The morning session for day four was focused on U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security. Our first speaker was Barbara Slavin, who is the acting director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council think tank. Barbara spoke to us about what direction she predicts the Trump administration will likely move in terms of Foreign Policy. First, she said that from what she’s seen in the confirmation hearings and other appearances from Trump and his provisional cabinet, Trump’s presidency will likely take a hard, cold, realist shape when it comes to Foreign Policy and National Security. In Rex Tillerson’s hearing, he was asked by Senator Marco Rubio whether he believed that Vladimir Putin should be considered a war criminal. Tillerson responded, “I would not use that term.” Stemming from this, Barbara believes that Trump’s approach to Foreign Policy will include little to no human rights considerations when making decisions internationally as opposed to President Obama’s concern for human rights violations. Second, Barbara doesn’t think that Trump will throw out the Iran Nuclear Deal like many other Republicans said they would if they were in his position. Trump has said that he and his team will “review” the deal, which Barbara sees as an empty gesture rather than an actual threat to the deal. Barbara closed by saying that she doesn’t anticipate Trump instituting a regime change like George W. Bush did with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Obama did with Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. She said that Trump has been fairly open about his plans to deal with current leaders and not to attempt Democratization.
The second speaker who we had the pleasure of listening to today was Lawrence Korb, who is a Senior Fellow at the think tank American Progress, a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Korb spoke more on the subject of National Security than Barbara did. He began his lecture by telling us that contrary to popular belief, the world is not more dangerous now than it ever has been in the past. He said that it was a very common misconception that the world gradually gets more and more dangerous as technology advances and as the years pass. Dr. Korb went on to explain how the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other officials at the Pentagon rank the things that they agree are most threatening to our National Security here in the United States. The biggest threat to the United States is… Russia. Russia ranks at the top of the list due to the fact that they have just as many active (if not more) nuclear weapons than we do in the U.S., as well as their determination to re-establish their legitimacy in the international arena after the Cold War. The second threat is China, in part because of the debt they have over the United States. The possibility of the disintegration of the Iran Nuclear Deal creates the possibility that Iran could potentially obtain nuclear weapons. This makes Iran the third most worrisome threat to National Security. North Korea is next, because of the unpredictable behavior that Kim Jong-un exhibits, along with their advancing nuclear capabilities. The fifth spot belongs to ISIS, which most Americans would place above Russia on this list. ISIS is number five on the list largely because of the instability that they cause in the Middle East. He briefly explained how important it was for people to understand that ISIS cannot be defeated militarily, or we would have done so by now. ISIS is an idea, therefore, they key to defeating them is to somehow discredit this idea on a large scale. Barbara and Dr. Korb had different opinions on what should be done in the interest of Foreign Policy and National Security, but there was something that they both stressed heavily, almost word for word: Engaging in a conflict is fine, but what do you have planned for the day after? What they meant by this is that historically, the United States has not always followed through with our obligations internationally. Ideally, if you commit money along with military force in order to Democratize or stabilize a region, there should also be a plan for what you will do to help keep it that way, not just get the job done. Dr Korb especially emphasized that just because a regime change has occurred, does not mean that a country is suddenly stable enough to survive independently.
After the morning sessions, our small group headed over to the Longworth House building to meet with Congressman French Hill from AR-2. He walked us over to the Capitol so that we could take a group picture on the Capitol steps and talk to him briefly before he had to speak on the House floor. Before he had to leave, Congressman Hill invited us all to a Inaugural breakfast reception that the Congressman of Arkansas are hosting, and also gave us instructions on what time to get to our designated spots on Inauguration Day.
We then went inside the Capitol to begin our guided tour. I interned this summer in Washington D.C. for Congressman Womack, so I was used to being the one giving the tours of the Capitol. This time, I was on the other side of the tour. I really enjoyed being able to relax and listen to what our guide had to say. She was extremely informed on the history of the Capitol and the U.S. Government as a whole. When I was here in the summer, the Rotunda portion was under renovation so it was closed to tours. I was finally able to see what the ceiling looked like and I was amazed. Even though that was awesome to finally see, I would say the coolest part of the Capitol tour was the multiple Speaker Paul Ryan sightings! He walked by our group twice, saying “good afternoon” and “hello” to us. This may not be a big deal to some, but politicians are celebrities in Washington. Seeing him in the Capitol was an added bonus to our afternoon sight visit for sure.
Tomorrow we’re supposed to gravitate back to discussing domestic policy, so here’s to another amazing day in our nation’s capital!