The Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is teaming up with the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University in North Carolina to launch major research on long-range United States policy approaches to global strategic challenges.
The Project on America's Global Strategic Challenges will assess the U.S. "war of ideas" that poses American democracy against Islamic fundamentalism; U.S. policies regarding emerging powers such as China; and the intersection of international politics, life sciences and technology. The project will produce a book, articles for influential periodicals and policy papers.
"There's a real hole in the public debate about these issues and the academic study of them has been something of an 'intellectual backwater' for the past 15 years," said Steven Weber, director of the Institute of International Relations at UC Berkeley and a professor of political science.
"We're asking what kind of world the United States wants to inhabit in 2015, and what policies it should pursue now to promote that outcome," said Bruce Jentleson, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.
Jentleson and Weber are co-directors of the new project, which is funded principally by grants totaling $450,000 over two years from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Jentleson, who directed Duke's Sanford Institute from 2000 through June 2005, previously served as senior policy advisor to the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
The project will bring together faculty members and graduate students, often through coast-to-coast video conferencing. Representatives from related fields in the private sector and non-profit organizations also will serve on an advisory board.
The first major initiative, "The War of Ideas: Right Focus, Wrong Strategy," will challenge the conventional wisdom casting this principally as about Islamic fundamentalism and being fought largely through public diplomacy.
The broad domestic consensus around this strategy is understandable, Jentleson and Weber said, noting that it addresses the most evident and ominous threats, and taps America's deeply held sense of self and world role.
"But while the right focus, it is the wrong strategy," the two wrote in proposing the project. "Its focus is too narrow, its 'war' conception misguided, and its emphasis on public diplomacy too single-dimensional. If we were somehow tomorrow to 'win' the war against radical Islam -- whatever that actually means -- we still would find ourselves confronting other major ideological contests relating to societal justice, globalization and the challenges of global governance."
A second initiative will examine policies that can promote the peaceful and constructive incorporation of large, populous and increasingly powerful states, such as China, into the global political and economic systems within the world order. Critical issues involving China that must be addressed in U.S. policy include currency, intellectual property and energy, Weber said.
A third task will consider the intersection between international politics, life sciences and biotechnology, especially for the regulation and management of advances in genetic medicine and infectious diseases with pandemic potential. Policies are needed, Weber said, to resolve questions about who owns newly developed genetic material and information, as well as who manufactures and prices new vaccines, and what roles military and civilian authorities will play.
This project is to be developed in partnership with other research centers on both campuses.
The project will host a conference March 5-7 at UC Berkeley's Moses Hall, gathering 19 political science Ph.D. students from top universities across the country. They will examine U.S. policy relating to international security, nation-state systems, transnationalism, political and human rights and other issues. The goal is to create new ideas and research projects relating to strategic, medium-range U.S. foreign policy and to launch a network of policy-oriented graduate students interested in bridging the worlds of politics and academics.