When: Tuesday, April 26th @ 12pm-1:00pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speakers: Heather Brandon-Smith
Following the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), permitting the president to use force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and those who harbored them. Since then, four presidents have utilized this AUMF to justify using force against an array of groups – many of whom did not exist on 9/11 – in over half a dozen countries around the world. These post-9/11 wars have resulted in over 929,000 people killed, including over 387,000 civilians, and have cost over $8.9 trillion. While President Biden declared to the United Nations in September 2021 that “the United States is not at war,” the Biden administration continues to rely on the outdated 2001 AUMF to conduct lethal strikes and other operations that continue our forever wars. This presentation will discuss the 2001 AUMF, its origins, and how it has been stretched by successive administrations, as well as efforts being made to repeal it and bring an end to U.S. forever wars.
Heather Brandon-Smith is Legislative Director for Militarism and Human Rights at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in Washington, DC. She leads FCNL’s work to repeal outdated war authorization, promote respect for human rights and international law, and reduce U.S. armed interventions around the world. Prior to joining FCNL, she served as the Advocacy Counsel for National Security at Human Rights First, where she worked to advance U.S. national security policies that are consistent with human rights and the rule of law. Ms. Brandon-Smith is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Her writing has appeared in The Hill, Lawfare, Just Security, and Intercross (the blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross). She holds an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Politics and International Relations, an LL.B., and an LL.M. from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
When: Wednesday, October 6th @ 12pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speaker: Dr. Marilyn Seiber
Dr. Marilyn Seiber will discuss what is happening today in Cuba, reviewing the “perfect storm” of the U.S. embargo, Cuban Government policies, and Covid 19. She will describe U.S. policies toward Cuba through recent Administrations, as well as the actions of The Presbyterian Church (USA) and its ecumenical partners in Cuba to address the humanitarian crisis that Cubans are now suffering.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been a partner with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba since issuing a joint Mission Statement in 1986. Since then, over 90 U.S. Presbyterian churches have joined with counterparts in Cuba forming strong, active bonds, working together in mission, sharing each other’s stories, becoming friends and family, participating in celebrations and holidays, learning of each other’s challenges and joys. These U.S. church partners have been the eyes on the ground for 35 years, observing the impact of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the results of Cuban Government policies that have affected how Cubans live and struggle daily—for food, medicines, toiletries, and equipment of everyday life.
Marilyn J. Seiber has been involved with Cuba since 2004, traveling there 21 times. She chairs the Cuba Partners Committee for The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. that has a partnership with First Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Havana. Dr. Seiber has served on the Steering Committee of the Cuba Partners Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and currently is a member of the Network’s Advocacy Committee. She has organized a similar Cuba network for National Capital Presbytery.
Dr. Seiber is an international economist retired from federal service on Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch. Her expertise on international trade, finance, and monetary policy has enabled her to serve at the highest levels of government. She was Senior Economist on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Financial Services and Chief Economist on the Committee on Small Business working for the Ranking Member and Chairman, respectively. In the Executive Branch, she served as Director of International Economics at the National Security Council; Special Assistant and Economic Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and to the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade; advisor to the General Counsel at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; and Deputy Director of the Rent Advisory Board for the Cost of Living Council during federal wage and price controls. She has served as an economic consultant to the World Environment Center, and has been an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Government and the University of Maryland University College. She has written and published two books on developing-country debt. She received her Ph.D. in International Relations and International Economics from The American University in Washington, D.C.
When: Monday, September 27th @ 7-8:30pm
Where: In Person at Old Capitol Building, Old Senate Chamber
Speakers: Dr. Brian Lai, Dr. Michael D. Hais, Carolina Herrera, Amelia Thoreson, and Amna Haider
Americans born since 1997 are known as Generation Z (Zoomers). They grew up as part of the most racially and ethnically diverse population in U.S. history and are the most digitally capable generation. They turned out to vote in in record numbers in 2020 and comprise 10% of the American electorate yet they often feel their views on critical issues such as global climate change are not taken seriously enough by political leaders. This panel comprised of different generations of experts, including two university students, will discuss how Gen Z differs from previous generations regarding their views on international issues and American foreign policy and how those differences will shape public policy in the future.
Dr. Brian Lai is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Iowa. His research and teaching are on US foreign policy, public opinion on US foreign policy issues, military alliances, and terrorism.
Dr. Michael D. Hais is retired as Vice President, Entertainment Research at communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates. While with Magid, Mike handled both quantitative and qualitative research in 48 states and a dozen foreign countries primarily, but not exclusively, focusing on television news and entertainment programming.
Prior to joining Magid in 1983, Mike was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Detroit, where he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in American government and political institutions, the legislative process, the U.S. presidency, and political behavior. He also conducted political polls for the Michigan Democratic Party, a number of candidates and office holders including Governor James Blanchard and U.S. Senator Carl Levin as well as media outlets such as the Detroit Free Press and the Booth newspaper chain.
Mike earned a B.A. with honors from the University of Iowa (1965), an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin—Madison (1967), and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland (1973), where he was the first student in the department’s history to pass his comprehensive exams with distinction. His doctoral dissertation focused on American political party realignments.
Since retiring from Magid in 2006, Mike has co-authored three books on American generational change and its impact on society and politics—Millennial Makeover (2008), named a New York Times favorite book, Millennial Momentum (2011), and Millennial Majority (2013) as well as Healing American Democracy (2018), that focused on defending and preserving the constitutional order in the United States.
Mike now resides with his wife, Reena, within walking distance of the Rose Bowl Parade route in Pasadena, California where he hopes to watch the University of Iowa marching band on a future New Year’s Day.
Carolina Herrera is from Tiffin, Iowa studying International Relations with a minor in German. Since her freshman year at Iowa she has been actively involved with the United Nations Organization at Iowa. As a sophomore, with the help of other current members, she revamped the club and better expanded its reach on campus. Within the same organization she has served as the Events Coordinator, President, and is currently a Student Advisor. Additionally, she currently serves as the Midwest Campus Fellow for UNA-USA. Other organizations she has been involved in on campus is Young Life College where she was a leader, she was a Fellow for the Joe Biden Campaign and the Treasurer for Students for Biden, as well as a Research Assistant for an Iowa Caucus Research project under the vigilance of a professor. After graduation, Carolina hopes to attend graduate school and work for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, or any other governmental affairs.
Amelia Thoreson is a senior from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. She is pursuing bachelors degrees in Spanish and International Relations on the Conflict and Foreign Policy track with a minor in Latino/a/x Studies. Her research interests include civil conflict mediation, peace agreement implementation, and gender issues as related to civil conflict. Amelia interned virtually with the U.S. Department of State's Embassy in Quito, Ecuador during the summer of 2021 and she is currently a virtual intern with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Human Rights Council. She plans to earn a graduate degree in International Affairs before pursuing a career in the Foreign Service.
Amna Haider is a senior from Omaha, Nebraska. She is studying for B.A. degrees in Philosophy and International Relations (on the Conflict and Foreign Policy track), and a Certificate in Human Rights. Amna's involvements with the UI Department of Political Science spans from serving as a Resident Assistant for the Political Matters Living Learning Community, acting as a peer mentor for the department's first-year students, and working as a research assistant for Dr. Menninga's research on cooperation in civil wars. Amna also interns with ICFRC and is an undergraduate representative for both the UI Lecture Committee and Center for Human Rights Advisory Board. Other campus involvements include being an Honors Writing Fellow, President of the Walk It Out Multicultural Fashion Show, and the founder/President of the new global peace activism student organization called Peace by Peace. Upon graduation, Amna hopes to attend graduate school and later work for an international governmental organization focused on international law, security, and human rights.
When: Thursday, September 28th @ 4pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speaker: Ambassador Ray
Ambassador Ray will discuss the challenges of race, diplomacy and national security, including the challenges of being Black in the U.S. State Department.
Ambassador Ray has over 50 years of experience in international affairs, with 20 years in the U.S. Army, and 30+ years in the U.S. Foreign Service. His military experience included assignments in Unconventional Warfare Planning, Psychological Operations, Intelligence and Public Affairs. During his Foreign Service career, he managed troubled organizations in Asia and Africa, and was instrumental in reestablishing a mil-to-mil relationship with Cambodia after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As deputy chief of mission in Sierra Leone, he managed the military training program and oversaw USAID’s humanitarian assistance effort. He was also instrumental in brokering democratic elections in Sierra Leone, which saw a peaceful transfer of power from the military junta that had taken over the country the year before his assignment; this election took place during an externally-supported rebel war. He encouraged the government of Cambodia to take a more active role in combatting human trafficking, and implemented a successful Muslim outreach program in that country, which reversed the negative views the small Islamic community had about the United States.
He has served as deputy chief of mission in Sierra Leone, was the first post-war consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, served as ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe, and was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs and Director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), during which time, he oversaw development of the US government interagency policy on personnel recovery, working with the Department of State, FBI, DEA, and USAID to develop a comprehensive plan to provide proactive and reactive support to USG personnel working abroad.
Since retiring from government service in 2012, Ambassador Ray has consulted with DOD, participating in the development of a training continuum for Defense Attaches in support to chiefs of mission during personnel recovery operations, and provided training support to the US Army as an SME on interagency matters, preparing army units for deployment abroad in noncombat operations. He also conducts a workshop on professional writing for Rangel foreign affairs scholars.
A prolific writer, he has published more than 60 books of fiction and nonfiction, including works on ethics, leadership, and diplomacy. He works with the Potomac Institute for Public Policy, developing a program on the use of diplomacy as a tool to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
He has a B.S. in business administration from Benedictine College, an M.S. in systems management from the University of Southern California, and an M.S. in national security management from the National War College of the National Defense University. He speaks Thai, Vietnamese, and Mandarin, and is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Association of Black American Ambassadors. Ambassador Ray is chairman of the board of the Cold War Museum, at Vint Hill, VA, and chairs the board of advisors of the Institute of Science, Technology, and the Arts (ISSTA), an international boarding school, planned for construction in Orlando, Florida,
When: Tuesday, May 4th @ 12pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speakers: Brendan Helm and Craig Kafura
Assistant Director Craig Kafura and Research Assistant Brendan Helm of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs will discuss the results of their 2020 annual survey, as well as the results from bi-national surveys conducted in January 2021. With the unrest and upheaval of this past year, how have Americans changed—or not changed—their views on key foreign policy issues? And, data from Iran and Russia provide striking insights into how the people of those countries view domestic and international problems.
Brendan Helm is a research assistant for the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy and Public Opinion teams at the Council. After earning his undergraduate degree in international relations from the College of William and Mary, he worked at Teaching, Research, and International Policy—a survey project which examined the gap between academia and policymaking.
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, and The Diplomat, among others. Kafura holds an MA in Political Science from Columbia University and a BA in Political Science from Yale University.
When: Wednesday, April 7th @ 12pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speaker: Michael Zmolek
The United States of America is a signatory to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions yet routinely transgresses these and other treaties and agreements comprising our system of international law. Why then are presidents not held accountable or impeached? This talk will address this question in light of the ‘informal empire’ that the United States has managed since 1945 and the violations of human rights and international law which have occurred. In sharing personal experiences of helping draft articles of impeachment against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Dr. Zmolek will attempt to help us connect the dots between the assault on civil liberties and the escalation of violence in US foreign policy post-9/11 and the January 6th assault on the US Capitol by a mob incited by Donald Trump. While this resort to violence in attempting to subvert the outcome of a democratic election has been rightly viewed as an assault on domestic political norms, use of the same tactics by parties supported by the United States has been a routine part of managing the US’s informal empire. The fact that impeachment as a mechanism for upholding accountability to the law obviously remains hostage to the partisan politics of America’s two-party system leaves the door open to future episodes involving the turn to the use of force against democracy.
Michael Andrew Zmolek teaches World History, International Studies and Development Studies at the University of Iowa. His book Rethinking the Industrial Revolution (Brill 2013; Haymarket 2014) explores five centuries of English/British history and is part of a broader effort to understand the nature and origins of capitalism. Mike received a BA in Linguistics and a Certificate of African studies at the University of Iowa before going on to complete his PhD in Political Science at York University in Toronto, where he served as an executive of the Graduate Students' Association for four years. As a legislative assistant in Congress, his work focused on addressing the plight of Gulf Coast survivors of Hurricane Katrina and on drafting articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for representatives Cynthia McKinney (GA) and Dennis Kucinich (OH). As an activist he has worked on the campaign to abolish apartheid in South Africa; opposing tuition hikes for students in Canada; and opposing the bombing, sanctions against, invasion and occupation of Iraq.
This talk is dedicated to the memory of Ed Zastrow.
When: Tuesday, March 16th @ 12pm
Where: Online via Zoom
After withdrawing the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal, former President Trump waged a failed and reckless "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran. This dangerous policy brought the two countries disturbingly close to the brink of war, shortened Iran's "breakout time" to build nuclear weapons, and caused Iranian civilians to suffer needlessly. It's time for a policy reset and a swift return to diplomacy. While there's much reason for optimism regarding the prospects for peace as the Biden administration, our European allies, and Iranian leaders all appear to be eager to turn the page and restore the JCPOA, saving the deal will not be without difficulties.
The JCPOA was always meant to be a starting point. While there are a myriad of issues that should be resolved diplomatically between the United States, Iran, and other governments in the region, the nuclear issue is the most pressing. A full return to the nuclear deal should serve as a foundation for future talks to address these issues. In this discussion we will learn about the history that brought us to this moment, the political dynamics shaping this conversation around the JCPOA, and show ways for citizens to engage with their members of Congress to support diplomacy with Iran.
Hassan El-Tayyab is FCNL's lead lobbyist on Middle East policy. He is also responsible for representing FCNL with the various coalitions that work on these issues. Prior to joining FCNL in August 2019, he was co-director of the national advocacy group Just Foreign Policy, where he led their lobbying work to advance a more progressive foreign policy in the Middle East and Latin America. He played a major role in the successful passage of the War Powers Resolution to end US military aid to the Saudi-UAE coalition's war in Yemen.
Hassan's passion for foreign affairs is rooted in his desire to make life better for people in the Middle East, including his extended family in Jordan. He is convinced that advancing a more peaceful and diplomacy-based foreign policy in the Middle East is critical, not only for the family he loves, but for peace and stability worldwide. His writings and commentaries have been featured in numerous news outlets, including BBC World News, The Hill, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, The Intercept, and more.
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