Honors Study Topic 2006-2008
Gold, Gods, and Glory: The Global Dynamics of Power
Alpha Eta Iota hosted a satellite seminar series on the Sylvania campus during the 2006-2008 Honors Study Topic period. The series turned out to be quite dynamic and thought provoking.
Four seminars were given by speakers on the following topics:
Seminar 1: How to win a Cosmic War by Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a regular commentator for NPR's Marketplace and Middle East Analyst for CBS News. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University, a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Sociology of Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has served as a legislative assistant for the Friends' Committee on National Legislation in Washington D.C., and was elected president of Harvard's Chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, a United Nations Organization committed to solving religious conflicts throughout the world. He is a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and serves on advisory boards of both the Council of Foreign Relations and the Ploughshares Fund, which distributes grants to further peace and diplomacy throughout the world. Until recently, he was both Visiting Assistant Professor of Islamic and Middle East Studies at the University of Iowa and the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Slate, Boston Globe, Washington Post and many more publications and has appeared on multiple news shows. He is the author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, and the soon to be published How to Win a Cosmic War: Why We're Losing the War on Terror.
A recent poll by Foreign Policy Magazine indicated that nearly 90% of US foreign policy analysts on both the left and the right believe the United States is losing the so-called "War on Terror." In his presentation, Aslan argues that America's poor performance in this conflict is due to the very way in which the struggle against Islamic extremists has been framed as a "cosmic war" between the forces of good and evil.
Seminar #2: Dealing with the Dragon: America's Economic Relationship with China
Zanny Minton Beddoes is The Economist's Washington economics editor. She is responsible for coverage of the American economy, economic policy and issues surrounding globalization. Before moving to Washington in April 1996, Minton Beddoes was The Economist's emerging-markets correspondent based in London. She has written surveys of the World Economy, Latin American finance, global finance and Central Asia.
Minton Beddoes joined The Economist in 1994 after spending two years as an economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before joining the IMF, she worked as an adviser to the Minister of Finance in Poland, as part of a small group headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Harvard University. She has written extensively about the American economy and international financial policy. She has published in Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, and has testified before Congress on the introduction of the Euro.
Minton Beddoes is a regular commentator on Marketplace (NPR). She has also appeared on CNN, MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, CNBC, and Public Interest. She is a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a member of the Research Advisory Board of the Committee for Economic Development.
America's relationship with China will shape the global economy of the 21st century. Whether the world's largest economy and its fastest-growing one co-operate or clash will have far-reaching implications - on the global trade regime, on the pace of economic growth, on the world's energy profile, and the efforts to stem global warming. Unfortunately, frustration with China is rising fast in Congress. Recent fears about the safety of Chinese products have fuelled long-standing concerns about the country's trade practices. China is widely accused of being an unfair trader, a country that gains an advantage over its competitors by manipulating its currency and ignoring intellectual property rights. Many politicians would like to get tough with this trade scofflaw. Bills that would allow tariffs to be imposed against Chinese products have passed important Congressional committees and could soon become law. In her presentation, Ms. Minton Beddoes analyzed these tensions and challenges. She examined whether China poses an economic threat to the United States and whether Beijing breaks the rules of global commerce. She also assessed the scale of sinophobia in Washington, as well as the risks and consequences of a trade war.
Seminar #3: Afghanistan After the Taliban
Afghan-American author Tamim Ansary wrote West of Kabul, East of New York and co-authored The Other Side of the Sky with Afghan land mine victim Farah Ahmadi. He directs the San Francisco Writers Workshop, writes a monthly column for Encarta.com, and teaches sporadically at the SF Osher Institute. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Alternet, TomPaine.com, Zzyzyva, Edutopia, and many other publications.
In Afghanistan After the Taliban, Mr. Ansary explored:
- How the Taliban came to power and who they were/are
- The American military intervention and its consequences
- The contending players on the current Afghan scene, which include warlords, drug lords, conservative clerics, Jihadist fundamentalists, exiled (and now returning) technocrats, old aristocracy, and American and other foreign interests
- The political measures that were taken to reinvent Afghanistan after the Taliban - the Bonn Conference, the constitution, the elections, and more
- The "reconstruction" efforts in Afghanistan and their consequences, expected and unexpected
- Whether and why Afghanistan is slipping back into chaos
Seminar #4: American Theocracy: Politics, Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century
For more than three decades, Kevin Phillips has been consistently and "transcendentally right" (as one reviewer has put it) about the dynamics of political change in America and an avid analyst of the role of wealth in democracy. Phillips's best-selling books have influenced presidential campaigns and changed the way America sees itself. In his two most recent New York Times bestsellers, American Dynasty and Wealth and Democracy, Phillips established himself as a powerful critic of the political and economic forces that are ruling and imperiling the U.S.
Now, in American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Phillips explores the political and religious coalition, he believes is driving the country to the brink of disaster.
Phillips' commitment to public service and strong sense of history make his presentations valuable to any audience that cares about where America is headed in the future. Called a "modern Thomas Paine," Kevin Phillips is a regular commentator for National Public Radio and a former commentator for CBS News.
From ancient Rome to the British Empire, every world-dominating power has been brought down by an overlapping set of problems: a foolish combination of global overreach, militant religion, diminishing resources, and ballooning debt. It is exactly this nexus of ills that has come to define America's political and economic identity at the beginning of the twenty-first century.