Everyone has problems.
The Baker Center hosted five prominent political science professors from universities around the country on Thursday to discuss some of the most pressing international issues facing the nation today.
Speaking for 10 minutes each, the panelists shared their thoughts about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, U.S. intervention, territorial conflicts and environmental degradation. The discussion was then opened for questions from the audience in the packed Toyota Auditorium.
"I think it's important to think about the United States' footprint in the world, what our role is, how we want to affect security, the resources we should use to do it and the challenges we face," said Brandon Prins, Baker Fellow and associate professor of political science.
Victor Asal, an associate political science professor at SUNY Albany, spoke on the current state of terrorism.
"There are still a lot of people out there who want to kill Americans for a variety of reasons," Asal said. "A conundrum we face with terrorism is that it has high consequences, but low probability of occurrence. This makes it difficult to address this issue in politics."
With the growth of nuclear capabilities active in nine countries, nuclear proliferation was a central issue.
"There is the problem of separating the peaceful from the weapon atom," said Matt Fuhrmann, political science professor from Texas A&M. "It is difficult to know the intentions of a country because these facilities can theoretically be used for peaceful purposes."
Fuhrmann cited Iran as an example of this ambiguity. In the 1950s, Iran's nuclear program was initiated by the U.S. to create a new energy source.
The panelists agreed that the presence of nuclear facilities in Iran is one of the most urgent foreign policy dilemmas the U.S. faces.
"We frequently hear talk in the halls of Congress about how we need to address the Iranian nuclear program and frequently we hear calls for the use of military response to destroy these facilities," said Prins, the forum moderator. "I think there's not enough talk about how difficult that would be."
As several panelists noted, such conflicts demand the attention of American leadership.
"Currently, we have a president who is trying to pull us away from military intervention and foreign conflict," said Professor Dave Brule from Purdue. "When Obama came into office, I think he realized that the world is not always the way America wants it to be.
"Obama has found himself in a few tight spots, and he might not want to intervene, but must as the leader of the free world, such as in Syria."
Krista Wiegand, a professor from Georgia Southern, who discussed territorial disputes and their effect on U.S. foreign policy, stressed the importance of awareness.
"Read, listen and watch as much as you can about what is going on in the world on a daily basis," Wiegand said. "Different issues, different conflicts, different events that are happening in the world. Just become familiar with what's going on.
"Wherever you live, you are impacted by international relations."