February 24, 2018

A Message From the President of SDWAC

Dear SDWAC Colleagues and Friends:

I have an important announcement for members and friends of the San Diego World Affairs Council: please save the date: Friday, April 27, for our Annual Dinner.  Our keynote speaker will be one of this generation’s premier American diplomats, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who will speak on the current “Middle East Meltdown.”  Ambassador Crocker was U.S. ambassador to six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq. Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon.  Just from that list it’s evident that he never ducked the hard places: indeed he welcomed danger posts, even after surviving the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and having his residence in Damascus attacked in 1998. A longtime Arabist, Ambassador Crocker co-authored a memo in late 2002 cautioning the Bush administration as to the possible negative consequences of an invasion of Iraq. By early 2007 President Bush had asked him to be Ambassador in Baghdad. In 2004 he was promoted to the lofty rank of Career Ambassador and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. He frequently appears on news programs as an expert analyst. We are thrilled to have him as our keynote speaker for the most important event of the annual SDWAC calendar. We will provide details of registration, including venue, soon (see last sentence below).

SDWAC is coming off another successful event. The February 19 presentation by Dr. Emily Edmonds-Poli, head of the Political Science Department at our partner institution, the University of San Diego, spoke knowledgeably on Mexico’s upcoming elections. Dr. Edmonds-Poli reviewed the leading presidential candidates, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (a leftist/populist who is currently ahead in the polls); Jose Antonio Meade, the first-ever candidate in the history of the ruling PRI party who is not a party member; and Ricardo Anaya, who leads a right-left coalition of his own right-of-center PAN and the left-of-center PRD. Although the outcome is far from clear, with the official campaign not beginning until next month, Dr. Edmonds-Poli, a leading American expert on Mexican politics, outlined the weighty consequences of the Mexican people’s choice on July 1, not only for themselves but for Mexico’s leading trading partner the U.S.

Administrative Notes:  In a SDWAC Board of Directors meeting earlier this month, the Board elected two new members: Petya Dolaptchieva and Christine Sheckler.  Each of them has impressive international credentials and we welcome them to leadership roles in the Council.  On that note, it’s come to my attention that some members do not realize that they do not have to be on the Board to be members of SDWAC’s working committees: programs, development, public relations, digital platforms, membership and finance.  I’m issuing an appeal to members to step up and join a committee!  We especially need help on the special events subcommittee of the Program Committee (to work on the Annual Dinner with Amb. Crocker).  To alert us to your interest, please email me at president@sdwac.org and Lulu Hsu and vice-president@sdwac.org. We will also be forming a Nominating Committee in April to come up with candidates for the Board at the June Annual Meeting.

Finally, some members have had trouble receiving our emails (newsletter, updates on events, etc.). To counter this problem, please enter admin@sdwac.org into your contact list to prevent our messages from winding up in your junk mail.

-- John Schlosser



Save the Date:

April 3rd: Alan Bersin, J.D. Mr. Bersin, former Commissioner of Customs and Border Security and Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs, will address current immigration and cross-border issues.  In his position as "Border Czar" in the Obama administration, Bersin worked to secure the nation's borders and mitigate threats while expediting lawful trade and travel.  A former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, Bersin is currently a Senior Advisor to the law firm Covington & Burling and is Inaugural Fellow in the Homeland Security Project at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


National University Sanford Auditorium, North Torrey Pines Drive 

Registration/reception, 6:00-6:30 p.m., Presentation and q&a: 6:30-8:00 p.m.


Please don't wait: If you have not joined for 2018, join or renew your membership now!



The complicated world we live in is illuminated a bit more every week at the North County Chapter’s Thursday Morning Forum in Rancho Bernardo. Unless otherwise indicated,* the Thursday Morning Forum begins with a coffee social and registration at 9:30 a.m., followed at 10 a.m. with a one-hour program and one hour of polite, but freewheeling, Q&A.

Thursday Morning Forums are typically held at The Remington Club, Phase II, 16916 Hierba Drive, Rancho Bernardo. Free parking is available at the adjacent shopping area.

NCC WAC Programs for March 2018 


March 1st: Allen Greb (Ph.D) will present his findings on "The Baltic States and Russia: A New Cold War," discussing the questions: Do we need to worry about Russian tanks rolling into the Baltic States anytime soon? What is the relationship between Estonia, the Baltic States, and Russia? What are Estonia's and the Baltic States' major strategic concerns? And why from the Tallinn's perspective, "hybrid warfare” is the threat that Estonians think about the most? Dr. Greb is the coordinator of the International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR) Program at SDSU.


 March 8th: Mary McKenzie (Ph.D.), a professor at USD, will talk on "Europe at a Crossroad: A Perfect Storm," discussing several threats Europe faces in 2018. What had generally been regarded as the successful and historically remarkable institutionalization of the continent is being shaken by both internal and external forces. This lecture will examine the postwar development of Europe, focusing specifically on its key institutions: the EU (and the Euro), NATO, and the OSCE. Current challenges to the unity of Europe, then will be addressed, including Brexit, the continuing migrant crisis, the growth in strength of the far right in several countries, and the remaining economic disparity between eastern and western Europe. 

Reservations for the RTL following this meeting may be made by contacting Phyllis Murchland at pmurchland@san.rr.com.


March 15th: Allen Wittenborn (Ph.D.) will discuss "From Burma to Myanmar: Where It’s Been, Where It's Going," providing a brief overview of the past 30 years, including the role of Aung San Suu Kyi, her final release from house arrest, and the ensuing problems with the generals, as well as the current Rohingya issue which is getting nastier all the time. He will discuss the current situation 'on the ground' in Burma, how the people are doing, and some interesting happenings. Professor Wittenborn teaches at SDSU.

Reservations for the RTL following this meeting may be made by contacting Phyllis Murchland at pmurchland@san.rr.com.


March 22nd: Member Mehdi Sarram Ph.D. will explain “Global Nuclear Waste Disposal” analyzing the global technical and political issues with the nuclear waste produced from commercial nuclear power plants. A brief discussion will be provided on the public perception of nuclear waste, especially on the problems next door to us at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Finally, he will discuss how France has solved its nuclear waste problem by reprocessing. Dr. Mehdi Sarram is a nuclear physicist and the President of Energy Security Consulting Group.

March 29th: Member Robert Meyer (Ph.D.) will present a talk entitled "Foreign Aid." A common perception of foreign aid is that it is selfless charity, directed at helping underdeveloped nations and impoverished or displaced peoples. While there are often very altruistic motives driving non-government providers of foreign aid, government-funded aid is intended to promote national security and related foreign policy initiatives. 
The presentation will describe the emergence of government-sponsored foreign aid in the 20th century as a powerful, low-cost, but easily-misapplied new tool for furthering these national policy objectives.


For further information, please e-mail pmurchland@san.rr.com


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Countering Russia; Munich Security Conference; Critical Times in Syria; North Korean Cyber Threats; Chaos in Congo; Venezuelan Crisis

Quote of the Week:

"At no time since the collapse of the Soviet Union has the risk of armed conflict between major powers been as high as it is today. It couldn't be worse."

--  Wolfgang Ishchinger, Chairman of the 2018 Munich Security Conferencerecorded by Politico Europe on Friday

Countering Russia

"There's Still Time to Act Against Russian Interference" Daniel Fried -- The Atlantic, February 18, 2018

"Did the U.S. 'Hack Back' at Russia? Here's Why This Matters in Cyberwarfare" Michael Poznansky and Evan Perkoski -- The Washington Post, February 21, 2018

"Vladimir Putin's Parallel State" Maxim Trudolyubov -- Kennan Institute, February 21, 2018

"Vladimir Putin's Wartime Presidency" Leon Aron -- National Review, February 16, 2018

'To the Brink - And Back?' 2018 Munich Security Conference

"'We're in Trouble': Rancor Rules at Munich Security Conference" Carl Schreck -- Radio Free Europe, February 18, 2018

"Five Takeaways from the Munich Security Conference" Ulrike Esther Franke -- European Council on Foreign Relations, February 20, 2018

"The Munich Security Conference Is One of the Premier Global Forums, So What's with the Malaise?" Daniel Drezner -- The Washington Post, February 18, 2018

Critical Times in Syria

"With Nowhere Else to Turn, Syrian Kurds Will Have to Embrace Assad's Army" Zvi Bar'el -- Haaretz, February 20, 2018 

"Afrin Marks the Point of Collapse for American Influence in Syria" David Goldman -- Asia Times, February 21, 2018

Cyber Threats from North Korea

"North Korea Steps Up Cyber Powers with Shadowy 'Reaper' Hacker Group" Nicola Smith -- The Telegraph, February 20, 2018

"All Eyes on North Korea" Jenna McLaughlin -- Foreign Policy, February 15, 2018

Chaos in the Congo

"Congo Is Sliding Back to Bloodshed" Editorial Board -- The Economist, February 15, 2018

"Congo for the Congolese" Helen Epstein -- The New York Review of Books, February 19, 2018

Venezuela's Mounting Humanitarian Crisis

"Venezuela: The Downward Spiral Continues" Andrew Stanley; Sarah Ladislaw; Adam Sieminski; Frank Verrastro -- CSIS, February 16, 2018 

"Witnessing Venezuela's Exodus" Vanessa Neumann -- The Cipher Brief, February 18, 2018

"A Venezuelan Refugee Crisis" Shannon O'Neil -- Council on Foreign Relations, February 15, 2018 [Report]


Mailing Address

San Diego World Affairs Council

113 West G Street #601

San Diego, CA 92101

Office: (619) 325-8200



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