The six topics chosen have included: Energy, U.S. Economic Competitiveness, China, Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Education Competition Globally. Countdown 2012 series launched on Jan. 25, 2012 with guest-speaker Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Thomson Reuters.
She is an adjunct senior fellow at Harvard University’s JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and holds the distinguished national Security Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Dobrainsky said the economy and conditions will dominate 90 percent of the Presidential debates and all eyes will be focused on domestic concerns like taxes and tax reform.
Among foreign policy the Middle East will continue to dominate, with a specific spotlight on Egypt.
“I don’t believe democracy and democratic changes are linear,” she said; countries make progress and regress toward the notion before measurable change is adopted. She recalled the elections in Venezuela that brought Hugo Chávez to power saying initially for four years the country saw progress.
“The Middle East is a challenge, and also an opportunity,” she said, adding the U.S. needs to be a constructive partner and affect change but not impose its own brand of change.
China is the greatest issue and area to watch closely as it strengthens its economic muscle and increases partnerships in Africa, Latin American, and other parts of the world by assisting in structural progress. They bring their own resources, materials, and workers,” she said. Dorainsky said China’s greatest inhibitor was its lack of social interaction with other cultures as it improves quality in other countries. “Whereas the U.S. brings a list of rules and regulated stipulations to assistance, it leaves behind knowledge countries can adopt.
Another inhibitor for the rising nation, communism—“Political restraint is going to curb its growth.”
Dorainsky said the U.S. will remain number one because it still has the capacity and ability to lead not only capacity and ability and willingness in humanitarian efforts, “We are a unique mix of assets that no other country has.”
She said the U.S. still has an advantage with its universities and higher education which draw foreign students, especially from India and China. “Our secret weapon is our cultural exchange programs,” she said.
The enriching education international students receive also provides them with cultural understanding that is critical for emerging future leaders abreast of policies and their impacts on societies.
She cautioned while the U.S. may have a prime spot in higher education, the national graduation rate and primary education is an area of concern.
U.S. Energy policy is another key topic—“We should reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Dorainsky said tapping into local resources like natural gas and innovative energy like solar will provide greater leverage. She said new U.S. being built abroad are not utilizing solar panels and natural gas to make them feasible. “This is the kind of creativity that can make a difference,” she said. While countries like Japan and France utilize nuclear power, the U.S. is still involved with an intense debate over it.
Another hot topic button in 2012 will be U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan the great question of negotiating with its Taliban is coming to the forefront. “The Taliban have placed a condition that all prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba be released; I suspect nothing will happen on that front,” she said.
Pakistan’s allegiance as a strategic alliance continues to be in question by the U.S. and the countries relationship is being closely monitored by neighboring India.
She said developing events in Russia also need to be monitored closely.
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