As US influence wanes, Harvard and MIT want new breed of foreign policy scholars

As US influence wanes, Harvard and MIT want new breed of foreign policy scholars
Protesters display a banner during a protest to denounce the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, who will be attending the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders summit, in metro Manila, Philippines November 12, 2017. Source: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

In the face of China’s rise and the Donald Trump presidency, the United States’ global influence has taken a huge hit.

Pew Research from earlier this year showed that more people around the world see Uncle Sam as a major threat, while there have been rapid declines in positive perceptions of the country and confidence in its president.

The Washington Post didn’t mince its words with an article entitled “This is how a superpower commits suicide”, by author Richard Javad Heydarian, who has taught political science at De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University.

“His midnight tirades on Twitter, constant attacks on the liberal international order and push to dismantle the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have collectively left America isolated even from some of its closest allies,” wrote Heydarian.

Enter two of the United States’ best universities: Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Under a new, collaborative international studies programme known as the Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft with support from the Charles Koch Foundation to the tune of US$3.7 million, the two schools aim to “mentor the next generation of foreign policy scholars”.

“The country is in a critical period of self-reflection about its proper role in the world and how the US can best meet its security needs going forward,” said Charles Koch Foundation vice-president William Ruger.

Fellows in the Project will have the opportunity to spend one year both MIT’s Security Studies Program and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, along with participating in a joint speaker series.

Grants from the Charles Koch Foundation will also support graduate research of security studies students at both institutions.

“The programme will build a community of scholars dedicated to fundamental research on the most critical security problems of our time, and to bringing the fruits of that research to public policy,” said Barry R. Posen, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program at MIT.

(L-R) Asean delegates, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, US President Donald Trump, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, link hands during the Opening ceremony of the 31st Asean Summit in Manila on Nov 13, 2017. Source: Reuters/Noel Celis/Pool

“We are excited to support Harvard and MIT’s world-class vision for engaging the next generation of foreign policy scholars as they develop the research and ideas that will inform this discussion,” added Ruger.

Prof Stephen Walt from Harvard, one of the programme’s joint directors, said “a healthy democracy therefore requires a diverse and well-trained community of independent experts who understand strategy, security, and statecraft.”

“[Their] work can inform elites and public debates on foreign policy, and especially decisions to use force.”

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