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Conversations to Consider

04 Jan Posted by in Observations | Comments
Conversations to Consider

So the break is over. I was delighted to realize this weekend that between the family visits and another project I had thought about George Mason almost not at all for more than a week. And yet the buildings still stand.

But I was stimulated during the hiatus to think about some conversations that academic institutions like George Mason might carry forward during the new year and beyond. There’s nothing terribly original about any of them, but I do have a sense that all three topics are somewhat underplayed or incompletely digested, and a further and fuller exploration would be interesting and, from a policy standpoint, highly desirable.

  • The most obvious one involves relationships with China, and how Americans can more accurately assess Chinese intentions and live with inevitably heightened competition without assuming equally inevitable mutual hostility. A really nice analogy I encountered involved the relationship that developed between Britain and the United States, even as the United States provided increased global economic competition. Like all analogies this one has all sorts of holes, but even with these flaws addressed there still might be some interesting spurs toward thinking about options in the future relationship.
  • Human rights. There’s some relationship here to the China topic. I have deep respect for passionate commitments to human rights and a sense that the United States (or perhaps the West more generally) provides indispensable guidance in this area. The related injunction for us to continue to repair our own moral standing is unquestionably appealing. But how does this approach mesh with the (again virtually inevitable) prospect of a more polymorphous world? Can we launch a somewhat different kind of conversation about defining and advancing human rights that would depend less on declining balances of power? There are great, and complex, subjects here for classroom discussion.
  • Military and society in the United States. Do we have adequate mechanisms, even simply at the academic level, to discuss military issues in American society? Should we need, if only for budget reasons, to contemplate some reductions in the military, how could this sensibly be discussed? What, if any, are some foreign policy and domestic economic/political options for a candid conversation? This is not my area at all but I am truly impressed with how little attention the subject receives — and therefore with how desirable it might be for some academic consideration.

And of course, happy New Year.