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Faculty Discuss International Challenges for Trump Presidency


There was not an empty seat at the Jan. 24 panel discussion in the Levitt Center 2016 Election Series, “International Challenges for the Trump Presidency: East Asia, Latin America and the Mid-East.”

Government faculty Alexsia Chan, Heather Sullivan and Kira Jumet shared their analyses on how political developments around the globe might affect the Trump presidency before engaging in a conversation with the community members who attended.

Sullivan, an expert on Latin American politics, opened the panel discussion by focusing on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. The history of this relationship, she explained, shows ample evidence of political benefits from Mexico as well as increasing cooperation between the two countries. However, she added, “Trump’s current rhetoric puts a lot of this at risk.”

Sullivan predicted that the country will likely elect a much more nationalist and populist leader. “It seems quite foolhardy,” she concluded, “that Trump is focusing on building a wall instead of building connections with Mexico.”

Jumet, an expert on the Middle East, explained President Trump’s effect on the current U.S. relationship with Arab states as well as on the Israel-Palestine conflict. One pressing concern she identified was David Friedman, Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, who “is potentially antagonistic to the Israel-Palestine situation.” Specifically, he wants to move the U.S. embassy from the uncontested location of Tel Aviv to the highly contested area of east Jerusalem. Just as Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric has increased ISIS recruitment, Jumet warned, “Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be another recruiting tool because it would anger so many people.”

Chan finished the discussion by providing her expert opinion on what roles China might assume given the current American political landscape. Put simply, although China favored Trump over Clinton during the election, “China is now less optimistic than they were before.” First, she said, the issue of U.S. relations with Taiwan is a security issue. “It could inadvertently draw the U.S. and China into conflict.”

But perhaps most important is the status of North Korea, a situation believed to be the greatest threat to national security. While Trump has suggested that China would invade North Korea for the U.S., “China is not going to invade it. It’s not helpful to alienate China, one of the countries who has some leverage with North Korea,” Chan said.

After the discussion, Steven Falco ’19 commended the panelists, saying, “They brought up many implications of Trump’s proposed policies but left the door open to see what the world order would look like in a post-Trump world.”

For Maggie Smith ’17, however, the event was more than just another informative discussion. “With Trump, there’s too much talk about his tweets and domestic policies,” she said. “But this talk made it clear to me, today in January, that some things are actually more important than others—we have international situations that we need to be more aware of.”

 

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