America First vs. Global Diplomacy: International Affairs Lecture Series
Photo Credit: All photos property of the Office of International Affairs
On Wednesday April 2, the Office of International Office hosted another of lecture series, called “U.S. World Policy – America First vs. Global Diplomacy,” in the Science and Research Center of Temple University. The speakers Trudy Rubin, Foreign Affairs Columnist, Editorial Board Member and two-time Pulitzer Finalist for her work with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Ignazio R. Marino, former Mayor of Rome and former Senator of the Republic of Italy, and current Senior Vice President at Thomas Jefferson University were led in a discussion by a moderator Richard Deeg, Dean of College of Liberal Arts.America First vs. Global Diplomacy
Dr. Hai-Lung Dai, Senior Vice Provost for International Affairs and Dean of the College of Science and Technology, opened the lecture with a Chinese saying – “The road to good things is filled with setbacks,” in reference to the rapidly changing sphere of foreign politics. He then gave word to the speakers.
Each having 30 minutes for an opening speech, Rubin began first by diving straight into the issues the United States is facing.
“This nationalist president is showing very little patience for the alliances we had for years. Russia is expanding. How will the world look in five or ten years?”
While she let the question hang in the air, she was quick to add, “It did not start with Donald Trump.”
“The 19th century was easy, focused on expansion. After World War II, the USA emerged as a world power and set up economic rules. Once the Cold War came and went, and the world order was destroyed, something new had to be created. There was no Soviet Union to provide a convenient enemy.”
Rubin brought up the importance of NATO and added that it is more “relevant than ever at a time when Russia feels free.” It is important to note that the anniversary of NATO’s formation was April 4th.
“There should be celebration, but only foreign ministers are coming because Trump could offend foreign leaders by saying they don’t pay enough in their defense budget.”
A warning against the growing power of Russia and China was mentioned several times.
“How can you criticize Putin, when Trump is supporting the same candidates?” Rubin raised yet another rhetorical question.
“China is building a strategic infrastructure, renting and controlling ports around the eastern Mediterranean. Russia is involved in Libya and on the coast of Syria. The eastern part of NATO is bumping into China and Russia. The U.S. is not paying attention and looking elsewhere as its alliances weaken.”
Rubin’s main concerns throughout her speech addressed mainly the growing power on the Russian and Chinese side, and the lack of action on the U.S. side.
Marino used his 30 minutes to speak mainly about climate change, climate refugees and the military.
The Paris Climate Agreement Trump pulled out of was mentioned first.
“The U.S. is not participating in the discussion. This is a mistake. The data is clear, if we want to leave a livable planet to the next generation, we need to act. ”
“By 2050, we will have 200 million climate refugees. This is a big problem not only for the U.S., but for the whole planet.”
As an example, he used the The Republic of Kiribati, a group of 33 Pacific Islands home to 100,000 people that sits on average six feet above sea level and is “slowly” being erased by the rising tide.
Marino also divulged knowledge on a lesser known consequence of climate change: the growing accessibility of Antarctica. Spurned by the changing arctic climate, Russia has been steadily building its fleet of icebreaker ships for the last several years in order to export its oil and gas from the Russian zone in the Arctic. With Russia currently possessing 41 ships compared to a meager two U.S. ships, some are positing Russia’s increased presence in the polar zones is just one more example of growing international influence. Although Russia has more Arctic missions than the U.S., thereby requiring more ships, U.S. ignorance could lead to a lack of security for U.S. interests in the region.
The conversation smoothly moved on to the U.S. military.
“People speak poorly about healthcare and government, but we don’t hear mean things about the military, despite the significant money and human resources invested in it. Most of the people in this country admire the military.”
Marino continued, asserting the military’s spending needed to be carefully considered instead of blindly accepted as necessary.
Marino ended his speech by considering another crucial world issue: immigration and refugees. Referencing the Italian town of Riace, he noted how the mayor’s warm welcome to incoming immigrants has served as a successful model of integration that should be adopted in other places around the world. As one of the most pressing issues in the world today, he stressed migration as the inevitable consequence of world problems from wars to climate change and one which we should deal with decisively, instead of stoking fears.
Dean Deeg then took over, reading questions collected among the audience that brought up topics such as Trump’s foreign policy and diplomacy.
“It is very hard to check a president who still acts as if he is running a family business,” said Rubin.
“I don’t really think Donald Trump cares about working with diplomacy,” said Marino.
“In 2017, Jefferson worked in a partnership with Italian university. It was important to have a discussion with U.S. Ambassador to Italy, but there was none appointed. I told my stuff, ‘Don’t worry, we need one by March 28 and the G7 meeting was happening on May 24. He will appoint someone by then.’”
“He didn’t. He went himself and he wasn’t briefed before he sat down with world leaders. Trump doesn’t think he needs ambassadors. He is not interested in relationships with European countries. In Saudi Arabia, Jared speaks to the prince, so what would an Ambassador be for?”
Brexit inevitably came up afterwards.
Marino said that Brexit is a big mistake, which will make not only UK, but also EU weaker, and therefore have impact on USA.
Rubin condemned it as one a tragedy.
“It undermines NATO, although the UK says it will stay strong on the military side. I was in London when Brexit happened, and I can say young people didn’t want it and didn’t vote and I believe if there was referendum, Brexit wouldn’t happen. Students were partying, they didn’t believe it would happen.”
Marino added that the UK was the only country from the 28 countries, that had a very special deal.
“They could keep their currency, you have Euro programs that those countries invested billions in. It was based on GDP and population. You put your part in the bucket and then you get back based on your means. Italy invests 14 percent and gets back 8, because other countries need help. For the UK, they got back exactly what they invested.”
And what role does social media play in today’s world?
Rubin believes that the biggest problem are talk-show hosts, who talk about politicians.
“Fox News is the most guilty of this. The biggest problem comes from social media with conspiracy theories. Trump often retweets some of these theorists and theories. It is dangerous, giving them legitimacy.”
Marino added that the internet and social media changed completely the way we get our information.
“It is not easy to make the difference between fake news and actual news. Take vaccines and vaccination for example. Stories from the 90’s the data were false, and 20 years after, we are still fighting it on social media, the idea that vaccines are dangerous, giving people diseases.”
Rubin finished her thought by saying that she is always torn about what to tell students who are becoming journalists, and foreign correspondents.
“My feeling is, that somebody who wants to work there, the best is to work for NGO or human rights organizations, they work in development. Working on human rights, where the US used to take the lead, and where Trump is refusing to take any lead. It is important that these organizations are funded by all of us, and have great people working for them.”
Emphasizing why journalism is important, Rubin added, “The most satisfying feeling is to go out somewhere, where people needed to know what was going on, and they couldn’t because nobody was out there.”
Marino ended his final thought with a quote from Mark Twain: “Politicians get changed as often as diapers, and for the same reason.”
Overall, both speakers agreed on one thing: the U.S. is losing global power and its future actions need to reflect a strategy which acknowledges this trend and its implications on U.S. interests. Although President Trump is not the only cause of the decline, his decisions as leader have served as a catalyst in ruining international trust in U.S. foreign politics. It is only with the foresight of the next leader that the U.S. can hope to regain some its foreign influence and continue to set the example for democratic governance throughout the world.