Issue Guide On America's Role In The World Available

This is a little overdue, as this was released a little over a month ago, but better late than never! I am delighted to announce a new issue guide that I wrote has been released and will be used in deliberative forums across the nation.

Here is the post I wrote for the “news” section of my firm The Mannakee Circle Group that describes the whole thing:

coverAmerica's-RoleThe Mannakee Circle Group is pleased to announce a new issue book authored by Brad Rourke for the National Issues Forums Institute and the Kettering Foundation, working closely with colleague John Doble. The guide is titled America’s Role In The World: What does national security mean in the 21st century? and is available from NIFI.

The issue guide will be the basis for deliberative forums held across the nation, the results of which will be reported to a US-Russian group of policy experts and citizens in October this year.

From the issue overview:

The world bears little resemblance to the way it was in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell and the cold war ended. Where the world used to have two “superpowers,”—the Soviet Union and the United States— the end of the cold war created what many observers called a “unipolar” world in which the United States was the clear leader, able to bend most events to its will. But that moment has passed.

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence issued a report in late 2008 that assessed where things stand and where things are likely to go over the next two decades. One conclusion of this comprehensive study is that the United States “will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant.”

Examples of less dominance are everywhere. China has gone from being a very large nation to being an economic powerhouse. India’s economy, as well as its influence on the world stage, has grown rapidly. Pakistan is now strategically vital.

Threats are becoming more global in nature, too. Climate change (global warming), pandemics, and resource depletion face countries without regard to superpower status or military strength. Many of these threats require response, but no one nation can act alone.

This issue framing presents three possible options to consider:

Option One: National Security Means Safeguarding the United States

Our global objective must always be to maintain the safety of the United States and its citizens. We must guard against threats to national security above all.

Option Two: National Security Depends on Putting Our Economic House in Order

With such significant economic issues facing us, we need to focus on eliminating our staggering public indebtedness and improving the balance of trade. That means spending less on the military and reducing the amount of money that flows overseas.

Option Three: National Security Means Recognizing that Global Threats are our Greatest Challenge

Today’s challenges face everyone on the planet, not just one nation. We must take a leadership role in working with other nations in a collaborative way to address long-term threats to humanity and increase foreign aid so other nations can also address such threats.

The Mannakee Circle Group would like to thank NIFI and the Kettering Foundation for the opportunity to work on this important project.

China Wags Finger As The New Kyoto Gets Underway

There’s a new international treaty process getting started that bears serious observation. The Kyoto global warming treaty (which the US signed but did not ratify) is set to expire in 2012 and negotiations are beginning now for a replacement. It all starts this month in Poznan, Poland.

The Chinese have gotten a jump on it all by wagging their finger at other nations. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was recently quoted by the state news agency as saying “The developed countries have a responsibility and an obligation to respond to global climate change by altering their unsustainable way of life.”

Early last month, China had the helpful idea that developed nations spend one percent of their economic output toward helping poor countries fight global warming.

This is an astounding thing to hear from a nation that in October surpassed even the terrible United States in terms of overall CO2 production. It’s even more astounding to hear it at a time when the world’s economies are in such fragile shape.

China says that its per capita emissions are low (because it has so many people) – but it’s hard to see why that should matter.

I believe the focus of the current public debate — is climate change happening and did humans cause it or not? — is the wrong debate. More evidence than not points to warming, and that human activity plays a role.

The real question is: what to do about that? The current options in the public realm are mostly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but even the optimistic suggestions do not contemplate significant reductions. We need to shift more energy away from argument about whether we have a problem and whether we can pinch pennies to make it go away — to a discussion about how we might adapt as a species to a warmer world. While this discussion may be taking place in scientific circles, it is not prevalent enough in the policy debates. And, ultimately, we’ll be able to mitigate only so much. We’re going to have to adapt our way of life to changes in climate. Why not start now?

While I do believe there is plenty to argue about what our response ought to be when it comes to climate change (mitigate, adapt, innovate, or a mix), it’s undeniable that in the new administration and the new Congress we’re going to see much more focus on CO2.