Student Blog — Thomas Schmedding | Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy

Tower Scholar Thomas Schmedding interviewed Dr. Kenneth Schultz, professor of political science at Stanford University, before his lecture “Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy” Sept. 7.

In the 2016 American political season, the vastly different perspectives of foreign policy continue to serve as a key point of debate between the presidential candidates. While it is easy to advocate for specific policy options, we generally fail to recognize the interests and preferences of other actors, as well. In order to postulate the possibilities and limitations of American foreign policy, Kenneth Schultz from Stanford University discussed three key dilemmas that have challenged policymakers in his lecture Sept. 7: force vs. restraint, stakes vs. leverage, and coercion vs. reassurance.

Force vs. Restraint

Addressing the first dilemma, Schultz argued that because terrorist organizations successfully embed themselves in local populations, applying force in an attempt to eliminate the terrorists could harm civilians, driving them to radicalize and join the terrorist group. Therefore, in certain situations military restraint is preferable because the use of force can be counterproductive. With this in mind, Schultz mentioned the need for inclusive democratic growth in fragile contexts that are susceptible to militant non-state actors. “When groups are systematically deprived of [democratic] resources and powers, they tend to shift more towards extremism,” he said.

Stakes vs. Leverage

The second dilemma, stakes vs. leverage, becomes an issue when the stake a state holds in kkied-1a client increases, and as a result that state’s leverage decreases. This dilemma was best depicted by a simulation of three SMU students as provincial governors in Afghanistan with a varying array of financial support from the United States. The exercise demonstrated that because the United States gives more money to nations battling insurgencies, the incentive is to exaggerate the effects of insurgency and corruption within local governments in conflict areas rather than to rid the nation of the insurgency.

Coercion vs. Reassurance

A final exercise to explain the third dilemma, coercion vs. reassurance, was a graphical representation of the dilemmas nuclear disarmament presents from the perspective of the adversary. Americans typically perceive nuclear disarmament as a scenario where an adversary can make the decision to disarm or face sanctions from the United States. Often discounted, however, is the perception by adversaries that they are making themselves weaker by setting a precedent for giving in to demands. This decision can be a risky process for adversaries. Prior to the lecture, I mentioned to Schultz that this game theory approach sounded like a quasi-geopolitics version of Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.”

Schultz concluded by pointing out that while the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, it is not all-powerful. He recommends the U.S. exercise restraint when making foreign policy decisions. “We cannot be narcissistic, we have to be strategic,” Schultz said.

I generally agree with the decision to restrain, but was curious how America’s foreign policy-making institutions could adapt to new constraints in the future. This idea largely stems from the idea that domestic and international conditions facing the United States have changed a lot in the past 25 years, while the ideas, policies and institutions supporting American foreign policy have seen little transformational change. We are inherently clinging to old ideas because change is difficult. “America’s foreign policy institutions are very sticky and tough to adapt to major changes,” Schultz said. “We have seen more informal flexibility, as opposed to formal institutional changes. For example, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security has allowed for greater resistance. With that said, the United States came out of the Cold War extremely powerful and essentially forced adversaries to come up with a different strategy.”

Listen to Dr. Schultz’s lecture at the Tower Center:

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Tower Scholars PortraitsThomas Schmedding is a senior from Apex, North Carolina majoring in management, international development & social change, and public policy with minors in economics and international affairs. He is an intern for a public-private partnership between USAID and The Kaizen Company, as well as SMU’s Student Representative to the Board of Trustees for Student Affairs. Previously, Thomas has seven completed internships in the public, private, and social sector, both in the United States and abroad

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Andrew Jackson: The Patron Saint of Donald Trump?

A Donald Trump presidency, like that of Andrew Jackson in 1829, would be driven by emotion, according to SMU historian Aaron Crawford.

Crawford, from SMU’s Center for Presidential History, gave the Tower Center’s September jacksonandtrumpbbflmonthly seminar lecture: “Injury, Rage, Audacity: Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and
the Creation of the ‘People’s Candidate.’”

Crawford explained the appeal of a candidate like Trump or Jackson as a symptom of people’s desire for a hero. They know he isn’t perfect, but they don’t care. They want someone with a strong temperament– authoritative even — and someone who they believe means well.

Voters weren’t deterred by the fact Jackson shot a man who he disagreed with, and, as Trump said at a rally in Iowa “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

After the devastation of the War of 1812 and the economic panic in 1819, Jackson’s supporters saw an America “that didn’t win anymore.” They believed the U.S. had been humiliated. This attitude, prevalent in today’s electorate, paired with a political class ignorant of voters’ feelings, lends itself to the rise of a ‘people’s candidate’ like Jackson or Trump.

“What really binds them together is this idea of victimization,” Crawford said. “The personalization of every issue.”

Listen to Crawford’s lecture:

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DMN: Why immigration may be good for the feds and bad for states — for now

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, commented on a report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the Dallas Morning News. The report found that immigration helps the economy in the long run, but has mixed impacts in the short term.

Economy reporter Jill Cowan highlights four takeaways from the 500-page report.

Read the article here.

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The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election


Left, UCLA Professor Matt Barreto; right, Rep. Cesar Blanco. Photo by Denise Gee

The Tower Center and the Latino Leadership Center for Development cohosted an event, “The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election,” at Jones Day Law Office Sept. 20.

Matt Barreto, professor of political science at the University of California Los Angeles opened the discussion with a look at the potential of the untapped Latino electorate.

The Latino population in the U.S. is significantly younger than the white population. As of November 18, 1.7 million Latinos will be 18 and eligible to vote, according to Barreto.

He argued that immigration remains to be the unifying issue that mobilizes voters, and used protests against Donald Trump to illustrate its unifying force. Eighty-one percent of Latinos polled after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland said that they found the GOP’s rhetoric “disturbing,” Barreto said. With Trump as the Republican nominee, the percentage of Latinos polling Republican has greatly declined since George W. Bush received 40 percent of the vote.

The discussion continued with Texas Representative Cesar Blanco, who talked about the under-representation of Latinos in government rolls. Twenty-eight out of the 435 congressional seats and three of the 100 Senate seats are held by Latinos. Blanco, as interim director of the Latino Victory Project, is working to get Latino officials elected. “If you’re not at the policy table, you’re the lunch,” Blanco said.

A final takeaway from the discussion: Latinas are engaged at higher rates than Latinos. “Our research shows the most influential person in families for Latinos, in terms of politics, are their mothers or their wives,” Barreto said.

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Jim Hollifield talks free trade, Gary Johnson in the Dallas Morning News

Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News article, “One presidential hopeful with two beneficial policies for Texas isn’t in the debates” by business columnist Mitchell Schnurman Sept. 20.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson did not poll high enough to participate in next week’s debate. However, Schnurman writes that neither Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall on the Mexico border, nor Hillary Clinton, who opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, support free trade and immigration. Johnson does.

“Texas stands to lose as much as any state if we go down this path,” Hollifield said.

Read the article here.

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Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts suggests focus on development at White House, UN refugee summits

Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian discussing the upcoming White House and United Nations summits on refugees and mass migration Sept. 17.

Betts suggests that, since refugees are often stuck in camps for decades, refuge itself should be about development just as much as it is about humanitarianism. “It needs to offer jobs and education to the nearly 90% of the world’s refugees who are in developing countries, including the majority who are now in cities,” Betts wrote.

Read the full essay, “UN and White House summits could offer a ray of hope to those stuck in camps,”  here.

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Bush Institute essay explores connections across North American borders

The George W. Bush Institute published an essay exploring life across the North American continent and the cross-border connections that affect everyday lives. The essay, written by Matthew Rooney, Laura Collins, Sarah Reid and William McKenzie, is divided into three sections focusing on different areas: San Diego/Tijuana, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Detroit/Windsor.

Read the essay here.

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Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius: Texas Economy Exceeds National Averages

Good news for Texas: Despite the faltering energy industry, the Lone Star state experienced an increase in incomes and a decrease in poverty last year according to the Dallas Morning News.

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, was interviewed in the Morning News article “Income up, poverty down: Texas exceeding U.S. in key economic numbers” Sept. 15.

“It’s a great report and it’s great for us,” she said. “You don’t see any impact from the oil bust.”

However, the News also reported that high child poverty rates are still a concern. This is especially true in border counties, which Orrenius said is because of the higher population of recent immigrants in those areas.

Read the full article here.


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Student Blog — Claire Huitt | The Resource Curse in China

Chinese University of Hong Kong's Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan before her lecture "The Resource Curse in China" Aug. 31.

Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan before her lecture “The Resource Curse in China” Aug. 31.

Across the world, the resource curse afflicts numerous resource rich nations. Among them, China struggles to balance the benefits and detriments of its own domestic resources. In this year’s initial colloquium of the Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia, Dr. Jing Vivian Zhan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong discussed her own research of the dilemma at the Tower Center event “The Resource Curse in China”.  Zhan specializes in Chinese politics, and, more specifically, state-society relations with a particular focus on state intervention in resource affairs. In her talk, Zhan sought to answer two questions: (1) are natural resources a blessing or a curse, and, (2) how do states respond to this problem?

The short answers to these questions are that many resource or mineral rich developing nations struggle with corruption and other repercussions, and the state actively intervenes in resource problems to prevent these possible consequences. The People’s Republic of China in particular, is both an important consumer and producer of minerals and resources; much of Zhan’s research and data comes from the coal mining industry in China. Zhan has conducted interviews across provinces with local officials, citizens, and managers of mining corporations; additionally she has collected a great deal of statistical data from the Chinese government.

Three effects of the resource curse

In answering whether natural resources are a blessing or a curse, Zhan has found that in resource-rich nations the resource curse often has three effects: (1) natural resources discourage human development, (2) natural resources breed corruption, and (3) natural resources arouse social conflict. China has repeatedly been victim to such social conflict. In one example from 2008, there was a major riot of upwards of 20,000 protesters. Zhan noted, on average, most riots are far smaller in scale, and, additionally, that media control is tight. Two specific causes of resource conflicts in China are the environment and the economy. In terms of the environment, air and soil pollution, water shortages, and land subsidence all cause tension. Economic problems include land expropriation, property and road damage, and labor disputes. At the local level, collectively these issues create friction between the residents, coal-mining corporations, and local officials, and at the national level these frictions manifest in the aforementioned societal problems of the resource curse.

State intervention to prevent conflict

In light of these possible consequences, how can a resource-rich nation like China cope with its resource conflicts? Zhan provided two methods by which the state intervenes to prevent such conflict: (1) reactive strategies to individual conflicts, and (2) preemptive strategies for potential conflicts. The reactive strategy is often mediation by local government officials between the mining sector and local citizens. This is done in a way that can almost be referred to as a bargaining system. Yet when mediation fails, the government adorns what Zhan referred to as a “soft face.” This involves the “skillful deployment” of coercive forces to repress protests. The other method by which the Chinese government intercedes, preemptive strategy, entails intervention in dispute prone areas and processes such as selling land. This again involves government led negotiations, but it also provides resource based economic incentives and opportunities. This may require mining corporations to hire a certain percentage of its workers from the local work force, and in this way this “grassroots governance” helps protect local labor. In turn this creates vested interests among locals; in these situations it may even be beneficial for mining to come to your locality. Additionally, the government often helps to redistribute resource wealth through the provision of public goods or social welfare benefits from resource revenue as a way of minimizing local resistance.

Intervention of the Chinese Communist Party

Ultimately, the Chinese government is by no means a passive actor in the PRC’s resource curse. To explain further, Zhan posed the following question: Why does the Chinese state choose to intervene? Simply put, there are incentives for, namely, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to remain in power. Since the Tiananmen incident of 1989 it has been one of the utmost goals of the CCP to enforce or maintain social order from the top down. This is materialized through tight personnel control of local officials. Beyond this, the CCP, above all else, strives to stay in power. Displaying its capacity for resource conflict resolution is an important and integral part of maintaining power. The PRC is by no means a totalitarian state, yet the state’s presence in the economy and greater society is extremely well integrated. Even at the lowest level, local governments have a great deal of bargaining power, which allows them to mobilize resources to resolve conflicts.

China faces the resource curse at a subnational level. The Chinese state has actively responded to the resource curse, at least when it threatens regime stability. It has utilized the aforementioned soft strategies, instead of resorting only to hard repression. Therefore, Zhan concluded that there are two necessary conditions for effective state interventions in China’s resource curse: (1) central control over local officials and (2) state penetration into the economy and society.

Listen to Dr. Zhan’s lecture at the Tower Center:

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claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Founder of LCLD recognized in D CEO

Jorge Baldor, founder of the Latino Center of Leadership Development, was recognized as Latino Advocate by D Magazine‘s  business publication D CEO in the article “Latino Business Awards 2016”. Baldor formed the LCLD in 2014 and funded a research partnership with the Tower Center focusing on public policy issues surrounding Latino communities in 2015.

Read D CEO’s article here.

RSVP to Latino Politics | Latino Decisions in the 2016 Election here.

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