The Vineyard Haven Public Library Great Decisions Discussion Group will meet for 8 sessions on Thursday evenings at 7pm, beginning April 7th.
A Great Decisions Discussion Group is composed of interested individuals who want an opportunity to learn and participate in the foreign policy decision-making process. The Foreign Policy Association (FPA) has published the Great Decisions briefing book, a well researched annual publication covering eight timely global topics to be read by group participants in order to prepare for each discussion. At each meeting we will show a 30 minute documentary film on that week's topic, to be followed by a moderated discussion.
Please register online or at the library. The briefing book may be purchased for $25 from the FPA website at www.fpa.org, or by calling (800) 477-5836. (A limited number of books will be for sale at the library.)
Topics and meeting dates:
Thursday, April 7th
Shifting Alliances in the Middle East
From a proxy war in Yemen to an ongoing civil war in Syria, a number of conflicts have shaken the traditional alignments 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 disputes 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?
Thursday, April 14th
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 conquered Fallujah in December 2013. Since then, the group has seized control of a number of critical strongholds in both countries and declared itself a caliphate. Still, the question remains: what is ISIS, and what danger does it pose to U.S. interests?
Thursday, April 21st
The Future of Kurdistan
Kurdistan, a mountainous region made up of parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, is home to one of the largest ethnic groups in West Asia: the Kurds. Now, most in the West know them for the small, oil-rich autonomous region in northern Iraq called Iraqi Kurdistan—one of the U.S.’ closest 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?
Thursday, April 28th
As a record number of migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea, seeking 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 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?
Thursday, May 5th
At the end of World War II, Korea was divided. 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 regime, 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?
Thursday, May 12th
The United Nations Post-2015
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.
Thursday, May 19th
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 is expected that the presidential election in 2016 will be one of the first 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 effective?
Thursday, May 26th
Cuba and the U.S.
The U.S. announced in December 17, 2014, that, after decades of isolation, it would being taking major steps to normalize relations with Cuba, its neighbor to the south. The announcement marked 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 antithetical ideologies into the 21st century.