Temple CLA Panel Discusses America’s Shifting Role in Global Politics

CONTRIBUTED BY LILA GORDON & EMELY MOREL

On April 3, Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts hosted a panel titled America First vs. Global Diplomacy. Dean of the Liberal Arts College, Professor Richard Deeg, moderated the discussion between prolific Philadelphia Inquirer foreign affairs columnist Trudy Rubin, and Dr. Ignazio Marino, a former Italian politician and current professor and Senior Vice President of Jefferson University Hospital. Each speaker gave an introduction, highlighting aspects of the current United States political administration deemed most significant. Afterwards, they accepted questions from the audience for the remaining time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with China’s President Xi Jinping | Image from the Kremlin

Ms. Rubin noted that she is well-traveled. Her talk was peppered with anecdotes about international responses to President Trump’s legislation and proclamations, from journalists and civilians alike. Expanding Chinese influence and a boldening Russia stand out to Ms. Rubin as recent shifts that the average United States citizen does not yet understand.

Both Ms. Rubin and Dr. Marino attribute President Trump’s disdain for multilateral alliances as a cause of the changing global dynamic. “Alliances are critical, not to keep China from assuming its place in the world, but to keep China from misunderstanding perceived weaknesses in democracy,” Ms. Rubin said during the question and answer section.

Ms. Rubin stated that President Trump undercuts these alliances, because he only sees monetary value in them.

Exemplifying the growing Chinese and Russian influence, Ms. Rubin pointed out that Israel has agreed to contract two major ports to China. Russia has a port in Tartarus, on the coast of Libya. Ms. Rubin said. Additionally, struggling European economies such as Greece and Italy are increasingly looking to China where they once looked to the US, according to Ms. Rubin.

Both Ms. Rubin and Dr. Marino invoked a need for unified policy against cyber espionage. Ms. Rubin said that on a recent trip to Russia, she encountered journalists who questioned how the United States is so weak that Russian meddling could have influenced the recent presidential election.

Dr. Marino opened his introduction with a disclaimer of his dual citizenship, stating that it qualifies him to at least have an opinion regarding political affairs on both continents. He is particularly concerned with climate change and human migration, issues which both require participation of the United States government.

Arctic coverage in September, 1984 vs 2012 | NASA

The 2015 agreement in Paris, which included participation of almost two hundred countries, was historic, according to Dr. Marino. Dr. Marino emphasizes the risks of a changing climate by saying that the Arctic was not considered navigable a few years ago due to the ice. Today, as the ice melts, it is navigable in some parts.

Dr. Marino discussed an island called Kiribati, located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and the United States. This island, with some parts only a few feet above sea level, faces the risk of flooding if sea levels continue to rise. Dr. Marino cited Kiribati government programming, aimed at training its citizens in skills such as nursing, in order to make them more attractive refugees.

Dr. Marino said that by the year 2050 there could be 250 million climate refugees.

According to Dr. Marino, because the United States is a global leader, if it changes its attitude towards climate change, the world will follow.

A recurring theme in both of the speakers’ introductions is the role of the United States as a global leader. Both mentioned that the international image of the United States as such is being damaged.

Each cited multiple examples of image-damaging situations. For example, according to Dr. Marino, it is a mistake to remove United States troops from Syria. In Donald Trump’s State of the Union on February 5, 2019, he discussed the 75th anniversary of the Great Crusade, or the liberation of Europe by the Allies in 1945. “In the same State of the Union Speech where he celebrated the Great Crusade, he said he’s going to pull the United States military from Syria and Afghanistan,” Dr. Marino said. “He’s wrong and possibly irresponsible. We’ve put money there and made it unstable, and now we leave?”

Dr. Marino explained that to promote democracy, as is purported to be the case for United States presence in some Middle Eastern countries, is not easy. “It is not only about free elections,” he said. “Some places also need legal systems, economy and education.” But that does not mean the United States should back off, according to Dr. Marino.

President Donald Trump at the 2019 State of the Union Address | White House Photo

When asked whether Congress will provide leadership in the absence of presidential leadership, both discussed Congress’ lack of influence outside of budgetary issues. “Congress has refused to cut the budget like Trump wants,” Ms. Rubin said. “But not cutting the budget cannot compensate for issues in foreign policy and the deforestation of the State Department.”  

When asked about Brexit, Ms. Trudy tied in her earlier points about the spread of Russian and Chinese influence. “Britain was a homeland for democratic light, and it’s a tragedy,” Ms. Rubin said. “The parallel paralyses of UK Parliament and the United States Congress present horrible examples of democracies unable to deal with contemporary problems.”

Ms. Trudy advised aspiring foreign service agents to pursue careers in non-governmental organizations, and human rights advocacy groups.

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