Speakers and members of AWAC

Notes of guest speaker events at AWAC

by Jeremy Lewis

Speeches, 2016-17

Archive Home | Past events and notes | Documents index | Facebook page and albums

Images from 2016-17 events are found here in high resolution; or on AWAC's Facebook page.

See Alabama World Affairs Council at Alwac.org


September 20, 2016: Ambassador Joseph Wilson, “Africa and the US: Past and Present”

October 18, 2016: Jennifer Harris, Council on Foreign Relations, “Geoeconomics”

November 15, 2016, Dr. David Sorenson, Air War College, “Requiem for Syria”

January 10, 2017: US and Korean Officials, “A Celebration of Korea”

March 14, 2017: John Pomfret, award-winning journalist, "US-Chinese Relations"

April 21, 2017: Ambassador Mark Grossman, "Turkey, Europe and the United States"

May 9, 2017: Panel from the Air War College, "Report to Alabama on the Regional Tours"

Special Programs
International Security Issues, Fall, 2016

Great Decisions Program, Spring, 2017


September 20, 2016 – 5:30 PM
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, “Africa and the US: Past and Present”

Amb. Joe Wilson

Former Ambassador to countries in the ME and Africa and involved in the formation of the AFRICOM command, Ambassador Wilson has unique experiences—including the being the last American to interview Saddam Hussein and special missions regarding nuclear materials—from which to discuss our relations with Africa.

Introduction by Dr. James Nathan

Last person in Baghdad before Desert Storm, got all westerners out before war.  Noose anecdote.
Prepared remarks
Connection to local area: visited SPLC and Maxwell AFB, father in law roomed with Chuck Yeager, own grandad was pilot in WWI and father in WWII.
In Africa and Middle East, was military adviser to Gen. Jim Jamieson in Sierra Leone and Bosnia. Put Africa on map for US military which had little presence at the time.
Niger duty, later was first African nation to sign up for Gulf War.
In justifying the war, however, the Bush administration pushed forged documents on the US public.
[Resolving conflicts in Angola and West Africa]
Involved in conflicts in Angola, Congolese agreement to withdraw Cuban and South African UNITA troops from Angola. President Sasso of Congo (has returned) was concerned to achieve something on African debt (long term problem) and the Angolan proxy war 1985 since independence. Cuban supplies came through Congo port; Luanda government members had spent time in Congo. Wilson was intermediary between Sasso and Chet Crocker. Vernon Walters also came to restrict supplies to Cubans. Met in Brazzaville, knew Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko. Congolese always in rivalry to Zaire so happy to tell stories against Mobutu.
Progress was made in 5 way conversation and each side reporting what it wanted. Crocker talking about de-escalation.
Crocker was unable to visit a ‘Marxist, French luxury-enjoying dictator’. Interlocutor with Mali favored Chinese communists, acceptable to some locally.  Neither Cubans nor S Africans able to meet directly, so amazing when both landed at Brazzaville. Brazzaville protocol to NY accords. Shows how diplomacy could work.
[Use of military versus diplomacy in Africa]
Military do their mission well, breaking things – but not good to use them as diplomats building long term relationships.
In East Africa the military is valuable, but violence there cannot be exported to US as direct threat. Enemies lack the means.
Possible to save civilians in conflict -- with safe havens, eg Syria, before they became a hot potato in Europe.
Military was to train Africans to multi-brigade level as multi-national force for OAU under UN as peace keeping and even peace making force. 2000s ran Flintlock series of exercises to prevent mass humanitarian disaster by flooding conflict with troops from multiple countries.
Evacuated Sierra Leone with Brits; CAR with French; met Valerie in Brussels when talking about returning French to NATO (but they wanted control of 6th fleet – no way that was happening.) Wilson dreamed of assignment to Paris but always in Africa – so Frankfurt was convenient and met with French. Euro defense force was being considered at the time.
Diplomats work at slower pace, establishing relationships, compared to military.
Zaire then fell apart, and could get Belgian troops, Brits & French down close to Kinshasa.
Multiple, complex operations [Bosnia and Angola, in Clinton administration]:
Bosnia: large personnel and materiel with transits and status of force agreements to account even for minor brawls, accidents etc. among 20,000 troops and logistics and strategic work.
Angolan settlement
US new to Africa after WW2 for atomic material for Manhattan project, and JFK opened embassies around Africa even though still not much commercial presence.
Kinshasa across river but had to connect via operator in Paris and Brussels to reach across river!
African Growth and Opportunity Act to encourage commerce – but Turks, Indians and others bought textile factories in Africa to exceed quotas from their own countries in trade, slipped around limitations.
First Presidential trip to Africa (Clinton) to show the flag except Jimmy Carter’s tour of developing countries. 6 African countries, summit at Entebbe on arc of violence, and agenda at each stop. Took planeload of businessmen to South Africa to open up trade.
Bosnia at same time as 2 evacuations from west Africa. Small staff.
However, when 4 star general is assigned two 3 stars and 7 Js come along, and bureaucracy becomes top heavy with ambitious general officers looking for a mission. Like creation of Central Command, end up finding too many missions and acting too unilaterally.
Why deploy US troops unilaterally when not enough capability?
[Gulf War I, 1991]
Existential crisis Gulf war I found Jim Baker in Mongolia, flew to talk with Sheverdnaze on way back, negotiated coalition of new world order.
90% of costs of operation funded by other countries – own costs were only like a major exercise.
12 UN resolutions including the final one giving all available means.
Each country had own interests (like Syria today).
Russians had folks in Southern in Iraq to protect.
Arabs feared US using excuse to attack an Arab country.
Made agreements and had to abide them as first post-Cold War tests of order.

Contrast with Iraq war 2003, with few coalition partners, huge costs, reputation and moral authority in tatters.  Took military option first before diplomacy.

Before Gulf I had large forces in Gulf ready, so in Geneva other regimes Jan 15th 1991, Iraqis in no doubt what would happen to them if did not withdraw before deadline.

Coalition spreads burden, cost of military, spreads blame. Powell problem is ‘if you break it you bought it’.  Saddam was waning, narrower base, regime weakening – so would have gone if US had not intervened – and any chaos would not have been US fault.

Africa- our deployments should be in consultation with UN (has not seemed to do much there in times of crises) and African Union.  Could have run smaller operation from Europe without all the Generals in Africa looking for a mission.

Question Time
April Glasspie was investigated for having given Saddam the apparent green light?
Glasspie gave the standard US answer that US took no position but urged negotiation. Iraq understood that very well as standard position. Tariq Aziz promised would not take military action while negotiation still under way. But we were surprised by Bush letter that emphasized warm and friendly relations and did not give smack down before Iraq attacked – letter had been diluted by multiple officers and April was ‘hung out to dry’.  Larry Eagleburger after war went to Hill to clear April’s name.
Burgess: US trained 100K of African troops and operation in Mali – exaggerated criticism of US role?
Yes, Ugandan troops well trained and now guard our embassy. But we should not overuse military because we are seen in Middle East and Africa as acting in own interests – just like Iran, Turkey and Russia in Syria. We might have to give up removal of Assad in order to get others to hit ISIL. Caliphate wants to take over Mecca and Jedda so Saudis and [inaudible]
Can help out with refugee camps on large scale – where another generation of Arabs may be fertile ground for terrorism in future. Setting up refugee safe zones.
Yellowcake in Niger dangerous for use by terrorists or regimes?
No, just a powder and still has to be completely processed from 1% of rock. Uranium widely found including in Iraq. We had been buying up loose nukes in old Soviet Union. Risk of dirty bomb is more feasible than some but yellowcake is just ore.
Aleppo, Syria – is that any of our business?
Need diplomatic leadership to engage the regional powers and their agendas. John Kerry has worked very hard on this but difficult in region because priorities are different.
How much are we collaborating with Chinese in Africa?
Not much at all. I got to Niger in 1976 when used clothes were main export to markets in Africa – HS tee shirts. Chinese had been selling useful tin cup objects and roads & buildings with Chinese workforce (sometimes criminal labor). But Chinese construction insensitive to environment and took large numbers of Chinese workers, so now African countries are more careful about operating with them.
Terrorism across Mali, Nigeria and Kenya, prospects across Africa?
Governments will have some difficulties. Transition from Kissinger to Carter introduced human rights to foreign policy. Where longtime regimes use elections to release steam. Africa will continue to have governments that have stayed too long, and new reformers also then stay too long in power. There are going to be pressures if not relieved by power transitions and result is Arab spring uprisings.  In Sahara Touaregs used by Ghaddafi to foment trouble in neighbors including Mali, which produced many peacekeepers.
Mugabe elderly future? On death watch now. Zimbabwe was investing after accords and will still do so in future.
What will US do for Africa – and what will Obama do for Africa?
Many refugees have come to DC from Ethiopia for example. Refugee crisis in central Africa is not well understood and a mass emigration from Nigeria could damage Togo and other countries to South. Some successes in Sahel though US could do more. Hamstrung by Jesse Helms for a decade. Devote only a fraction of 1% to assistance as a result. After end of Cold War we stopped competing to educate students who would by now be leaders across Africa.

October 18, 2016 – 5:30 PM
Jennifer Harris, Council on Foreign Relations, “Geoeconomics and Statecraft”

Jennifer Harris, Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Jennifer M. Harris is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to joining the Council, Harris was a member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State responsible for global markets, geo-economic issues and energy security. Before joining the State Department, Harris served on the staff of the U.S. National Intelligence Council, covering a range of economic and financial issues.
Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Quarterly, and the World Economic Forum among other outlets. A Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar, she holds degrees in economics and international relations from Wake Forest University (BA) and Oxford University (MPhil), and a JD from Yale Law School.
Ms Harris is the co-author, with Robert Blackwill, of War By Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft (Harvard University Press, April 2016). Amazon page, with excellent customer reviews.


From Hamilton to Vietnam, the US has used economic diplomacy well, but we have neglected it since the Vietnam war.
Ten years’ experience in US government [including as an aide to Secretary of State Clinton].
Prepared remarks
Examples of Geoeconomic statecraft by other nations:
1. July 2012, Putin visited Kiev for birthplace of Russian nation. Called not just for political solidarity but also economic, Eurasian customs union in place of EU – then slapped sanctions on basis of carcinogens, on Ukrainian chocolates, manufactured by Poroshenko himself.  Other sanctions followed until Ukraine’s decision on EU application. Ukraine was to be coerced into Moscow’s sphere of influence.
Had we known where to look, we could have taken these opening shots seriously as warnings of war in Ukraine. Did so at State Dept.
2. China allows Philippine bananas to rot on its docks; disavowal of Taiwan is a condition for Chinese trade with other nations.
3. India under PM Modi has been extending credit lines to nations in response to China.
4. Gulf states vying for influence with Egypt.
A magnitude of change not seen since the advent of nuclear weapons – but we are far too reliant on military to advance our claims.
[Proposals for reforming foreign policy]
1. What is Geo-economics?
Use of economic instruments to achieve political objectives.
Trade, investment, monetary policy, sanctions, aid assistance and cyber.
Money is fungible, hence giving assistance to Egyptians lets them use other money for other purposes.
[Example of modern instruments] Russia began attack on GA with cyberattack on Georgian banks.
Does the national government own a lot of capital in sovereign wealth fund that it can use for influence?
2. Who is doing it well?
No surprise that China features here. Fewer countries now recognize Taiwan under the one China policy. They have raised the costs of challenging Beijing in the South China sea, among a dozen countries. UN arbitration decision sided with Philippines, dismissing China’s interpretation of Maritime law – but only one country pursued a claim because China has made it clear there are economic consequences. Victory hollowed by new Philippine leader offering to keep quiet in return for infrastructure investment by China.
Beijing has over played hand and Japan is now remilitarizing, and is now joining US led TPP for trade, and purchasing arms from US.
Qatar is a small country without military options, hence using money is their instrument – but this has caused headaches with radical movements and destabilizing consequences.
[Geo-economics in US history]
Hamilton and Jefferson agreed on little except the value of trade as both shield and sword. Jefferson understood the value of the Louisiana Purchase to prevent the French gaining a foothold on the American continent.  In civil war, US threatened UK with freeze on debts, and did work them out of support for confederacy. High point of economic instruments was Lend Lease and then Marshall Plan.
1970s during VN war, US turned away from economic and towards military instrument.
1970s rise of Chicago school and free market based economics.
No great foe after end of cold war so neoclassical theory led and economic instruments not used [as leverage]. Adam Smith and classical liberals were not for using economics for geopolitical purposes but laissez faire for economic growth.
3. How does this matter?
How did ISIS become world’s biggest bank robber? More gold than any entity than Fort Knox. Oil was a major source of revenue until the price dropped.
Over time, a structural disadvantage?
A. 2 dimensional axes: long term/short term and quid pro quo.
Bretton Woods institutions long term and less transactional, postwar.
In debates on Iran sanctions, they were laid by Congress rather than experts, and without benefit cost analysis against next best alternatives.
B. need to work this into our alliances,
Have not worked beyond MFN status with European Union, launched in 2012 as economic match to NATO -- but has lost strategic vision in haggling over goods.
Example of relative costs: doubling our aid to Ukraine would have cost less than 3 days of war in Afghan.
Charged with developing early tectonic US response to Arab spring.
Billion-dollar debt swap with Egypt, new trade and investment partnership for region – but 4.5 years later, the enterprise fund had yet to cut a check, and events on ground were outpacing US government’s ability to respond. Policy was frustrated by needing to get green light authorization from Congress on spending existing appropriations.
Question Time
Is China’s long game working? Venezuela cannot pay back loans.
TBD at this point. Being used as a rationale for building up Chinese blue water navy to protect investments abroad.  China has more blue helmets in Sudan because has more oil interest there – looks like a good step for them and for China becoming a responsible member of the world community.
Is US debt making us a weakling and our military power is our positive strength?
US National debt is moderate by international standards and although a priority to reduce it is not a top priority.
Interdependent: US debt to China is a concern for US as it is for China.
South China Sea: is a UN court decision worth much there and what should Philippines do?
UN decisions can always be followed or not by nation states, true, but we could gather Asian allies together to consider responses to China. We cannot want outcome in Philippines more than regional actors do. Obama administration has tried to work with more restraint abroad – but has no second stanza to the speech, to set out an economic policy abroad.
Will Ukraine lead to world war or economic depression?
Putin has designs on Greater or New Russia and this presents a test of wills. US has oil investments in Russia and may not be willing to pay costs of biting sanctions. Largest creditor in Ukrainian sovereign debt is an American pension fund manager in California, gambling on a bailout in Ukraine – and doubled down when Russian “little green men” moved across border into Ukraine.
US did not consider biting sanctions until after shooting down of MH17 airliner.
Why are we still a member of the UN? Why do we pay debt to UN and what do we get out of it?
UN has had a pretty good stretch in last few years and even last couple of decades. US challenges in recent years have included nuclear deal with Iran; climate accord single greatest national security threat according to some and US got others to share burden; Montreal protocol recently on CFCs to heal ozone hole – recently agreed to add HFCs which are [obstructive] for climate change. So, a whole lot that benefits US interests, if not easy to achieve. Need reform of UNSC to include India and develop a partner and ally. Cheap compared to our military investments.
Two ambassadors who have spoken to us recently have disagreed: does military help diplomacy or get in way?
Not dismissing military power but calling for a course correction and using economics which has been under-used. They should reinforce each other. Churchill said sanctions on Abyssinia – pushing too aggressively would have caused a war -- but war occurred anyway.
Should we be more cautious with countries that sponsor terrorism (Iran)? [Partly inaudible]
Not involved in Iran negotiations but time for nuclear development was about 2-3 months to breakout of weapons and now extended to 12 months.  Iranian accounts were unfrozen which is not the same as a donation to Iran. Deeply imperfect choices but one I would go for.
Multinational corporations: how would you be able to leverage for national interests over MNCs?
“Golden straitjacket” term of 1990s, prescription of World Bank and International Monetary Fund pushed on Less Developed Countries in return for assistance. MNCs look less American these days. Need a conversation on what US and MNCs in the US owe each other these days. Could close tax loopholes overseas (both 2016 presidential candidates agree) and close tax havens in trade agreements. Why prioritize biologics and big pharma over other sectors, based on older circumstances of 1940s-1980s?

November 15, 2016 – 5:30 PM
Dr. David Sorenson, Air War College, “Requiem for Syria”

A review and assessment of the country that was Syria—its history, art, culture and people—and the tragedy that has befallen them and the world as a result.  A frequent visitor to Syria, Dr. Sorenson’s pictures and insights will explain the politics and the human circumstances of this once beautiful land, its people and culture.

Dr. David S. Sorenson is Professor of International Security Studies and Chair, Department of International Security Studies at the Air War College, Maxwell, AFB, AL. He was formerly Associate Dean for Academic Studies at the AWC.  Dr. Sorenson received his Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and his BA and MA from California State University at Long Beach. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Colorado at Denver, Denison University, and the Mershon Center at Ohio State University.

A frequent visitor to the Middle East, Dr. Sorenson has published Lebanon: Global Security Watch. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers (2010), Interpreting the Modern Middle East, (edited), (Westview Press, 2010), An Introduction to the Modern Middle East (Westview Press, 2008, 2nd Edition 2013), and numerous articles and book chapters on Middle East politics, defense budget politics, and national security affairs. He is currently completing a forthcoming book on Syria.

Notes of briefing by Dr. Sorenson
Hammond: Sorenson once held the ¼ mile drag racing world record.

Prepared remarks
A tragedy unfolding;
Russian aircraft carrier will now add to the damage.
Syrian background
Have lived in Damascus and Aleppo among friendly and safe people. [Very different from today].
Syria existed under the Ottoman empire, was administered by France 1918-43, then became independent.
Culture developed over 45 centuries and existed much longer.
French tired of governing but faced multiple tribes and no strong man or dominant religion to tie it together.
Fights between North & South, rural and urban – then military would bring coup d’etat, and execute the leader.
Hafez Assad was Chief of Staff of Air Force, a pilot who crashed and was fired.
With the Ba’ath party (which means renaissance in Arabic), he brought the Alawi minority to power with stability for the country (except 1981-82 when the Muslim Brotherhood rose up in Hama, and Assad destroyed that city with helicopter gunships.)
Bashar Assad succeeded his father in 2000, once his older brother died in car crash speeding to the airport.
He tried to modernize Syria, recognized Arab socialism was a failure, but privatization primarily benefitted his extended family – with control over production and distribution of telephones, washing machines, concrete, etc.
Damascus favored Assad because he offered jobs in a large bureaucracy with little to do. However, he never captured the center of the country.
Complex ethnic map: for example, the Alawi minority on NW coast, Druze in SW, with many pockets of other groups.
Arab spring travelled to Syria via social media.
SW corner very poor and mostly young people began writing anti-regime graffiti on walls. Unlike other regimes, Syria cracked down, tortured and killed youths involved.
Then the demonstrations were crushed in other parts of Syria – so it became an armed movement.
Sunni (majority) officers rebelled against the Shia-related regime, which then rounded up prisoners and sent them off to fight the Americans.
However, eventually they became a Sunni militia who turned against the Syrian regime when they returned.
Assad received support from Russia, Iran & Hezbollah – though neither side felt it was getting much out of the other.

Dynamics of the civil war [with visual slides]
Pro-regime, anti-regime and Kurdish groups [listed on slide]
Western side of Syria is held by regime
Aleppo is fought over my many groups of different types.
Turks are fighting along the northern Syrian border among Kurds – who are internally divided themselves.
Half of the population has been displaced and a vast infrastructure destroyed.
Massive influx of foreign fighters, at least quarter to half million killed (unable to count)
Deliberate killing of mass numbers, 1.8 million civilians estimated injured and 95% of doctors killed, life expectancy now the lowest in world at 55 years.
Economic cost about $250 Billion – and the best paid job now is undertaker.
Population has fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Europe.
Many women begging in Turkey, likely are widows.
Amazing that many have been desperate enough to run to Iraq, a highly dangerous place.
Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is vast area of shipping containers, Turks have large tent camps.
Europe: some countries welcomed refugees, others did not.
Fear of Terrorism, crime, other social disorders.
NYT investigated the origins of the French attackers in 2015 – they were young Muslim immigrants but all from North Africa, especially Morocco – not one of them was from Turkey. Turkish communities tend not to assimilate whereas North Africans often tried to - may be a factor.

How might it end?
This is a proxy war between Sunni and Shia Arab countries – and foreign fighters will continue, because it is not about Syria. Foreigners are an accelerant to the war.
For Syrian security forces, the fight is existential.
All sides are too weak to win or to stop.
When one side starts to lose, foreign sponsors supply them.
Participants focused on own self-interests – and countries with refugees are too weak to respond.
What future for Syria?
Refugees likely to be semi-permanent, as have been Palestinians around Cairo since 1948.
All health indices highest (worst) in world, economic indicators down badly, many sectors down by half.
If war stopped now, it would take 18 years to recover to pre 2010 levels.
Of 22 Arab countries, Arab spring impacted 6 seriously, all republics.
[Photos:] Sites of destruction include oldest mosque, and Palmyra ruins, Homs.
So much Christian and Muslim history in villages, mosques and palaces – now reduced to moonscapes, pulverized to rubble.
Question Time
Do the refugees think of themselves as Syrians? Yes, deep identity as Syrian but civil wars tribalize people. Country has been destroyed.

Advised Obama administration (with a group of experts) that Syria is not of critical interest to the US but the region is – so support Jordan and Lebanon with assistance to refugees to contain the Syrian civil war. The Germans in 1914 realized they were allied to a corpse (Austria) and the same applies to Russia now, hence they will inherit a destroyed country.

Will a failed state become a haven for terrorism? Yes, it already has – hoping the most violent people will die in Syria and not spread outside.

Cost of rebuilding
is beyond the US or the UN – too many $ billions of infrastructure lost.

Are there regional capacities to rebuild?
Syria gets 80% of foreign revenue from oil but unable to produce and it has been exploited by Kurds and others. Drought has destroyed over-farmed land (harvested by hand). Partnered with Iran(!) to build cars and even Syrian won’t buy them – industry to provide jobs but not efficiency. Russians have port at Tartus but it holds little infrastructure and is much dilapidated.

is the only country interested in picking off territory – and is transforming before our eyes. It is interested in allying with countries against Kurds, their main enemy. Turkish forces are in Syria to ensure Kurds do not control more of Syria – and not likely to leave, hence they will return to some of Ottoman empire.

Does culture of Islam prevent region from being globally competitive? Still being debated, but other regions have developing Islamic economies. Arab culture, once strong in C13th, has fallen apart and the Arab world is bereft of resources except for some oil-rich economies. Many lack rivers or water supplies. UAE and Qatar have transformed but post-colonial countries have had difficulty. Map of democracy around world except China and Russia – but in Middle East Arab states have mostly failed democratization. They foster corruption and socialist systems that frustrate development. In past centuries, before the Mongols in 1250, they were a center of culture in so many ways.

are not worried about DA’ESH – they consider Iran and Palestinians more substantial threats. Have actually been treating and returning wounded Sunni militants since they are fighting Israel’s traditional enemies. Yet Hezbollah was not seen as their main enemy until the war in Lebanon surprised the Israelis. Israel is relying on Hamas who are fighting DA’ESH.

–since they have chosen to side with the Assad regime, have chosen a loser. It is inappropriate for us to go in militarily and support any one side in Syrian war – but I am concerned if it spreads elsewhere.

versus Syrians – ancient civilization but Syrian term actually comes from Greek.

Turkish coup?
Justice and Development party was not really Islamist. Gulen was partner with Erdogan but was Islamist and accused Erdogan of corruption with trumped up charges and Erdogan accused Gulen of infiltrating army. Erdogan has now purged the military and when Air Force planned coup they planned it poorly, did not get command of media or most military. Poorly trained & organized and had never fought together. Erdogan is deeply paranoid, and is arresting 100,000s of military, police, judiciary and universities – has left only a shell behind. Turkey has been badly weakened by all this.

January 10, 2017 – 5:30 PM
US and Korean Officials, “A Celebration of Korea”
Panelists are Ms. Sarah Cho (Researcher, Economic Section, Embassy of the Republic of Korea); Mr. Mark Tokola (Vice President of the Korean Economic Institute) and Mr. James Applegate (Chief of the Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK) Unit, Office of Korean Affairs, US Department of State). This program is sponsored by the World Affairs Council of America national office. For us, it celebrates the close ties between South Korea and the Montgomery community.

Mark Tokola, Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America, Washington, DC. Tokola retired as a U.S. Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor in September 2014. His last posting was as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at US Embassy London. Previously he had served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassies in Seoul, Republic of Korea; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and Reykjavik, Iceland. Among his other postings were two tours at the US Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at Embassy London, and Economic Counselor at US Embassy The Hague. He also served as Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO) in Baghdad from 2007-2008. Mr Tokola received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for his work on implementing the Dayton Peace Accords while serving as Political Counselor in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1997-1999. He holds a BA in International Relations from Pomona College in Claremont, California, and an LL.M. in European Community Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

James Applegate, Chief of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Unit, Office of Korean Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC.. Prior to taking this assignment, Mr. Applegate served as Deputy Counselor for United Nations Affairs at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria (UNVIE) (2013-2016).  His other overseas assignments include Kabul, Afghanistan (2012-2013); Canberra, Australia (2009-2011); and Guangzhou, China (2007-2009).  He also served as a Watch Officer and Senior Watch Officer in the Department’s 24-hour Operations Center, which monitors developing crises around the world.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Mr. Applegate spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia before joining the Foreign Service.

Sarah Cho, Researcher, Economic Section, Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Washington, DC.. Ms Cho is an economic policy analyst monitoring bi-lateral trade and investment flows between Korea and the United States as well as multi-lateral trade relations and agreements. Prior to joining the Republic of Korea Foreign Service, Ms Cho was a Program Analyst at Seoul National University. She has a BA in English Literature and Political Science from Sookmyung Women’s University, an MA in International Relations from Seoul National University, and an MA in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Introduction: Not only Hyundai but 90 suppliers have invested in Alabama 

Sarah Cho on Korea-US Free Trade agreement 2012.

Trade a big issue in recent months and needs a larger context, since trade benefits both countries.

Myths and facts about KORUS

2011-2015 Korean exports to US rose sharply as US economy grew. Tech and steel products were already tax free, most of the export items. US exports increased cars, pharma etc.

US-K trade rose by 15% while global trade fell 10%. US services exports rose 34% (legal, financial, hospitality). Korean FDI grew and is 5th ranking source for US. Without Korea, US trade deficit would have been much larger.

Is the KORUS FTA costing US jobs? Has created 45,000 jobs in US, and pays higher than average of foreign firms. Average wage of $91,000. Korean top 12 firms alone provided 35,000 US jobs.

US exports to Korea supported 358,000 US in 2015 alone.

Korea-AL trade $5 Bn, not just Hyundai but also NIDEK of Birmingham and Klumb lumber corp.

Korea 6th largest trading partner for US and US is 2nd largest for Korea. Korea is 3rd largest source of foreign students for US.

Military alliance – Economic – shared values.  Cooperating also in finding cure for cancer.

James Applegate, State Dept, head of NK desk.

DPRK called by Obama in top 2 threats (ISIS also)

30 years of US foreign policy has failed to achieve goal of a safe DPRK without a nuclear threat. Has spread over both parties and multiple administrations.

Nuclear testing has greatly accelerated in last year, 24 tests last year, cf 18 in their history. Satellite launch was a violation of law and a veiled test of launching ballistic rocket. Blatant disregard of international norms.

NK has capability to unleash devastating force on US forces in SK; developing ability to strike continental US. This takes priority over everything including feeding own people.

Some argue DPRK will not give up nuclear program so must accommodate on that basis.

Can we make it so costly for them so that they give up? That is US policy of the last few years.

Diplomacy, pressure on costs, bring them back to negotiating table.

Pressure significantly ratcheted up in past year, both uni-, and multi-laterally. Yielded concrete results, 2 UNSC resolutions, toughest sanctions ever and with China and Russia. Congress has sanctioned also, harmonized with South Korea and Japan allies. Reached out to nearly every country in the world.

Asked them to break off economic engagement with DPRK, since all money going into NK goes to State ultimately and much then to nuclear weapons. Stopping countries from paying for NK workers. DPRK does care deeply about international reputation, when diplomatic visits are canceled. Increased pressure on regime to highest since Korean war, but sustaining long international pressure is a new process. Policy is to bring NK to table not to its knees – but no indication NK will bargain at all.

ROK and Japan have strengthened their relations -- intel sharing agreement, a surprising development.

35,000 US troops still in SK for deterrence; US nuclear umbrella; and THAAD missiles installed.

Is it working? Signs are NK is feeling the pressure but has not worked yet.

Sanctions do take a long time (eg Iran, 3 years); Additional measures are still available.

DPRK has been quiet since October, before US presidential election surprised them; and political situation in SK lately has surprised them too.

3 baskets: military action against NK, with high risk from NK artillery; or pressure continuing.

People often think US has had relations with SK since 1950 but actually US diplomatic residence in SK dates from 1882. SK is in the big (50M pop.) but rich category ($9K income per cap.) – Korea is in small group. Economic miracle matched by democratic miracle, has 6th biggest military, excellent students but high suicide rate (so now extra curriculars are required, having the side effect of putting students under more pressure). Low birth rate because costly to educate one child alone. Now dealing with disputes in legally correct way.

In world cup on screen in downtown Seoul, locals were rooting for NK soccer team, see themselves as one people.

Question Time

Chinese relations with either Korea?

Chinese had charm offensive a few years ago, but the NK stimulus to tightening of US alliances in region put strain on their relations with NK. China approved UNSC resolutions, and do not want NK to have nuclear weapons – just do not want regime to collapse. NK might be least unhappy to be invaded by SK, then by US and thirdly by China. Their narrative is that NK won Korean war, rather than China.

Will NK get ICBM capability in ten years?

Hope not, would reach all of US, but impossible to speculate, except that is definitely their intention. Conventional weapons alone could reach 300,000 Americans in the region.

What is chance of regime change internally in NK?

Kim Jong Un is no longer young and experienced. We would have trouble detecting instability and KJU has replaced some top military leaders and loosened up on economy, in farming and small business.

Montgomery influx of physicians from India and elsewhere, needed for aging population – but is there a chance of SK doctors coming to Mgmy?  

Immigrating from SK to US is difficult – more so than to Canada. 72,000 per year students come to US, especially to study sciences, but visa limits them from staying.

Human rights in negotiating position with NK?

There is an ambassador purely for NK human rights issues, and US holds annual events at UN about aspects of this (recently defectors from cultural and artistic areas highlighted complaints) and this draws sharp rebukes from NK. Slapped sanction personally on KJU which he resents. UN also has office in Seoul gathering evidence against them for future accountability, and NK did moderate its brutal treatment of prisoners.

Imported Hyundai cars rather than built in US?

Audience member answered: HMMA cars (eg Elantra) have indeed been imported from SK when US demand greatly exceeded supply, and easier to import from SK than from other plant in Mexico.

US election effect? Yes, NK would have been expected to engage in nuclear testing around US inauguration if not for surprise election – but testing is on engineers’ timetable rather than on political considerations. Reunification ever? US policy is for long term goal. Like German case, where US did not hesitate to applaud reunification. When NK regime collapses, population of SK will likely welcome NK people, even with the costs.

March 14, 2017 – 5:30 PM
John Pomfret, "US-Chinese Relations."

John Pomfret

Pomfret is an award-winning journalist who has spent two decades as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. He reported on China for the Post both as bureau chief in Beijing and as a senior diplomatic correspondent in Washington. He’s written a critically-acclaimed book on China, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, and his second book is a monumental and acclaimed story of the Americans and the Chinese.
Pomfret went to China first in 1980 as an exchange student, and spent more than a decade living in China. He was widely considered the best reporter in China of his generation. He also spent eight years covering wars, large and small, in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, southwestern Turkey and northeastern Iran.

Pomfret returned to Washington to manage the Washington Post’s Outlook section for two years and then served as its bureau chief in Los Angeles. He is finishing a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, living in Beijing until a few months ago. Pomfret speaks, reads and writes Mandarin. His skills also include bartending in Paris and practicing Judo in Japan. Pomfret’s journalism awards include the 2003 Osborne Elliot Award for the best coverage of Asia by the Asia Society, the 2007 Shorenstein Award from Harvard and Stanford universities for lifetime coverage of Asia, and the 2010 Edward Weintal Prize from Georgetown University for Diplomatic Reporting.

Prepared remarks
President Trump in historical context for the Chinese
Trump has opened up truth that China has been better at managing relations with the US than has the US.
In C19th, Dennis Kearney, firebrand, railed against robber barons and then Chinese workers in big rallies in CA – ended with rant “Chinese must go.” Pushed Congress to enact first ban on immigration, 1883 ban on Chinese (first case of ethnic group ban).
Trump is now railing against global elites too – and accuses Chinese of raping America in trade and in South China Sea. Building wall has first echo in 1880s from working men, fear of Chinese sneaking around ban via Mexico.
Another echo: inability to distinguish between friends and competitors. Kearney could have made cause with Chinese laborers against elite – but he opted instead to play race card.
Trump antagonized the most loyal ally of US, Australia.
Chinese saw Trump in putting America First, echoing Mao 1949 speech for China first.
Mao “There is chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent,” unpredictable like Trump.
Historical trade with China
First trade between US-China (1783) was selling Appalachian ginseng to China.
Europeans in C19th wanted to carve up China – and in WW2 US was biggest enabler of China’s rise, protected from Japanese in wartime.
TPP trade pact was with all US allies of Pacific rim other than China – and Trump by ending that pact left the Pacific trade to China.
Trump campaigned hard against China, like all Presidents since Nixon except Obama. Even Carter said he would not ‘kiss ass’ with China, unlike Nixon. Reagan ran on normalizing relations with Taiwan, but the vow disappeared in office. Clinton said H Bush had coddled the butchers of Beijing. W Bush ran on China as a competitor – until after 9/11, when he softened. Obama then the only one who ran as the others governed. Trump made statements against one China policy and seemed as though he would blow up relations with China – but in last 2 weeks sent Sec. Mattis and lately Sec. Tillerson out to talk to allies about NK. Talk of slapping tariffs on China trade has been dropped. He has been informed it would harm American business investments in China.
How to right the balance of relations?
(In 1980, Pomfret was a grad student in a small dorm room with 7 guys. Smelly but good for language learning.)
China has made massive investments in clean tech, robotics, aerospace, and bio pharma. Trump talks about bringing manufacturing to US heartland, and of China manipulating currency – but misses the more substantial point that western companies investing in China have to share their tech and then Chinese learn and become competitors.
Collateral for loan to Tanzania development was bartering their fish for phone system from Huawei. That creative trade of authoritarian capitalism is not susceptible to Trump’s tariffs.
NK is another challenge for Trump – China tougher on them than in past, but main goal is not to allow collapse of NK, while NK’s nuclear weapons are less important.
Next meeting of Xi in Florida western white house, in casual imagery of relaxation, may be conducive to negotiation.
Does US have a strategy to deal with China? Works best when we have a goal with China – but not when we have a hazy view of improving relations.

Question Time
Article of possible US special forces snatch of NK leadership? Likely a deliberate leak to press Chinese. Chinese happy to see regime change in NK – just not a collapse. They have population in the border region. NK still an ally of China but if US takes preemptive action, puts Chinese in hot seat. Not a new pattern. Threat (implied) of bombing NK was what forced Chinese to enter 6 nation talks.

One China policy – what if challenged by US recognition of Taiwan? Status quo has changed a lot since Nixon. Much closer, much more military cooperation. Trump questioned it from ignorance – he is being brought up to speed now. Taiwan important, is only Chinese democracy other than Monterrey CA(!)

Indian, Japanese and US navies are going to have exercises in South China Sea? Headache for China because of variety of countries there with different tactics. Duterte in Philippines playing the card of US aid and Chinese needs. Exercises will not be within the 12-mile limit, so no shots to be fired but clearly Indian and Japanese want to use US to bolster alliance against China. US needs a strategy. China has more nuclear powers around it than any other country – and hemmed in by islands from oceans – feels encroached upon and US navy searches for Chinese submarines. Chinese aggressive response, though understandable, is counterproductive.

Russian-Chinese relations? 1950s Chinese called the Russians their big brother but now big sister – not a compliment. They back up each other in UNSC but have not backed Russia in Ukraine. Putin is also playing with Japan, India and Vietnam. Putin and Xi may be buddies but underneath the countries are rivals. China has more problems than we understand, not a peer with US. For example, pollution refugees – our family, despite air filters around house, and face masks, felt had to move back to SF to breathe free. Graying of population: median age in China will soon reach 38, higher than US. Huge issue because China is facing a smaller workforce before reached a rich per capita income.

Does trade really advantage US? We have a C19th way of counting trade – most of ipad looks like value kept in China, but really most is in the design, value kept in the US. Workers have been failed by US system of education and retraining rather than by trade. Hillary was birth mother of TPP – pulled out in a cynical move.

2017 a critical year for China? Yes, Xi first leader not anointed by a revolutionary (Mao or Deng). Xi is merely a son of a revolutionary – so anti-corruption campaign is his cause, like Long March. Cementing legacy as Gen. Sec. CP. Also biggest crackdown on dissidents and free speech and religion – since Tiannanmen square. Most Chinese liberals have lost hope of change in country – darkest period since 1990s.

Populist protests, division of elite and mass over inequality of income? The issue of widening gap in wealth has led to resentment against fat cats of CP families – much populist rhetoric now on social media. CP is now based on urban elite – Shanghai and Beijing are C21st cities but countryside has improved much less. Rural resentment. Those who create links to disaffected groups go to jail for a long time – then groups are bought off with benefits. They spend more on internal stability than on defense.

Australian relations with China? Close to US but heavily dependent on Chinese investments in telecoms, mining sectors. Chinese money poured into elections and into media stations that reach Aussie Chinatowns. Therefore they hear only one point of view. Chinese also poured money into Thailand, Laos, Cambodia – using cash and infrastructure projects.

Chinese private wealth only 1/3 of US, can PRC CP survive? Goosing economy with massive state investment not seen here as successful sustainable model, and cookie must crumble. But Chinese have a history of muddling through when crisis occurs. China is not at point of a peer competitor to US. Possible that CP will collapse but has been successful so far in smashing challengers. No equivalent of Polish Pope for Poland – have smashed Falun Gong just because it was not controlled. No belief system is alternative to CP, do hear elites remarking on need for Emperor because peasants are stupid. Urban population does have apartment and car these days, so has something to lose from collapse of CP.

Growth in green industry? Factory of the world now, so major pollution of air, water and soil. Very high cancer rates in pockets around China. Dirty air and water is a source of political uprising, so Chinese interested. EPA has given Chinese tech to monitor whether smokestacks’ scrubbers are switched on. Party knows they have to improve quality of life to survive, and intend to make money from green industry. Chinese now have solar panels on buildings in every city (even without sun, owing to smog) and cars made with electric drivetrains are clean (good petrol drive trains in China are only made by western companies).

April 11, 2017—5:30 PM 
Ambassador Mark Grossman, "Turkey, Europe and the United States"

Marc Grossman

Amb. Grossman is one of America’s most experienced diplomats. A former US Ambassador to Turkey, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, as well as a US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, he is also a former Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group, a business consulting firm in Washington. Grossman is fluent in French and Turkish and the father of an adopted Turkish daughter. He is uniquely experienced to assess our future relations with an emerging regional power.
Ambassador Grossman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the State Department's third ranking official, until his retirement in 2005 after 29 years in the U.S. Foreign Service. As Under Secretary, he helped marshal diplomatic support for the international response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He also managed U.S. policies in the Balkans and Colombia and promoted a key expansion of the NATO alliance. As Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, he helped direct NATO's military campaign in Kosovo and an earlier round of NATO expansion. In Turkey, Amb. Grossman encouraged the growth of Turkish democracy and vibrant U.S.-Turkish economic relations. Grossman was a Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group from July 2005 to February 2011. In February, 2011 President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton called Grossman back to service as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Grossman promoted the international effort to support Afghanistan by shaping major international meetings in Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago and Tokyo. He provided U.S. backing for an Afghan peace process designed to end thirty years of conflict and played an important part in restoring U.S. ties with Pakistan. He returned to the Cohen Group in January 2013. In January, 2013 Grossman was appointed a Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute at Yale University. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Senior Living Foundation of the Foreign Service and a board member of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Introduction by James Nathan

Christopher Hemmer is a Professor of International Security Studies and the Dean of the Air War College. Before joining the War College he taught at Cornell University and Colgate University. He received his Ph.D. in 1998 from the Department of Government at Cornell University with a specialty in international relations. He received his BA from the State University of New York at Albany, where he majored in political science and minored in psychology. His principal teaching and research interests are American foreign policy, political psychology, and Middle East politics. He is the author of, Which Lessons Matter? American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979-1987 (State University of New York Press, 2000) and his most recent book is entitled American Pendulum: Recurring Debates in U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015). (March 2017 visits to Egypt, Israel)

Amb. Of Career is a rare rank, and Grossman is one of a handful, equivalent to 5-star General.

Turkey, NATO during Kosovo and then Turkey again and Under Sec. Upon Holbrook’s death, came out of retirement and took over Afghan/Pakistan conundrum. Then Cohen group consulting.

Grossman is a Former President of Board of WAC of America.

Prepared remarks

Opportunities to promote US values and interests, and to protect things of value to US.

1. Rise of other states and non-state actors has profound impact on foreign policy. ‘The rise of the rest.’ India and China, on recent visits, both give sense of dynamic. Mexico and Chile likewise. Rise of groups from ISIS and international criminal gangs.

2. Huge problems of demography around world: immigration, youth (who will do the work in next generation?) Refugees, e.g in Syria of internally displaced people.

3. Growing discontent of populations with government. E.g. Arab spring, Brexit, France and US. Growing conflict over philosophy of global order created and protected by US since WW2. Richard Haas book now called a World in Disarray – contrast with older Kissinger book, World Order.  

4. China has “One Belt, One Road” program to restore the Silk Rd – idea came from Hillary speech, but unable to follow through and the Chinese are now spending billions on the infrastructure.

5. Have lost meaning of the way states interact in world system. Book, a World Without Meaning (1998) about end of fighting over meaning of progress in cold war. Every President since JFK has cited Enlightenment values as Foundation of US.

What are the threats to American interests today?

Biggest is lack of global economic growth. Americans feeling that system is run for rich over the many. If UK had been growing at 4%, no Brexit. Need for jobs is overwhelming in Afghan, Pakistan too. No military solution but special forces essential.

By 2019, will we celebrate 100 years of Versailles or will it be gone?

Politics of water vital in Turkey and air in New Delhi – cannot breathe well outside.


1992 Dep. Amb. In Turkey and there several times for much of career. The Turkey we thought we knew is changing remarkably over 5 years. The coup was much more violent than we understood. Still a democratic core there. 17 April vote in referendum is enormously important. Large numbers arrested and many unemployed. Their FDI and tourism are down, economy doing worse.

Turkey and Europe

Turkey and the US

US officers have been visiting Turkey, obviously important to US.

Syria more important conflict in world today and affects Turkey in many ways.


Sees liberal international order has been good for the US. US still has profound advantages: allies, friends, institutions. Many other countries lack them. Time for a grand strategy based on these. Not looking for enemies or to recreate the cold war, states can seek to return to the international order, e.g. a coalition to fight ISIS.

US economy growing at 1.6% a year, not enough.

Better to remove too many deputies and too many special envoys.

Question Time

What happened to belief in one world? Paris climate change is a remarkable example; also fighting disease together. Liberal trading order was a very good thing, connecting India and China to rest of world even though each country does its own way of doing business. Successful societies in C21st will have sanctity of individual, rights of women etc. Countries that can do those few universal values well will do well.

What would have happened if the coup had been successful? Cannot imagine Turkey run by the military again, country would have been shattered by much greater destruction.

Is Turkey attempting to assimilate Syrian refugees? Enormous effort, finding them jobs and moving 2.5 M people away from border.

Did Erdogan mistake the democratic forces for his own support and use it to persecute – Yes, E. is not a benign figure. Yes, he took advantage of events of mid-July and has taken advantage ever since. Opposition lacked an alternative vision, though, for 20 years – E is best politician in town without any organized opposition. What should Sec State say now? Focus on these things but not be silent about values, like rule of law and freedom of assembly and speech. Important for US not to be silent about these values.

Solution to chaos in Syria for interests of states in the region? There is a role for diplomacy as well as US force here. US can take lead in arguing chaos is not in the interests of regional powers.

Return to golden years of State Dept. in recent years – how does current budget cuts and empty position affect? Even though too many empty posts, acting and deputy staff are working and political appointees will come. Already have extreme vetting of refugees, that is what consular officers do. 40% of State Dept. officers have been there less than ten years.

Will Turkey vote with restricted debate and security circumstances? US tends to look at Turkey and expect rights restored in short term – but should let Turks set their society in long term. Europe should have opened more to Turkey ten years ago. Told Europeans then to avoid shutting off Turkey from aspiration to join EU. I admire Merkel on refugees but not on Turkey, because offered only transactional approach, cash for refugee.

Is Turkey headed towards a Muslim theocracy, destroying separation of church and state? Different now from 1990s, strikingly so. For too many Muslims, secularism seen as atheism. Turks would not begin Congress or end Presidential speeches with God Bless. Millions felt disenfranchised and helped Erdogan get elected. Less tolerant now but he concluded there was not a chance of entering the EU.

Who are the Kurds? Ancient people in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Unique culture and language. They long for a state of their own, but were losers at Versailles. Ataturk knew from beginning that he would be at war with Kurds, and major conflict occurred early. PKK Marxist organization. War in SE Turkey for years, till Ocalan captured. 1991 end of Gulf War, Saddam attacked Kurds. US and Iraq and Iran made biggest refugee effort then protected them above a line of longtitude. For Turks, how much latitude to give Kurds? US supporting some Kurdish groups but complex because of Turkey. Kissinger double crossed Kurds; Grossman was in Ankara when Kurds made overtures, and as DCM met them in home (not embassy). These three men became top leaders of Kurds.

Long term future of EU? Most successful new way of thinking about sovereignty, Germans and French have stopped fighting each other, have large market, greatly to be admired. Two challenges: democracy deficit (despite huge Parliament building) and Euro currency without one central bank.

May 9, 2017 – 5:30 PM
Panel from the Air War College, "Insights from the AWC Regional Tours"

Normally the highest rated annual program of the year, featuring three professors fresh from a two week Regional and Cultural Study to various areas of the world who report on their findings and answer questions about the regions they visited.

Biographies of Speakers

March 2017 visits to Egypt, Israel: Christopher Hemmer
is a Professor of International Security Studies and the Dean of the Air War College.

Before joining the War College he taught at Cornell University and Colgate University. He received his Ph.D. in 1998 from the Department of Government at Cornell University with a specialty in international relations. He received his BA from the State University of New York at Albany, where he majored in political science and minored in psychology. His principal teaching and research interests are American foreign policy, political psychology, and Middle East politics. He is the author of, Which Lessons Matter? American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979-1987 (State University of New York Press, 2000) and his most recent book is entitled American Pendulum: Recurring Debates in U.S. Grand Strategy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015).

March 2017 visits to Finland Estonia, Latvia: Dr. Mark J. Conversino is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the Air Force’s elite School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), Air University (AU), Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

At SAASS, Dr. Conversino teaches courses in airpower theory and history. From 2008 until 2015, he served as Professor and Dean, Air War College (AWC) at Maxwell, having joined the faculty there in 2002 following his retirement from active duty with the Air Force. Dr. Conversino, who holds a B.A. from Eastern Kentucky University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Indiana University, taught previously at SAASS from 1995 to 1998 as well as in the Department of History at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA). He is the author of the book Fighting With The Soviets: The Failure of Operation FRANTIC, 1944-1945, which was also published in Ukrainian in 2015. Dr. Conversino has written several chapters in edited works, and numerous articles and reviews in scholarly and defense-related journals. He has lectured extensively here and abroad, and been the recipient of numerous faculty and academic awards for excellence. Following his service as Dean, AWC, he received the Air Force Award for Meritorious Civilian Service. Dr. Conversino serves on the Board of Advisors for the Baltic Defense College in Tartu, Estonia and the Board of the Alabama World Affairs Council.

March 2017 visit to China: Dr. Dawn Murphy is an Assistant Professor of International Security Studies at the U.S. Air War College.

She specializes in Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics, international relations, and comparative politics. Her current research analyzes China’s interests, identity and behavior as a rising global power towards the existing international order. Specifically, she examines China’s relations with the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa and is writing a book titled Rising Revisionist? China’s Evolving Relations with the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa in the post-Cold War Era. The book project is based on field work conducted as a Visiting Scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China; a Visiting Research Fellow with the American University in Cairo, Egypt; and a Visiting Researcher at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Chinese Studies in South Africa. Murphy holds a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Ph.D. in Political Science from George Washington University. Her previous academic appointments include Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program at Princeton University and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University.

Prepared Remarks

Chris Hemmer, Middle East
; rich in security problems.

Syrian civil war in seventh year, Iraq, Turkey adrift from democracy and west; Egypt has a government identical to previous regime before Arab spring, Lebanon in turmoil since 1970s. Otherwise everything fine.

US administration is what has changed; how have states reacted? What are core US policies in Middle East?

Egypt and Israel happy with end of Obama years; but whether because his policy too weak or too strong is debated. Gap had developed between what US and allies wanted in region. Obama wanted to give democracy a chance but local regimes did not.

US allies less worried about nuclear Iran than about Iran freed from economic sanctions. Much friction for US in region.
Trump against nuclear deal with Iran, full support of Israel. Egypt hoped that US criticisms of their human rights record would end.

Sisi was first foreign leader to call Trump, got an early meeting in WH – Obama had not permitted this. Obama had denied cash-flow financing ahead of actual aid, but Trump has not reversed that.

The shift from military aid to a sales program has not been reversed by Trump. Congress still refers to the human rights record and hence policy has not changed, only atmospherics.

Israel –felt deep love and commitment from Clinton and Bush. Clinton’s speech as Rabin’s funeral was memorable to Israelis; they felt Bush had core commitment to Israel They were frightened by Obama because of his realism, calculation of US interest. Never got along with Netenyahu, though cooperation by military and intelligence actually increased despite aloofness. Trump in campaign said everything Israel wanted to hear, and to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Has not worked out that way in office.

Study the move of embassy. Announced first trip, to Israel the day before 50th anniversary of capture of Jerusalem. Israelis announced new houses and new settlement but Trump put out standard statement against those as not helpful to peace process. Similar to previous.
Trump’s love for Israel is really a reversal for Trump – in campaign ‘neutral’ but now 100% behind Israel.

US cabinet is not all pro-Israel; one referred to Israel as an apartheid state; Tillerson has closer ties to oil states than Israel.

Middle East greeted Trump with more optimism than other regions – but true of Obama also (except for Israel). Cycles of optimism for new President followed by same policy as before.

Dawn Murphy, China multi-city tour including broad range of actors including government and think tanks.

Reaction to new Trump administration.
First call between presidents; just after tour, Tillerson and Mar-a-Lago summit.

Economic relations and territorial conflicts
Economic relations robust but first tension was possibility of trade war.
Much uncertainty about what US policy will be, not wanting a trade war. Wanting from US angle to remain within WTO rules. Growing concern for US about market access to China and special treatment for Chinese firms, ending of tax relief now for US firms there.
They want a balance between access and continued entry to the market.

Misrepresentation of growth rates, inflation of the numbers. Slower Chinese growth has longer term impact on world.

Territorial disputes

Taiwan – Trump call from Taiwan leader, then Xi-Trump to respect one China policy.
East China Sea came up repeatedly over the islands and Japan’s aggressive behavior bleeding into South China Sea, the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands disputes.
Court ruling supported Philippines and Chinese asserted repeatedly their interpretation of international law.

North Korea
– Chinese emphasized they do not have leverage that administration thinks – has done so for previous administrations.
China does have mutual defense treaty and most trade and energy via China. China says does not have control over NK leaders and sanctions would hurt NK people. They do not have sophisticated ways to change behavior of NK.

China does not want THAAD in SK because dual use, also against Chinese missiles. Urging Chinese to boycott SK goods.

Overall trends
Growing sense of adversarial relationship, competitive element emphasized.
Military industrial complex on a global basis.
19th CP meeting in Fall 2017 will begin second 5 years of administration and successor ought to be named – but might hold off.
Uncertainty on both sides about new administration, and about roll back of human rights.

Mark Conversino, Baltic region; AWC have not returned to Russia since they invaded Ukraine.

Europe in 2017 was not supposed to be a theatre – but we found troops on a SK basis, ‘ready to fight tonight.’
Trump had just announced confidence in NATO, but that rarely came up.
Hosts kept up just how serious things are without being alarmist. Met military leaders and academics.

Finland has changed, wants strong bilateral relations with US and interoperability from day one. Have not abandoned neutrality.
Finns still recall winter war facing Stalin’s invasion; maintain universal conscription and have arms for every person. Territorial defense only, do not project power. 16 F-16 fighters are dispersed, 900K reservists of 6 M population, the size of Missouri. Would bleed out Russians, in classic strategy. Long border with Russia and were abandoned in WW2 so not concerned with alliances.

Baltics are in new reality and have accepted; have been trying to alert West for some time. Russian speaking population minority means they could be next.

Estonia one of few countries spending over 2% and took higher casualties in Afghan than other partners, proportionately; demonstrated willingness to sacrifice and to fight.
Latvia and Estonia both look to model of Finns who fought and lost less in WW2 – whereas they lost more and were removed from the map in 1945.
Small forces will hold key positions then reserves will head into woods to resist Russians.
NATO rotating heel-to-toe deployments and Lithuanians and Estonian want dependents stationed there also, to guarantee US will fight for them.
Defunct now is the attempted rebalance to the East, and expectation that Europe would remain ‘world’s largest outdoor museum.’
Now our aircraft and ships going into Baltics are on radar and monitored; we conduct war games constantly for the region and we are still losing each simulation.
If NATO goes wobbly or if Russian regime needs a distraction from protests, risk of conflict from a major mistake.
Big Russian exercise this summer will alone exceed the forces of the Baltic states; could quickly be diverted to an invasion of the Baltics.

President, Grant Hammond announced reception was sponsored by Dr. David Thrasher.
Dr. Conversino now Executive Director, succeeding Jim Nathan, who is retiring.

Question Time

Putin does remain the decider though Minister of Defense does have some say; Russian military reforms recently have improved them; Putin up 2018 and acclamation would improve his rule. His narrative is defending Russia from outside influences and virus of Arab spring. If he believes his hold on power is slipping, he might make a colossal mistake. Should be retire or be replaced as leader, what would follow?

Alex Navalny not a Jefferson, but successfully brought attention to level of corruption in regime. Compared to others, Putin looks Churchillian. Most likely would be brought down by those in the regime and they are a nasty bunch.

Palestinians were unsure about how to take Trump’s’ statements; not influential themselves but work through their connections such as King of Jordan to influence US. Have not had a unified government and Abbas is working on a mandate ten years old, Hamas 9 years; they always postpone the elections another 3 months; still very divided factions and no prospect of a way forward. Fatah stronger in West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. With victory of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under Morsi, Egypt made no moves to help in Gaza, kept border locked. Abbas is not in practice leader of Palestinians.

Syrian civil war? No rationale for it ending soon; too many outside actors that are keeping conflict alive by inserting resources; recipe for escalation; a side losing will get more support from suppliers. Would have to be an agreement among all supporters including Iranians, most difficult. My guess is that there would be an entity known as Syria – otherwise border wars among new states, endless war. Kurdish factions would have disputes and so would Turkey. Multilateral agreement on power sharing with little remit for capital outside in the country areas.

NATO and Baltic states? How long could Finns hold out? NATO members do spend more than other countries; Poles over 2% buying tanks and AAD. But Baltics small budgets; small fleets of armored fighting vehicles and anti-armor. ‘Forest brothers’ tradition of WW2 irregulars. Looking to US, UK, Poland and Nordic countries to save them.

USSR lost 200,000 men in just taking a little piece of Finland. Entire Russian army now is only 400,000 so cannot afford to lose masses to Finnish skiers.

Chinese treaty in Korea. No Chinese combat unit in NK, Kim has not been invited to Beijing. Is the 1961 security treaty functioning. Under what conditions would the Chinese interfere in Korea? Chinese interest in not having a unified Korea on their border, and other interests. Defense Treaty not most important, but China might be comfortable with regime change done by US. Chinese troops on NK border building up, probably in case of worse scenario – and if US did attack NK, close to a million lives lost in Seoul.

Scenario of belligerent being NK against Japan -- rather than US to NK nuclear weapons -- is so different that hard to say much.

Why NK missiles failing – US hacking? No knowledge, but much speculation. Hacking and missile defense are not a secure measure. One of few totalitarian societies in world, no alternate power bases except military leaders, population indoctrinated. Intelligence is challenging there.

Special Programs
“International Security Issues”
Fall, 2016 – 1:00-2:30, each Thursday from 22 September to 10 November [cancelled]
Rosa Parks Museum Auditorium, Troy University, Montgomery
Topics include: ”Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century,” “The Revolution in Security Affairs.” The Middle East Quagmire,” “Putin’s Russia,” “Europe and NATO in Disarray,” “The China Problem,” “Northeast Asian Allies,” and Foreign Policy in the Next Administration.”  Presented by 8 PhD.s, colleges and research centers at Maxwell, AFB on the major security issues facing the U. S.
Fee:  $20 for AWAC Members; $40 for non-members

Great Decisions Program
Spring, 2017 – 1:00-2:30, eight programs on Tuesdays 1-3:30 pm, from 17 January to 7 March
Rosa Parks Museum Auditorium, Troy University, Montgomery St.
Sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association of the United States
A series of eight topics selected for national study by hundreds of groups across the country, supported by study guides, videos and PBS presentations and concluded by a national opinion ballot to solicit views from the American public on critical issues facing the nation.
Fee:  $30 for AWAC members; $40 for non-members; guests $5 per session

The Future of Europe - January 17
Trade and Politics - January 24
Conflict in the South China Sea - January 31
Saudi Arabia in Transition - February 7
U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum - February 14
Latin America's Political Pendulum - February 21
Prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan - February 28
Nuclear Security - March 7

revised 5/10/17 with notes of AWC instructors by Jeremy Lewis