and the geographic location and peacebuilding initiatives, to help you craft a peacebuilding—a religious peacebuilding initiative. I have used this framework as a means to help students think through the ambivalence of religion as it manifests in different places. So I have an example there of a question that I have sometimes used that has been fruitful in thinking about how these five different dimensions of religion have manifested in American history in ways that either have advanced forms of racialized violence and injustice or that have served as drivers of peace and justice. And there’s lots of examples across all of those dimensions of the ways in which religion has shown up in ambivalent ways in that respect. There’s also—USIP’s team has produced a lot of amazing things. So I’ll put some links to some of their other resources in there too, which includes they’re doing religious landscape mappings of conflict-affected states. They have an online course on religious engagement in peacebuilding that’s free to take. Another resource is from here, at Harvard Divinity School in the Religion in Public Life Program. And we provide a series of case studies that is for educators. It’s primarily created educators in secondary schools and in community colleges, but I think could easily be adapted and used in other kinds of four-year universities or other kinds of professional settings, where you’re doing trainings or workshops, or even just holding discussions on religious literacy. So there’s a series of kind of short, concise, but dense, case studies that are looking at different religions as they intersect with a host of issues, including peace, climate, human rights, gender issues. And it says something about that case study here—the example that I have here is the conflict in Myanmar, pre-coup, the conflicts that were occurring between religious communities, and particularly between Buddhist communities and Muslim communities. And then there’s a set of discussion questions there that really help to unearth some of those lessons about internal diversity and about the ways in which religious intersects with state policies and other kinds of power interests and agendas—political power interests and agendas. And then also, at our program, Religion and Public Life, we have a number of courses that are available online, one that’s more on the substantive religious literacy side, looking at different religious traditions through their scriptures. Another course, it’s on religion, conflict and peace, all of which are free and I’m going to throw them into the chat box in a moment. And we also have ongoing workshops for educators on religious literacy, a whole network with that. So you’re welcome to join that network if you’d like. And then finally, we have a one-year master’s of religion and public life program for people in professions—quote/unquote, “secular” professions—who want to come and think about—they’re encountering religion in various ways in their work in public health, or in their work in journalism. And so they want to come here for a year and to think deeply about that, and bring something back into their profession. And then the final thing, and then I’m going to be done, and this one is short, is the Transatlantic Policy for Religion and Diplomacy, which brings together point people from—who work on religion across different foreign ministries in North America and Europe. And their website,, has a lot of really great resources that—reports on various thematic issues, but also looking at religion in situ in a number of different geographic locations. They have these strategic notes, that’s what I have the image of here, that talk about, at a particular time, what are some of the big stories related to religion and international affairs overseas. And they list a number of other religious literacy resources on their website as well. So I commend all of that to. And with that, let me stop share, throw some links into the chat box, and hear responses and questions from folks. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you for that. That was terrific. And we are going to send out—as a follow-up, we’ll send out a link to this webinar, maybe a link to your presentation, as well as the resources that you drop into the chat. So if you don’t get it here, you will have another bite at the apple, so to speak. (Gives queuing instructions.) So I’m going to go first to the written question from Meredith Coon, who’s an undergraduate student at Lewis University: What would be a solution for India to have many different religions live in peace with each other, especially since most religions share a lot of the same core values of how people should live? And how can society prevent the weaponization of religion, while still allowing broad religious freedom? HAYWARD: All right. Thank you for the question, Meredith. And one thing just to note, by way of housekeeping, I’m not sure I can actually share the links with all of the participants. So we’ll make sure that you get all of those links in that follow-up note, as Irina said. So, Meredith, I think a couple things. One, I just want to note that one of the assumptions within your question itself is that folks of different religious persuasions are constantly at conflict with one another. And of course, there is a reality of there is increasing religious tensions around the world, communal tensions of many different sorts, ethnic, and religious, and racial, and so on, across the world. And the threat to democracy and increasing authoritarianism has sometimes exacerbated those kinds of tensions. But there’s also a lot of examples presently and historically of religiously incredibly diverse communities living in ways that are harmonious, that are just, and so on. So I think it is important—there’s a lot of work that supports forms of interfaith dialogue and intra-faith dialogue. And I think that that work is—will always be important, to be able to recognize shared values and shared commitments, and in order to acknowledge and develop respect and appreciation for differences as well on different topics—again, both within religious traditions and across them. But I think that dialogue alone, frankly, is not enough. Because so often these tensions and these conflicts are rooted in structural violence and discrimination and concerns, economic issues, and political issues, and so on. And so I think part of that work, it’s not just about building relationships kind of on a horizontal level, but also about ensuring that state policies and practice, economic policies and practices, and so on, are not operating in ways that disadvantage some groups over others, on a religious side, on a gender side, on a racial side, and so on. So it’s about ensuring as well inclusive societies and a sense as well of inclusive political systems and inclusive economic systems. And doing that work in kind of integrated ways is going to be critical for ensuring that we’re able to address some of these rising forms of violations of religious freedom. Thanks again for the question. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question from Clemente Abrokwaa. Clemente, do you want to ask your question? Associate teaching professor of African studies at Pennsylvania State University? I’m going to give you a moment, so we can hear some voices. Q: OK. Thank you very much. Yeah, my question is I’m wondering how peacebuilding, in terms of religious literacy, how would you look at—or, how does it look at those that are termed fundamentalists? How their actions and beliefs, especially their beliefs, those of us—there are those outside who perceive them as being destructive. So then to that person, is their beliefs are good. So they fight for, just like anyone will fight for, what, a freedom fighter or something, or a religious fighter in this case. So I’m just wondering how does religious literacy perceive that in terms of peacebuilding? HAYWARD: Right. Thank you for the question, Professor Abrokwaa. I really appreciate it. So a couple things. One, first of all, with respect to—just going back, again, to the ambivalence of the sacred—recognizing that that exists. That there are particular religious ideas, commitments, groups, practices that are used in order to fuel and legitimate forms of violence. And I use violence in a capacious understanding of it, that includes both direct forms of violence but also structural and cultural forms of violence, to use the framework of Johan Galtung. And so that needs to be addressed as part of the work to build peace, is recognizing religious and nonreligious practices and ideas that are driving those forms of violence. But when it comes to religious literacy to understand that, a couple ways in which the principles apply. One is, first, not assuming that their—that that is the only or exclusive religious interpretation. And I think sometimes well-meaning folks end up reifying this idea that that is the exclusive religious interpretation or understanding when they’re—when they’re offering sometimes purely nonreligious responses to it. And what I mean by this, for example, let’s look at Iran right now. I read some analyses where it’s saying that, the Iranian authorities and the Ayatollahs who comprise the Supreme Council and so on, that they—that they define what Islamic law is. And there’s not a qualification of that. And in the meantime, the protesters are sort of defined as, like, secular, or they’re not—the idea that they could be driven by certain—their own Islamic interpretations that are just as authoritative to them, and motivating them, and shaping them is critical. So being able to recognize the internal plurality and not unintentionally reify that particular interpretation of a religious tradition as exclusive or authoritative. Rather, it’s one interpretation of a religious tradition with particular consequences that are harmful for peace. And there are multiple other interpretations of that religious tradition that are operating within that context. And then a second way that the religious literacy would apply would also look at the ways in which sometimes the diagnoses of extremist groups that are operating within a religious frame doesn’t right-size the role of religion in that. It sometimes overemphasizes the religious commitments, and drives, and so on. And so, again, we need to right-size. There are religious motivations. And we need to take those seriously. And we need to develop solutions for addressing that. And there are economic interests. And there are political interests. So there’s a whole host of factors that are motivating and inspiring and legitimating those groups. And being able to take into account that more holistic picture and ensure that your responses to it are going to be holistic. And then one final thing I want to say that’s not with respect to religious literacy as much—or, maybe it is—but it’s more just about my experience of work at USIP, is that—and it kind of goes back to the question that Meredith asked before you about religious harmony between multireligious relations and harmony, is that I sometimes finds that engaging with groups that are defining themselves and motivating themselves with a primary grounding in religion, that they’re not going to participate generally in interfaith initiatives, and so on, right? And so that’s where some of that intra-faith work can be particularly important. I saw this, for example, in Myanmar, when their—when previously the movement that was known as Ma Ba Tha, which was defined by some as a Buddhist nationalist anti-Muslim kind of Buddhist supremacist group. The folks who were most successful in being able to engage in a values-grounded conversation with members of the organization were other Buddhist monks, who were able to speak within the language of meaning and to draw attention to, like, different understandings of religious teachings or religious principles with respect to responding to minority groups, and so on. So I think that’s in particular, with addressing those groups, that’s where that intra-religious work or intra-communal work can be really critical, in addition to some of that cross-communal work. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So we’ve seen, obviously, the war in Ukraine and how Christian Orthodoxy is being—or, Greek Orthodoxy in Ukraine, and the division. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it’s playing out with Russian identity? HAYWARD: Yeah, absolutely. There’s been some really good analysis and work out there of the religious dimensions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. So again, the sort of dominant story that you see, which reflects a reality, is that there are ways in which political and religious actors and interests are aligning on the Russian side in order to advance particular narratives and that legitimate the invasion of Ukraine that—that are about sort of fighting back against an understanding of the West as being counter to traditional and religious values. Those are some of the religious understandings. And then that concern gets linked then to the establishment of an independent or autocephalous Orthodox Church within the Ukraine context. And you see—in particular, what’s pointed to often is the relationship between Patriarch Kirill in the Russian Orthodox Church, and Putin, and the ways in which they’ve sort of reinforced each other’s narrative and offered support to it. And there’s really great analysis out there and stories that have been done about that. And that needs to be taken into account in responding to the situation and, I would say, that some of the religious literacy principles would then ask us to think about other ways in which religion is showing up within that, that go beyond the institution too. So a lot of the news stories that I’ve seen, for example, have focused exclusively on—sometimes—exclusively on the clerics within the Orthodox Church and their positions, either in support of or in opposition to the war. But in reality, on the ground there’s a lot more complexity that’s taken place, and a lot more of the ways in which different individuals and communities on both the Russia and the Ukraine side are responding to the violence, to the displacements, and so on. It paints a more complex and, I think, fascinating story, frankly. And sort of illuminates ways forward in support of peacebuilding. For example, there’s ways in which different kinds of ritual practices within Orthodoxy have served as a source of support and constancy to folks who are living in this situation of insecurity and displacement, in ways that have been helpful. There are, of course, other religious traditions that exist within both Ukraine and Russia that are operating and responding in different ways. Like, the Jewish community in Ukraine and the Catholic—the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. So looking at those complexities both within Orthodoxy, but there’s many different ways that Orthodox Christians are responding in both countries. There’s not one story of Orthodox Christianity and the invasion of Ukraine. But also looking at some of the religious diversity within it. And that helps to ensure, like I said, one, that we’re developing solutions that are also recognizing the ways in which religion at a very ground level is serving as a source of support, humanitarian relief, social, psychological support to people on the ground, as well as the ways in which it’s sort of manifesting ambivalently and complexly in ways that are driving some of the violence as well. And it also helps to push back against any sort of a narrative that this is about a Russian religion—on the Russian side—this is about a religious war against a secular, non-religious West or Ukraine, right? That that goes back to what I was talking about with the historical sort of contingencies that are baked into this system a little bit. And in defining it in that way, Russia’s religious and its motivations are religious, Ukraine’s not religious, that’s both not true—(laughs)—because there’s many religious folks within the Ukraine and within the West generally, but also feeds—it feeds the very narrative that Putin and Kirill are giving of a secular West that is anti-religion, that is in opposition to Russian traditional values. FASKIANOS: It seems like there needs to be some training of journalists too to have religious literacy, in the same way that we’re talking about media literacy. HAYWARD: Yeah. FASKIANOS: Probably should be introduced as well. (Laughs.) HAYWARD: Yeah, Irina, it’s funny, we did—one of my students actually did a kind of mapping and analysis of stories about the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the religious dimensions of it. And she noted that there was—for example, it was—almost always it was male clerics who were being quoted. So there was very little that was coming from other gendered perspectives and experiences on the ground, lay folks and so on. And again, for that—for that very reason it’s sort of—because we know so many policymakers and international analysis are depending on these kinds of media stories, I worry that it creates a blinder to potential opportunities for different kinds of ways of addressing needs and partners for addressing needs on the ground. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. I’m going to go next to Liam Wall, an undergraduate student at Loyola Marymount University: With so much diversity within religions itself, how can we avoid the analysis paralysis you mentioned and take in as many unique perspectives as possible, without letting that stand in the way of progress? How does one know that they have enough religious literacy and can now become an effective practitioner? HAYWARD: Well, OK, the bad news is that you will never have enough religious literacy. (Laughs.) This is a process, not an end. There are scholars here at Harvard who have been studying one particular sect of a particular religious tradition for their entire adult lives, and they would still say that they are students of those traditions, because they’re so complex. Because so many of these traditions are composed of a billion people or just—just 500 million people. But that means that there’s going to be an incredible diversity to explore. And so that’s the bad news. But the good news is, one, like, first take the burden off of your shoulders of having to be an expert on any one particular religious tradition, in order to be able to help to develop and enhance your own religious literacy, and those of others, and to operate in ways that reflect the principles of religious literacy, is the good news. As well as there are many different kinds of resources that you can turn to in order to understand, for example if you’re going to be working in a particular geographic location, scholarship, people you can speak to in order to begin to understand at least some of the specific manifestations and practices, and some of the disputes and diversity that exists within that particular country or geographic location across religious traditions. But, secondly, I would say, it’s almost more important than—like, the substance is important. But what’s just as important, if not more important, is understanding what kinds of questions to be asking, and to be curious about these religious questions and their intersection with the political and social. So we sometimes say that religious literacy is about developing habits of mind in how we think about these religious questions, and what kinds of questions we ask about religion. So it’s about developing that kind of a reflex to be able to kind of see what’s underneath some of the analysis that you’re seeing that might be relevant to religion or that might be advancing particularly problematic understandings of religion, or reinforcing binaries like the secular and the religious and so on. And that’s just as—just as important. So the extent to which you’re continuing to, like, hone those—that way of thinking, and those habits of mind, that will set you up well for then going into this space and being able to ask those particular questions with respect to whatever issues you’re focusing on, or whatever geographic location you’re looking at. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to Mohamed Bilal, a postgraduate student at the Postgraduate Institute of Management in Sri Lanka. HAYWARD: Yay! FASKIANOS: Yes. How does sectarianism influence our literacy? In turn, if we are influenced by sectarianism, then would we be illiterate of the religion but literate of the sect? Thus, wouldn’t such a religious literacy perpetuate sectarianism? HAYWARD: Thank you for the question, Mohamed. It’s—I miss Sri Lanka. I have not been there in too long, and I look forward to going back at some point. So I would say sectarianism, in the sense of—so, there’s both religious sects, right? There’s the existence of different kinds of religious traditions, interpretive bodies, jurisprudential bodies in the case of Islam. And then broader, different schools or denominations. The term that’s used depends on the different religious tradition. And that reflects internal diversity. Sectarianism, with the -ism on the end of it, gets back to the same kinds of questions that I think Professor Clemente was asking with respect to fundamentalism. That’s about being sort of entrenched in an idea that your particular religious understanding and practice is the normative, authentic, and pure practice, and that all others are false in some ways. That is a devotional claim or—what I mean by a devotional claim, is that is a knowledge claim that is rooted within a particular religious commitment and understanding. And so religious literacy in this case would—again, it’s the principles of internal diversity, recognizing that different sects and different bodies of thought and practice are going to exist within religious traditions, but then also ensuring that any claim to be normative or to be orthodox by any of these different interpretive bodies is always a claim that is rooted within that religious tradition that we sometimes say is authentic. It’s authentic to those communities and what they believe. But it’s not exclusive. It’s not the only claim that exists within that religious tradition more broadly. And the concern is about—sects are fine. Different denominations, different interpretative bodies are fine and a good and sort of natural thing, given the breadth and the depth of these religious traditions. The problem is that -ism part of it, when it becomes a source of competition or even potentially violence between groups. And so that’s what needs to be interrogated and understood. FASKIANOS: So another question from John Francis, who’s the senior associate vice president for academic affairs at the University of Utah: If you were training new diplomats in other countries to be stationed in the United States, where a wide range of religious traditions thrive, how would you prepare them for dealing with such religious variation? HAYWARD: The same way I would—and thank you, again, for the question. The same way that I would with any other diplomats going to any other—the same way I do with foreign service officers at the Foreign Service Institute, who are going to work overseas. I would—I would invite them to think about their own assumptions and their own worldviews and their own understandings of what religion is, based on their own contexts that they grew up in. So how that shapes how they understand what religion is, in the ways I was speaking to before. So for example, in Protestant Christianity, we tend to emphasize belief as the sort of core principle of religious traditions. But other religious traditions might emphasize different forms of practice or community as sort of the central or principal factor. So recognizing your own situatedness and the ways in which you understand and respond to different religious traditions. I would invite those who are coming to work here to read up on the historical developments and reality of different religious communities and nonreligious communities in the U.S. and encourage them to look not just at some of the—what we call the world religions, or the major religions, but also at indigenous traditions and different practices within different immigrant communities. And I would have them look at the historical relationship between the state and different religious communities as well, including the Mormon tradition there in Utah, and how the experience of, for example, the Mormon community has shaped its own relationship with the state, with other religious communities on a whole host of issues as well. And then I would encourage—just as I was saying earlier—no diplomat going to the U.S. is going to become an expert on the religious context in the U.S., because it’s incredibly complex, just like anywhere else in the world. But to be able to have sort of a basic understanding to be able to then continue to ask the kinds of questions that are going to help to understand how any political action is taken or response to any policy issues kind of inevitably bumps up against particular religious or cultural commitments and values. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next question from Will Carpenter, director of private equity principal investments at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, and also taking a course at the Harvard Extension School. HAYWARD: Hey! FASKIANOS: I’m going to ask the second part of Will’s question. How will the current polarized domestic debate regarding U.S. history, which is often colored by the extremes—as a force for good only versus tainted by a foundation of injustice—impact America’s capacity to lead internationally? HAYWARD: Hmm, a lot. (Laughter.) Thank you for the question. I mean, I think the fact of polarization in the U.S. and the increasing difficulty that we’re facing in being able to have really deep conversations and frank conversations about historical experiences and perceptions of different communities, not just religiously, not just racially even, but across different—urban-rural, across socioeconomic divides, across educational divides and, of course, across political divides, and so on. I think that—I think that absolutely hampers our ability to engage within the global stage effectively. One, just because of the image that it gives to the rest of the world. So how can we—how can we have an authentic moral voice when we ourselves are having such a hard time engaging with one other in ways that reflect those values and that are grounded within those values? But also because I think get concern—with respect to religion questions in particular—I get concern about the increasing polarization and partisanization of religion in foreign policy and issues of religious freedom, and so on. Which means that we’re going to constantly have this sort of swinging back and forth then between Republican and Democratic administrations on how we understand and engage issues related to religion and foreign policy, different religious communities in particular, like Muslim communities worldwide, or on issues of religious freedom. So I think it’s incredibly critical—always has been, but is particularly right now at this historical moment—for us to be in the U.S. doing this hard work of having these conversations, and hearing, and listening to one another, and centering and being open about our values and having these conversations on that level of values. To be able to politically here in the U.S., much less overseas, to be able to work in ways that are effective. Irina, you’re muted. FASKIANOS: Thank you. (Laughs.) With that, we are at the end of our time. Thank you so much for this. This has been a really important hour of discussion. Again, we will send out the link to the webinar, as well as all the resources that you mentioned, Susan. Sorry we didn’t have the chat open so that we could focus on what you were saying and all the questions and comments that came forward. So we appreciate it. And thank you so much, again, for your time, Susan Hayward. And I just want to remind everybody that this is the last webinar of the semester, but we will be announcing the Winter/Spring Academic Webinar lineup in our Academic bulletin. And if you’re not already subscribed to that, you can email us at [email protected]. Just as a reminder, you can learn about CFR paid internships for students and fellowships for professors at Follow @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit,, and for research and analysis on global issues. Good luck with your exams. (Laughs.) Grading, taking them, et cetera. Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving. And we look forward to seeing you again next semester. So, again, thank you to Susan Hayward. HAYWARD: Thank you, everybody. Take care.
  • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

    Lauren Kahn, research fellow at CFR, leads the conversation on AI military innovation and U.S. defense strategy.   FASKIANOS: Thank you, and welcome to today’s session of the Fall 2022 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 Lauren Kahn with us to talk about AI military innovation and U.S. defense strategy. Ms. Kahn is a research fellow at CFR, where she focuses on defense, innovation, and the impact of emerging technologies on international security. She previously served as a research fellow at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania’s global policy think tank where she helped launch and manage projects on emerging technologies and global politics, and her work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Defense One, Lawfare, War on the Rocks, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the Economist, just to name a few publications. So, Lauren, thanks very much for being with us. I thought we could begin by having you set the stage of why we should care about emerging technologies and what do they mean for us in—as we look ahead in today’s world. KAHN: Excellent. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here and be able to speak to you all today. So I’m kind of—when I’m setting the stage I’m going to speak a little bit about recent events and current geopolitical situations and why we care about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing—things that seem a little bit like science fiction but are now coming into realities and how our military is using them. And then we’ll get a little bit more into the nitty gritty about U.S. defense strategy, in particular, and how they’re approaching adoption of some of these technologies with a particular focus in artificial intelligence, since that’s what I’m most interested in. Look, awesome. Thank you so much for kicking us off. So I’ll say that growing political competition between the United States, China, and Russia is increasing—the risk of great power conventional war in ways that we have not seen since the end of the Cold War. I think what comes to everyone’s mind right now is Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which is the largest land war in Europe that we’ve seen since World War II, and the use of a lot of these new emerging capabilities. And so I’ll say for the past few decades, really, until now we thought about war as something that was, largely, contained to where it was taking place and the parties particularly involved, and most recent conflicts have been asymmetric warfare being limited to terrestrial domains. So, on the ground or in the air or even at sea, where most prominent conflicts were those between nation states and either weak states or nonstate actors, like the U.S. wars—led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or intervention in places like Mali and related conflicts as part of the broader global war on terrorism, for example. And so while there might have been regional ripple effects and dynamics that shifted due to these wars, any spillover from these conflicts was a little bit more narrow or due to the movement of people themselves, for example, in refugee situations. I’ll say, however, that the character of wars is shifting in ways that are expanding where conflicts are fought and where they take place and who is involved, and a large part of this, I think, is due to newer capabilities and emerging technologies. I’ll say it’s not entirely due to them, but I think that there are some things, like, with the prominence of influence operations, and misinformation, deep fakes, artificial intelligence, commercial drones, that make access to high-end technology very cheap and accessible for the average person has meant that these wars are going to be fought in kind of new ways. We’re seeing discussion of things like information wars where things are being fought on TikTok and social media campaigns where individuals can kind of film what’s happening on the ground live and kind of no longer do states have, so to speak, a monopoly on the dissemination of information. I’ll speak a little bit more about some of the examples of technologies that we’re seeing. But, broadly speaking, this means that the battlefield is no longer constrained to the physical. It’s being fought in cyberspace, even in outer space, with the involvement of satellites and the reliance on satellite imagery and open source satellite imagery like Google Maps and, again, in cyberspace. And so as a result, it’ll not only drive new sectors and new actors kind of into the foray when it comes to fighting wars, and militaries have been preparing for this for quite a while. They’ve been investing in basic science research and development, testing and evaluation in all of these new capabilities, from artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, hypersonics. And these have been priorities for a few years but I’ll say that that conflict in Ukraine and the way that we’re seeing these technologies are being used has really kind of put a crunch on the time frame that states are facing, and I’m going to speak a little bit more about that in a minute. But to kind of give you an example of what are—what does it mean to use artificial intelligence on the battlefield—what do these kind of look like, there’s—largely, my work before this conflict was a little hypothetical. It was hard to kind of point to. But I think now, as these technologies mature, you’re seeing that they’re being used in more ways. So artificial intelligence, for example, are used to create—has been used by Russia to create deep fakes. There was a very famous one of President Zelensky that they used that they then combined with a cyberattack to put it at a very—to put it on national news in Ukraine, to make it look a little bit more believable even though the deep fake itself, it was a little, like, OK, they could tell it was computer generated. These are kind of showing how some of these technologies are evolving and, especially when combined with other kinds of technological tools, are going to be used to kind of make some of these more influence operations and propaganda campaigns a little bit more persuasive. Other examples of artificial intelligence, there’s facial recognition technology being used to identify civilians and casualties, for example. They’re being used to—they’re using natural language processing, which is a type of artificial intelligence that kind of analyzes the way people speak. You think of Siri. You think of chat bots. But more advanced versions being used to kind of read in radio transmissions and translate them and tag them so that they’re able to—that forces are able to go through more quickly and identify what combatants are saying. There’s the use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing where individuals are able to for very cheap—a 3D printer costs a couple—a thousand dollars and you can get it for maybe less if you build it yourself. You can add—you can add different components to grenades to make—and then people are taking smaller commercial drones to kind of make a MacGyvered smart bomb that you can maneuver. So those are some of the kind of commercial technologies that are being pulled into the kind of military sphere and into the battlefield. They might not be large. They might not be military in its first creation. But because they’re so general purpose technologies—they’re dual use—they’re being developed in the private sector and you’re seeing them being used on the battlefield and weaponized in new ways. There are other technologies that are more based originally in the military and defense kind of sectors and who’s created them, things like loitering munitions, which we’re seeing more of now, and a little—a lot more drones. I’m sure a lot of you have been seeing a lot of—about the Turkish TB2 drones and the Iranian drones that are now being used by Russia in the conflict. And these are not as new technologies. We’ve seen them. They’ve been around for a couple of decades. But they’re reaching a maturity in their technological lifecycle where they’re a lot more cheap and they’re a lot more accessible and they’re a lot more familiar now that they’re being used in innovative and new ways. They’re being seen as less precious and less expensive. And so not that they’re being used willy nilly or that they’re expendable but militaries, we’re seeing, are willing to use them in more flexible ways. And so, for example, Ukraine, in the early days of the campaign, there were some—allegedly, Ukraine used it as—the TB2 as a distraction when it wanted to sink a war ship rather than actually using it to try and sink the war ship itself. And so using it for things that they’re good for but maybe not the initial thought or the initial what they were designed to be used for. Iran—I mean, excuse me, Russia, now using the Iranian-made loitering munitions. They’re pretty reasonable in price. They’re about $20,000 a pop, and so using them in swarms to be able to take out some of the Ukrainian infrastructure has been a pretty good technique. Ukraine, for example, is very good at shooting them down. I think they were reporting at some point they had an ability to shoot them down at a rate of around 85 percent to 90 percent. And so the swarms weren’t necessarily all of them were getting through but because they’re so reasonably priced it was still—it was still a reasonable tactic and strategy to take. There’s even some kind of more cutting edge, a little bit more unbelievable, applications like now being touted as an Uber for artillery, whether you’re using similar kind of algorithms that Uber uses to kind of identify which passengers to pick up first and where to drop them off, about how to target artillery systems—what target is most efficient to hit first. And so we’re seeing a lot of these technologies being used, like I said, in new and practical ways, and it’s really condensed the timeline that, I think, states are seeing, especially the United States—that they want to adopt these technologies. Back in 2017, Vladimir Putin famously stated that he believed that whoever became leader in AI would become leader of the world, and China has very much publicized their plans to invest a lot more in AI research and development, to invest in bridging the gaps between its civil and military engineers and technologists to take advantage of AI by the year 2023. So we’ve got about one more year to go. And so I think that the United States, recognizing this, the time crunch has been—the heat is on, so to speak, for adopting some of these newer capabilities. And so we’re seeing that a lot now. There’s a lot of reorganization happening within the Department of Defense to kind of better leverage and better adapt in order to take advantage of some of these technologies. There’s the creation of a new chief data—digital and artificial intelligence office, the new emerging capabilities policy office, that are efforts in order to better integrate data systems ongoing projects in the Department of Defense, et cetera, to implement it for broader U.S. strategy. There’s been efforts as well to partner with allies in order to develop artificial intelligence. I mean, as part of the Indo-Pacific strategy that the Biden administration announced back in February of 2022 they announced that along with the Quad partners—so Japan, Australia, and I’m forgetting—and India, excuse me—they are going to fund research, for example, for any graduates from any of those four countries to come study in the United States if they focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and so to foster that integration and collaboration between our allies and partners to better take use of some of these things. I’ll say, even so, recently, in April 2022, for example, I think, looking at how Ukraine was using a lot of these technologies, the United States was able to fast track one of its programs. It was called the Phoenix Ghost. It’s a loitering munition. Little—it’s still a little—not well known. But, for example, I saw that the capabilities requirement that Ukraine had and fast tracked their own program in order to fulfill that. So they’re being used for the first time. So, again, we’re seeing that the United States is kind of using this as an opportunity to learn as well as to really take advantage and start kicking into high gear AI in defense innovation development. And so I’ll say that doesn’t mean that it’s not without its challenges, acquisitions process in particular. So how the United States—how Department of Defense takes a program from research and development all the way to an actual capability that it’s able to use on the battlefield. Before, in the 1950s where it used to take maybe five years now takes a few decades, there’s a lot of processes in between that make it a little bit challenging. All these sorts of checks and balances in place, which are great, but have made the process slow down the process a little bit. And so it’s harder for smaller companies and contractors to kind of—that are driving a lot of this—driving the cutting-edge research in a lot of these fields to work with the defense sector. And so there are some of these challenges, which, hopefully, some of this reorganization that the Pentagon is doing will help us. But that’s the next step, looking forward. And so that’s going to, I think, be the next big challenge that I’m watching for the—over the rest of this year and the next six months. But I think I threw a lot out there but I’m happy to open it for questions now and focus on anything in particular. But I think that gave an overview of some of the things that we’re seeing now. FASKIANOS: Absolutely. That was insightful and a little scary—(laughs)—and look forward now to everybody’s questions. As a reminder, after two and a half years of doing this, you can click on the raise hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or Tablet click the more button to access the raise hand feature. When you’re called upon, please accept the unmute prompt and state your name and affiliation. You can also submit a written question via the Q&A icon, and please include your affiliation there, and we are going to try to get through as many questions as we can. All right. So the first question—raised hand comes from Michael Leong. Q: Hi. Is this working? FASKIANOS: It is. Please tell us your affiliation. Q: Hi. My name is Michael Leong. I’m an MPA student in public administration at the University of Arizona in Tucson. And I just have a question about, basically, with the frequent use and successful use of drones in Ukraine is there any concern domestically about—because of how easily they are adapting such accessible technology to warfare that those can be used maliciously domestically and what steps they might be considering. Thanks. KAHN: Absolutely. That’s a great question. I think it’s broader than just drones as well when you have this proliferation of commercial technology into defense space and you have these technologies that are not necessarily, for example, weapons, right. So for—I think a good example is Boston Dynamics. They make this quad pet robot with four legs. It looks kind of like a dog. His name is Spot. And he’s being used in all sorts of commercial applications—help fund local police forces, et cetera—for very benevolent uses. However, there’s been a lot of concern that someone will go and, essentially, duct tape a gun to Spot and what will that kind of mean. And so I think it’s a similar kind of question when you have some of these technologies, again, that aren’t—it depends on how you use them and so it’s really up to the user. And so when you get things like commercial drones, et cetera, that you’re seeing that individuals are using for either reconnaissance or, again, using in combination with things like 3D printing to make weapons and things like that, it is going to be increasingly, increasingly difficult to control the flow. We’ve seen Professor Michael Horowitz over at the University of Pennsylvania, who’s now in government, he’s done a lot of research on this and you see that the diffusion of technologies happens a lot—a lot quicker when they’re commercially based rather than when they’re from a military origination. And so I think it’s definitely going to pose challenges, especially when you get things like software and things like artificial intelligence, which are open source and you can use from anywhere. So putting—kind of like controlling export and extrolling (sic) after the fact how they’re used is going to be extremely difficult. A lot of that right now is currently falling to kind of companies who are producing them to self-regulate since they have the best, like, ability to kind of limit access to certain technologies. Like, for example, open AI. If any of you have played with DALL-E 2 or DALL-E Mini, the image generating prompt sandbox tool that’s—they have limited what the public can access—certain features, right—and are testing themselves to see, OK, how are these being used maliciously. I think a lot of them are testing how they’re being used for influence operations, for example. And so making sure that some of those features that allow that to be more malicious they’re able to regulate that. But it is going to be extremely hard and the government will have to work hand in hand with a lot of these companies and private actors that are developing these capabilities in order to do that. But it’s a very great question and it is not one that I have a very easy answer to on how to address that. But it is, like, something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Arnold Vela, who’s an adjunct faculty at Northwest Vista College. What is the potential value of AI for strategy, e.g., war planning, versus tactical uses? KAHN: Great. So I think—honestly, I think a lot of artificial intelligence the benefit is replacing repetitive human—repetitive redundant tasks, right. So it’s not replacing the human. It’s making the human be more efficient by reducing things like data entry and cleaning and able to pull resources from all together. And so it’s actually already being used, for example, in war planning and war gaming and things like that and Germany and Israel have created things to make 3D AI to create sort of 3D battlefields where they can see all the different kind of inputs of information and sensors. And so I think that’s really where the value add—the competitive advantage of artificial intelligence is. It’s not necessarily—having an autonomous drone is very useful but I think what will really be the kind of game changer, so to speak, will be in making forces more efficient and both have a better sense of themselves as well as their adversaries, for example. And so, definitely, I think, I’m more in the background with the nonsexy—the data cleaning and all the numbers bit will be a lot more important, I think, than the having a drone with encased AI capabilities, even though those kind of suck the oxygen out a little bit because it’s really exciting. It’s shiny. It’s Terminator. It’s I, Robot-esque, right? But I think a lot of it will be the making linguists within the intelligence community able to process and translate documents at a much faster pace. So making individuals’ lives easier, I think. So definitely. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. I’m going to go next to Dalton Goble. Please accept the unmute. Q: Thank you. FASKIANOS: There you go. Q: Hi. I’m Dalton. I’m from the University of Kentucky and I’m at the Patterson School for Diplomacy and International Commerce. Thank you for having this talk. I really wanted to ask about the technology divide between the developed and developing world, and I wanted to hear your comments about how the use of AI in warfare and the technologies such as—and their proliferation can exasperate that divide. KAHN: Absolutely. I actually think, we’re—I think that I’ve been focusing a lot on how the U.S. and China and Russia, in particular, have been adopting these technologies because they’re the ones that are investing in it the most. I mean, countries in Europe are as well and, Israel, et cetera, and Australia also. Except I still think we’re in those early stages where a lot of countries—I think, over a hundred or something—have the national AI strategies right now. I don’t think it’s as far along yet in terms of its—at least its military applications or applications for government. I will say that, more broadly, I think, again, because these technologies are developed in the commercial sector and are a lot more reasonably priced, I think there’s actually a lot of space for countries in the developing world, so to speak, to adopt these technologies. There’s not as many barriers, I think, when it’s, again, necessarily a very expensive, super specific military system. And so I think that it’s actually quite diffusing rapidly in terms—and pretty equally. I haven’t done extensive research into that. It’s a very good question. But my first gut reaction is that it actually can—it actually can help kind of speak—not necessarily exacerbate the divide but kind of close the gap a little bit. A colleague of mine works a lot in health care and in health systems in developing countries and she works specifically with them to develop a lot of these technologies and find that they actually adopt them quicker because they don’t have all of these existing preconceived notions about what the systems and organizations should look like and are a lot more open to using some of these tools. But I will say, again, they are just tools. No technology is a silver bullet, and so I think that, again, being in the commercial sector these technologies will diffuse a lot more rapidly than other kind of military technologies. But it is something to be cognizant of, for sure. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Alice Somogyi. She’s a master’s student in international relations at the Central European University. Could you tell us more on the implications of deep fakes within the military sector and as a defense strategy? KAHN: Absolutely. I think influence operations in general are going to be increasingly part of the—part of the game, so to speak. I mean, I mentioned there’s going to be—it’s very visible to see in the case of Ukraine about how the information war, especially in the early days of the conflict, was super, super important, and the United States did a very good job of releasing information early to allies and partners, et cetera, to kind of make the global reaction time to the invasion so quick. And so I think that was a lot—very unexpected and I think has shown just—not to overstate it but the power of individuals and that a lot of propaganda will have. We’ve known—I’m sure if you studied warfare history, you can see the impact of propaganda. It’s always been—it’s always been an element at play. I will just say it’s another tool in the toolkit to make it a little bit more believable, to make it harder, to make these more efficient, and I think what’s really, really interesting, again, is how a lot of these technologies are going to be worked together to kind of make them more believable. Like, again, creating deep fakes. The technology isn’t there yet to make them super believable, at least on a—like, a large scale that many people at—that a state could believe. But combining them with something like a cyberattack, to place that in a place that you would have a little bit more—more willing to believe it, I think, will be increasingly important. And we’ll see it, I’m sure, combined in other ways that I can’t even imagine. And that goes back to one of the earlier questions we had about the proliferation of these technologies and, like, it being commercial and being able to contain the use and you can’t, and that’s the hardest part. And I think that especially when it comes to software and things where once you sell it out there they can use it for whatever they want. And so it’s this kind of creativity where you can’t prevent against any possible situation that you don’t know. So it has to be a little bit reactive. But I think there are measures that states and others can take to be a little bit proactive to protect against the use. This isn’t specifically about deep fakes but about artificial intelligence in general. There’s a space, I think, for confidence-building measures so informal agreements that states can kind of come to to set norms and kind of general rules of the road about, like, expectations for artificial intelligence and other kind of emerging technologies that they can put in place before they’re used so that when situations that are unexpected or have never seen before arise that there’s not—there’s not totally no game plan, right. There’s a kind of things and processes to kind of fall back on to guide how to advance and work on that situation without having to—without regulating too much too quickly that they become outdated very quickly. But I think it’ll definitely be as the technology develops that we’ll be using a lot more deep fakes. FASKIANOS: Yes. So Nicholas Keeley, a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University, has a question that goes along these lines. Ukrainian government and Western social media platforms were pretty successful at preempting, removing, and counteracting the Zelensky deep fake. How did this happen? I mean, he’s—asks about the cutting-edge prevention measures against AI-generated disinformation today that you just touched upon. But can you just talk about the Ukrainian—this specific what we’re seeing now in Ukraine? KAHN: Yeah. I think Ukraine has been very, very good at using these tools in a way that we haven’t seen before and I think that’s, largely, why a lot of these countries now are looking and watching and are changing their tack when it comes to using these. Again, they seem kind of far off. Like, what’s the benefit of using these newer technologies when we have things that are known and work. But I think Ukraine, kind of being the underdog in this situation and knowing since 2013 that this was a future event that might happen has been preparing, I think, in particular, their digital minister. I’m not sure what the exact title was, but they were able to mobilize that very quickly. It was originally set up to better digitize their government platforms and provide access to individuals, I think, on a phone app. But then they had these experts that work on how—OK, how can we use digital tools to kind of engage the public and engage media. I think when they—they militarized them, essentially. And so I think a lot of the early days, asking for—a lot of people in that organization asked Facebook, asked Apple, et cetera, to either put sanctions, to put guardrails up. You know, a lot of the early, like, Twitter, taking down the media, et cetera, was also engaged because specifically this organization within Ukraine made it their mission to do so and to kind of work as the liaison between Silicon Valley, so to speak, and to get—and to engage the commercial sector so they could self-regulate and help kind of the government do these sort of things, which, I think, inevitably led to them catching the deep fake really quickly. But also, if you look at it, it’s pretty—it’s pretty clear that it’s computer generated. It’s not great. So I think that, in part, was it and, again, in combination with a cyberattack you could then notice that there was a service attack. And so, while it made it more realistic, there’s also risks about that because they’re practiced in identifying when a cyberattack just occurred, more so than other things. But, absolutely. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Andrés Morana, who’s raised his hand. Q: Hi. Good afternoon. I’m Andrés Morana, affiliated with Johns Hopkins SAIS International Relations. Master’s degree. I wanted to ask you about AI and then maybe emerging technology as well. But I think artificial intelligence, as it applies to kind of the defense sector, like, the need to also at the same time reform in parallel the acquisitions process, which is notorious for—as we think about AI kind of where these servers are hosted a lot of commercial companies might come with maybe some new shiny tech that could be great. But if their servers are hosted in maybe a place that’s so easy to access then maybe this is not great, as it applies to that defense sector. So I don’t know if you have thoughts on maybe the potential to reform or the need to reform the acquisitions process. Thank you. KAHN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is some people’s, like, favorite, favorite topic on this because it has become sort of a valley of death, right, where things go and they die. They don’t—they don’t move. Of course, there’s some bridges. But it is problematic for a reason. There’s been a few kind of efforts to create mechanisms to circumvent that. The Defense Innovation Unit has created some kind of funding mechanisms to avoid it. But, overall, I do think it needs—I don’t know what that looks like. I’m not nearly an expert on specifically the acquisitions process that a lot of folks are. But it is pretty—it would make things a lot easier. China, for example, people are talking about, oh, it’s so far ahead on artificial intelligence, et cetera, et cetera. I would argue that it’s not. It’s better at translating what it has in the civilian and academic sectors into the military sphere and being able to use and integrate that. And so overcome that gap. It does so with civil-military fusion. You know, they can kind of do—OK, well, we’re saying we’re doing it this way so it’s going to happen, whereas the United States doesn’t have that kind of ability. But I would say the United States has all the academic and industry leading on artificial intelligence. Stanford recently put out their 2022 AI Index that has some really great charts and numbers on this about how much—how much research is being done in the world on artificial intelligence and which countries and which regions and specifically who’s funding that, whether it’s governments, academia, or industry. And the United States is still leading in industry and academia. It’s just that the government has a problem tapping into that, whereas China, for example, its government funding is a lot greater and there’s a lot more collaboration across government, academia, and industry. And so I think that is right now the number-one barrier that I see. The second one, I’ll say, is accessing data and making sure you have all the bits and pieces that you need to be able to use AI, right. What’s the use of having a giant model that—an algorithm that could do a million things if you don’t have all of the data set up for it. And so those are the two kind of organizational infrastructure problems that I’ll say are really hindering the U.S. when it comes to kind of adopting these technologies. But, unfortunately, I do not have a solve for it. I would be super famous in the area if I did, but I do not, unfortunately. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Will Carpenter, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin. Also got an up vote. What are the key milestones in AI development and quantum computing to watch for in the years ahead from a security perspective? Who is leading in the development of these technologies—large cap technology companies such as Google, ByteDance? Venture capital-backed private companies, government-funded entities, et cetera? KAHN: Great. Great question. I’ll say for quantum, quantum is a little bit more down the line since we do not have a quantum computer, like, a really big quantum computer yet that can handle enough data. China’s kind of leading in that area, so to speak. So it’s curious to watch them. They’ve created their first, I think, quantum-encrypted communications line and they’ve done a few works on that. So I think to keep an eye on that will be important. But, really, just getting a computer large enough that it’s reasonable to use quantum, I think, will be the next big milestone there. But that’s quite a few years down the line. But when it comes to artificial intelligence, I’ll say that artificial intelligence has had waves and kind of divots in interest and then research. They call them AI winters and AI springs. Winter is when there’s not a lot of funding and spring is when there is. It’s featured a lot of—right now we’re in a spring, obviously, and it was a large part because of breakthroughs in, like, the 2010s in things like natural language processing and computer vision, et cetera. And so I think continued milestones in those will be key. There’s a few that I’ve worked on. There’s a—there’s the paper right now—hopefully, it will be out in the next few months—on forecasting on when we actually think those—when AI experts and machine learning experts think those milestones will be hit. I mean, there were, like, two that were hit, like, there was ones where you’d have AI being able to beat all the Atari games. You have AI being able to play Angry Birds. There’s ones that’s, like, OK—well, and there are lots of those mini milestones that—bigger leaps than just the efficiency of these algorithms. I think things like artificial or general intelligence. Some say there are some abilities for you to create one algorithm that can play a lot of different games. You know, it can play chess and Atari and Tetris. But I think, broadly speaking, it’s a little bit down the line also. But I’ll say for, like, the next few months, it’ll—and the next few years, it’ll probably be just, like, more efficient in some of these algorithms, making them better, making them leaner, use a lot less data. But I think we’ve, largely, hit the big ones and so I think it’ll be—we’ll see these short, smaller milestones being achieved in the next few years. And I think there was another part to the question in the—let me just go look in the answer for what it was. Who’s developing these. FASKIANOS: Right. KAHN: I would say these, like, large companies like Google, Open AI, et cetera. But I’ll say a lot of these models are open source, for example, which means that the models themselves are out there and they’re available to anyone who wants to kind of take them and use them. I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen—once you saw DALL-E Mini you saw DALL-E 2 and DALL-E X. So, like, they proliferate really quickly and they adapt, and that’s a large part what’s driving the acceleration of artificial intelligence. It’s moving so quickly because there is this nature of collaboration and sharing that companies are incentivized to participate in, where they just take the models, train them against their own data, and if it works better they use that. And so those kind of companies are all playing a part, so to speak. But I would say, largely, academia right now is still really pushing the forefront, which is really cool to see. So I think that means that a lot more Blue Skies kind of just basic research being funded will—if it’s being pumped into that we’ll continue to kind of—we’ll see these advances continue. I’ll say also a lot of—when it comes to defense applications, in particular, I think, and where the challenge is is that a lot of—a lot more than typically when it comes to artificial intelligence these capabilities are being developed by niche smaller startup companies that might not be— that might not have the capabilities that, say, a Google or a Microsoft has when it comes to working and contracting with the U.S. government. So that’s also a challenge. When you have this acquisitions process it’s a little bit challenging at best, even for the big companies. I think for these smaller companies that really do have great applications and great specific uses for AI, I think that’s also a significant challenge. So I think it’s, basically, everybody. Everyone’s working together, which is great. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to DJ Patil. Q: Thanks, Irina. Good to see you. FASKIANOS: Likewise. Q: And thanks for this, Lauren. So I’m DJ Patil and I’m at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center, as well as Devoted Health and Venrock Partners. And so, Lauren, the question you addressed a little bit on the procurement side, I’m curious what your advice to the secretary of defense would be around capabilities, specifically, given the question of large language models or the efforts that we’re seeing in industry and how much separation of results that we’re seeing even in industry compared to academia. Just the breakthroughs that we’re seeing reported are so stunning. And then if we look at the datasets that are—that they’re building on—those companies are building on, they’re, basically, open or there’s copyright issues in there. There’s defense applications which have very small data sets, and also, as you mentioned, in the procurement side a lack of access to the ability of these things. And so what is the mechanisms if you looked across this from a policy perspective of how we start tapping into those capabilities to ensure that we have competitiveness as the next set of iterations of these technologies take place? KAHN: Absolutely. I think that’s a great question. I’ve done a little bit of work on this. When they were creating the chief digital AI office, I think they had, like, people brainstorming about, like, what kind of things we would like to see and I think everyone agreed that they would love for them to get kind of a better access to data. If the defense secretary asks, can I have data on all the troop movements for X, Y, and Z, there’s a lot of steps to go through to pull all that information. The U.S. defense enterprise is great at collecting data from a variety of sources—from the intelligence community, analysts, et cetera. I think what’s challenging to know—and, of course, there are natural challenges built in with different levels of how confidential things are and how—the classifications, et cetera. But I think being able to pull those together and to clean that data and to organize it will be a key first step and that is a big infrastructure systems software kind of challenge. A lot of it’s actually getting hardware in the defense enterprise up to date and a lot of it is making sure you have the right people. I think another huge one—and, I mean, the National Security Commission on AI on their final report announced that the biggest hindrance to actually leveraging these capabilities is the lack of AI and STEM talent in the intelligence community in the Pentagon. There’s just a lack of people that, one, have the vision to—have the background and are willing to kind of say, OK, like, this is even a possible tool that we can use and to understand that, and then once it’s there to be able to train them to be able to use them to do these kind of capacities. So I think that’ll be a huge one. And there are ways that kind of—there are efforts right now ongoing with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center—the JAIC—to kind of pilot AI educational programs for this reason as a kind of AI crash course. But I think there needs to be, like, a broader kind of effort to encourage STEM graduates to go into government and that can be done, again, by kind of playing ball, so to speak, with this whole idea of open source. Of course, the DOD can’t do—Department of Defense can’t make all of its programs open and free to the public. But I think it can do a lot more to kind of show that it’s a viable option for individuals working in these careers to address some of the same kind of problems and will also have the most up to date tech and resources and data as well. And I think right now it’s not evident that that’s the case. They might have a really interesting problem set, which is shown to be attractive to AI PhD graduates and things like that. But it doesn’t have the same kind of—again, they’re not really promoting and making resources and setting up their experts in the best way, so to speak, to be able to use these capabilities. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Konstantin, who actually wrote a question—Tkachuk—but also raised his hand. So if you could just ask your question that would be best. Q: Yes. I’m just happy to say it out loud. So my name is Konstantin. I’m half Russian, half Ukrainian. I’m connecting here from Schwarzman Scholarship at Tsinghua University. And my question is more coming towards the industry as a whole, how it has to react on what’s happening to the technology that the industry is developing. Particularly, I am curious whether it’s the responsibility and interest of industry and policymakers to protect the technology from such a misuse and whether they actually do have control and responsibility to make these technology frameworks unusable for certain applications. Do you think this effort could be possible, give the resources we have, the amount of knowledge we have? And, more importantly, I would even be curious on your perspective whether you think countries have to collaborate on that in order to such effort be efficient, or it should be incentive models based inside countries that will make an effort to the whole community. KAHN: Awesome. I think all of the above. I think right now, because there’s so—the relatively little understanding of how these work, I think a lot of it is the private companies self-regulating, which I think is a necessary component. But there are also now indications of efforts to kind of work with governments on things like confidence-building measures or other kind of mechanisms to kind of best understand and best develop transparency measures, testing and evaluation, other kind of guardrails against use. I think there are, like, different layers to this, of course, I think, and all of them are correct and all of them are necessary. I think the specific applications themselves there needs to be an element of regulation. I think at some point there needs to be, like, a user agreement as well about when they’re selling technologies and selling capabilities, how they agree to kind of abide by the terms. You sign it when you—the terms of use, right. And I think also then there are, of course, export controls that can be put on and certain—you’re allowed to do, the commercial side but you make the system itself—incompatibles are being used with other kinds of systems that would make it dangerous. But I think there’s also definitely room and necessary space for interstate collaboration on some of these, especially when you get—say, for example, when you introduce artificial intelligence into military systems, right, they make them faster. They make the decision-making process a lot more speedy, basically, and so the individual has to make quicker decisions. And so if you have things and when you introduce things like artificial intelligence to increasingly complex systems you have the ability for accidents to kind of snowball, right, where they become—as they go through. Like, one little decision can make a huge kind of impact and end up with a mistake, unfortunately. And so when you have the kind of situation when you’re forbid it’s in a—in a battlefield context, right. And let’s say the adversary says, oh, well, you intentionally shot down XYZ plane; and the individual said no, it was an auto malfunction and we had an AI in charge of it; who, in that fact, is responsible now? If it was not an individual now is it the—the blame kind of shifts up the pipeline. And so you’ve got problems like these. Like, that’s just one example. But, like, where you have increasingly automated systems and artificial intelligence that kind of shift how dynamics play out, especially in accidents, which require a lot of visibility, traditionally, and you have these technologies that are not so visible, not so transparent. You don’t really get to see how they work or understand how they think in the same way that you can say, if I pressed a button and you see the causality of that chain reaction. And so I think there is very much a need because of that for even adversaries—not necessarily just allies—to agree on how certain weapons will be used and I think that’s why there’s this space for confidence-building measures. I think a really—like, for example, a really simple kind of everyone already agrees on this is to have a human in the loop, right—a human control. When we eventually use artificial intelligence and automated systems increasingly in nuclear context, right, with nuclear weapons, I think everyone’s kind of on board with that. And so I think those are the kind of, like, building block agreements and kind of establishment of norms that can happen and that need to take place now before these technologies really start to be used. That will be essential to avoiding those worst case scenarios in the future. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. I’m going to take the next question—written question—from Alexander Beck, undergraduate at UC Berkeley. In the context of military innovation literature, what organizational characteristics or variables have the greatest effect on adoption and implementation, respectively? KAHN: Absolutely. I’m not an organizational expert. However, I’ll say, like before, I think that’s shifting, at least from the United States perspective. I think, for example, when the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center was created it was, like, the best advice was to create separate organizations that had the capability to kind of enact their own kind of agenda and to create separate programs for all of these to kind of best foster growth. And so that worked for a while, right. The JAIC was really great at promoting artificial intelligence and raising it to a level of preeminence in the United States. A lot of early success in making—raising awareness, et cetera. But now we’re seeing, there was some—a little bit of confusion, a little bit of concern, over the summer when they did establish the chief data—a digital and artificial intelligence office—excuse me. A lot of acronyms—when they—because they took over the JAIC. They subsumed the JAIC. There was a lot of worry about that, right. Like, they just established this great organization that we’ve had in 2019 and now they’re redoing it. And so I think they realized that as the technology develop, organizational structures need to develop and change as well. Like, in the beginning, artificial intelligence was kind of seen as its own kind of microcosm. But because it’s in a general purpose enabling technology it touches a lot more and so it needs to be thought more broadly rather than just, OK, here’s our AI project, right. You need to better integrate it and situate it next to necessary preconditions like the food for AI, which is data, right. So they reorganized to kind of ideally do that, right. They integrate it research and engineering, which is the arm in the Defense Department that kind of funds the basic research, to kind of have people understand policy as well. So they have all of these different arms now within this broader organization. And so there are shifts in the literature, I think, and there are different best cases for different kind of technologies. But I’m not as familiar with where the literature is going now. But that was kind of the idea has shifted, I think, even from 2018 to 2022. FASKIANOS: Thanks. We’re going to go next to Harold Schmitz. Q: Hey, guys. I think a great, great talk. I wanted to get your thoughts on AlphaFold, RoseTTAFold—DeepMind—and biological warfare and synthetic biology, that sort of area. Thank you. KAHN: Of course. I— Q: And, by the way—sorry—I should say I’m with the University of California Davis School of Management and also with the March Group—a general partner. Thank you. KAHN: I am really—so I’m really not familiar much with the bio elements. I know it’s an increasing area of interest. But I think, at least in my research, kind of taking a step back, I think it was hard enough to get people within the defense sector to acknowledge artificial intelligence. So I haven’t seen much in the debate, unfortunately, recently, just because I think a lot of the defense innovation strategy, at least in the Biden administration, is focused directly on the pacing—addressing the pacing challenge of China. And so they’ve mentioned biowarfare and biotechnology as well as nanotechnology and et cetera, but not as much in a comprehensive way as artificial intelligence and quantum in a way that I’m able to answer your question. I’m sorry. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’ll go next to Alex, who has raised—and you’ll have to give us your last name and identify yourself. Q: Hi. Yes. Thank you. I’m Alex Grigor. I just completed my PhD at University of Cambridge. My research is specifically looking at U.S. cyber warfare and cybersecurity capabilities, and in my interviews with a lot of people in the defense industry, their number-one complaint, I suppose, was just not getting the graduates applying to them the way that they had sort of hoped to in the past. And if we think back at ARPANET and all the amazing innovations that have come out of the internet and can come out of the defense, do you see a return to that? Or do you see us now looking very much to procure and whatever from the private industry, and how might that sort of recruitment process be? They cited security clearances as one big impediment. But what else might you think that could be done differently there? KAHN: Yeah. Absolutely. I think security clearances, all the bureaucratic things, are a challenge, but even assuming that individual wants to work, I think right now if you’re working in STEM and you want to do research I think having two years, for example, in government and being a civilian, working in the Pentagon, for example, it looks—it doesn’t necessarily look like—allow you to jump then back into the private sector and academia, whereas other jobs do. So I think that’s actually a big challenge about making it possible for various reasons, various mechanisms, to kind of make it a reasonable kind of goal for not necessarily being a career in government but allowing people to kind of come and go. I think that’ll be a significant challenge and I think that’s in part about some of the ability to kind of contribute to the research that we spoke about earlier. I mean, the National Security Commission has a whole strategy that they’ve outlined on it. I’ve seen, again, like, piecemeal kind of efforts to overcome that. But nothing broad and sweeping reform as suggested by the report. I recommend reading it. It’s, like, five hundred pages long. But there’s a great section on the talent deficit. But, yeah, I think that will definitely be a challenge. I think cyber is facing that challenge. I just think anything that touches STEM in general, and so—and especially because I think the AI and particular machine learning talent pool is global and so states actually are, interestingly, kind of fighting over this talent pool. I’ve done a research previously also at the University of Oxford that looked at, like, the immigration preferences of researchers and where they move and things like that, and a lot of them are Chinese and studying in the United States. And they stay here. They move, et cetera. But a lot of it is actually also immigration and visas. And so other countries—China specifically made kind of for STEM graduates special visas. Europe has done it as well. And so I think that will also be another element at play. There’s a lot of these to kind of attract more talent. I mean, again, one of the steps that was tried was the Quad Fellowship that was established through the Indo-Pacific strategy. But, again, that’s only going to be for a hundred students. And so there needs to be a broader kind of effort to make it—to facilitate the flow of experts into government. To your other point about is this going to be what it looks like now about the private sector driving the bus, I think it will be for the time being unless DARPA and the defense agencies’ research arm and DOD change this acquisition process and, again, was able to get that talent, then I think—if something changes, then I think it will be able to, again, be able to contribute in the way that it has in the past. I think it’s important, too, right. There was breakthroughs out of cryptography. And, again, the internet all came from defense initially. And so I think it would be really sad if that was not the case anymore and I think especially as right now we’re talking about using—being able to kind of cross that bridge and work with the private sector and I think that will be necessary. I hope it doesn’t go too far that it becomes entirely reliant because I think DOD will need to be self-sufficient. It’s another kind of ecosystem to generate research in applications, and not all problems can be addressed by commercial applications as well. It’s a very unique problem set that defense and militaries face. And so I think there will need to be—right now, it’s a little bit heavy on needing to—there’s a little bit of a push right now, OK, we need to better work with the private sector. But I think, hopefully, overall, if it moves forward it will balance out again. FASKIANOS: Lauren, do you know how much money DOD is allocating towards this in the overall budget? KAHN: Off the top of my head, I don’t know. It’s a few billion. It’s, like, a billion. I think—I have to look. I can look it up. In the research 2023 budget request there was the highest amount requested ever for STEM research and engineering and testing and evaluation. I think it was—oh, gosh, it was a couple hundred million (dollars) but they had—it was a huge increase from the last year. So it’s an increasing priority. But I don’t have the specific numbers on how much. People talk about China funding more. I think it’s about the same. But it’s increasing steadily across the board. FASKIANOS: Great. So I’m going to give the final question to Darrin Frye, who’s an associate professor at Joint Special Operations University in the Department of Strategic Intelligence and Emergent Technologies, and his is a practical question. Managing this type of career how do you structure your time researching and learning about the intricacies of complex technologies such as quantum entanglement or nano-neuro technologies versus informing leadership and interested parties on the anticipated impact of emergent technologies on the future military operational environment? And maybe you can throw in there why you went into this field and why you settled upon this, too. KAHN: Yeah. I love this question. I have always been interested in the militarization of science and how wars are fought because I think it allows you to study a lot of different elements. I think it’s very interesting working at the intersection. I think, broadly speaking, a lot of the problems that the world is going to face, moving forward, are these transnational large problems that will require academia, industry, and government to kind of work on together from climate change and all of these emerging technologies, for example, global health, as we’ve seen over the past few years. And so I think it’s a little bit of a striking a balance, right. So I came from a political science background, international relations background, and I did want to talk about the big picture. And I think there are individuals kind of working on these problems and are recognizing them. But in that I noticed that I’m speaking a lot about artificial intelligence and emerging technologies and I’m not—I’m not from an engineering background. And so me, personally, I’m, for example, doing a master’s in computer science right now at Penn in order to shore up those kind of deficiencies and lack of knowledge in my sphere. I can’t learn everything. I can’t be a quantum expert and an AI expert. But I think having the baseline understanding and taking a few of those courses and more regularly has allowed me to when a new technology, for example, shows up that I can learn how—I know how to learn about that technology, which, I think, has been very helpful, speaks both languages, so to speak. I don’t think anyone’s going to be a master—you can’t be a master of one, let alone master of both. But I think it will be increasingly important to spend time learning about how these things work, and I think just getting a background in coding can’t hurt. And so it’s definitely something you need to balance. I would say I’m probably balanced more towards what are the implications of this, more broadly, since if you’re talking at such a high level it doesn’t help necessarily people without that technical background to get into the nitty gritty. It can get jargony very quickly, as I’m sure you guys understood listening to me even. And so I think there’s a benefit to learning about it but also make sure you don’t get too in the weeds. I think there are—I think a big important—there’s a lot of space for people who kind of understand both that can then bring those people who are experts, for example, on quantum entanglement and nanotechnology—to bring them so that when they’re needed they can come in and speak to people in a policy kind of setting. So there definitely is a room, I think, for intermediaries. There’s policy experts that people kind of sit in between and then, of course, the highly specialized expertise, which I think is definitely, definitely important. But it’s hard to balance. But I think it’s very fun as well because then you get to learn a lot of new things. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Well, with that we are out of time. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get to all the written questions and the raised hands. But, Lauren Kahn, thank you very much for this hour, and to all of you for your great questions and comments. You can follow Lauren on Twitter at @Lauren_A_Kahn, and, of course, go to for op-eds, blogs, and insight and analysis. The last academic webinar of this semester will be on Wednesday, November 16, at 1:00 p.m. (EST). We are going to be talking with Susan Hayward, who is at Harvard University, about religious literacy in international affairs. So, again, I hope you will all join us then. Lauren, thank you very much. And I just want to encourage those of you, the students on this call and professors, about our paid internships and our fellowships. You can go to for information for both tracks. Follow us at @CFR_Academic and visit, again,,, and for research and analysis on global issues. So thank you all, again. Thank you, Lauren. Have a great day. KAHN: Thank you so much. Take care. FASKIANOS: Take care.
  • Middle East and North Africa

    Rebecca Granato, associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College and program director of the Open Society University Network’s Hubs for Connected Learning Initiatives in Eastern Africa and the MENA region, leads the conversation on migration, refugees, and education. FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. 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, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Rebecca Granato with us to discuss migration, refugees, and education. Dr. Granato is associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College, and program director for the Open Society University Network’s Hubs for Connected Learning Initiatives in Eastern Africa and in the MENA region. She also serves as an associate at Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking, and has developed and delivered teacher professional development in Myanmar, Jordan, and Kyrgyzstan, among other places. Her work focuses on contextualized, learner-centered experiences in undergraduate courses, teacher professional development, and research-oriented training in places affected by crisis and displacement for refugees, internally displaced people, and those in host communities. So, Rebecca, thank you very much for being with us today. I thought we could begin with you sharing your insights on some of the barriers refugees and migrants face in higher education. GRANATO: Thank you, Irina. And thank you to CFR for having me here today. I’m just going to share a few slides. And I’ll talk for just ten or twelve minutes to Irina’s question. Let me share my screen. So what I thought I would do is give you some background on higher education in displacement context, including some of the barriers, challenges, successes, and goals. And I was also going to talk a little bit about the need for close collaboration across seemingly disparate actors in order to open opportunities for those affected by displacement. So some of you may know this, but as of the month of May 2022, the number of forcibly displaced individuals across the globe crossed the 100 million mark. This is significant. I mean, this is the largest jump in displacement since World War II. And what this really means in real terms is that one in every seventy-eight people on Earth have actually been forced to flee. Nearly half of these individuals are youth. I think as many of us know, sustainable development goal number four demands that we ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. But we have a long way to go when it comes to full participation of refugees and exercising this right to a full educational experience. That said, a lot of work has gone into awareness-raising of the barriers that this population faces, as well as into establishing and promoting global markers for success. Sone example of a really important marker out there is something that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established, a global goal called the 15by30 Roadmap, which sets a target of enrolling 15 percent of refugee youth into higher education by 2030. Which means about a half a million individuals. This would raise the numbers up to 15 percent from 5 percent, which is what we have today in terms of enrollments, which hovers around 90,000 refugees taking advantage of higher education opportunities. In order to reach this goal, as this roadmap articulates, there are five education pathways that refugees can pursue. And the five are intended to ensure that refugees’ needs are met in different ways. Just like our needs when we want to go to university are also met in different ways. One would be national university enrollment in countries of first asylum. Another would be UNHCR tertiary scholarship programs, which could be in universities of—universities and countries of first asylum, or also in third countries. Connected higher education programs, which use online education and blended learning. Complementary education pathways for admission to third countries, which are third country scholarships that include a durable solution. And then TVET opportunities, technical and vocational education and training. So through these five pathways is how UNHCR intends for the global community to help refugees actually move in greater numbers into higher education. The UN has also launched a campaign called Each One Take One. This was launched quite recently. And what it asks is that universities across the globe each take at least one refugee student onto their campus. So it’s a catchy tag. It won’t have a major impact on its own, but the goal of some of these catchy tags is really to help promote the idea of refugee inclusion in higher education. But in order to make this a reality, there are still a number of barriers that need to be overcome. So I’m going to go back a little bit to some data that isn’t just focused on the tertiary education numbers. So we’ll look at a couple of global data points. All of these numbers are actually drawn from UNHCR’s Global Trends report, which they publish annually. And they collect data from across the globe, across many, many countries that host refugees. So when it comes to the number of youth who are actually eligible for higher education opportunities in refugee contexts, this chart, as you can see, does not tell a very promising story. Sixty-eight percent of refugees have access to primary education. This is compared to a global average of about 91 percent for primary school. So there’s a big gap there. When it comes to secondary education, we’re looking at about 37 percent of refugees accessing secondary education, compared to a global average of about 84 percent. And then, of course, when we get to tertiary, which I’ll come back to, we’re looking at 5 to 6 percent, compared to a global average of about 37 percent. And as you can see here from this slide, the enrollment numbers drop off precipitously after primary education. And this happens for a number of reasons. It could be caretaking of younger siblings, wage-earning possibilities, a sense of hopelessness that education actually isn’t opening up opportunities, hearing from bigger brothers and sisters and others that a university education, while it might have been possible for a refugee, resulted in no additional livelihood opportunity within a camp setting. And for girls, of course, there are additional barriers—early marriage, safety concerns, cultural barriers. Second, I would say that—and as indicated by this chart too—that the quality of K-12 education is often very poor in displacement contexts. Primary and secondary education for refugees is most frequently treated as an emergency response, so as a kind of temporary stopgap measure before the refugees are repatriated. But we also know that the average refugee status lasts around two decades, which is a number that extends far beyond the typical school years. So treating primary and secondary as an emergency response is actually—it’s very damaging. When education is treated like this, as a humanitarian issue, what partners end up doing is they end up setting up special schools in parallel systems. So you can see here on the slide, I note three different ways in which emergency response education plays out at the K-12 level. Partially integrated systems, like what you have in a case like Jordan where students in some cases are in what are called second-shift schools. The refugees go in the afternoons. The host communities go during the day. Often there are less-qualified teachers teaching the afternoon. Jordan’s trying to move away from that, slowly, slowly. But it’s just an example. A parallel system is like an example of what Kenya does, where all of the students in the K-12 system go through the Kenyan national curriculum, but the teachers are actually employed by NGOs. And they have no training, or virtually no training, and they also do not have the—they don’t have the Ministry of Education pay scale. So they’re treated like what we call incentive workers. They make about $110 a month. And then we have the example of an informal system, which is probably the weakest of all. And an example of that is what we have in the Cox’s Bazar camps for the Rohingya in Bangladesh, where the students actually, up until recently, were completely blocked from attending any kind of formal school system. And they were attending four levels only of a curriculum that was designed by the British Council. So very few host countries actually allow for inclusive educational opportunities in which refugee education is fully embedded into the host country education system. And an inclusive system would really mean that teacher quality, school infrastructure, financing, access to learning materials, and other resources are the same for all students, citizens, residents, and refugees alike. And of course, refugee students before they get to tertiary often need even more support beyond what is needed by the host community. They need assessment of prior learning when their certificates are not verifiable, when they’re coming from another country. They might need language learning and will certainly need psychosocial support. So this is the—this is a major barrier leading up to the attempt to get more students into higher education. And even for those who do make it, and the numbers have slowly crept up, there are significant and often paralyzing barriers to actually accessing or being successful in these tertiary education environments. Language is one of them. Most refugees are displaced to countries in which the language of instruction is different from their own. And graduation from secondary school in that country of first asylum does not necessarily mean academic fluency, as many of these refugee contexts are in rote learning environments. Even in places where refugees do speak the same language as their hosts, such as Syrians in Jordan, there are limited higher education opportunities for refugees in, for example, Jordan, in the country of first asylum. So in many cases, even if they make it through the secondary school system in their native language, they still have to learn another language to be competitive in a tertiary environment. There’s a major skills gap, especially when applying to university programs more so than TVET or some of the other certificates or diplomas. Between interrupted education and poor-quality opportunities in host countries, even the brightest youth often lack the necessary skills. And this could be as simple as they don’t have the basic ICT skills to fill out a college application. They don’t have the ability to frame and promote themselves. They don’t have the confidence to do so. They don’t have the content knowledge to pass entrance exams, not to mention the more advanced skills like critical thinking and academic writing. Navigating the system is a major barrier. Lack of access to quality information on higher education opportunities and scholarships. Refugees often have to rely heavily on word of mouth, on social media, on WhatsApp groups, on NGOs and informal networks in order to know where they can get access to higher education. And most of them, even when they identify that opportunity, they don’t have the support in understanding the application procedures, the prerequisites, how to obtain study visas if they need them, or how to even arrange for recognition of prior learning. And then finally, I mean, there’s the obvious one of limitation on numbers of scholarships and places for study. Opportunities in host communities are extremely limited. And this often has a very politicized aspect to it, you know, where refugees sometimes are treated as foreign students. Like in Jordan, where they have to pay foreign tuition. And then there’s the issue of the possibility of, say, complementary education pathways, where they go to a third country but many of the scholarships out there right now don’t have a durable solution attached to them. So a student may go to study in another country, but there’s no sustainable post-graduation option for them. And they risk being left in kind of an administrative limbo, which is a serious protection risk. So as you can see, in spite of these many barriers the numbers have gone up over the past few years. Since the Global Refugee Forum in 2019, we have been able to move from 3 percent to 6 percent, which is not insignificant. But the goal of reaching 15 percent by 2030 is a lofty one, especially considering that almost 90 percent of the world’s refugee population is hosted by developing countries. So just to give a kind of comparative data point, in places like sub-Saharan Africa, the enrollment rate of non-refugee youth in higher education across the region still hovers only around 9 percent. So if we’re trying to get to 15 percent with the refugee population, we also need to think about the host community. And this is another sort of political issue that comes up a lot. So there are many different actors working in the field to address some of these barriers to reach the goal of 15by30. There are foundations providing significant funding for scholarships for displaced learners. MasterCard Foundation, Education Above All, some of which you might have heard of. There are regional actors working to open places for learners at national universities and countries of first asylum. I live in Kenya. I’m talking to you from Nairobi. We have a network here called the African Higher Education Network. And then there’s another network that works in Africa that is called the Men’s Network, that works primarily in francophone Africa. And they work on complementary education pathways. So there’s lots of actors doing lots of work. And then there are networks that are working along multiple lines and with diverse actors, such as the network I work for. And I’m going to talk a little bit about what OSUN has done just for a couple of minutes, and what makes us unique in our ability to support the opening of higher education opportunities for refugees. So OSUN is a truly global network. We have representation on almost every continent. Partners are quite diverse, including higher education and research institutions. All of them are at various stages of their own institutional development, but all of them also share a set of similar values, including a commitment to open society and also to collaboratively addressing inequality. Because we work horizontally across partners, we’re able to support new and continued educational access in both emergent and protracted crises. And it’s important to keep both emergent and protracted crises in mind. When we have, you know, the news inundating us with Ukraine and Afghanistan, there are many refugees who have been displaced for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years. So we do a lot of work as well through connected learning programs, also by supporting student movement to institutions across our network for the purposes of education. And, luckily, we also work in countries of first asylum, where we might be able to take students into national universities. And when it comes to emergent crises, networks are a really important contributor. Not just OSUN, but all networks. In our case, we’re capable of mobilizing human and financial resources for really rapid response. And we’ve done this in three different—three very different contexts over the past nineteen months, with Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. For example, we were able to support over two hundred students from Afghanistan to continue their education after displacement. Still a drop in the bucket, though. And by working across multiple partners, we’re also able to support students in the more protracted situations in Africa, the Middle East, and Bangladesh. In urban settings and in refugee camps, which are the places where I work. As Irina mentioned, I direct something called the OSUN Hubs for Connected Learning Initiatives. And we have what’s called the Refugee Higher Education Access Program, which is a bridging program. It takes about fifteen to eighteen months and it’s really intended to prepare students to really be ready to go into any academic English-language university program. Critical thinking, writing, analysis. All of these things they’re not getting in their very poorly equipped secondary schools. And some of the content knowledge upskilling that’s needed. So working within our network, these students are also eventually integrated into classrooms alongside matriculated students at campuses across the globe. And this has an added benefit for those students of humanizing the refugee student and exposing them—exposing the non-refugee matriculated students—to the very different perspectives that the refugees can bring. So even these very diverse networks can only impact a finite number of students. But what they can do, and the reason I’m mentioning networks—and what OSUN is working hard to do—is really to create models that can be locally contextualized, and also replicable in other contexts and by other institutions. Likewise, I mentioned earlier UNHCR’s Each One Take One campaign. Again, a catchy little slogan, but once a university sets up a system for one student, it becomes much easier to take in many more. Universities realize it’s possible. And in the context of the American system, there’s going to be the opening of a new refugee category—a visa category in the coming months, which some of your universities—if you’re dialing in from the States—might be involved in down the line. And the initial pilot will be asking universities to just take one or two students through a complementary pathway, with the intention that it would be scaled up over time. So I guess one question is, why should we be putting so much emphasis on higher education for refugees? And, first, I would say there’s the moral imperative. Many of us who work for universities have social missions attached to our universities. And we try to emphasize this element, of course, with our institutions and also with other university actors. But beyond that, there are many other players who need to be convinced at this importance of this, particularly governments, state actors, people that we deal with a lot on the ground. And we need to make a different argument there. The moral imperative does not hold weight for them. We need to show them that educating refugees is a good investment of human and financial resources. And as actors in the refugee education space, I believe we really need to think of higher education as an instrument that fosters growth, reduces poverty, and boosts shared prosperity, not only for the individual receiving the education but for the country in which the individual is residing. We can clearly articulate the global gains of tertiary graduates, OK. So we have that data. And I’m sure many of you are familiar with this. For example, some of the World Bank data shows that tertiary education graduates—and not just refugees—experience a 17 percent increase in their earnings. In sub-Saharan Africa, which of course is hard hit by many refugee crises, it’s a 21 percent increase in earnings for tertiary education graduates. So in addition to wage-earning capacity, there’s data indicating that tertiary education graduates are more environmentally conscious, they have healthier habits, they have a higher level of civic participation. So when refugees, if we expend that argument, are allowed to study and work in host—in third countries, they have the potential to contribute to societies and economies. So there needs to be a lot more data collection on this, in order to make a convincing case. But I’m going to give a couple of quick examples before I end, upon which we could base an argument for opening higher education opportunities and increasing potential earning power. So when refugees travel to Canada for higher education through complementary pathways, they’re granted permanent residency upon arrival. The World University Service of Canada, WUSC, leads on this movement of refugee students between countries of first asylum and Canada. And they’ve been able to show that 90 percent of the refugees who were brought into their universities contribute to the economy as taxpayers within several months after graduation. They too need more data on actually what the numbers are. In 2017, the U.S. government completed a study that looked at a period that’s now a little bit distant, they need to update this, but 2005 to 2014. And what they found is that while resettling refugees can cost thousands of dollars in the first couple of years, the tax contributions outweigh the cost. So during the period studied, the federal government spent approximately 206 billion on refugees. And yet, over that same period the refugees contributed more than 269 billion in tax revenue. So that’s a positive—net positive economic tax contribution of 63 billion. And then finally, if we’re looking beyond first-world countries, refugees often send remittances back to their country of origin. And one example is Liberia, which is a big refugee providing country. And about 18.5 percent of their GDP comes from remittances abroad. So I’ll just conclude by saying that, there’s a couple of things that we need to—we need to do to promote further access. One is, we need to be thinking differently about how to prepare youth in the countries that—the countries of first asylum, before they get to the tertiary level. What’s happening now with the donor community, there’s a lot of investment in primary education. There’s a lot of attention on tertiary. And secondary is just being left out. Teachers are not trained. Students are just falling behind. And then we have this major drop off of ability before they can get to tertiary. We also need to rethink refugee participation. Those of us who work on the ground, we think we’re always including refugee voices. We need to do a lot more on that. The refugees themselves are the experts in what their informal economies look like. So in many countries they can’t work legally, but they have informal economies. What do they really need to be studying? What skills do they need? We need to be tapping that. And UNHCR’s working on a kind of refugee-led mentoring program that might tackle some of this. And then finally, the last point I would make is that we really need to create pathways and pipelines between different higher education institutions and programs. We need to include connected opportunities, scholarships in countries of first asylum, and also third-country opportunities so that students can move between degree possibilities, like any of us would, who want to get a higher education. So there needs to be options out there. So I think I’ll end there and turn it back to Irina. FASKIANOS: That was fantastic. Thank you so much, Rebecca. And we’re going to turn to all of you now for your questions and comments. You can share what you’re doing and your thoughts. (Gives queuing instructions.) So the first question is from Patricia McCormick, who I think is at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, because she says she hopes you will reach out to her. How are universities contacted to admit refugee services? Who pays for the housing and tuition of refugee students? GRANATO: I think I had a moment of internet instability. Can you hear me, Irina? FASKIANOS: I can hear you now, yes. So start at the top. Did you hear the question? GRANATO: I think it’s the question that’s in the Q&A, how are universities contacted to admit refugee students? FASKIANOS: It is. GRANATO: OK. Sorry about that. Sometimes Kenya has unstable internet. If you can’t hear me, please let me know. Flag it. FASKIANOS: I will. GRANATO: So that’s a good question. Admitting refugee students. So in the U.S. right now there isn’t currently what we call a durable solution. That’s what’s being designed. In order for those of us who work in the field to responsibly send refugees to countries—to what we call third countries, there really needs to be a legal framework in place so that they can remain after. Once refugees leave camp settings, they’re often not allowed to go back. So what that means is they become not only stateless but they become campless. They’re statusless. They’re in this kind of administrative limbo, was the term I used earlier. So when—the U.S. is currently designing this process that many of us are very involved in. And what will happen is a coalition of NGOs will reach out to universities and try to find interest in universities taking in students. The question, though, you had was about all the wraparound services, because many universities are often willing to forgive tuition. I know in OSUN we do that all time. But there are so many other costs associated with bringing a refugee student to another country. There’s the cost of the flight, the cost of the visa, the housing, the living stipend, all of that. So some of that’s going to be covered by the U.S. government during this pilot, but really what needs to be looked at is what a more sustainable mechanism is for this. And there are different ways it’s done in different parts of the world. So in Canada, they use a—they use a community sponsorship model. So sometimes—well, they do two things. The community sponsorship model, and what’s called the student levy. I don’t think this would work in the U.S. But the student levy, there’s also money put on the tuition bill—like a dollar or two dollars—on every single tuition bill. And that money goes to cover refugee students at a given institution. And community sponsorship involves the community coming together and identifying pots of money that can be used for these wraparound services. And then, of course, universities need to also spend both human and financial resources on building out what’s needed in terms of the structures on campus to support these students, because there’s always legal advising, there’s psychosocial support, there’s all of the upskilling that might not have happened on the end when they’re being sent from their country of first asylum into the third country. I hope that answers your question. But if institutions are interested, though, you should pay attention to what’s coming, because there will be a call for interest for universities to participate in this new refugee visa category pilot program. And you can also contact me. I’ll be—I’ll know what’s going on and be involved in some ways, too. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to a raised hand from Beth. And you’ll need to share your last name and your affiliation. If you can unmute yourself, that would be great, or accept the prompt. Q: Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: We can. Q: OK, great. My name’s Elizabeth, I go by Beth, Bryant. I’m with Texas State Technical College. I’m on a campus about twenty miles from the Texas-Mexico border. We specialize in associate degrees and technical training for occupations that are in demand in Texas, of course, since we’re such a big economy, and, you know, other places—wind technology, cybersecurity, nursing, education, things like that. I teach state and federal government. We’re all online now. Some of the technical courses have hybrid classes. So my first question is, I know the definition in the dictionary of a refugee, but one of the things that we face here is just an influx of people from Mexico and Central and South America that are not necessarily fleeing war or famine. I think those folks, it’s easy to look at them as a refugee. What we have here are folks that are fleeing economic crises, societal unrest. I have two immigration lawyer friends who I used to help students whenever I can, and they’ve been very generous. One story is a guy got sent back to Honduras when he finally had his trial, was not granted asylum, and was killed two weeks later. So that’s what we’re dealing with here. It’s like an administrative backlog and these people are fleeing difficulty, but it’s hard to get them classified as a refugee. And with the backlog, with the administrative courts that determine asylum, has people just sort of hanging out for two years, and then they make their way into the country and the best they can do is get a job washing dishes at a restaurant, or working at South Padre Island cleaning hotel rooms. So all these countries that you mentioned, it’s easy to see. But for us here on the border, we have a difficult time actually thinking of some of these immigrants—some of these immigrants as refugees. So in order to access what OSUN is doing, how can—what are some of your thoughts on that? And then, just to follow that up, access to technology. Access to the computers. I have students that are trying to do their assignments on a smartphone because they don’t have a computer. We do have funds. We try to get them to those students to help them. These may be first-generation Americans or immigrants. So the technology, the digital divide, is really wide with this group. And this is in our own country. This isn’t a first or second world issue. This is a—I mean, a second or third world issue. This is—this is right here in the United States. And it is a—it is a big problem, because we can’t get these folks to that next level because of the classification and because of the access to technology. So just—just some thoughts on how we could work with our administration, here at TSTC on that. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. GRANATO: Those are big questions. They’re really big questions. I would say, what you pointed to, Beth, of this person who ended up being sent back to, I think it was Honduras you said, and killed, I mean, that’s exactly—when we’re thinking about more traditional refugee pathways, I think there’s also a consideration there that needs to apply to immigrants into the United States. I guess, illegal immigrants. I’m not sure I know the politically correct term for the U.S. right now. But that kind of unofficial immigration into the U.S., because asylum does take a long time, and often fails, and then it leaves people in, again, this kind of limbo where they end up having to go back to a place where it’s not safe. So having that legal framework planned out in advance before taking students into an institution is really—I think that’s just a—that’s an important starting point. I think that was one of your points, but your other point is really about this technological gap. And I guess what I’m not sure I’m understanding, Beth, is, are these students—they’re enrolling in your university as fully matriculated students? Q: Yes. Yes, they’re—I mean, TSTC has open enrollment. And, you know, I’ve taught DREAMers before, who came over here when they were babies because their mother was fleeing, you know, economic insecurity, et cetera. And then I have, you know, people who have—who have migrated. It’s not hard to do. And we take them. And we try to get them into an English as a second language course, et cetera. But it’s—now that so much—even if my courses weren’t online, you still have to have a computer to complete higher education. I mean, period. It’s one of the things that I noticed. I mean, when I tell my students I had to type all my research papers on a typewriter, it freaks them out, you know? And so there are funds available, since we’re a state institution. We’re state-funded. The state of Texas funds us. So we do have access to funds to try to get the computers to those that need them. But it’s coming out of hiding, interacting with the government. A lot of my students won’t apply for the funds because they’re scared. And they’re bright people. Mexico has a pretty good secondary education system. So do you see that as an issue with the people that you deal with? And how do you— FASKIANOS: And then we’ll—if you could take a crack at that, and then we have several other questions. We’ll move on. GRANATO: One of the—one of the things we do, though, is we really work with our faculty on adjusting assignments so that the assignments work in these lower-resource settings, so that students don’t have to have a computer. There actually is quite a bit that students can’t do on their phones. And students—we find that our students, who are very used to not having access to technology, are very adept at being creative in how they’re going to get some of these assignments done. They often handwrite them, and then they’ll type them up in WhatsApp, you know. But we do a lot of faculty work around how to kind of adjust content so that it works in the environment, because you can’t—we simply can’t provide a computer for every student. That would be an unsustainable model. So faculty development is one way we grapple with it. And then upskilling the students so that they know how to kind of adjust and how to be flexible. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to next to a written question from Dr. Damian Odunze. Does the refugee education program include internally displaced persons, especially in countries in East and West Africa? Is there a collaboration between your organization and local communities? And Dr. Odunze’s with Delta State University in Cleveland, Missouri. GRANATO: Thanks, Dr. Damian. So, yes, we do—we do work with internally displaced students, and many other programs in the region do as well. I would say that, in terms—when you ask about collaboration with local institutions, we—at least from the perspective of OSUN. I can speak from OSUN’s perspective. We attempt to collaborate with local universities here. And there’s a lot less flexibility with local institutions, say in Kenya, in terms of the ways in which refugees are credentialed, the ways in which their qualifications are kind of framed, than there would be with, say, an online program in the United States or even a third-country pathway. There’s often just more flexibility with foreign institutions. So we try to work on opening opportunities for students here with local institutions, but the other ways in which we work with local institutions is we do a lot of work with refugee-led organizations. And those refugee-led organizations work with us on developing the contextualized programming. It also builds their capacity. So some of our attempt at local work is also just with sort of organizations that have been developed by the refugees themselves, which are also educationally oriented, but not higher education institutions. FASKIANOS: Thank you. And just to correct myself, Delta State University is in Cleveland, Mississippi. My apologies. So I’m going to go next to Candace Laughinghouse. Q: Good afternoon. Well, first, thank you for this presentation. It’s really opened my eyes to a lot. I teach at a HBCU, St. Augustine’s University. And we have students—it’s in Raleigh, North Carolina. We have a lot of international students I was unaware of until I joined the faculty. And a lot of that is through the Episcopal Church. Because the school is an Episcopal University. But I just had some questions. And I’m wondering, in our attempts to provide education to students—I’m going to do some research further myself—I was just wondering, also as a—probably because as—(inaudible)—and the importance of listening to our language as instructors—because I actually have to engage in this with some professors in addressing our larger student population of African American students—is, I guess, educating our language and how we’re creating a community to transform. It reminds me of a book by bell hooks called Teaching to Transgress. And a lot of that—and what I’m hearing some of the questions, and some of the things I know, things are sometimes kind of intention or not being aware of addressing certain things. But how does it impact a student’s learning? Because we often feel that the desire to learn just makes us all equal. These students want to come learn, but then even when I just use the language these students, like, you know, what does it—how does it impact our ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn at whatever level, when they are pretty much labeled and categorized in the different areas I’ve heard? Like, you’re an immigrant. You’re a DREAMer. You’re a—you know? That definitely has an impact, even when—I have three small children. And one went through some troubles because of COVID. And they’re even in private school. So the learning development for my youngest was a challenge. But even then, at a private institution, I had to address how she was then being labeled immediately by performance or labeled by even from where she comes from. So I was wondering, has there been any sort of investment or consideration of this type of thing? Because that does—wouldn’t you agree that that would impact, one, a teacher’s ability to teach at a certain level, and also a student’s connection with receiving the education, if you have these labels that are, like, these folks, those people, these refugees, do they deserve this? Instead of, these are young adults experiencing refugee status. These are young adults—because then it reclaims the humanity of them. Just like my girls know, I’m African American, our ancestors were not slaves. They were enslaved. Because we are aware now of what that denotes when you place labels. So I was wondering, has there been any sort of inquiry into that? Because I really believe that that could be a strong—there could be a correlation to the outcome of these programs as well, and how we are addressing the students. Because it kind of places a barrier between us and these young adults. GRANATO: I think it’s a really excellent question. And, again, an area that needs more research, especially when we’re talking about integrating displaced learners into—primarily into environments where the majority of students are not displaced. So a student going to your university, for example, there by necessity needs to be an awareness of the context of where this person came from, at least among the staff, administrators, and faculty, because they will bring with them—they will bring with them a certain experience that needs attention. Definitely trauma that might or might not need attention, but legal questions that will need attention. So that has to be—there has to be awareness. But the question of how they are perceived by their classmates and the ways in which they kind of categorize themselves, I mean, I certainly can’t speak for the refugee population. But I’ve heard a number of our students speak to when they go to third countries and they enroll in universities, where they’re not surrounded by their compatriots in the same way. And they don’t want to identify as refugees. They don’t want to be labeled that way. They want to be identified as students. Now, what kind of psychological studies have been done on that, I think that’s an area that’s somewhat under-researched still. But there’s—I think there’s a difference between awareness and labeling too. And that awareness is critical in these university settings, where these students are going to come with a very different set of needs and requirements. Q: OK. So I guess—I guess my only question is—and you’re seeing what I’m saying about research. So is that something separate from what you’re doing? That cannot be integrated into the praxis in what your—and the pedagogy in which you’re—which you brilliantly presented earlier? Because I’m saying that that is a huge impact. Because we can have all the tools to say, hey, this can work, and this can work, and this can work. But something like that, in its—you know, it has a huge impact. And I’m not just speaking for the students, because the students, yeah, they bring their own things. But I’m talking about—I’m speaking as an educator. And as educators, how that can be perhaps—or, not perhaps—how that should be included in faculty around what you’re addressing. But thank you for letting me ask the question. GRANATO: Yeah. And I mean, I think you’re absolutely right. And, the work that we do with students in the bridging program, again, this is my example from the context I work in, we do a lot of work, you know, you mentioned bell hooks. We do a lot of work in trying to get the students to think – to think about content and ideas outside of their own contexts. And yet, they’re very much in their context there. And the label in a camp is important to them. They use it. You know, in their camp setting, it becomes a tool. But that’s very different when they’re then removed from that kind of majority area, where everybody is the same as them. So, no, I mean, you’re raising a really important question, and one that needs to be thought of, especially in third countries. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Sana Tayyen, who’s at the University of Redlands in California. When developed countries, like Sweden and Germany, accept refugees, do they usually have an agenda as to the types of jobs and pathways they want refugees to end up in? Not 100 percent sure on this, but I’ve heard of Syrian refugees being brought into Sweden to fill service jobs for an aging population. Will higher education cater to government agendas? GRANATO: It’s a good question. So the path—this question is really about what we would call third country pathways, where refugees are moved from a country of first asylum to a third country for the purposes of higher education. I think that’s what you’re asking, Sana. You know, in the programs that we work with, as OSUN but also OSUN co-chairs what is called the Global Taskforce on Third Country Higher Education Pathways, we work with institutions and governments that don’t have that agenda. Promoting an agenda like that, that refugees should be coming in to fill a particular service, undermines the purpose of higher education and the mission of a higher education opening up possibility. So if you look at Germany, higher education pathways, students can come in and they can study—they can study anything at an institution that they’re accepted to. They have to be accepted to the institution. In France, it’s the same. There are many different options that the students can choose from in terms of majors. The important part is that they have the ability to work after, and that their ability to work—that their work permit allows them to work across sectors. So those are the pathways that are under development. And those are the ones that we, for example, support. I’m not—I don’t know about that case you’re referring to in Sweden. I can’t really speak to that because I’m not sure. But I can’t imagine that’s 100 percent accurate, but I will look that up. FASKIANOS: Great. So next question from Ellen Chesler. Can you speak in more detail about OSUN’s program for Afghan refugee students at Bard College in the U.S. and the American University of Central Asia in Tashkent? And how are these programs going? GRANATO: So Bard took in—Bard, and our partner, American University of Central Asia, took in a number of students, it’s around two hundred, into BA and MA programs. The number will go up. There will be another intake. The program is partially—the scholarships are partially funded by Bard itself. You know, we do tuition remission. AUCA does tuition remission. There’s donors that contribute. I guess how is it going? It’s been a heavy lift. You know, it’s very different from bringing in international students. And international students, they’re already quite complicated to bring into a university setting, as you all well know. But bringing in the Afghan students into America was particularly complicated because we don’t yet have this refugee visa category. So the students came in through referrals, the P4 process—sorry—the P3 process. But many of them came in on student visas. And student visas are not a sustainable mechanism. They only last for the duration of the degree. So now what Bard is trying to do is figure out what’s next for these students. And we’re having to do it on a case-by-case basis. You know, figuring out what’s going to happen to them after, what kind of legal status they’re going to have. Are they going to claim asylum and be stuck in that system, and not be able to work? Are they going to be able to transition to some kind of residency? And this is all because this special refugee visa category does not exist yet. Next year, hopefully, it will be a very different scenario. At the American University if Central Asia, it’s also had a different set of struggles. I know that the university there has struggled with a lot of—a lot of trauma. I mean, there’s been a lot of psychosocial issues that have come up, and a lot of issues with students attending classes, because they’re really struggling. And the university—Bard and AUCA, you know, it’s a bit lift to equip your staff with the extra skills they need to deal with this, and the extra staffing you need. I mean, you need more people. And it happened so quickly that I feel like there’s been kind of a catch up. So I think—I hope that answers your question. I’m not sure if your question was how is it going was a different one, but I hope that answers it. FASKIANOS: Great. So we have two more questions I’d love to get in, from Dr. Adegbola Ojo, who’s at the University of Leeds in the UK. Apart from financial remittances, is there evidence of other forms of positives, e.g., brain gain, in home countries resulting in the human capital flight of refugees? GRANATO: When you say “home countries,” do you mean their countries of origin, or do you mean the countries they are going to becoming their home countries. FASKIANOS: Right. I’m not sure. Dr. Ojo, do you want to unmute and clarify? Because I read exactly what was in the question. (Laughs.) Q: Yes. Yes, thank you very much. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. Q: Yeah, yeah. It’s countries of origin. GRANATO: Countries of origin. Q: Yes. GRANATO: That’s a good question. And, again, it’s an understudied area. The number—you know, an understudied area of people who have gone and sought an education, gone from a third country—sorry—a country of first asylum, to a third country for education, who have then gone back. I don’t actually know the exact numbers. I don’t know what the exact numbers are of people who might have gotten a university education—say, in the UK—and then they return to their country of origin. I imagine it’s quite small. So I don’t—and there aren’t studies on that particular question. When it comes to brain gain, of course, most refugees who leave, say, a camp-based setting, they don’t—the vast majority do not go back to the camp. Most of them can’t. In Kenya, you can return to a camp. In a place like Cox’s Bazar you wouldn’t be able to. In a place like Rwanda, you could. So it’s different in every—in every place. In Jordan, you wouldn’t be able to return. So it would also be difficult to track if people return what kind of impact it would have because most of them actually don’t. Most of them remain in the country that they go to educate—to be educated. But it would be interesting to look at the numbers that return to their countries of origin, and what that net brain gain is. I think it’s a really good question. I’m sorry I don’t have an answer. Q: Well, thank you. I do think that that would be a knowledge gap there, and potentially area for further research. Yeah, something to think about. GRANATO: It’s a good research question, yeah. Q: Thank you. GRANATO: What I can say—although, maybe there’s another question. I was going to add something, but maybe— FASKIANOS: No. No, go ahead. Just have a—go ahead. GRANATO: OK. I was just going to say, it’s a little different from your question about brain gain, but there have been some recent studies on refugees who don’t leave the camp but get an education, and have a degree, and then actually have really no very pronounced livelihood opportunity that’s connected to their degree. And some of those studies have looked about the increase in things like depression and anxiety. And the sort of negative impacts of higher education, when then there’s no livelihood opportunity that really is connected to the degree itself. So I know it’s different from your question, but just it made me think of it. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So we’ll take the final question from Sneha Bharadwaj, who’s a professor at Texas Woman’s University. How can we get involved in this mission? So that’s a good question to end on, on what administrators and educators can do in their own institutions. GRANATO: So I think there’s a couple of things. First, I’ve already mentioned a few times that there will be this initiative in the U.S., and of course, Texas Woman’s University would be an institution that could participate in this, with this new refugee visa category and taking students in from countries of first asylum. But that’s going to still be a very small number. I mean, the vast majority of refugees will not be traveling for third-country opportunities. The vast majority will need to be educated in their country of first asylum. And, you know, offering online opportunities for students is always something that refugees are interested in, in camp-based settings. We find that online opportunities really only work if there’s also some infrastructure on the ground to support them. Very remote instruction, often, there’s just major attrition. But if you have online offerings, you could come together with other partners, you could think about ways that you could offer some kind of online degree, if that’s something that your institution is accredited for. Again, getting back to this network idea. Networks of institutions can do that collaboratively, so it’s not as much of a heavy lift. There’s always opportunities as well, and need, in refugee settings for additional research to be done, and for collaboration on things like faculty development inside camp settings, and training of teaching assistants. Those are also areas where there’s quite a bit of need. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Well, we are at the end of our time. So I thank you for taking your evening—giving your evening to us, Rebecca. You are in Nairobi, so it’s late there. And to all of you for being with us, and for your questions and comments. We really appreciate it. GRANATO: Thank you. Thank you for having me. FASKIANOS: You can follow Rebecca Granato on Twitter at @rebecca_granato. And you will receive an invitation to our next Higher Education Webinar shortly. But in the meantime, I encourage you to follow us 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 your continued participation in the Higher Education Webinar Series. (END)
  • China

    Zongyuan Zoe Liu, fellow for international political economy at CFR, leads the conversation on global economics. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to today’s session of the Fall 2022 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, As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Zongyuan Zoe Liu with us to talk about global economics. Dr. Liu is a fellow for international political economy at CFR. She previously served as an instructional assistant professor at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service in Washington, D.C. And before that, she completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Columbia-Harvard China and the World program and the Center for International Environment and Research Policy at Tufts University. She served as a research fellow and research associate at many institutions—the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies, NYU’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and at the Institute for International Monetary Affairs in Tokyo. Dr. Liu is the author of Can BRICS De-dollarize the Global Financial System?, published by Cambridge University Press; and Sovereign Funds: How the Communist Party of China Finances its Global Ambitions, forthcoming in 2023 by Harvard University Press. So we will stay tuned for that. So, Dr. Liu, thank you very much for being with us. This is a very broad topic, but it would be great if you could give us your analysis of the state of the global economy today. LIU: Yeah, thank you very much, Irina, for inviting me to do this. I really, truly appreciate the opportunity to engage with our college and national universities, both the faculties and the students. This makes me feel I’m very much still part of the academia community. So thank you very much, Irina, and thank you, everybody, for tuning in today. So I wanted to begin by saying that as an economist one thing that I learned is that we are very bad at making forecasting. And, once that forecasting is already very bad, but—and forget about the long run. But that being said, I hope our conversation today can at least exchange some perspectives in terms of how we think about global economy and how we think about some policy-relevant natures. So the first—I will begin by saying two statement, and then I will delve into it. The first statement I would say that I’m afraid that geopolitics probably would make economic forecasting, which is already a very difficult business, but geopolitics would likely make this business even more difficult going forward. And this is because global economic prospect will be more influenced by geopolitics and geopolitical tensions, in addition to pure supply and demand. So that is to say, for our—all our college students and our graduate students, who are either pursuing a political science degree, international relations, or economics, or anybody who are vaguely interested in understanding global economics, now this is the time to realize, well, the models may not—the models had their limitations before, and their limitations are probably going to be even more pronounced going forward. The pure supply-demand dimensions—price is set in certain ways—probably are not necessarily going to go that way. One such example would be the European Union and the United States are considering putting a price cap on Russian oil. And what does that mean? That probably means, well, it almost feel like for a long period of time there was this global cartel called the OPEC or OPEC+. These are the so-called sellers’ cartel. And they have the power, the monopolistic power almost, in terms of setting the price of oil in the global market. But now we are probably going to see the other part of the story, which is what about a global buyers’ cartel? And that is essentially what a price cap means. So long story short, I think geopolitics would play a lot into our analysis of global economics forecasting going forward. And then my second sort of quick statement would be in terms of global economic status today. I would say the key—like, let me take a step back. When we think about economic development, we tend to think about factors of production. Like, for our—again, for our students who probably learned this at the beginning of the semester, this is the time to refresh your concept. But key factors of production—one is resource, the other is technology, and then the other is labor. In terms of resources, you can think about natural resources as well as capital. So these three fundamental factors of production, I would say, they are all going through a period of changes. And these changes are not necessarily in a good way. So that, long story short, a lot of the changes now in global economic conditions may not necessarily be good. And I’m happy to go into a detailed analysis of why resources are not necessarily changing in a good way, or technology, or in terms of labor and demographics. But I’m also happy to stop here and then sort of answer questions or explain further going forward as well. FASKIANOS: Great. We will go to all of you to ask your questions. (Gives queuing instructions.) So we already have a question. It’s from Fordham University. Raised hand. So you’re going to tell us—have to tell us who you are and unmute yourself, or accept the unmute prompt. There you go. Q: Can you hear me? FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: OK, great. Yes, so I’m a third-year student at Fordham University. My name is Valerie Bejjani. And my question for you, Dr. Liu, pertains to your paper—your Cambridge-published paper—about non-dollar alternatives, which I find very fascinating. And it made me think about something I read for an international political economy class about how Keynes first introduced a non-dollar alternative called the bancor during the Bretton Woods Conference, but the U.S. shot it down. So I was curious about your opinion on this, whether you think it was a mistake for the U.S. not to accept it, and what you think the implications—the historical implications are for BRICS countries today that are trying to devise their own non-dollar alternatives? LIU: Thank you very much, Valerie, for your great question. And I have to—since we’re on the record—I just have to say, this is not a planted question. (Laughs.) And I very much appreciate that you’ve given me the opportunity to talk about the research that I did before. So just a quick background about that research that I did, I finished the research last year—yeah, last year in the summer, in July. So when I submitted my manuscript, there was a review process, right? And then that was the moment when not everybody were interested in SWIFT, in SPFS, in China’s cross-border banking—Cross-Border Payment System, or CIPS. So a lot of these alphabetic soups that everybody here are familiar with now, last year before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nobody was even interested. And one of the reviewers was even telling—had a comment there saying that, well, you know, don’t necessarily think that these are good examples that deserve to—so many real estate. (Laughs.) But and then my publisher somehow engineered it such that my—that Cambridge publication came out right on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which was—that was—as a researcher, you probably can never hope the timing in that way. So going back to your question, Valerie, I would say I highly appreciate that you raised the question. And I respect that—highly respect that you are already getting yourself familiarized with Keynesian and all the other historically speaking alternative monetary system or monetary concept as well. So that’s all good. So keep doing what you are doing now and I look forward to continuing our conversation going forward. So your question, if I understand it correctly, so is it a good idea for the United States to shut it down, right? So I mean, if I were—I was obviously not in the policymaking room in those days, but I can certainly understand why the United States would want to maintain the dollar’s dominant currency status in the global financial system. That’s because if you are able to—if the dollar were the dominant currency, in the existing dollar—in the existing global financial system, that basically means on the one hand we can issue debt cheaply. And that literally means the U.S. Treasury is the proxy for risk re-asset. That has huge implications not just for our government debt and our physical expenditure. It also has a tremendous amount of stabilizing factor for our domestic financial institutions and the expansion of our banks in the international market. So from both public perspective and the international perspective, those are good. And the United States has, from a policymaking perspective, all our financial policymakers had their right to shut it down. Now, but if you ask this question from an alternative perspective—say, if you ask the question for—to, let’s say, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney—former governor. If you ask him, he would probably tell you, well, this is a terrible idea that the United States would shut it off, because he specifically said in 2019 at the Jackson Hole symposium, when all the major central bankers were gathered in the big hall and talking about monetary policies, he was the one standing in front of everybody saying that, well, it’s a terrible idea to have one single currency, which is the U.S. dollar, to dominate the global financial and monetary system. That is the reason why the system is not stable, hence we need to have an alternative system. Like a basket currency or something like that. So, if you ask people like him, he would be—like, be in favor of the diversity—of a more diversified global monetary system. And again, if you ask the countries like China or, for that matter, Russia or Iran, they would be way much more in favor of a much more diversified monetary system as well. And that may not necessarily, from, exchange rate perspective, exchange rate risk is an important aspect, but the more important aspect probably is from the geopolitical hegemonic power of the U.S. dollar. Which means, the U.S. sanctioning power really resides in the dollar being the dominant currency. So right now, we hear about U.S. can sanction Russia, sanction other countries. How that is being executed, it is literally being executed by our banks no longer processing the bank transactions of all the Russian banks. Hence, when people talk about kicking Russia off the SWIFT system, it’s not just that the transaction cannot go out. It literally means in practice nobody can send a message with Russian banks. Like, there was no communication. So the entire dollar system is based upon the SWIFT system, which 90 percent of the messaging to process the transactions are using dollar. And then, because the expansive power of our U.S. banks, it literally means all international trade literally has to be settled—the settlement has to be done by U.S. bank, who has U.S. dollars. And in order to access that transaction mechanism, only SWIFT can get the job done. You also have to literally tap into either the Fedwire System or the CHIPS system, which is the clearinghouse system based here in New York. So in order for this whole system—in order to have this whole system to make your dollar payment work, you literally have to maintain on the one hand a connection, on the other hand have connections with the dollar settlement system. And that’s why when Russia was kicked out of SWIFT, a lot of other countries who are not necessarily on the good side of the United States started to get worried because people used to think, well, kicking somebody—kicking some banks off the SWIFT system is almost the financial version of a nuclear bomb. It’s the nuclear option of cutting somebody from the international financial system, of which the U.S. dollar is the dominant currency, the primary invoicing currency as well. And then on the other hand, lesson learned from this sanction experience, especially from the perspective of China, is that, well, previously we’ve already laid out a lot of this planning system—meaning the infrastructure used to internationalize the renminbi, such as the China—the China’s CIPS system. Policymakers inside China started to wonder, well, since the planning is already there, it’s not too much to ask just to add additional function. So the previously, from a functional-wise, China’s renminbi payment infrastructure is really not about bypassing sanctions, because in my research I realized when—I interviewed people who actually participated in the designing of the system. And I remember talking to three people on three different occasions, and they all mentioned one point, which is without the CIPS system, the international using of renminbi, really—the user experience was really, really terrible. And the reason it was terrible was simply because there are more than two thousand of small and medium-size banks in China. You are familiar with the big four—ICBC, Bank of China and all that—but those are the major banks. More Chinese bank—more than two thousand of the smaller Chinese banks, they don’t have a direct connection with the SWIFT system. Which basically means in order to make transactions across border, it really takes time and the cost of transactions are extremely high. Therefore, in order to improve user experience, they literally had to design a system that can facilitate this cross-border transaction. But when geopolitics plays into it, especially since 2018 when U.S.-China trade war started to get really escalated to a higher level, a lot of those conversations started domestically. And then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine really accelerated this whole process. So I hope that sort of give you a broader—it’s a long answer, but I hope that gives you a deeper understanding of what has been going on, and what are the—what are the instrument—the functions of the instrument. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. I’m going to take a written question from Abraham—he goes by Abe—Borum. Dr. Liu, you mentioned OPEC within the context of NATO and the U.S. efforts to limit Russia energy policy. What are the second- to third-order effects on other sectors of global markets? And Abe is a graduate student at the National Intelligence University. LIU: Abe, that’s a great question, I have to say. And I would strongly encourage everybody here, especially our undergrad and graduate students—to think not just the first-order or direct impact, but also the second-order effect. So I appreciate this question, because then you give me a little bit opportunity to elaborate on why I think on the natural resource aspect our global economy is not necessarily heading towards the right direction. So just tie back into Abe’s question to begin with, right now since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the hydrocarbon prices, and more specifically oil prices, oil prices have been increasing. Although in recent—in recent weeks, it has relatively been stabilized a little bit, but it’s still way much higher than pre-pandemic, that would be 2019, right, Irina? 2019, right? (Laughs.) My timeline is all blurred. So I checked this morning, price might have changed slightly. But when I checked it this morning Brent today, this morning when I checked, it was trading about $88 per barrel. And remember in 2019 what the price was? That was something around—the average price in 2019, that was $64. So we are literally talking about more than $20 per barrel more expensive. And then WTI, that is, what, U.S. benchmark, right? WTI was trading at $96 per barrel – close to 96 (dollars). Like 95.99, something like that. And in 2019, Brent was trading on average $57 per barrel. So close to double. So higher energy prices, that basically would directly translate into higher production costs across the board for energy—because every sector need energy, whether it is electricity, whether it is other types of energy. So it directly translate into higher electricity prices. This is important for the United States. This is very relevant for the European Union as well. So higher production costs would literally raise the price of the output. And that is going to further exacerbate the inflationary pressure. And that is going to make the Federal Reserve, and the ECB, and the Bank of England measures to curb inflation even more difficult. And then on the other hand, I also wanted to mention that right now the added layer of geopolitics making this even more difficult. We already see this happening, which is, Biden made his trip to Saudi Arabia, but it did not get the intended consequence or intended result, which is trying to get Saudi Arabia and OPEC in general to stabilize the global oil market. And OPEC+, about a week ago, decided that they are going to cut their production by about two million barrels per day. That is about the daily consumption of, I believe it’s China, or something like that. So from that perspective, by limiting production, that is going to further—that is from a pure supply/demand perspective, right? If we hold supply—we hold demand constant and if you reduce the supply, that is going to further raise the upward pressure for the prices. So geopolitics is probably going to further put upward pressure for the prices as well. And then finally, the final point I would want to make there is that right now OPEC countries—OPEC+ countries in particular—they might be—have this existential threat, which is the net zero transition. Right now, what is most valuable for Russia, or for Iran, for UAE, for Saudi Arabia—their most valuable export comes from hydrocarbon. It could be oil. It could be natural gas. So in the long run, when the entire global economy moved to zero dependence on hydrocarbon, that basically means for Russia—that’s probably more close to 70 percent of their GDP and government revenue. That is going to be gone. Think about how the Russian economy can make up that much amount of revenue in the short run? That’s very difficult to think about, especially these days. And this can be applied for countries like Saudi Arabia as well. Therefore, these countries—these hydrocarbon-exporting countries—they have this existential threat. Which is their most valuable export might become no longer valuable in the long run. So that’s why they are—they are inherently very interested in carving a closer relationship and, more importantly, a relatively stable relationship with their stable buyers. And the buyers these days are going to not necessarily be the United States because, you’ve heard all these stories about the U.S. are energy independent and so on and so forth. But, you know, we can—that’s a different story. And when people say U.S. is very largely energy independent, there are so many reasons that argument can be rebutted. But let me just say, U.S. does not necessarily consume a lot of energy from—exported by Saudi Arabia. But who does? China and India. So right now, China’s largest energy—in terms of volume—largest energy supplier is Russia. But in terms of pure monetary value that China actually pays, and the largest receiver of Chinese money for energy, that is Saudi Arabia. Therefore, earlier this year you probably read the news about Saudi Arabia might consider allowing renminbi to pay for Saudi oil. There might be more opportunity in there, because they might be very interested, especially MBS, because of all his behaviors, might expose a lot of the Saudis individuals under U.S. sanctions. And on the other hand, China already established a renminbi denominated oil futures market. And that—although, the volume today is relatively—the volume today is relatively low, but the growth is very rapidly. So if all these major oil-exporting countries hypothetically—if they decided to suddenly switch their—the pricing of their oil overnight into renminbi instead of the dollar, we could potentially see the dollar’s pricing power and invoicing power in global trade would be diminished. And that is because the infrastructure, the facility is already there. Although the volume of renminbi-denominated oil futures is still relatively low, the plumbing is there. And once you have the plumbing there, there is no way to go back. So now what the United States should do is to make sure that everybody is still very much interested in maintaining the existing dollar-based system and maintaining the pricing of commodity using U.S. dollar. And that brings in the discussion about putting an oil price to Russian oil instead of just a wholesale sanction of Russian oil. As long as we are putting a price cap to it, that basically means we are—yes, we are hurting Russian export, but still we are allowing Russian oil flowing into the international market. That still makes the dollar’s pricing power in global commodities relevant. So from that perspective, I think it’s the right move to preserve the dollar system. But on the other hand, those countries that are not—again, not necessarily on the geopolitical good side of the United States, they do have the intention to hedge against the risk of being sanctioned. And they need the—they need buyers to buy whatever that they have are valuable today. I hope that makes sense to you. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. I’m going to take the next question, a spoken question, from Dr. Seebal Aboudounya, an associate lecturer at the University of College London. You can correct me on the pronunciation of your name. Q: Yes. Hi. The pronunciation is perfect. Thank you very much. So I have two students here from the international public policy program. And they would like to ask questions. So I will just hand over to them. Thank you. Q: Hi, professor. I’m Cici and I’m a graduate student from UCL. I’m really glad you can give me a speech and answer my questions. And I want to ask questions about Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As we all know, that Belt and Road Initiative has employment more than ten years, since 2013. And it seems as the most important foreign policy for China and their President Xi. And it has already achieved many success. So I want to ask, what’s the core purpose of Belt and Road Initiative, and how can we evaluate it? And do the countries in BRI view it in a positive or a negative way? Thank you. Q: Thank you very much. And the second student will now ask a question. Q: Hi, Doctor. My question is, what’s the future of global economy under the impact of Ukraine war, China-U.S. competition, and COVID-19? Thank you. Q: Thank you very much. LIU: All right. Thank you very much, Professor Aboudounya. And let me just being with the first question from Cici, right? Thank you very much, Cici, for asking this important question. And I’m so glad that you are asking something about BRI, because I do think it’s important for people to understand this whole Chinese initiative. You are absolutely right that the BRI is a very important Chinese foreign policy initiative. And I would even say that the BRI is—or, the Belt and Road Initiative—is Chinese President Xi Jinping, his signature foreign policy initiative during his first two terms. Now he just recently got his—as the general secretary of the party—he just got this third term. So we’ll see how BRI being played out going forward. But at least during his first term as the president of China and as the party general of the Chinese Communist Party, that was his signature foreign policy initiative, or grand strategy, if you will. So in terms of what it is and how we think about it, those are great questions. So there are very simple answer to say—to describe what BRI is. You can think about it as a global-spanning infrastructure project. So that’s what it looks like. If you just put—if you just—if we have an Excel spreadsheet and we just look at, at least all the—every single project that BRI has been doing, it’s really about infrastructure. And more specifically, more than 70 percent of BRI infrastructure projects are related to energy, are energy-related infrastructure projects. Therefore, you can also think about BRI as infrastructure orientated and combined with the idea of establishing China’s access to global energy resources. And then, if you think about it from China’s domestic perspective, why Xi Jinping decided to start this BRI initiative and what are the connections of the BRI with previous Chinese policies? I would say the reason—fundamental reason why Xi Jinping started this BRI was because of the fundamental domestic problem which is the overcapacity in China’s production sector, especially steel, concrete, and a lot of these infrastructure-related sectors. And that takes place after global financial crisis, and then China’s spending four trillion—four trillion yuan to stimulate its economy, and it created the major overcapacity issue at home. And the international economy—or international demand or demand from outside of China was not enough—or especially the Western market like United States or European market, they were not growing as fast to be able to absorb China’s overcapacity. Therefore China really have to think about how to distribute in a broader global market to solve its overcapacity issue. So Xi Jinping, in one of his meetings, he had this saying—and I think it’s very revealing, so I quote him. So he did say this, and I translate it, obviously, into English. So he said: Our overcapacity problem might be other countries—might be beneficial to other countries. In other word, we are producing a lot of this stuff that we do not use, and we are losing money. But if we are able to sell it to other countries, that might be good for them and good for us, as well. So that was—could we—if we give him the benefit of the doubt, is that a good way—is that a good intent? Sure. If we give him the benefit of the doubt, if everything he implemented perfectly, that could be mutually beneficial. And indeed, if you look at all these BRI forums or BRI summit, a lot of these are related to improve their connectedness, solve overcapacity issue, and even BR specific government-to-government level industrial production coordination fund. In other word, if government are establishing lots of money to coordinate—so much you are going to produce, how much I am supposed to produce. The idea is really to tackle the problem of overcapacity. But again, reality when you are looking at how this is being implemented, nowadays it varies. There’s a very good Rhodium Group report that you probably—if you just google Rhodium Group BRI, they have this report analyzing the BRI lending. And that’s where BRI really come into—really encountered a lot of problem. So you are probably familiar with the whole narrative of the data trap, so depending upon who you are talking to—so if you talk with—if you talk to Chinese project managers, or if you talk to Professor Deborah Bräutigam at SAIS/Johns Hopkins who runs the China Africa Research Initiative—if you talk to folks like them, they might tell you, well, you know, it’s really not about the data trap but really speaks to the fact that China is really, really inexperienced in terms of the development finance and in terms of lending, and that the reason is that they really have a limited capacity to do, on the one hand, the environmental impact assessment. Many of these—you will be shocked. Many of these projects they do not even have a real environmental impact assessment. And on the other hand, because a lot of these lendings are directly being lent out by Chinese policy banks—and more specifically, if you look at Africa, that would be China import and export bank, they have a limited capacity to evaluate all these business plans. And I remember talking to a project manager in Mali, so I asked him, have you interacted with all those folks on how you do your—how you do your bidding in order to get the money. So this person, he was very frank with me, and he said, well, I understand how the—I understand how they want the number to look like in order to give me the loan, so I just cook the numbers so that I can get the loan. In other word, there is not necessarily an internally robust risk management process in getting out of these loans. Therefore, am I surprised to see that so much of Chinese—so much of China’s BRI loan now are in trouble, like in countries like Zambia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and a couple of others.   So am I—am I surprised about that? I’m not surprised because if you followed this and if you realized that there is a lack of the internal risk management process, that’s the result you are going to get. And it is also because of the debt, combined with the contract term, which is when you are signing a contract like—it’s like, I go to the bank and I say, I am Zoe, and I bank with Charles Schwab or Bank of America. Hey, I’m going to buy a house, so how about you lend me the money. This is literally the way how contract negotiating works. And then, guess what? The banks are going to say, hey, Zoe, I do not know who you are, although you look like a good person. I do not want to lend you the money at this rate. I’m going to lend you the money, and you have to put down a collateral. So collateral is the idea that, in case I, Zoe, can no longer pay back my loan, I literally have to give up some sort of tangible asset to the bank. Now in the case of Sri Lanka, that was what happened to Hambantota. So long story short, is that combined with the collateralization of this BRI debt really feeds this debt trap narrative because, well, if it looks like you are setting the countries up to debt, and you are collateralizing their critical infrastructures, this looks like debt trap to many observers. So I can’t—I have a lot of sympathy to this debt trap narrative, but really, when we think about BRI debt and how BRI is being implemented, we really need to think about two sides: on the one hand, the policy side; and the other side is really about implementation, because without implementation the policies are only a piece of paper, isn’t it? So, I really encourage you to look more specifically into the details, and if you are interested in learning more about BRI, there are a lot of data set that are available. On the one hand, William & Mary—William & Mary have the aid data. If you just google William & Mary and google aid data, you will see their entire data related to BRI. And then the other website that—I would have to say, my colleague and I here at the Council, we have this BRI tracker. My colleague Benn Steil, he run—he had this BRI tracker. So you can take a look at that. And then the Council also published a BRI report last year—last year, right, Irina? We have a BRI Task Force report, so definitely check that out. And then finally there is also Boston University has the global policy institute. They have this China—they have a specific China-oriented research team, and they have—they also run seminars occasionally, and webinars—you can sign up for it and you can have access to their research. We also have this BRI data, so make sure that you check those out so that you can look at all the contract, you can look at what are the—where exactly—at what level project are being implemented. I hope that sort of covered the ground for that with BRI. And then go back to the other question—the other question about the future of global economy, especially the impact on Ukraine. I really appreciate this question as well because it’s—it’s really dear to my heart, too, and the research in itself is dear to my heart and to many of my colleagues here at the Council. And then, on the other hand, we also—everybody are surprised about how fast and how coherent the sanctions on Russia were able to take place. It used to be like—I myself included—like when the Europeans decided—the European Union decided, basically the next day after—following the U.S. sanctions, they basically decided that they are going to do the same. I was like, oh, gee, looking across the Atlantic, I don’t think I understand you guys. It almost feel like you guys could never agree on anything anytime soon, but now, it’s like overnight there is this agreement on sanction of Russia. I feel like, oh, this is unprecedented. So from that perspective, I do think the—Russia’s war on Ukraine, it reunited the U.S. alliance system, and from economic perspective, I think it’s very important in the sense that a lot of the economic differences that we used to have—for example, the Eurozone or, in particular, the ECB might have interest in letting the euro play a bigger role in the global system and all that. So a lot of these are—a lot of these disagreement are going to be surpassed by the priority, which is to address Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. And then on the other hand, we are also seeing that, yes, European Union, despite of their heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas—and Russian gas in particular, they are willing to participate in setting a deadline to say by this—by the end of this year we are going to phase out Russia’s—our dependence on Russian energy. And in that context, it is good for American energy industry in the sense that we can—here in the United States we can—in the context of making sure that our domestic energy security is secured, right, or we can’t export our LNG to our—to meet the need of our European allies. So that is another good aspect of it, and then in terms of—and then finally, I would—along the line of energy I would also say this probably is also going to accelerate the transition to net zero in terms of technology and putting more resources into this technology related to energy transition. That might be related to hydrogen. Canada is already exporting its hydrogen energy to Germany and German trains are now—some German trains are now run on hydrogen power. It would be cool to check it out—how it looks, right? So that means, from energy perspective at least we are seeing the realignment of this energy supply, energy demand dynamic. And because energy is so important for production and for energy growth, that is sort of a stabilizing factor. But that being said, still we are not—I am not saying that the Europeans aren’t going to—are no longer having problems. And the Europeans are still going to have problems and the IMF revised downward European growth prospect next year. They downgraded to—even further to a lower point. I believe it’s point—it used to be—it used to be about 1.3 in the energy outlook earlier in July, but I think this time—a few days ago when I checked again, there are new economic outlook. They’ve revised it down for EU—European advanced economies that it was revised down to .06 percent growth. From that perspective combined with high inflation, literally we are seeing that Europe—the advanced European economies—or broadly speaking, Eurozone as a whole—probably are going to head towards, maybe recession is a very, very harsh word, but it definitely going to run into serious economic troubles. So in the long run, this is not a good—this is not good looking. And in the short run, at least, this is not good looking, right, and in the—if we broaden the horizon back, focusing on the economy. Another factor that constrained European growth are, in particular, let’s say, the major powerhouses like Germany. A critical part of that is, they are suffering from two issues. One is their cost of electricity is simply too high, and I’m talking about this relative to—it’s much higher than the United States for sure, but they are not—they are much higher than China, as well. So China energy per kilowatt is in the magnitude of 0.002 or 0.003 magnitude. And where is Germany? Germany is something like ten times of that. We are talking about .38 per kilowatt. So that basically means if your fundamental electricity cost is high, and when energy price goes up higher, electricity price is also going to go up high, and then your entire manufacture industry is going to face a higher cost. And that, combined with demographic challenges, refugee challenges, it simply means that the government are going to have a whole lot of difficult time to deal with their expenditures. So again, both from energy perspective, from cost-of-production perspective, from the demographic perspective—aging population, refugee problem—and on top of that you probably would also have to think of—take care of the aging population, meaning added social welfare costs and pension costs, so those are—those mean slowing economy, especially on advanced economies, are not necessarily looking nice. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Isaac Alston-Voyticky, who has written a question but also said, happy to ask it, so why don’t you unmute yourself, please, and give us your affiliation. Q: Hello, my name is Isaac Alston-Voyticky. I am at CUNY School of Law and CCNY’s Colin Powell School. I am actually graduating this semester, so—(laughs)—anyway, so my question is you posed the three classic core components of economics. Would you think in the modern day, given the immaterial nature of so much of our global market and marketplace, that knowledge as the foundation of neoclassical economics, plays an equal role as a component of modern economics? And I mean that obviously in the concept that knowledge is known, unknown, real, surreal, and unreal, of course. But also, to your first kind of opening point when you said that, you know, it’s really hard for economists to model out and do predictions. When we talk about improving data sets and analysis across like IPE, international affairs, you know, implementation of international law, one of the issues we have is a lot of our economic models are still too variable-based, and that we haven’t really gone past that. So if we think about it from the quantum computing, we have X, Y, Z, and T, and that’s just your bare, you know, next level. And I would imagine we can do that if we find the right components so, hopefully—and, I mean, I don’t know what kind of answer you have, but I’m very interested to hear. LIU: Yeah, Isaac, first of all, congratulations for getting—you are in CUNY, right? And so you are right here in the neighborhood, so you know—right? So feel free to—feel free to, on the one hand definitely check out our award-winning website, and then if me or our colleagues could be of help, just feel free to stop by. And so these are two great questions obviously, and you touch upon a lot of the complaints and the frustrations that I have with modeling—(laughs)—right? So the first question, knowledge, I fully agree with you that so far our economic models have not been able to fully appreciate, or fully absorb, or fully model the role of knowledge; for that matter, even finance. Finance, at least has this term called the intangible asset when you are evaluating a firm, and therefore your mergers and acquisitions, you pay the so-called goodwill based upon how much you value the intangible asset; meaning like knowledge, expertise, and so on, so forth—so patent and all that. So from that perspective, I think the knowledge is definitely going—knowledge is definitely going to be extremely more important going forward, and I say that both—from three aspects. The first is knowledge can improve the quality of your human resources, which touch upon basically the labor force which reverts back to one of our three factors of production. And then knowledge also is necessary for technology, and that is another factor of production. And then finally the other would be knowledge, technology, and other resources. So resources, there is capital and non-capital, meaning natural resource and all that. And there are—then the confounding factor of knowledge is being played more here because better financial expertise—well, obviously, depending upon how you use it, but sometimes, financial expertise tend to run itself in trouble. It outsmart itself; it’s not necessarily good. But if we are able to—if we have better knowledge about financial market, about our debt—I go back to your second question—better data about financial market and better knowledge to improve our use of natural resources or the efficiency—improve the efficiency. Or the next day, if we all have a battery and move toward renewables—these are going to be extremely—go back to the Schumacher model—these are going to be extremely disruptive, but in a very good way. But the reason I am cautious about, you know, we may not necessarily going there overnight is because, on the one hand—technology R&D takes some time, it’s expensive, but then on the other hand, it’s just in the processing, the implementation part. It’s really—a lot of geopolitical factors plays into it because when we think about knowledge, knowledge and the technology, those are the things that we tend to think they tend to diffuse themselves, like knowledge—you exchange knowledge, and that’s the foundation of new knowledge being created. You stand on the giant’s shoulders, right? Knowledge and technology tend to diffuse itself, and right now what we are observing is, on the one hand, there are a lot of—there are a lot of export controls towards certain countries, and then on the other hand, countries like China are also—are trying very hard to lower the cost of the relatively cheaper technology, right, or the less advanced technology. And that basically means if a country can or—especially a country like China can quickly achieve economies of the scale, are able to find an alternative that is cheaper but at a lesser technology, but will still get the job done, then probably that—in the short term, it can service China and also service a lot of developing economies. But for a country like China, that is not necessarily good in the long run. And then on top of that, because of export controls, because of a lot of geopolitical tensions between China and the rest of the world, but the long-run trajectory over China’s indigenous development capacity is still there; China’s people—there are still U.S.-trained Chinese scientists going back to China, but it is going to tremendously slow China down and making it very difficult and very costly. So if we think that, for the past forty years or so—or for the past twenty years since China joined WTO, if we believe that cheap Chinese goods tend to be—tend to benefited the rest of the world in many ways, then a slowed-down Chinese economy is bad news for the global economy, probably more true than not. China is the largest trading partner for more than 120 countries in the world, so if Chinese economy slow down, that have major ramifications for the rest. And then go back to your second question with regard to, you improve the database and in terms of modeling the limitations—that’s a frustration that I have nowadays. Yes, the model themselves—oftentimes I go into a meeting, listen to a talk—especially in the econ papers, the econ paper would begin with—it’s very sterilized. You begin with assumptions, and then you talk about your independent variables, your dependent variables. Right now we are really in a world where your independent variables can be—your independent variables might be suddenly changed because of geopolitics, or because of some disruptive technology, or simply because supply chain means you used to be able to get rare earth, but then if you are Japan in 2007, you were no longer able to get rare earth reliably from China. So those are going to significantly shift your calculation. Therefore I would say, I really don’t have a good answer in terms of how to improve at researcher perspective, but hopefully, as you said, quantum computing, artificial intelligence might help us to get as much better information as possible. But that being said, quantum—a lot of these quantum computing and artificial intelligence is—it used to be the case that a lot of statistics are garbage in, garbage out. Hopefully, our AI and the quantum computing, as we train themselves, they can learn better than the human beings. I’m not exactly comfortable about saying that, but that’s my hope. FASKIANOS: I have some—a written question from Todd Barry, adjunct professor at Hudson County Community College in New Jersey. Is it possible that China would turn inwards and switch an economy to import substitution industrialization, producing all goods domestically, without imports, like Latin America tried to in the 1970's? LIU: Right, that’s a great question, and when you were asking that I was immediately thinking about the Chile and its car industry. And that was a disaster. The East Asian model, in terms of the import substitution—that’s the East Asian miracle, especially applicable to, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea to a certain extent, as well. In the case of China I would say I would be really hesitant to—in retrospect if we have this conversation twenty years down the road, I would be really, really—I would be really sad to realize that this year is the moment—or October is the—October 2022 is the moment when China started to turn inward because that is going to be disastrous for China’s long-term growth. China’s decade-long of double-digit growth benefitted from an open economy, benefitted from being able to trade with the rest of the world, and the United States actually welcomed China into the global system. Therefore I would be very, very sad to see this is the moment. Now is there a—is there the risk? I do see the risk, and I do see the narrative there, especially with President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on domestic circulation. If you think—I would argue—in my latest publication with the, I made this argument to say the important—the dual circulation, especially the domestic circulation, it is a departure from previous going-on strategy because going out is starting from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao. These are really the idea of prioritizing the international market. It’s really about using international market to develop the Chinese economy. And dual circulation is a departure from that. It’s not to totally abandon globally—the global market, but it really is—it prioritizes domestic market: domestic demand, domestic supply, domestic technology and—domestic technological innovation capacity, and making international market relatively supplementary. And if even—and Xi Jinping even—if Xi Jinping even intend to make the international market more dependent on China’s domestic market, meaning making the rest dependent more on China. So there is the narrative there. However, in practice, I don’t—I don’t see how Chinese companies are able to do this because the Chinese company—a lot of Chinese companies, especially multinational Chinese companies, they still need to have access to global capital, global technology. And although it becomes—especially on the technology side has become increasingly difficult. But it is to the benefit of the Chinese company, Chinese people, and China’s long-term growth potential to maintain an open economy. But there is the chance that might not happen, and if we think—if we do believe that Xi Jinping has a timeline with reference to Taiwan, then he—obviously, if there is a war breaking out, then obviously there will be consequences, and we can imagine Western sanctions, and that basically means the Chinese economy is going to be severely isolated from the global system. So from that perspective, right now a lot of these zero-COVID policies are very much—the way that I think about it is it could be interpreted as it’s a drill, or it’s a preparation to make sure that China is developing internal capacity to be able to absorb as much sanction shock as possible. But I don’t think that—I do not think Xi Jinping is going to make up a decision and going to make a move to Taiwan, say, tomorrow. As long as we can kick the can down the road, I think that’s good. FASKIANOS: Out of time, and I am sorry to say that we couldn’t get to all the questions, but we appreciate it. Zoe did mention a few resources that our task force on the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the Belt and Road tracker—we dropped the link in the chat, but we’ll also send a follow-up note with links to some of those things. She also does a lot of writing on In Briefs and articles, so you should go to And you can follow her on Twitter at @zongyuanzoeliu. So I encourage you all to do that. This has been a terrific hour, so thank you again, Zoe. We appreciate it. LIU: Thank you, Irina, for having me. And I really do appreciate this opportunity to engage with every participant here. If I did not get a chance to answer your questions, or if you have other questions, just feel free to reach out to Irina or feel free to reach out to me. We are here, and the Council really appreciate and the—really appreciate the colleges and student, and the Council actually—we do a lot of stuff related to education, you know—not just at a college level. We also do at high-school level— FASKIANOS: High school— LIU: —middle-school level, and even—we also even have games for kids. So if you haven’t tried those out yet, just try it out. FASKIANOS: Thank you, Zoe. So our next academic webinar will be on Wednesday, November 9, at 1:00 p.m. (EST) with Lauren Kahn, who is here at the Council, on military innovation and U.S. defense strategy. And again, I just wanted to shout out. We have our CFR fellowships application deadline for educators is available. You can check it out at The deadline is October 31 so it’s right around the corner. Follow us at @CFR_Academic. And again, go to,, and So thank you all for being with us. Have a great rest of your day. (END)
  • Education

    Mordecai Ian Brownlee, president of the Community College of Aurora, will lead the conversation on navigating the digital equity gap in higher education.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. 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, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Mordecai Ian Brownlee with us today to talk about the digital equity gap in higher education. Dr. Brownlee is president of the Community College of Aurora in Colorado. He also teaches for Lamar University in the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Brownlee publishes frequently and serves as a columnist for EdSurge. He has been featured on a number of national platforms including by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine as a new school leader representing the next generation of college presidents, and he was most recently appointed to serve on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges. So, Dr. Brownlee, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. I thought we could begin by having you define digital equity and give us an overview of the digital equity gap in higher education, and I know you are going to share a presentation with us so we look forward to seeing that on screen. BROWNLEE: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the opportunity to the Council on Foreign Relations. Just thank you all so much. And to answer that question as we talk about digital equity, it’s the assurance of ensuring that all have access to the information technology available and to have the capacity to engage in society and productive citizenship. And so we’ll talk about that and let me just start sharing the screen and we’ll jump right into it. All right. Here we go. So, once again, thank you all for the opportunity, again, to the Council of Foreign Relations for this opportunity to talk about navigating digital equity. Bringing greetings on behalf of the Community College of Aurora here in Aurora, Colorado. And let’s just jump right into it. You know, as we talk about defining this work, how to navigate this work, we have to first understand the work, and to understand digital equity we must first understand the digital divide. And so, you know, as we talked about the digital divide at the beginning of the pandemic it, certainly, was dealing with the voice and mindset, the texture and tone, of accessibility and being able to engage in learning throughout the pandemic and, first of all, I would say as educators it’s so critical that even as we are, quote/unquote, “coming out of the pandemic” that we still acknowledge part of the challenges that are happening across the country and across the world in regards to accessibility—equitable accessibility to information technology, to the tools, and to have the capacity to not only learn but, certainly, engage in the economy and society. So as we talk about digital equity, we must understand the digital divide and so let’s kind of define that. One of my favorite definitions for the digital divide defined comes from the National League of Cities and they say the digital divide is the gap between individuals who have access to computers, high-speed internet, and the skills to use them, and those who do not. There’s two critical components as we talk about digital equity that I want to call out with the digital divide definition here. One is access. The other is skill. Access and skill. So as we think about equity and just think about how do we level the playing field, how do we close the gap on accessibility and skill attainment to engage. And it’s not just being able to access and that’s the other—I think the complexity here as we think about the term equity because just because I provide you the computer, right—and we found this during the pandemic—just because I provide you the computer do you even have broadband access? And if you have broadband access do you have dependable sustainable broadband access? And then if you have sustainable broadband access, are you skilled to not only learn but and engage through this instrument and tool, and that in itself is where we have found there to be challenges as we think throughout the pandemic and, certainly, beyond the pandemic on what we must do to close the gap for equity and the digital divide. So digital divide provides that access, skill. Equity will then take us deeper into this work. Here are key factors I want to call out in regards to how we must eradicate or address these challenges, these factors, in order to close the gap on the digital divide. Number one, what we have seen through research—and has done a great job of calling this out—number one, age-related issues as we think about the various generations that are engaged in society and still present in society. We have digital natives. I consider myself to be a digital native as a millennial. But this is very different than previous generations that may not have had the proper training and skill and their jobs do not have them engaging, utilizing these tools and instruments on a regular basis and so that in itself has created some challenges. And, again, there is, certainly, all those that are outliers and those among the generations that have been able to engage in these instruments and tools. However, it is truly a fact through research that age-related issues have been a part of this challenge, more specifically, speaking to our older population. Socioeconomic factors—have to talk about it. I think about it, especially in the higher education space. Our tribal institutions is where I’ve heard throughout the pandemic some of our most severe challenges that have been experienced in regards to the digital divide. One of the stories that I heard that just breaks my heart—I remember the first time I heard it, it truly had me in tears—we were at the height of the pandemic at this point and what we were learning is in one particular tribal community in order for those students to complete—these are young K-12 students—in order for them to complete their assignments they had elders and community members of that tribe that would walk the students up to the highest point on the mountain within that particular tribal territory just to be able to pick up an internet signal, and they were able to do this when there was not as much traffic on that internet broadband access—that grid, if you will. And so those students were having to do their work—their homework—between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the morning. Very interesting reality—unfortunate reality. We, certainly, have to come up with the solutions to addressing this. This in itself is part of that digital divide conversation. Geographic causes—it depends on where you are in the country. I remember at one point in time I was teaching and served the University of Charleston out of Charleston, West Virginia, and for those that are familiar with that part of the country in the Appalachia, I would have my students that were having to use their own cell phones in order to complete their assignments and upload their assignments. They did not have either, in some cases, the actual tools or accessibility, would have to drive in to more populated spaces to pick up a signal. This was impacting their learning experience. This in itself is all a part of that digital divide. Last, certainly, not least, racial, culture, language. All of this plays a role and more in that skill set component along with accessibility component and how are we going to as educators, as key stakeholders within our community, leaders, be a part of the solution to close that divide. Age-related issues, socioeconomic factors, geographic causes, racial, cultural, and language. Again, is the source on that there. Step two, to navigate digital equity we must understand digital equity, and so now we’re going to go and delve into what does it mean—what does digital equity mean. So I’m taking my definition, again, from the National League of Cities. Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. This is huge. So, again, as you heard me talk about the digital divide just moments ago, it’s the component of accessibility and skill. That skill is then where we get into productive citizenship through society, democracy, and economy, and so now we’re talking about how does this tool, this instrument—it’s much more than just accessibility. Now how do I engage? How am I advancing my family, my economic—social economic realities through this instrument and tool? The definition goes on to say—again, by the National League of Cities—digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Case in point, life. As we think about all aspects of life from employment to social participation—as we think social media engagement, employment, we all understand what that means; lifelong learning, certainly as educators we have to think about that component—and then accessibility to the tools that we need, I think about my own child who this past weekend had to reach out for virtual assistance from medical care for an earache that he was having. My ability to have the skill set and accessibility to reach out, obtain those resources for my family, and engage through an electronic means to fulfill what my needs were are all a part of this equity. Life in itself should be able to remain whole in what I produce and how it is able to produce within me, and that is in itself digital equity. So step three, let’s discuss how to navigate digital equity in higher education and, again, hello to all of our educators that are on the call today. So here’s some tips that I want to leave for you on today just to think about, and I look forward to our conversation that we’re about to have here in a moment. Number one, as educators—and we’re talking about navigating digital equity—it is so important that we understand who we’re serving. I say that because, unfortunately, what can happen is especially as educators and we think about the economy, the disruptions that we’re experiencing in the marketplace right now, we’ll sometimes pursue who we want, not necessarily who we have, and that’s unfortunate. As we think about the respective institutional missions and the spaces in which we serve, we have to be mission centered and embrace who it is that we’re serving because we owe it to those students who are pursuing their academic endeavors and their professional endeavors through our respective institutions to totally be served. We must understand their realities. One of the conversations we have here at the Community College of Aurora is the conversation about you don’t know who is actually sitting, respectively, in that seat in that classroom and what they had to overcome in order to sit in that seat that particular day. Do we know how many bus routes they had to take? Do we understand the challenges that they were having with their children? Do we know are they now leaving their second job that they’ve worked for the past twenty-four hours to now sit in your classroom? So we have to understand, be aware, and approach that engagement with a sense of grace. I think that’s a word that we, perhaps, haven’t necessarily embraced in the academy in the way in which we have—should have, but now more than ever we have to. Secondly, create systems that level the learning engagement field. So it’s this idea of privilege—this thought of privilege—and, perhaps, what we assumed that everyone had access to and what everyone had the ability to engage with that they don’t necessarily have, and if they do have accessibility to it do we have a true understanding of what all they have to do to have that level of engagement and accessibility? Again, case in point, bus routes. Think about what’s happening around our country. There has been a reduction from a transportation standpoint financially, and many of the routes and the transportation services that have been provided—some of this due to disruption, others due to areas in which there have had to be a funneling of tax dollars and resources in other spaces and places in our communities. Long story short, the reality is, is that in many communities the bus routes have had to be reduced, which means that individuals are either having to walk or find ways to public accessibility to some of these resources in terms of broadband access and computer access. So then as we’re teaching and we’re instructing and we’re providing services, we have to think about how can we level the playing field and remove barriers? Does it have to be performed—does that learning outcome have to come in the form of computer access and broadband accessibility? And maybe it does, so this takes us to point number three. Let’s promote community resources to close the digital divide. I think that laser focus on how we’re going to close that divide creates this space for equity, and so, perhaps, it’s through libraries. There’s one organization out of North Carolina in some of their rural spaces they have now through grant funds created different spaces in their rural communities for those in more rural spaces to gain access to a computer lab and the grants are sustaining that accessibility through computer labs in those rural spaces. Amazing resource. There’s many others and examples that we can share around the country. So with that said, let’s promote these community resources. Sometimes it’s a library. Sometimes it’s a grant-funded opportunity. Sometimes it’s a local nonprofit. So let’s talk about how we can be creative in our respective communities to close the gap there. Fourth, adjust learning experiences to be more inclusive. Not only do we need to create the systems to level the playing field but we must then adjust the learning experiences to be more inclusive to create learning spaces and engagement spaces for all, going back to not only accessibility but skill. Last, certainly not least, providing institutional resources to close the digital divide. What I mean by this is, is that, in closing, due to—through the pandemic and many of our institutions received the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds—the HEERF funds. Those HEERF funds were utilized in many different ways. In many cases, we were able to do laptop loan programs. In some spaces they were even doing hotspot loan programs. And so now that we are coming out of the pandemic what does it look like to sustain these resources, OK, because now that we provide these resources how do we sustain them? How do we ensure that we’re having long-term engagements? One of the things that I want and I ask from my educators, especially administrators, to look at: How do we close this—(inaudible)—without placing the costs on the backs of our students? They already have enough going on. We don’t need to just move the cost of something on to their tuition and fees. How can we be even more creative with the engagements and enrollments of our students to being laser focused on what we’re doing to close, again, many of those factors and gaps that were highlighted earlier? So grateful for the opportunity. Have a website. Would love to engage with you all more. I know we’re getting ready to go into conversation. But and, again, thank you all so much for the opportunity. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much for that overview. So we’re going to go to all of you for your questions now. You can click the raised hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or a tablet click the more button to access the raised hand feature. When you’re called upon accept the unmute prompt and please state your name and affiliation followed by a question. You can also submit a written question by the Q&A icon and I will read out the question, and if you do write your question please include your affiliation just to give us a sense of where you’re coming from. And there are no questions as of yet but I know that will change, or else you were so thorough that nobody has questions. (Laughs.) So do you see now with the pandemic experience that there will be continued—I’m going to ask the first question—you know, that this has opened up the space now for deeper understanding of the digital divide and bringing the resources to bear? Or now that we’re kind of post-pandemic or whatever this is people have forgotten about it and are moving on? BROWNLEE: Thank you so much for the question, my friend. I think that it’s twofold. There’s two sides of this coin, right. So there’s the one side of the coin where the awareness now is so much deeper and richer than it ever has been because of the amount of resources and what it took to sustain since 2020 those resources that were being provided to the students in the community. So now there’s many that have learned and they’re now having those conversations about how to sustain the resources because, as we all know, while there’s been an extension of HEERF funds through the Department of Education, that day is coming to an end here pretty soon and so we have to talk about sustainability. The other side of that coin is, unfortunately, there are those that acknowledge what the realities were but their agenda is more on how do we move past it, not necessarily sustain what we were providing. That’s part of the issue for some that we have to address because we don’t just move on from hardship, right. That hardship is real and we have to still maintain a laser focus on how we’re going to close the digital divide, especially in the academic spaces, but also understanding our responsibility as not only educators but community leaders, stakeholders within our community, to be a part of the solutions and the expansions on equitable access and resources being made available. And so I think with both sides of those coins we’re seeing two different realities. But I think that there’s also a need now more than ever to maintain the senses of urgency around the haves and have nots and what we’re going to do to be a part of the solution to ensure that we’re raising the level of accessibility and skill for all within our communities. FASKIANOS: I noted in your presentation you talked about knowing who your students are. So what advice do you have for higher education educators and leaders who are trying to navigate the digital divide in their classroom and to get to know—to figure out where their students are coming from and what their needs may be? BROWNLEE: So, as we all know, especially in the IR space, right, there’s different tools, resources, that we can use to survey our students. There’s different splash pages, if you will, that we can utilize in terms of the enrollment processes or the readvising processes, or even think of some of our learning management tools that we can engage with students to determine what their needs truly are. I think that it’s important that we create tools and instruments that will have high engagement rates. Sometimes those have to be incentivized. But we have to think about outside of our normal student leader responses how we’re capturing the voice of all of our students. And so that’s those that would not typically provide response, and as we think about the digital divide we have to acknowledge that that tool, that instrument, can’t just be electronic. What are we going to do to have paper resources or maybe through phone conversations, outreach, being able to have, certainly, the walk around conversations around our respective campuses and the universities. And so we need to have those conversations to make sure that we’re capturing the voice of all of our students, I think, is in the true spirit of continued improvement. We have to understand who we serve and then acknowledge, through the development of systems and the recalibration of our student experiences, are the voice of these students. FASKIANOS: Right. And in terms of the skills, because community colleges are so focused on developing the skills, what specifically are you doing at Aurora or are you seeing in the community college space to help students develop those skills that they need to navigate digitally? BROWNLEE: Absolutely. One of the things I’ll talk about—and those that may not be aware and I don’t know who all has visited Denver—but the history of Aurora—Aurora is the most diverse community—city—in the state of Colorado. I call that out because immigrants—it has a strong—there’s a strong population in this community and so part of our young thirty-nine years of existence in this community has been providing English second language courses. We’re noticing that especially our immigrant families and communities that are seeking social and economic mobility, highly skilled from where they come from but now we must create learning opportunities to close that gap, not only through language but through accessibility in this Americ