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Lecture series explores world affairs

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Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning and Blue Ridge Community College again co-host the Great Decisions lecture series to promote international awareness of world issues through nonpartisan briefings and expert presentations on a variety of subjects. Sponsored by the National Foreign Policy Association and the Asheville World Affairs Council, the lectures are held 10-11:30 on Wednesday mornings at the Thomas Auditorium at BRCC. Cost is $40 for all six lectures or $10 each and may be paid at the door. No preregistration is necessary. For further information, call the BRCLL office at 694-1740 or email Terri Wallace at tk_wallace@blueridge.edu.
Lecture dates, topics and speakers are:

  • Feb. 15 – Conflict in the South China Sea with Jim Lenburg Emeritus professor of History at Mars Hill University. The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China it’s most vocal claimant. Beijing’s interest has intensified disputes with other countries in the region in recent years, especially since China has increased its naval presence. Despite rising international pressure, including an unfavorable ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China staunchly defends its policies in the region. Preventing tensions from boiling over is a matter of careful diplomacy.
  • Feb. 22 - Nuclear Security with Rick Devereaux, a career Air Force officer and student of Department of Defense military strategy. Nuclear nonproliferation was a top priority for the Obama administration. While the Iran deal was a diplomatic victory toward this end, major threats persist from both state and non-state actors. In a fractious world, which is way forward for U.S. nuclear security policy?
  • March 1 - Saudi Arabia in Transition with Larry Wilson, past president of Marietta College in Ohio and provost at UNC-A who served on the planning and design team to establish the first women’s university, Zayed University, in the United Arab Emirates. As Saudi Arabia struggles to adjust to the drastic decline in oil revenue, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman attempts to boldly transform the country and shift more power to the younger generation. At the same time, many countries such as the U.S. point out the lack of democracy, women’s rights and human rights in Saudi Arabia and blame its promotion of Wahhabism, an extremely conservative version of Islam, for creating jihadists. Bipartisan criticism of Saudi Arabia is rising in Congress. Both countries need each other, but they are at a crossroads in bilateral relations.
  • March 8 – U.S. Foreign Policy and Petroleum with Jennifer Schiff, International Relations political scientist at Western Carolina University. What is the effect of U.S. petroleum security on foreign policy? For 45 years, the country has alternated between periods of energy security and insecurity, sometimes able to wield petroleum as a useful instrument of foreign policy, sometimes not. Despite the so-called “energy revolution,” the U.S. today is by no means disentangled from foreign dependence and global trends. In order to be successful, policymakers must recognize both petroleum security circumstances and patterns in the relationship between petroleum and foreign policy.
  • March 15 - Trade and Politics with Julie Snyder, former Commerce Department official who has had wide experience in State Department trade negotiations and monitoring. The U.S. political mood toward trade has gone sour. One need look no further than the 2016 presidential contest for the popular narrative: trade means that China wins, at America’s expense. But do the numbers support that conclusion? The metrics used to gauge economic strength—Gross Domestic Product and balance of trade—have not kept up with the realities of modern manufacturing.