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Great Decisions

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The Great Decisions Lecture Series promotes citizen awareness about timely foreign policy issues.  The annual series is a program of the private, non-partisan Foreign Policy Association (FPA) in New York City, the oldest and largest grassroots educational program on world affairs. Great Decisions reaches 880 cities and educates 350,000 people each year about important issues relating to American foreign policy.

The FPA selects eight topics for each series and chooses experts to write a 100-page Great Decisions Briefing Book on the selected lecture topics. The briefing book is included with registration. Visit the Foreign Policy Association website to learn more.

YWCA Bethlehem’s Great Decisions group is the longest-running Great Decision group in the Lehigh Valley.  We are proud to partner with the FPA, Kirkland Village and local policy experts to deliver Great Decisions locally. The lectures are scheduled for eight Wednesdays each winter, usually late-morning, at Kirkland Village. Each session includes “Q & A” time after the lecture.

Registration Information:

YWCA Members:
$60 individual with one book or $85 per couple, with one book

Non-YWCA Members:
$85 individual with one book or $110 per couple, with one book

$10 single lecture, no book

No charge with valid I.D.

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Below are the topics from the 2017 Great Decisions Lecture Series. Please check back in fall 2017 for details for the 2018 Series.


February 1 – The Future of Europe, Marc Schleifer, C.I.P.E.

From a modest post World War II Customs Union of six countries the EU grew to 28, presiding over 70 years of peace and general prosperity. The surprise U.K. referendum to exit leaves a welter of critical questions of migration, trade, finance and cooperation among the 28 and the US.  As post-Brexit Europe emerges how will U.S. policy adapt?

February 8 – Latin America’s Political Pendulum, Brandon VanDyck, Ph.D., Lafayette College

The “Washington Consensus ” (neoliberal governance, popular participation, free trade) of the 1990s seems dated, even quaint, in the 21st century. Does the failure of ideological models as in Venezuela promise the emergence of centrist pragmatic modes of governance and opportunities for improved hemispherical relations?

February 15 – Saudi Arabia in Transition, Brian Mello, Ph.D., Muhlenberg College

As oil prices fall, Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman have lost control of OPEC, the price and output setting cartel.  Privatization of ARAMCO (Arabian-American Oil Co.) is an attempt to diversify its guest-worker economy.  Human rights and quasi-governmental support of jihadists concern U.S. policy makers.  U.S. arms sales to the Kingdom support attacks in Yemen against Iranian backed militias. Must the U.S. choose among limited choices with difficult outcomes?

February 22 – Nuclear Security, Col. Pat Proctor, Ph.D., U.S. Army War College

President Reagan’s watchwords of “Trust but Verify” has tenuously held to this very moment.  A nuclear war was once (bar 1963) thought almost inconceivable. But now?  “Tactical Nuclear Weapons”, poorly guarded nuclear stockpiles, eight or nine nuclear powers but many “Non State Actors”, “dirty bombs” and not yet operational “suitcase bombs”, North Korea with its advancing nuclear delivery systems, and delivery systems as simple as volunteer suicide bombers.  What next?

March 1 – Conflict in the South China Sea, Chris Herrick, Ph.D., Muhlenberg College

China has seized disputed islands, built new ones where none existed, garrisoned and armed them and declared them their outer defense perimeter of a vast swath of the Pacific while building their military strength. Rights of peaceful commercial or military sea and air passage are threatened.  China has ignored an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to which, embarrassingly, the U.S is not party.

March 8 – U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum, Andrew Essig, Ph.D., DeSales University

The U.S. domestic “energy revolution” is a changing mix of petroleum/coal/gas and hydro/atomic/wind/solar sources with differing economic and environmental characteristics.  Yet we are not disentangled from dependence on foreign oil.  How do U.S. policymakers master the intricacies of energy independence and foreign policy?

March 15 – Prospects for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Thomas Eighmy, Ph.D., USAID, Retired and Sundar J.M. Brown, Consultant

Afghanistan has been in a state of conflict from 1978, long before U.S. military intervention in 2001. In Pakistan internal conflict is muted but persistent.  Since “Great Decisions” last featured this topic in 2009, much sadly remains unchanged. The Afghan population is on edge amidst almost daily outrages by the Taliban and other actors.  But, much is better – health, education at all levels, cell phones and a freer press. Is U.S. military intervention unsustainable and is disengagement an option?

March 22 – Trade and Politics, Brendan Horton, Ph.D., Economist, World Bank, Retired

Irritated that everything you buy is made in China?  Who or what replaces those hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs?  Who are the new Luddites and are they right?  Read the book, attend the lecture and learn!