Sweet Briar faculty present two of four foreign policy lectures in annual ‘Great Decisions’ series

February 2, 2017 | By Jennifer McManamay

Sweet Briar professors John Ashbrook and Jeff Key will be featured speakers in the 2017 Great Decisions Lecture Series, which kicks off at 2:30 this afternoon in the Community Room at the Lynchburg Public Library.

Prof. John Ashbrook

Prof. John Ashbrook

The annual Great Decisions forum is sponsored by the Lynchburg Branch of the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters of Lynchburg, the YWCA and the Lynchburg Public Library. It is free and open to the public. Topics are suggested by the Foreign Policy Association based on what it sees as the most significant and far-reaching issues of the day.

Lynchburg College’s David Richards will give the first talk, “Latin America’s Political Pendulum,” addressing a rightward shift in Latin American politics resulting from socioeconomic forces. The remaining three lectures will be held each successive Thursday, beginning with light refreshments at 2:30 p.m. and the program at 3 p.m.

Ashbrook, an associate professor of history, will present “The Future of Europe” on Feb. 9. Ashbrook, who has researched European Union expansion and politics since 2008, asks, “What will post-Brexit Europe look like, especially in the light of an increasingly aggressive Russia, and how can U.S. foreign policy adapt?”

The context for the question comes out of the “shockwaves” rippling across the globe following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, he says.

JeffKey-1466webres

Prof. Jeff Key

“Now the EU faces an uncertain future. Amid a refugee crisis, lingering financial recession, and the constant specter of terrorism, some elites argue that unity is more imperative than ever. However, Euroskeptics, who see Brussels as an overbearing, bureaucratic and ‘imperial’ power, want less centralization and more state sovereignty.”

On Feb. 16, Mitra Nafissian Rash, a senior program officer with Legacy International will present “Saudi Arabia in Transition.” Rash will discuss Saudi Arabia’s attempt to “transform itself and shift more power to the younger generation,” even as countries such as the U.S. point out the lack of democracy, individual rights and the dangers of Wahhabism. Rash will explore whether a continued alliance with the kingdom is to the United States’ benefit, as well as the power struggles between Saudi Arabia and its neighbor, Iran.

Jeff Key, associate professor of government and international affairs at Sweet Briar, is an expert on the politics of South Asia. He will wrap up the series on Feb. 23 with “Conflict in the South China Sea.”

“The South China Sea is a locus of competing territorial claims, and China its most vocal claimant,” he says.

“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.”

For more information, call (434) 455-6300.

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