Even as the presidential debates veered sometimes far away from the globe’s most pressing problems, two panels featuring expertise from the IU School of Global and International Studies examined the issues head on. “Foreign Policy and the Next President” featured two in-depth discussions on foreign policy matters during two hour-long programs on Sept. 27 and Oct. 6 at the Global and International Studies auditorium. The programs were broadcast live by partner WFIU, the public radio station based at the IU Bloomington campus, a broadcast made available to public radio stations throughout Indiana.
Full audio and video of the programs are available. Archived audio of the broadcasts are on the WFIU News page (Sept. 27; Oct. 6.) Full video of the panel discussion is on broadcast.iu.edu (Sept. 27; Oct. 6).
Moderator Joe Hren, anchor of WTIU’s “Indiana Newsdesk,” asked questions of panelists and also relayed questions from the audience and through Twitter during the live program.
The first panel focused on major global and economic issues. Much of the discussion centered on the global refugee crisis, with Elizabeth Dunn, associate professor of international studies noting that the population of refugees worldwide now exceeds the population of France. Dunn made a case for the U.S. doing much more on the crisis, saying U.S. policymakers must go back to thinking about America’s role in the world as based on moral values. Dunn is an expert on refugee crises and displaced persons; her forthcoming book is based on years of fieldwork on displaced persons in the Republic of Georgia.
The panelists discussed the hardline position of Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has suggested closing off the U.S. to much of the world by banning Muslims emigrating to the country and by abandoning alliances and world governing structures through NATO and the United Nations. David Bosco, associate professor of international studies and an expert on international law and the politics surrounding international organizations, made the point that President Obama suggested a “course correction” to the UN in his final speech to the body while also saying it can’t push back globalism. “We may need to work to make sure the institutions and methods of cooperation that we have are benefiting everyone and are seen as legitimate,” he said. “So I think there was some acknowledgement by the president about some of these themes that are so resonant in the presidential campaign.”
Hesitation about global agreements on trade have driven opposition to pacts such as the Trans Pacific Partnership by both Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton and Trump, something Bosco noted has put Republicans in a very different place in this election cycle. Bosco said the GOP would traditionally be pushing such trade pacts. Sara Bauerle Danzman, assistant professor of international relations and a researcher of global economic conditions added that domestic discomfort with the changing economic conditions causing plant closings and shifting of jobs overseas, makes support for such deals difficult. But she said global trade deals really aren’t the reason for such changes.
“It seems like it’s being driven by globalization, but it’s actually about things like technological innovation that replaces workers with robots,” Danzman said. “These would be challenges we would be facing even without deals like NAFTA and TPP.
“The next president is going to have to do even more to bring the domestic politics into line with understanding where we are with our economy and also doing more in helping those displaced by those changes in our economy.”
Yan Long, assistant professor of international studies, said that whatever adjustments the U.S. may be thinking of in its international trade relations may be less radical than the steps being discussed in the presidential race. “Leaving the whole international order and promoting something totally different is probably not going to work,” she said.
The second panel on Oct. 6 focused on major foreign policy and security issues. In discussing why many of the top foreign policy issues haven’t dominated the debates, SGIS Founding Dean Lee Feinstein noted that domestic issues often grab most attention in presidential races. However, he noted that the most significant role foreign policy matters have played in the overall race has been in terms of “temperament” of the candidates. Feinstein, the former U.S. ambassador to Poland and national security director for Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign and senior foreign policy advisor to President Barack Obama during the general election, added that there is a broader concern. “In addition to the long list of foreign policy problems is a more fundamental one,” he said. “And that is that any president is going to have to confront the fundamental lack of agreement on what this country’s role in the world ought to be.”
Fred Cate, IU vice president for research, Distinguished Professor and the C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law, and senior fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, lamented that it was amazing how many of the issues being addressed by the panelists were not being addressed by the candidates. He did focus on his area of expertise, cybersecurity, which has been a focus of news coverage given U.S. allegations of cyberattacks from Russia directed at areas that could impact the U.S. election. While he said it’s actually unlikely such forces could alter the election itself, since the system is so de-centralized with very little of it online, the efforts could be more psychological in nature.
“Could President Putin or the intelligence agencies working for Putin create a sense of distrust in the election, a sense of uncertainty?” Cate said, adding that Trump his intimated that if he doesn’t win something may be wrong with the system. “That absolutely could happen. And that’s more consistent with past Russian practices where we’ve seen efforts to infiltrate elections in Ukraine and Western European countries.
Regarding U.S.-Russia relations, Emma Gilligan, associate professor of international studies who has studied Russia extensively, particularly regarding human rights, said the sanctions the U.S. has pushed on Russia haven’t stemmed Putin’s military aims though it has created a “malaise” economically. “What either president would be inheriting would be a need to reinforce and re-enhance that transatlantic partnership (to curb Russia),” she said. “Those relationships need to be refreshed.”
Touching on other parts of the world, Adam Liff, assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and a widely published scholar on security in the Asia-Pacific region, said the intimations of altered alliances by Trump could dramatically change relations in East Asia. “He seems to view alliances in very narrow, economic, transactional terms,” he said. “Obviously, this makes our allies a bit nervous because the actual rationale for the alliances over time has been much greater than that. This is not charity. This is from the perspective of what is in the U.S. national interest as well.” Liff added that Trump has threatened decades of counter-proliferation of nuclear weapons by entering the debates saying that Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weapons.
Clemence Pinaud, assistant professor of international studies and an expert on conflict and humanitarian intervention focused on another conflict that has received little to no attention by the candidates, but will face the next president. Pinaud said attention should be paid to South Sudan, where the U.S. spent more than $11 billion as the “midwife of a new nation,” but it has again been struck by conflict. Pinaud studied the circumstances of civilians and armed groups in South Sudan during the country’s civil wars while working for international aid agencies there over two and a half years.
“The continuing problems in South Sudan could destabilize the whole region,” Pinaud said.