America's largest discussion program on world affairs
Each year, eight topics are chosen by a panel of experts. The program provides background information and policy options for the eight most critical issues facing America each year and serves as the focal text for discussion in groups across the country.
From a proxy war in Yemen to an ongoing civil war in Syria, a number of
ongoing conflicts have shaken the traditional alliances in the Middle
East to their core. As alliances between state and non-state actors in
the region are constantly shifting, the U.S. has found itself between a
rock and a hard place. In a series of conflicts that are far from being
black-and-white, what can the U.S. do to secure its interests in the
region without causing further damage and disruption?
The Rise of ISIS
Born out of an umbrella organization of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic
State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) burst onto the international stage after
it seized Falluja in December 2013. Since then, the group has seized
control of a number of critical strongholds in the country and declared
itself a caliphate, known as the Islamic State. Still, the question
remains: What is ISIS, and what danger does it pose to U.S. interests?
The Future of Kurdistan
Kurdistan, a mountainous region made up of parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran,
Armenia and Syria, is home to one of the largest ethnic groups in West
Asia: the Kurds. Now, most in the West know them for their small,
oil-rich autonomous region in northern Iraq called Iraqi Kurdistan — one
of the U.S.’ closer allies in the Middle East and a bulwark against the
expansion of the so-called Islamic State. What does the success of
Iraqi Kurdistan mean for Kurds in the surrounding region?
As a record number of migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea to find
refuge in Europe, the continent is struggling to come up with an
adequate response. Although Europe’s refugees are largely fleeing
conflicts in Syria, Iraq and parts of Africa, their struggle is hardly
unique. Today, with the number of displaced people is at an all-time
high, a number of world powers find themselves facing a difficult
question: How can they balance border security with humanitarian
concerns? More importantly, what can they do to resolve these crises so
as to limit the number of displaced persons?
At the end of World War II, Korea was divided in two. The northern half
of the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Soviet Union, the southern
by the United States. Today, North and South Korea couldn’t be further
apart. The North is underdeveloped, impoverished and ruled by a corrupt,
authoritarian government, while the South advanced rapidly to become
one of the most developed countries in the world. With such a wide gap,
some are asking if unification is possible, even desirable, anymore?
The United Nations
On the eve of the international organization’s 70th
birthday, the United Nations stands at a crossroads. This year marks a
halfway point in the organization’s global effort to eradicate poverty,
hunger and discrimination, as well as ensure justice and dignity for all
peoples. But as the UN’s 193 member states look back at the success of
the millennium development goals, they also must assess their needs for
its sustainable development goals — a new series of benchmarks, which
are set to expire in 2030. With the appointment of the ninth
secretary-general in the near future as well, the next U.S. president is
bound to have quite a lot on his or her plate going into office.
In the past few years, the American public has become more aware of the
damage wrought by climate change. From droughts in the west to extreme
weather in the east, a rapidly changing climate has already made its
footprint in the United States. Now, it’s expected that the presidential
election in 2016 will be one of the first ever to place an emphasis on
these environmental changes. What can the next president do to stymie
this environmental crisis? And is it too late for these efforts to be
Cuba and the U.S.
The U.S. announced in December 2014 that, after decades of isolation,
it has begun taking major steps to normalize relations with Cuba, its
neighbor to the south. The announcement marks a dramatic shift away from
a policy that has its roots in one of the darkest moments of the Cold
War — the Cuban missile crisis. Although the U.S. trade embargo is
unlikely to end any time soon, American and Cuban leaders today are
trying to bring a relationship once defined by a crisis in the 1960s
into the 21st century.