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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010 01:02 am

Where in the world is the U.S. going?

Announcing a Citizens Forum on Foreign Policy

Isn’t it interesting that so many people walking through life today seem not to see or be aware of the most spectacular scenery of events the world has ever produced? We live in a pivotal epoch of an overcrowded world of breakthrough technology while facing environmental stress and climate change along with the world-historic economic rise of China and India. Yet people mostly talk about personal and local happenings, apparently oblivious to the shifting world order around us. Jefferson said that our democracy will be no stronger than the interest and knowledge of its citizens.

In this vein, The World Affairs Council of Central Illinois will present a “Citizens Forum on Foreign Policy” on Friday, Feb. 19, at the Dove Conference Center at 7 p.m. All citizens are invited at no admission charge. Where is the U.S. going in the world and where is the world going?

Andy Van Meter, the Sangamon County Board chair whose business involves frequent international travel, will present the conservative side of how foreign policy should proceed and Roy Wehrle will give the liberal view. Our speakers will discuss contrasting viewpoints on how we can understand the world and what role the U.S. should play in it. They will strip out all the fancy language and just get down to a bare bones conversation on our future. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion. The Forum is designed to bring Springfield citizens together to consider and ask questions about what the real U.S. choices are in today’s world.

What issues might be discussed and what topics might draw you to this civic gathering? Both the complexities and dangers which confront our nation and all nations are unprecedented. The fundamental reality is that all of us are tied closely to all the peoples of the world. We are encased in large systems of economics, finance, trade, competition for scarce energy and resources, protection of the environment and preventing dire climate change. Thus if something goes awry in any of these systems the results could be lamentable, as we have seen in the American-caused world recession. Certainly, we must give our best efforts to choose the best policies.

An important question relates to what U.S. military power can and cannot do in this new world. Before, it was tanks against tanks and who has the best tanks. Today, it is secreted explosives against civilians and troops, relentless probes and attacks on the world digital system, and terrorist attacks almost everywhere.

Further, if 90 percent of the large fish have already been fished out of the oceans, how do we protect the remaining fish so they can grow to adults when they are encircled by high-tech fishing trawlers? Who is in charge of the oceans, who will protect fish and coral reefs?

The United States is a light to the world, a hope for the world. That is our history and promise and hopefully our destiny. But can we further democracy in the world? How do we work together with nations to reduce rampant population growth in the developing countries? How do we share scarce energy supplies. What should the U.S. do, if anything, about failing states such as Somalia and Yemen? Can we keep terrorists from nesting in such states? If so how?

The choices that the U.S. makes in foreign policy today will be decisive in determining what kind of life our children and grandchildren have tomorrow. The Council invites citizens to come on Feb. 19 to think together about what directions American foreign policy is taking today and could take tomorrow.

Roy Wehrle, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Illinois Springfield, specializing in international economic, environmental and political areas with special interest in sustainable growth.
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