Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Sheila Smith

Author: Elina Mariutsa, Northeastern Student

Japan’s defense policy post-World War II has been shaped by domestic politics, perceptions of external threats, and most importantly, the reliance on its alliance with the United States. On May 23rd, WorldBoston hosted Dr. Sheila Smith for its monthly Chat & Chowder event, where she shared some insights from her newly released book, Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power, and explained why the American public underestimates its power over the future of Japan, East Asia, and the world’s security as a whole. 

Smith dives into the evolution of Japan’s military policy with exceptional attention, as she meticulously explores the country’s current policy from its origins in the Cold War. Inspired by many engagement trips to the Land of the Rising Sun, the Japan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations “spent a long time talking to fishermen, consumers and all kinds of stakeholders,” for  over four decades prior to beginning to write this book. Her writing is nested in real stories, historical facts, data analysis, and folklore. Such abundance of precision is rooted in a strong belief that her mission is to tell the story as is, while educating Americans about their responsibilities on the international arena.

This is the Smith’s second book on Japanese thinking. Her first book explored Japan’s response to the rise of China and its military capabilities, while her newest work focuses on Japanese foreign policy and its strategy beyond the region. Japan Rearmed is not just about the threat, but the additional decision-making processes that take place when there is a limited autonomy. Japan having undergone a complete reform and post-war management by a foreign power still abides by the “Peace Constitution” heavily influenced by U.S. General McArthur’s thinking.

The Allied Powers of WWII envisioned a different future for Japan at the end of 1940s -- demilitarized and fully pacified. They believed that Japan, once an imperial power that intimidated its neighbors by colonizing Korea and bringing war to Chinese people, had to become a democracy. Dr. Smith highlights the importance of the Constitution’s Article 9, which reads:

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Article 9 committed Japan to abandon all military force and engagement of war and to instead use diplomacy to combat threats in order to maintain international peace. Some understand this as an experiment in the wake of WWII to see if the Japanese public would alter their understanding of their military and its applications. Thus, the reason behind the title Japan Rearmed is simple: policy makers all over the world have been raising questions on whether Japan’s ‘rearming’ is posing a threat. However, Smith states that the country has been rearmed for decades and has a defense budget in the top 10 of military expenditures in the world (see below).


Japan’s modern forces include maritime and ground self-defense course, as well as the world’s third most up-to-date air force. It is well-equipped with strong technological weapons, largely provided by the United States as part of the nations’ mutual self-defense treaty. Although Japan has never joined a coalition involving combat and does not indicate that it will initiate conflict anytime soon, it has been comfortable sending its defense forces abroad – a response largely attributed to America’s shifting view of its allies. Japan, often characterized as a pacifist democracy, has been involved in over 30 UN Peacekeeping missions since the end of the Cold War and has also sent its navy in support of an anti-piracy coalition for law-enforcement activities. In 2014, Japan went a step further and allowed its force to be used alongside its allies, and today it performs military exercises with many other nations alongside the United States.

Given Japan’s geographic proximity to external threats, an effective form of defense would be a strong military presence, but even offensive capabilities would breach the terms of Article 9. Smith argues that the Japanese public is not yet willing to make that leap, though opinion is shifting. Smith argues that this shift for a more assertive defense policy is caused by the perceived threats from China and North Korea to its national security, saying that:

“Asia’s military balance is changing rapidly, and Japan is increasingly at a disadvantage. North Korea’s growing arsenal of missiles and weapons of mass destruction as well as China’s expanding maritime capabilities are changing Japan’s defense requirements.”

One could argue that shifting geopolitics in the turbulent present could also change Japan’s perception of its military capabilities. Smith hears this concern from many of her readers and colleagues, and in “Relying on Borrowed Power,” the final chapter of Japan Rearmed, she states that Japanese security professionals are seriously watching and evaluating U.S. actions to inform future security plans. The U.S.’s actions in the region and its commitment to honor its alliance with Japan, will determine whether Japan moves towards a more aggressive strategy and nuclear technology development. Smith left the audience with the powerful message that it is time for the American public to start appreciating the influence it has to encourage or discourage the world to become a more dangerous place.

You may order a book here.

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Craig VanGrasstek

Author: Anastasia Thano, Development Assistant at Ceres


On March 26, WorldBoston presented its third Chat & Chowder event of the season. For this installment, Craig VanGrasstek was invited to provide his expertise on a topic related to world affairs. Members of the Boston community gathered at the offices of McDermott, Will, & Emery on State Street to listen to this week’s expert present on the state of U.S. leadership and the rise of economic nationalism, while enjoying classic New England chowder. VanGrasstek, the author of Trade and American Leadership, elaborated on the shift of the United States as the hegemonic power, and the necessary implications of a world power enabling an open global market giving rise to a new economic hegemon.

Craig VanGrasstrek holds a doctorate in Politics from Princeton University (1997), as well as degrees in international relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (MSFS, 1983), and the University of Minnesota (BA, 1981). He has been a trade consultant since 1982 and has worked in over four-dozen countries on five continents, with clients ranging from government agencies to corporations and international organizations. Some of those have included the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Bank. His areas of expertise include the history and structure of the international trading system, the trade policy-making process, as well as the relationship between trade, power, and development. Furthermore, he currently teaches trade policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (2000-present) but has also taught international relations at the American University (1994-2001), and literature at Georgetown University (2006-2009). Lastly, he serves as President of Washington Trade Reports, a firm that specializes in monitoring and analyzing current issues in trade policy.

Before he delved into the core arguments of his book, VanGrasstek took time to elaborate on his framework of analysis. He disclosed with the audience the three navigating fields he uses interchangeably throughout Trade and American Leadership: power, theory, and history. He uses power, as a political scientist, to explain how countries mediate their relations. In the case of his argument, a theory is used to understand better how the U.S. got where it is today in the global/trade market. Notably, he bases a lot of the arguments in his book on the theory of hegemonic stability, which defined as a theory of international relations rooted in the fields of political science, economics, and history.

 The theory indicates that the international system is more likely to remain stable when a single nation-state is the dominant world power (hegemon), which VanGrasstek roots his explanation of a public good on. More specifically,  he explains that “an open global market is a public good,” meaning it is “non-excludable” and “non-rivalrous in consumption.” Moreover, because it is a good affecting society as a whole, it tends to be under-provided, especially by the private sector that is unfit and incapable of providing it. Thus, an open market is well supplied by the government of each sovereign nation-state. In his view, the important question to focus on is who (state) gets to provide it in the international system since there is no overarching government above all states, and since “markets cannot exist in anarchy.”

When seen from the supranational perspective, a country will be deemed as a hegemonic power when it can enable global trade, by using its motive (economic efficiency), and the means (its political power) to provide this public good. As such, power becomes an integral part of VanGrasstek's theoretical approach.

Lastly, according to VanGrasstek history is essential in explaining trends in global trade, because “we can’t understand where we are” and “we can’t understand where we’re going if we don’t look at the rear-view mirror.” Relating to the history of trade policy of the United States, it is essential to recognize where history has evolved from and what trends one can anticipate in the future, by understanding theory and power. With this last point, VanGrasstek made the entryway towards his thesis, which he presented as follows:

“The trading system adapts to the global distribution of power, with markets tending towards openness when there is a hegemon and towards closure or discrimination when there is not.”

To explain the significance of the global distribution of power, VanGrasstek explains that each country tries to manipulate imports and exports to serve its interests in attempting to build a trade surplus. En masse, this describes the mercantilist approach that was present in U.S. foreign policy up until the Second World War. In terms of historical context, before the British industrial revolution, there was a heavy focus on mercantilism. Between the British and the American hegemony, there were the 1920s and 1930s. The British were not able to provide the public good, while the United States was not willing. Therefore, the result was economic protectionism and closed markets, eventually giving way to war.

The hegemon has the motive and economic efficiency because it will benefit from the creation of the public good, while it also carries the political power to use in a friendly or unfriendly way (to coerce other countries). According to VanGrasstek, this theory explains the Pax Britannica (when the British Empire became the global hegemonic power)  and the Pax Americana (the dominant military and economic position of the United States compared to other states that begun in the mid 20th century).

A secondary point of VanGrasstek’s thesis is what he refers to as “the Trump phenomenon,” or in simpler terms a protectionist type of market, which restricts global trade, instead of enabling it. According to the author, this phenomenon is overdue (“if also overdone”). To back this up with some historical context in the 1980s the school of thought of hegemonic stability centered around the perception that the U.S. was going to advocate for open markets as long as it was in its strategic interest. For the first time, it had taken on the hegemonic responsibilities that had previously been exercised by the U.K. during the Second World War. By the 1970s, the United States started to run a large trade deficit, and the expectation of analysts became that over time there would be a protectionist president. However, contrary to what was expected to happen in the 1980s [electing a protectionist president] arrived much later, in 2016.

The natural question to this is why didn’t it happen until later? VanGrasstek offers three aspects: the consideration of U.S. power and the necessity of being on the same page as its allies, there was a change in the definition of what trade policy is. Rather than going back to a mercantilist approach as the trade deficit worked against the U.S. economy, trade policy was redefined entirely, as today trade deals with services, intellectual property rights, and investment. Third, there is the question of discrimination. It used to be that what we negotiated in trade was on a non-discriminatory, multilateral basis VanGrasstek explains this: “By diverting our attention from multilateral liberalization to discriminatory liberalization, we were able to prolong, for a couple of decades, a more free trade orientation, but a discriminatory trade orientation.”

No matter what fate holds for the president, the United States, and its partners will need to contend with a world in which “relative U.S. power is diminished (and China’s is rising) and trade discrimination is a tempting tool of foreign policy”, but “the utility of both preferences and sanctions is declining, making them less effective.” With this remark, the speaker proceeded to divert the audience’s attention to the following three topics, which he refers to in his book as “Paradoxes.” These are:

1. The Paradox of Hegemony, U.S. Dilemma: A leader hobbles itself or enables its challenges:

Hegemony for the United States begins around 1842 when the United States faces the same dilemma as the United Kingdom did; a leader hobbles itself or enables its challenges. Which essentially translates to the choice of opening global markets or not. If you do open them, you get the economic benefit because you’re the largest, most competitive country. That is because for a time you’ll be in a position to do better for everyone else, but simultaneously you’re creating the environment in which your challengers will rise. The British did so in the 19th century; they created the right environment for the Germans to advance. In a powerful statement, VanGrasstek shared: “What is more remarkable about Beijing’s rise is not only that it is accelerated by the trading system that Washington worked so hard to establish, but that U.S. policymakers had little choice in the matter. They could not have their cake without China eating it too” (Chapter 1, “The Domestic Diplomacy of Trade and the Paradoxes of Power and Wealth”).

2. The Paradox of Sanctions: Political Feasibility and Economic Effectiveness:

A prominent phenomenon in late-modern hegemony is that the United States transitioned from using trade as an instrument of its power on a non-discriminatory basis to a discriminatory way. There are two versions of this discriminatory use of trade: sanctions and preferences. The first paradox exists because sanctions pose a conflict between their political feasibility and their effectiveness. The type of sanction that will be more effective will be one that involves a large amount of trade. Hence, when we impose sanctions on other countries, we increase our vulnerability, as we impose costs on ourselves. In 1992, total trade constituted about one-fifth of the U.S. GDP, while today it makes up for approximately 30%. As the numbers suggest, the United States has a vastly lower capacity to use sanctions today than what it used to. As VanGrasstek went on to explain, “our vulnerability has increased by 50% in the last generation.” There are two ways to interpret this vulnerability: 1) every time the United States imposes sanctions, it is imposing costs on itself, in hopes that these costs will lead to a more favorable outcome. Alternatively, in terms of international relations, the U.S. hopes that it will get the other state actor to change its policy, and 2) the state we impose sanctions on having the ability to counter-retaliate. 

According to VanGasstrek: “If Washington were to impose across-the-board sanctions today, the pain inflicted on China would be about one third less than that same action would have achieved in 1995, but the price imposed on the U.S. economy would be more than four times greater. More information on the paradox of preferences is present in Chapter 10, “The Strategy and Domestic Diplomacy of Sanctions” of Trade and American Leadership.

3. The Paradox of Preferences:

Preferences are similar to discrimination, in which way a state can use discrimination and access to its market as a means of trying to leverage something from the other party [state]. Preferences are inherently “nicer,” and their paradox lies in that they are less used in international politics today compared to the past. In the case of the U.S., VanGrasstek explains that the willingness to use discrimination expands as its value declines. According to him, we have used preferences as a tool in our foreign policy at the wrong time to do so. To demonstrate the Paradox of Preferences, VanGasstrek looks at the correlation between vulnerability, or the “total trade as a share of U.S. GDP,” and the leverage, examined by the “share of world trade in goods.” The graph presented certain circumstances of the fall of the U.S. as hegemon on the global trade market.

No matter what fate holds for the president, the United States, and its partners will need to contend with a world in which “relative U.S. power is diminished (and China’s is rising) and trade discrimination is a tempting tool of foreign policy”, but “the utility of both preferences and sanctions is declining, making them less effective”.

 After the conclusion of his talk, VanGrasstek opened the floor to the audience to ask questions. The audience included WorldBoston members, some of VanGrasstek’s students from the Harvard Kennedy School, and other guests. Once the presentation finished, the attendees had the opportunity to purchase VanGrasstek’s book, while he was available to sign it and speak in person and answer further questions. If you would like to buy your own copy of Craig VanGrasstek’s Trade and American Leadership, you can do so here.

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Thomas Bollyky

Author: Nicoletta Pappas, Recruiter and HR Administrator at Creative Office Pavilion


On February 20, WorldBoston invited Thomas Bollyky to their second Chat & Chowder event of the season. As with every Chat & Chowder, guests were invited to listen and learn about topics affecting our global society, while enjoying some delicious New England clam chowder. This week’s international affairs topic focused on global health. Mr. Bollyky, author of Plagues and the Paradox of Progress, explained what could be possibly worrisome about an increasingly healthy world. Paradoxical as it may sound, Mr. Bollyky identified that since the world is becoming increasingly healthier, it’s leading to byproducts in emerging and developing cities, like an increase in young adult population and a shift in urbanization. Population is rapidly growing within these emerging cities, and infrastructure and jobs can’t keep up.

 Mr. Thomas Bollyky received his B.A. from Columbia University in Biology and History, and his J.D. from Stanford Law School. He currently works as the Director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR’s Global Health Program provides “independent, evidence-based analysis and recommendations” that help leaders and professionals internationally address health challenges across our globalized world.  At the CFR, Mr. Bollyky had the opportunity to direct the first Independent Task Force focused on global health. In addition to working in the Global Health Program, Mr. Bollyky is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law.

 Mr. Bollyky kicked off his talk with a number of statistics showing our world becoming increasingly healthier. The rates of infectious diseases are rapidly falling across the board. Niger, for example, has added 21 years to their life expectancy since 1980.  Child mortality in Niger has declined over 70% and healthcare is approx. $17 USD per person.

 Historically, improvements in sanitation played a pivotal role in the drop of mortality rates.  Not until after the 1900s did most U.S. city inhabitants have access to clean and filtered water. Increased sanitation, housing laws, and public health reform allowed cities to grow and mortality rates to drop. This included child labor laws, social regulations, and compulsory immunizations. The United States and Europe saw the byproducts of better health lead to prosperity and a growing economy, paving the way for Europe and the U.S. to become the countries they are today.

 With this increase in health in Niger, it was expected to see the improved health spur broader benefits, similar to those of U.S. and Europe. However, due to the rapid increase in population over such a short period of time, developing countries like Niger have not seen the same improvements. The drop in child mortality rates has led to an increase in the young adult population of many developing countries. One would expect with more working age young adults, there would be more individuals contributing to their country’s economic development. Unfortunately, many of these young adults in Niger are leaving their country at a rapid rate. Migration increased to over six million in 2013, and is projected to increase to up to 34 million by 2050. Young adults are leaving Niger for multiple reasons, most significantly because of a lack of available jobs. Niger is unable to keep up with their rise in working-age population, and can’t offer enough jobs to get their citizens to stay.

 Due to health improvements, poorer and poorer counties have been able to urbanize. But, the rate of urbanization is 2-3x what has been seen in the past. This is where the paradoxical relationship between health and development comes into play. Rapidly urbanizing cities have become victim to overcrowding with limited infrastructure to support the growth in population. For example, the city of Dhaka in India is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, home to over 16 million inhabitants. The average driving speed in Dhaka is only slightly above the average walking speed, taking city inhabitants hours to get to work. According to the World Bank, Dhaka city residences loose up to 3.2 million working hours per day due to congestion. This makes it harder to start businesses, and makes residents poorer rather than richer.

 Developing countries also struggle when combatting emerging diseases. There are many gaps in the health systems of emerging countries. The Ebola outbreak affected countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, and caused many fatalities. Although those countries were actively doing well in the global health spectrum, they struggled to handle emerging diseases like Ebola. Emerging and developing countries are also struggling when it comes to noncommunicable diseases. These diseases are increasing rapidly in many developing countries, especially among younger people. Mr. Bollyky explained that in 2013, over eight million people under the age of 60 died from noncommunicable diseases.

 Writing Plagues and the Paradox of Progress, Mr. Bollyky’s main point is that global health matters. It shapes our developing world, so we should invest in fixing global health problems. What is happening now is not the normal, since historically, increases in health benefits has shown increases in prosperity. Mr. Bollyky identifies a few strategies we can pursue to help bring things back on track:

  • Improve Education: We need to invest in young adults, because they are young and growing fast! This is the “age of miracles,” where we can reduce child mortality. Now, we need to provide these children with opportunity to grow.

  • Voluntary Family Planning: By providing voluntary family planning and reproductive health care, this can help families control the amount of children they are having. Due to the increase in child mortality, families can have less children and a more likely chance for those few children to survive.

  • Extend the Reach of Healthcare Programs: Governments need to invest in quality health programs for their citizens, and try to keep up with their rapidly growing population.


 At the conclusion of his talk, Mr. Bollyky opened the floor up to questions. Many attendees asked about the young adult population, and how developing countries can handle their growing population. Mr. Bollyky explained that developing countries must invest in young adults, because they are young and growing fast. Educating the young adult population is important. It also is important for developing countries to establish a functioning health system, especially for noncommunicable diseases. A functioning health system can help educate young adults on healthy habits like tobacco control. Mr. Bollyky also addressed a question on foreign aid and whether it worked. He stated that aid works for global health, even if there is corruption within the government taking the aid.

 WorldBoston will be hosting many upcoming events, including their State of the State Department and Diplomacy on Thursday, March 7th from 6-7:30 PM. A Great Decisions event will be held on April 4th from 6-7:30 PM on Refugees and Global Migration, and their third Chat & Chowder of the season on Trade and American Leadership will be held on March 26th at 6:00 PM.

 WorldBoston and its members are very grateful for Mr. Thomas Bollyky’s time and for a great presentation. If you are interested in buying a copy of Plagues and the Paradox of Progress, please do so here.

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Chuck Freilich

Author: Jaime Young, Community Planner at Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

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On Wednesday January 30th, WorldBoston held its first Chat & Chowder event of the year. This series features a prominent author in a topic related to world affairs who gives a talk while the audience enjoys food and drink. Three types of chowder were served along with a selection of beverages at the Offices of McDermott, Will, and Emery on State Street. The evening’s event featured Charles “Chuck” D. Freilich, former Deputy National Security Adviser in Israel and currently a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The focus for his talk was his recently published book, Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change (Oxford University Press, 2018). You can learn more about Chuck Freilich here.

The crux of Dr. Freilich’s position is that at the age of 70, “Israel’s security policy is a fundamental success.” He supported this statement by highlighting how Israel has military and diplomatic relations with more countries than ever before in its history, including Sunni states. Dr Freilich recalled how Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the state of Israel, said if the state reached five million in Jewish population, that would ensure national existence. Israel now has a Jewish population of seven million. Existential threats to the state that characterized the past have largely evaporated. In the case of Arab militaries and interstate conflict, Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel, Saudi Arabia has officially recognized Israel’s right to exist, while Syria and Iraq have their own issues of greater concern to deal with. Hamas, though still a foe, is not a state actor. The one glaring exception to these dissipating threats is Iran.

Dr. Freilich cautioned that despite the great progress Israel has made in national security, there are very real threats still looming. Iran is Israel’s most sophisticated and dangerous enemy. If it becomes a nuclear state, this would pose a very real existential threat. Iran has contributed greatly to Hezbollah’s capabilities, which now include rockets that can reach the majority of the Israeli population. For the first time, an Arab actor has the ability to disrupt Israeli Defense Force operations, including mobile sensors, air bases, even civil infrastructure, the power grid, and more. In additional to the advanced missile technology and the sheer number of them from Hezbollah, a cyber-threat also has the potential for great destruction.

Military threats are not the only type Israel faces today. Demographics, international perception, and the conflict with Palestine are all challenges that cannot be addressed with military might, at least not that Israel is willing to use, Freilich noted. The Arab population within Israel and Palestine is now nearly equal to the Jewish population, while the rising birth rate among the Jewish population is mainly due to the ultra-Orthadox segment, who do not serve in the military nor produce economically. This presents a conundrum for a democratic state. Public opinion around the world is not supportive of Israel, including that of the United States, Israel’s indispensable ally. Likewise, Israel cannot quash Palestinian nationalism with force and a two-state solution is becoming increasingly necessary, especially given the demographics. Israel must address these issues in order to truly achieve the status of secure, democratic, Jewish state in the Middle East.

Dr. Freilich made several recommendations for Israeli security policy going forward:

  • Israel must reach a diplomatic resolution with the Palestinians. A two-state solution would confirm Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Israel cannot let when happened in Gaza happen in the West Bank. Unfortunately, we do not have the necessary leadership in Jerusalem or Washington on this matter.

  • Israel must play a long-term game just as its adversaries do. It must use restraint as a fundamental strategy, as it has but to an even higher degree.

  • Israel must work to change international perceptions to be more favorable. At the same time, the Jewish diaspora conservative movement is a huge asset for Israel and must not be alienated.

  • The price of the special relationship with the U.S. means that Israel gives up some independence and freedom of maneuver. Cutting off dependency on the U.S. would mean going back decades in many respects, including security and standard of living. This is not desirable to anyone, but Israel needs to consider where this relationship is headed. In the past, Israel had bipartisan support from the Americans, but this is no longer the case. Israel has become a partisan issue in the U.S. Related to this, fundamental changes in American demographics do not bode well for Israel. The dependency on the U.S. needs to be examined.

  • Israel simply cannot allow Iran to go nuclear. A nuclear Iran would mean this influence on neighboring Arab countries. It is hard to imagine that Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel, but the probability of Arab nations in the region using them is infinitely greater.

  • Israel should maintain its own nuclear ambiguity policy, as it results in treatment as if it is a nuclear state.

  • More investment needs to be made in Israeli society. This is a strategic asset.

After Dr. Freilich concluded his talk, he opened up the floor for questions. The audience included members of WorldBoston, guests, a good representation of students, as well as the Israeli Consul General of Israel to New England. The audience was eager with questions for Dr. Freilich and he addressed topics including demographics, the U.S.’ role in peace negotiations with Palestine, settlements, the right of return, the need for change in the Israeli electoral system, and many others. At the conclusion of the interactive period, Dr. Freilich’s recent book was for sale and he was available to sign it. You may purchase your own copy of Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change from Oxford University Press here.

WorldBoston's Emerging Leader Reflects on Experience at Global Ties U.S. National Meeting

Author: Becca Raffo, Northeastern Student & Program Associate at WorldBoston

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Every January, members of the WorldBoston team head to Washington, DC for the annual National Meeting of Global Ties U.S. (Global Ties U.S. is one of two WorldBoston national affiliates, corresponding to our Citizen Diplomacy work). The National Meeting brings together about 1,000 professionals in public diplomacy and international exchange to share ideas and highlight leaders in the field. This year, as a WorldBoston Program Associate, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders Program, which integrates distinguished interns and volunteers from the network into the annual Meeting through networking opportunities and informative sessions on careers in public diplomacy. When describing the program, Global Ties U.S. website states,

“Over the course of four days, these young citizen diplomats immerse themselves in the world of public diplomacy and international exchange by attending networking events, workshops, and sessions to hear from professionals in the field.”

“Immersive” is truly the word to describe this experience. Our program was packed from morning to evening, including sessions and panels tailored to our unique position as young professionals entering the workforce. In addition, we were seamlessly integrated into the meeting by attending sessions ranging from Social Media to the Youth Opioid Crisis with our CBM colleagues. We had the invaluable opportunity to network with professionals across the public and private sectors and gain honest insights to shape our individual career goals. Every person we met was so friendly and eager to speak with us about their experiences, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to grow as a professional in such a warm and welcoming environment.

It is also worth noting that most of this year’s meeting occurred during the partial U.S. government shutdown – certainly an unusual way to experience Washington!  It was impressive to see how the Global Ties staff and network rescheduled and rethought sessions due to absences of furloughed speakers.  Although all the participants were filled with questions about the implications of the shutdown for our work, the conference remained positive and engaging.

Our sessions and workshops were incredibly informative and eye-opening, but my favorite aspect of the program was getting to know the other Emerging Leaders. There were 18 of us this year, all from different CBMs across the country. We each came to the meeting with our own academic backgrounds and future ambitions, but it became quite apparent that we are forever linked by our love of international exchange. My time at WorldBoston has been underscored by an atmosphere of passion and enthusiasm for connecting Boston with the world, and I am so inspired after seeing this same passion in young people advocating for international exchange in their own cities. The Emerging Leaders Program was both humbling and motivating, and I am excited to see the accomplishments of this new era of the public diplomats.

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Michele Gelfand

Author: Samantha Miller, Investment Operations Analyst at State Street

Members of WorldBoston gathered last night for the final Chat and Chowder of the year, a monthly discussion on new books and how they could be applied in terms of international affairs. Boston’s current events enthusiasts came together for a warm cup of chowder and some drinks to listen to a lecture and question and answer section on the subject of cultural psychology. This talk was led by Michele Gelfand, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland on her new book Rule Makers Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. An expert in the field of cross-cultural psychology, Dr. Gelfand described how different cultures and subgroups, be they nations, states, or even social classes, could be categorized by how “tight” or “loose” they are-that is, how strictly groups adhere to social norms and how deviance from the norm is approached. Tight cultures tend to exhibit more security, less, crime, and place an emphasis on uniformity and self-control.  Deviation from the norm tends to be treated more harshly, be it social ostracization or legal punishment, than in looser cultures. Dr. Gelfand pointed to Japan, Singapore, and Germany as some examples of “tighter” countries, whereas more loose states, such as the US, Brazil, or Greece, tend to exhibit more openness, creativity, and tolerance for deviation. This phenomenon, Gelfand pointed out, could also be seen in different regions within nations and social classes, giving the example of how U.S. states could differ in tightness or looseness and how poorer or more working class people exhibited a tighter mindset than wealthier ones. She explained that a tighter mindset tends to come from existential threats, such as natural disasters, invasion, or high population density that makes adherence to strict rules valuable. Population density itself might not be an existential threat, but having so many people living in close quarters makes strict social norms that much more important to keep these groups on a similar page-for example, we might not understand why chewing gum is banned in Singapore, but a country with a large population density where gum litter was becoming such a nuisance that affected such a large number of people, the leadership saw no choice but to ban it outright. Groups that face a new existential threat have also been observed to become tighter and crave more rules and order when things start to feel too different or out of control. Understanding these differences, she explained, helps increase our cultural understanding and cultural literacy makes international negotiation that much easier-when we understand the culture and rational behind cultural norms, it is much easier to come to agreements and a clear understanding of the other parties’ motivations. She wrapped up her lecture by explaining that it is not necessarily better or worse to be tight or loose, but the most successful outcomes stem from maintaining a balance-social norms are important to be able to predict how to behave, but deviance can encourage creativity and new ways to approach challenges.

Following her lecture, the floor was opened for a question and answer section, in which the audience asked a series of questions regarding how these observed trends of tight and loose cultures could be applied in various international settings, such as how is Israel so loose and open while it is subject to constant external threats and how negotiating conflict resolution is such a challenge between tight and loose cultures when establishing mutual respect and trust. Dr. Gelfand and the audience also touched on Trump and how the populations that voted for him in large numbers tended to cite what they considered existential threats such as immigration or terrorism as the most important factors in their votes. To wrap up her lecture, Dr. Gelfand signed copies of her new book and answered additional last-minute questions the audience had. This event was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the intersections of cultural psychology and world affairs as well as mingle and network with fellow WorldBoston members and fellow Bostonians interested in international affairs. To learn more about Dr. Gelfand’s theories and how they are reflected in current events, her book is available for purchase here https://www.amazon.com/Rule-Makers-Breakers-Tight-Cultures/dp/1501152939

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Northeastern Professor, Max Abrahms

Author: Michaela Tobin, Northeastern Student & International Trade & Communications Co-op at U.S. Commercial Service


Professionals, students, and members of the WorldBoston community gathered last Thursday at the law offices of McDermott, Will and Emery for the latest installment in WorldBoston’s Chat and Chowder series, a monthly book talk lead by experts in the field of global affairs and international relations. As they enjoyed steaming bowls of chowder and various beverages, audience members listened attentively to Dr. Max Abrahms, the articulate and charismatic speaker of November’s Chat and Chowder event.

Dr. Abrahms is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and an expert on terrorism and international security. He is an affiliate at the Global Resilience Institute, a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a board member on the journal Terrorism and Political Violence. In addition to being published in a variety of leading scholarly journals and an active analyst in the media on matters of international security, Abrahms is also the author of the recently published Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History, which served as the topic of Thursday night’s discussion.

In Rules for Rebels, inspired by author Saul Alinsky's similarly titled work, Rules for Radicals, Abrahms studies different militant groups to explore why some groups fail at achieving their goals while others remain successful. During his presentation, Abrahms used the example of ISIS, examining the tactics of the Islamic State’s infamous leader, Abu Bakr Al- Baghdadi to explain why the organization ultimately failed, despite its leadership being crowned a “mastermind” by the media, and lauded by various think-tank pundits.

“Smart militant leaders are not always successful,” Abrahms stated, “but successful militant leaders need to be smart”.

In his opinion, smart leaders are those that refrain from partaking in certain behaviors that have historically doomed terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State. Abrahms theorizes that there is a science to militant victories and proposes three rules militant groups must follow in order to be successful in achieving their goals: 1) learn to avoid terrorism, 2) restrain members from committing acts of terrorism, and 3) deny responsibility for terrorism if they want to achieve their goals. His lecture touched on these three criteria, though Rules for Rebels delves considerably deeper into the evidence behind each assertion.

The lecture concluded with a lively question and answer session, in which audience members voiced their curiosities regarding successful terrorist cells and the trends seen in modern day terrorism. Abrahm’s talk created a lasting impression on listeners, leaving them to consider how national governments and militaries can apply these findings to prevent or react to terrorism in the future. After the talk, members stayed to mingle for more conversation, and many chatted further with the author.

For a more comprehensive look at Dr. Abrahms research, get your copy of Rules for Rebels here.

Event Recap: Chat & Chowder with Brookings Senior Fellow, Robert Kagan

Author: Sophia Danison, Intern at BNID


“Robert Kagan, Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings, spoke last Thursday about his new book, The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperiled World. Hosted by WorldBoston, a nonprofit organization and World Affairs Council dedicated to engagement on international affairs, the intimate gathering took place on the 25th floor of the Prudential Center, situated amid gorgeous views of the Boston cityscape. Kagan’s talk was yet another installment of Chat & Chowder, an ongoing book talk series featuring topics ranging from international affairs to current events. Attendees were treated to an assortment of delicious Boston chowders as well as other beverages and refreshments. Prior to the talk, WorldBoston members and guests were able to mingle, getting to know one another as development and policy professionals and world affairs aficionados alike. Once his talk began, Kagan received everyone’s rapt attention, and for the rest of the evening conversations tuned in to debates of American foreign policy.

“We’re having a great debate without actually discussing anything,” Kagan remarked, lamenting the state of current American politics. To this degree he noted some rare similarities between Trump and Obama’s domestic nation-building efforts, citing a gradual American withdrawal from being a major participant in world affairs. A “fragile” Liberal World Order is contingent on sincere American participation, as we are one of its founders and, in a sense, guarantors of the system’s wellbeing. During his talk, Kagan argued that the “America First” policy of protectionism in exchange for domestic wealth blatantly defies the other members of a world order based on free trade and mutual prosperity. To that end, he gave an impassioned appeal for foreign policy leaders to take into account historical episodes of isolationism as harbingers of chaos and disorder. According to Kagan, if America does commit to upholding the international system it helped to create, and instead retracts into isolationism, the system is bound to collapse.

Kagan did leave us with a bright note by the end of his talk. On the overall resilience of our current system he remarked, “Even Donald Trump couldn’t wreck this easily.” He offered a few suggestions to reform policy, and put faith into the liberalist system as able to endure what inevitable challenges to its stability may come.

To get Kagan’s full perspective, check out his new book here.”

Source: https://www.bnid.org/blog-posts/event-recap-chat-and-chowder-w-slash-brookings-senior-fellow-robert-kagan

Thank You, America's Hometown!

A huge thank you to the Plimoth Plantation for hosting a State Department-sponsored
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) group from Saudi Arabia this past week! This
group of professionals focused on tourism and economic development are working toward
creating a tourism visa for international tourists to travel to Saudi Arabia. The visitors had a
chance to see how the Plimoth Plantation welcomes tourists from all over the world to learn
about early American History and America’s Hometown! In addition to learning how a living
history museum operates and maintains its business, the group had a chance to visit Plymouth
Rock, historical sites along Plymouth Waterfront, and eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The visitors came to Plymouth with the specific objectives of studying coastal tourism and
cultural preservation. To achieve these goals, Plimoth Plantation made sure to include program
managers of the Wampanoag Homesite who could explain in a hands-on way about the
preservation of their culture. A sincere thank you to Darius as well as Mr. Rob Kluin (Director of
Marketing and Communications), Ms. Janet Young (Group Sales Manager) and Mr. Ivan Lipton
(Chief Administration Officer).

This visit would not have been complete without the Plymouth 400, Inc. – another massive thank you to them! This non-profit organization is hosting a series of commemoration events in 2020 to highlight the cultural contributions and American traditions that emerged from the interactions between the Wampanoag tribe and English settlers. Ms. Michelle Pecoraro (Executive Director) and Mr. Brian Logan (Communications Manager) from the Plymouth 400 were kind enough to meet with the visitors from Saudi Arabia to discuss the preparations for the 400 th anniversary of the Plymouth Colony. They also provided a guided walking tour of the modern-day location of the first settlement and along the historic Waterfront.

Thank you to both of these organizations for meeting with the visitors and showing them around America’s Hometown! Check out the pictures of the group’s visit on a beautiful day to Plymouth below:

We're hiring!

WorldBoston is hiring a Manager of Operations and Global Education Programs! This is an outstanding opportunity to grow a career in community outreach, communications, and nonprofit management, with an international focus.

The Manager of Operations and Global Education Programs oversees WorldBoston programs serving our local community, which includes business, academia, young professionals, high school students, local diplomats and foreign representatives, and internationally-minded individuals throughout the region. Responsibilities include creating and managing 40+ speaker events annually, overseeing WorldBoston’s flagship youth program Academic WorldQuest, and working with partners to co-host numerous other events throughout the year. This work involves identifying compelling topics, recruiting expert speakers, securing venues, and building audiences. Responsibilities also include managing the organization’s communications and marketing, including outreach and social media. The Manager should be motivated by creating new connections and advancing WorldBoston’s reach, effectiveness, and visibility. This position is part of a management team overseeing interns, volunteers, and vendors.

This Manager also oversees key internal operational functions of WorldBoston, including office management, interfacing with WorldBoston’s IT consultant, and online ticket sales, memberships, etc. Additional features of this position include:

  • Creating clear and visually appealing newsletters to advertise WorldBoston events, using email marketing software

  • Overseeing WorldBoston’s social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

  • Keeping our website up-to-date

  • Working with the President and other staff to maintain visibility on WorldBoston membership, event payments, and other critical operational elements

  • Providing support to other programs involving international visitors, and to new programs as necessary

  • Drafting grant proposals for existing and future global education-focused programs, and implementing them as necessary. 

The successful candidate will bring the following qualities to the team:

  • Superior attention to detail and motivation for outstanding performance

  • Initiative and interpersonal skills

  • Collaboration in a lively team environment

  • Ability to attract and interact well with participants and stakeholders from diverse local and international communities

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

  • Proficiency in Word, PowerPoint, Excel (required); experience with Squarespace (or similar website editor), QuickBooks, and desktop publishing software (e.g. Publisher, Canva) a plus

  • A bachelor’s degree in communications, international affairs, nonprofit administration, or related field

  • At least 2-3 years of professional experience; examples of relevant experience include, but are not limited to, community outreach, organizing events, and small office management, including management of interns

  • Passion for international affairs and nonprofit excellence

  • Personal goals to grow and take on new responsibilities in a small team atmosphere

  • Motivation to advance a mission-driven organization

  • Ability to lift items up to 25 lbs.

  • Availability to staff scheduled evening programs

Ready to join the WorldBoston team? Please email a resume and covering note to opportunity@worldboston.org. No telephone calls or inquiries, please.

Academic WorldQuest Winners

Congratulations to our new 2018 John H. Carlson Academic WorldQuest winners from the International School of Boston! On March 24, Bridgewater State University hosted eight teams from around Massachusetts. The winning team from the International School of Boston will be headed to Washington DC later in April to compete against 45 other teams in the national competition. Teams from as far as Alaska and Hawaii will be convening to represent their states and vie for first place. We wish our Massachusetts team good luck and lots of trivia fun! More information about Academic WorldQuest can be found here.