International Relations speakers focus on subjects that enhance our understanding of the world’s current political issues. As the US is a leading global power, “hot spots” in other countries often mirror current issues in the US.
These talks offer an understanding of the visions and struggles of other countries and cultures that could be of value here at home and highlight what actions the US might undertake to protect our own liberties.
Occasionally, the focus of the presentation is connected to the Great Decisions book, a series of articles published by the Foreign Policy Association.
Presentations are given the last Monday of the month in January, February, March, April, May, June, September, and October. 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Starting with coffee/conversation, then presentation and ending with Q&A.
March 30, 2015 11:30 - 1:30 Gigi Gokcek
More than two decades after the Cold War, geopolitics in Eastern Europe today resembles that of the previous century. What explains the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis? This talk explores the reasons some countries leverage ethnicity to meddle in the affairs of their neighbors. An explanation for the internationalization of ethnic conflict is supported with evidence from around the world.
Gigi Gokcek is a political scientist at Dominican University of California. She has an MA from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, an MA and a PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research includes internationalization of ethnic conflicts, irredentist and secessionist movements, security and development issues, as well as active learning in political science and international studies.
April 27, 2015 11:30 – 1:30 Dr. Nahid Angha
is Sufism a Muslim sect?
- · Co/Executive Director: International Association of Sufism
- · Director: Sufi Women’s Association
- · IAS Main Representative to the United Nations NGO/DPI
- · professor of Islamic/Middle Eastern Studies and Sufi Literature
* The Marin League office and meeting room are in the La Plaza office complex, 4340 Redwood Highway, San Rafael, Suite F138 (the meeting room is at the very back end of the office complex) Directions from the South - Follow US-101 North and exit at Manuel T. Freitas Parkway, go north on the Redwood Frontage Road. Turn right into La Plaza Office Complex (see five tall Palm trees at entrance). Directions from the North - Follow US-101 South and exit at Lucas Valley Rd/Smith Ranch Rd. Continue on Smith Ranch Rd and turn right onto the Redwood Frontage Rd. Turn left into La Plaza Office Complex (see five tall Palm trees at entrance).
February 23, 2015 11:30 - 1:30 Christine Lemonda
Our speaker was Christine Lemonda, Deputy Director for the International Refugee Committee in northern California. The IRC is one of the world’s most prominent advocacy organizations for refugee resettlement and refugee assistance programs. The IRC’s president and CEO is David Miliband. Ms. Lemonda gave an overview of the International Refugee Committee—what its scope and work is, who gets a refugee status and what it is based on, plus refugees in the United States and around the world. Ms. Lemonda has worked in refugee resettlement in Nepal and in New York. She has a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Buffalo and is an Associate in Social Work in California.
January 26, Crystal Chang
Dr. Chang discussed China’s current issues of the day, focusing on President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and the projected effect on China’s future.
Dr. Chang is a Lecturer at UC Berkeley and an Instructor at the College of Marin. Dr. Chang conducted her dissertation field work in China and previously worked at an IT company in Shanghai for two years.
On Monday October 27 Gloria Neumier “New Visions of Asia”
Ms. Neumier spoke on Asia’s struggle with globalization and change, with a focus on Communist Vietnam and uncertainty in Thailand. Vietnam is one of the East’s fastest growing economies. Thailand is facing changes in government, as the elderly Thai king slips from power. A young generation that is actively engaged in new technology has few connections to their own history of the past century. Like much of Asia, they are caught in the tension between China and the Western trading world. Gloria Neumier has lived and taught in China, Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, and Burma. She teaches International Relations through the Fromm Institute and OLLI programs at local universities. Gloria Neumier is a member of LWV.
On Monday September 29 Eric Sinrod “Analysis and Discussion of the International Legal System.”
Mr. Sinrod focused on the international legal effects of cyber-crime, armed conflict, law of the sea, air and space, treaties, international dispute resolution and human rights. He will discuss the effectiveness (or not) of international organizations. Mr. Sinrod is an expert in international and technology law. He is a law partner with Duane Morris LLP in San Francisco, and teaches Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) classes at Dominican University in international law. He has represented clients before the US Supreme Court and been profiled in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal among others, and written and spoken extensively on international legal issues.
On Monday, July28th, Farah Al Mousawi presented Iraq—the complex and multi-layered relationships with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia When the US went to war in Iraq, President Bush argued that it was time the Iraq got rid of its dictator and replaced him with a democracy. Yet the reality of the war and aftermath has taken the “democracy” in Irq in an entirely different direction. The relationships and influence from neighboring countries have brought Iraq continuing political and insurgent violence.
On Monday, June 30th, Sarah Diefendorf, Executive Director, Environmental Finance Center, Dominican University of California, School of Business & Leadership, presented first-hand observations of the devastating impact climate change is having on populations around the world. When we view the future under increased temperatures, we imagine drought, arid lands, fires, desertification, and sea level rise, attacking the agricultural systems, forests and water resources in developing countries. Much of the international funding is going in exactly that direction. Yet where will all the people go when rural lands dry up?
One need only to glimpse the cities of Africa to understand that even now the impoverished millions are fleeing to the townships and slums, from Johannesburg to Nairobi and beyond. Not only are they putting huge pressures on public services designed for a fraction of the population (water, waste, sewage, healthcare, etc.) but they are creating a destabilizing force that will grow rapidly as climate change becomes an ever present reality. What does this mean to them and to us, and what if anything can be done about it?
No International Relations meeting was held in May.
On Monday, April 28th, the IR group hosted Daniel Tapia-Jimenez, speaking about U.S. Trade Policy. Mr. Tapia-Jimenez explored arguments for trade liberalization by many in the academic and policy communities. In addition, he highlighted prominent criticisms of free trade agreements, citing harm to U.S. workers and companies. He discussed the role of the WTO in negotiating and monitoring multilateral trade commitments, the ongoing need to balance openness with protection, and trade policy options under consideration by current word leaders.
Mr. Tapia-Jimenez has been studying and teaching international political economy in the Department of Political Science at UC Davis.
The Great Decisions article, U.S. Trade Policy, by Michael O. Moore and Robert Maxim provides background for this IR discussion.
On Monday, March 31st, our guest was Natasha Singh who spoke about her personal journey to better understand gender violence and human trafficking as well as the culture within which these abuses continue to thrive. Ms. Singh teaches English at Branson and has twice received the prestigious Canada Council Grant for Writers.
Recently featured in the IJ’s front page article, “Warrior for Women”, Ms. Singh is building understanding and awareness of both the human stories and political realities associated with sexual violence and forced prostitution. She will share her experiences traveling across India, her interviews with women who had be trafficked, and her harrowing detention and interrogation by local intelligence officers.
On Monday, February 24th, the International Relations Committee hosted Dr. Wayne Mikula, CEO and Chairman of RainTree Global Initiative. Dr. Mikula holds a doctorate in International Environmental Health and Development from Tulane University School of Medicine.
RainTree Global Initiative builds partnerships between American universities and local educational institutions to deliver Master’s Degree programs to young, environmental leaders in developing economies. Dr. Mikula spoke about his experiences and challenges implementing a Forestry Management program, conducted by the University of Tennessee for post-graduate students in Ethiopia.
On Monday, January 27, 2014, the International Relations Committee hosted Dr. Crystal Chang, Lecturer at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Professor at Dominican University of California. Dr. Chang conducted her dissertation field work in China and worked at an IT company in Shanghai for two years. Dr. Chang spoke about China’s foreign policy, as well as potential points of conflict with the U.S. as it “pivots” to Asia. She addressed questions related to changes in the country’s domestic and foreign policies, recent regional activities designed to advance China’s strategic interests, and the role of government-business relationships in China’s increasing economic power.
On Monday, November 25th, the International Relations group hosted Nancy Richards Farese, Founder of PhotoPhilanthropy.org. Photophilanthropy.org is an organization which promotes and connects photographers with non-profits around the world to tell the stories that drive social change. Ms. Farese is a social documentary photographer committed to the use of photography as a social tool, and will be sharing images and stories about non-profit work addressing grassroots issues all over the world.
On Monday, October 28th, the IR committee hosted speaker Tommie Whitener; he presented a talk on modern-day Russia entitled, “Russia: Was Churchill Right?” Events in Russia are often exasperating, frequently seem inexplicable, but are never boring. What are we to make of recent negotiations concerning Syria and chemical weapons? Who is this guy Putin and what is his plan for Russia’s future? The task for the foreign observer attempting to make sense of all this and give it coherence is to try to determine which events have long term significance and which ones are just “Russia being Russia.”
On Monday, September 30, League member Nani Ranken spoke about Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Major foreign policy decisions often involve analysis of whether, when, where and why to intervene on behalf of civilians caught in the crosshairs of war and violence. Drafted by a United Nations blue ribbon commission, The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine has sparked international discussions on limits to state power. In the eyes of legitimate members of the international community, state sovereignty no longer provides a license to permit atrocities or perpetrate abuse. Thought provoking and important questions remain regarding U.S. support of R2P – have we not done enough or have we done too much? Under what circumstances does R2P justify military action?
On Monday, July 29th, League member Donna Bjorn spoke about potential threats to the United States and the American way of life.
This presentation explored a variety of circumstances having the potential to threaten the American way of life. During the last decade, we have seen both our standard of living and our political institutions challenged by a variety of factors, such as economic decline, terrorist attacks, and global warming. For many, these events have altered their sense of security and attitudes towards the future. Ms. Bjorn provided historical examples of events forecasted to be major threats; she led a discussion relating these past predictions to today’s anxieties and fears.
On Monday, June 24, the IR guest speaker Gloria Neumeier presented insights & perspectives on key social and economic challenges facing Southeast Asia, as well as her first-hand accounts of daily life in Myanmar. By introducing the rich history, Buddhist traditions, and contemporary issues of the area, she will help us better understand the importance of Myanmar/Burma in today’s global community.
Ms. Neumeier has taught in several Asian universities during the past 20 years. She recently worked with English instructors at a village school in Cambodia and at a high school in Tamil Nadu in southern India.
On Monday, May 20, the IR group hosted Dr. Gigi Gokcek, Assistant Professor in Dominican University’s Department of Political Science and International Studies. Dr. Gokcek spoke about the difficult and contentious relationship between Iran and the United States.
For over three decades, U.S. –Iranian relations have been mired in suspicion, hostility, and occasional violence. Attempts to change this pattern have failed due to a number of factors, including toxic domestic politics, real or imagined grievances, and a deep reservoir of mistrust on both sides. Each nation has strengthened its belief that they are the reasonable one, the other irrational and arrogant. However, both recognize that this 30 year pattern is not only dysfunctional, but also dangerous. What policy options are available? How might the U.S. and Iran move towards a better and more positive path that serves the interest of both?
On Monday, April 29, the IR group hosted guest speaker Alexa Koenig, a respected scholar in war crimes and international human rights law and Executive Director of the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law.
Ms. Koenig discussed the current work being done by the Human Rights Center, with a particular focus on the work that the center is doing to assist the International Criminal Court in its quest to ensure accountability for the world’s most heinous crimes. She talked about current challenges the court is facing in its efforts to simultaneously meet the needs of victims and witnesses, and gather the evidence it needs to bring perpetrators to justice. In addition, she shared insights from the book she is co-authoring, which identifies the legal, political and operational challenges to—and opportunities for—getting war criminals into custody.
MONDAY, March 25, IR hosted a forum on Immigration policy and practices around the world. League members and guests discussed immigration from the national perspective of four countries: USA, Greece, Germany, and Britain. They addressed questions such as: What is the prevailing public sentiment towards immigrants? Are specific immigrant populations that are welcomed and others that are challenged? How difficult is it to become a legal resident or a citizen? Has asylum been considered or implemented at some point in time? What migration patterns or trends inform public policy? What, if any, social problems exist as a result of immigration? Are there lessons to be learned by policies and/or practices in place?
On Monday, February 25, guest speaker Ted Taylor presented “NATO: Crisis? What Crisis?” Mr. Taylor taught political science at City College of San Francisco, specializing in International Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Since its formation in 1949, the mission and undertakings of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have changed significantly. For the first four decades, the strategy remained focused on threats posed by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. This alliance of democracies remained strong throughout the cold war, sharing a sense of political community. Over the past 20 years, and despite predictions of a post-cold war collapse, NATO has become an active, globally-minded alliance of 28 members, developing and maintaining capabilities for dealing with a wide range of security challenges. What kind of concerns guide NATO’s mission today? How important is NATO to U.S. foreign policy?
On Monday, January 28, League members reviewed and explored four official public policy positions taken by the League of Women Voters of the United States:
Trade/ Patrice Drew: Support U.S. trade policies that reduce trade barriers, expand international trade and advance the achievement of humanitarian, environmental and social goals. Water Resources /Wendy Buchen: Support measures to reduce pollution in order to protect surface water, groundwater and drinking water. Air Quality/ Sue Beittel: Promote measures to reduce pollution from mobile and stationary sources. Immigration/ Marcia Hagan: Promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises; and provide for student visas. Ensure fair treatment under the law for all persons. In transition to a reformed system, support provisions for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status.
On MONDAY, November 26, League members Martha Fleischmann & Marcelle Scholl presented “State of the Oceans: waves of change”.
Oceans play a vital role in climate and weather, in our food supply, and in the global economy. They are home to over half of all species living on our planet, store rich deposits of seabed minerals, and hold much of the world’s remaining oil and gas reserves. However, our oceans are increasingly vulnerable to human activities – deep-sea fishing, resource extraction, and pollution. International efforts to manage resource rights, enforce sustainable fisheries, reduce pollution and decrease climate change continue to face significant territorial and ideological obstacles. Should the U.S. establish a national ocean policy? What priorities should guide the U.S. position? What role should the U.S. play in the development of global policy?
The Great Decisions article, “State of the Oceans: waves of change” by Sara Tjossem, provided excellent background material for this presentation (Foreign Policy Association Publication).
On Monday, October 29, guest speaker Ted Taylor presented “Exit from Afghanistan & Iraq.” Mr. Taylor taught political science at City College of San Francisco, specializing in International Relations and US Foreign Policy.
Resulting in part from the September 11th attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists, for the past decade the United States has been engaged in two major wars. In October, 2001, Special Forces invaded Afghanistan and quickly overthrew the Taliban regime that had been giving refuge to al-Qaeda. Now, after more than 10 years at war, American and coalition forces are preparing to withdraw by the end of 2014. In December, 2011, the U.S. military mission in Iraq was formally ended; however, political turmoil and sectarian conflict challenge prospects for Iraqi security and stability. What factors affect our exit strategies? What are the challenges and risks associated with leaving these countries? What role should the U.S. and NATO continue to play?
On Monday, September 24, League member Sue Beittel presented an overview of Energy Geopolitics.
Sue discussed energy-related policies that continue to have a major impact on economic interests, national security priorities, environmental concerns, and political decisions, both here in the U.S. and throughout the world. She talked about controversial energy projects, such as construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, extraction of natural gas by “fracking”, and subsidization of corn ethanol production. The group reviewed questions such as: What are our key energy-related challenges and how might they be addressed? What realistic policy options are available to promote green energy solutions, such as wind and solar?
On Monday, July 30th, The International Relations Group hosted Dr. Gigi Gokcek, Assistant Professor in Dominican University’s Department of Political Science and International Studies. What are the Policy Options to Restore the Rule of Law?
Dr. Gokcek spoke about the current public security crisis in Mexico and neighboring Central American countries, addressing the growing influence of powerful drug cartels, and the resultant surge in drug-related violence throughout the region. She discussed current and proposed policy options to restore the rule of law, reform social programs, and move towards a stable and secure society. Together, we explored questions such as: What role should the United States play in effecting political change? Is there a connection between gun and/or drug policy in the United States and violence in Mexico? How might the international community work to counter the increasing power of drug cartels?
On Monday, June 25th, the International Relations group hosted guest speaker, Mr. Frank Rettenberg, presenting Turkey’s Changing World. Mr. Rettenberg studied at Istanbul University, worked six years at the American Consulate in Istanbul, and revisits Turkey frequently. He currently chairs the Marin World Affairs Council group.
Mr. Rettenberg discussed Turkish foreign policy, based on the principle: “zero problems on our borders.” But the revolt in Libya, Assad’s increasingly oppressive rule, and tensions over the nuclear issue between Iran and the West have compelled Ankara to abandon principle in favor of pragmatism, and to treat every external situation on its own merits. Meanwhile, on the home front, the government has used widespread evidence of coup plotting to neutralize the military as a political force. For Turkish democracy, this is a positive step, but efforts to find a solution to the long-festering Kurdish issue seem as far from success as ever.
On Monday, May 21st, the IR group hosted a prominent guest speaker. Dr. James McDonald is president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary and has served as Managing Director of Bread for the World, a faith based organization dedicated to ending hunger at home and abroad.
Dr. McDonald has played a major role in significant legislative victories, including debt relief for low-income countries, rapid increases in development assistance, major increases in nutrition assistance for low-income Americans, the continuation of enhanced tax credits for working poor American families, and foreign assistance reform. He has also been instrumental in Bread for the World’s effort to moderate the impact of budget cuts on hungry and poor people.
SUMMARY OF LWVUS PUBLIC POLICY POSITIONS
Promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations.
Support a strong, effective United Nations to promote international peace and security and to address the social, economic and humanitarian needs of all people.
Support U.S. trade policies that reduce trade barriers, expand international trade and advance the achievement of humanitarian, environmental and social goals.
U.S. RELATIONS WITH DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Promote U.S. policies that meet long-term social and economic needs of developing countries.
Reduce the risk of war through support of arms control measures.
MILITARY POLICY AND DEFENSE SPENDING
Work to limit reliance on military force. Examine defense spending in the context of total national needs.