Senator George Mitchell: Two-State Solution the Only Option

DECEMBER 22, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

There is still a chance for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is the only credible and viable option, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell told Pacific Council members during a discussion on the Israel-Palestine peace process. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Kim Murphy, assistant managing editor of the foreign and national desks at the Los Angeles Times.

Mitchell served as a U.S. Senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995 and as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. In 1998, he brokered the Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. He also served as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2011, where he worked to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His new book, A Path to Peace: A Brief History of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and a Way Forward in the Middle East, looks at why past negotiations failed, and offers a roadmap for bringing peace to the region. 

Joining Senator Mitchell during the discussion was his co-author, Mr. Alon Sachar, an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Sachar served as an adviser to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro in Tel Aviv from 2011 to 2012, and to President Obama’s Special Envoys for Middle East Peace, George J. Mitchell and David Hale, from 2009 to 2011.

"Our hope is that, difficult as it now seems, there is a chance for the two-state solution, which we think is the only credible and viable solution that can be accepted by both sides," said Mitchell. "Our book is essentially a defense of the two-state solution."

"If you want to have a peaceful resolution, there has to be a compromise that enables both sides to feel that they have achieved a fundamental objective."

- George Mitchell

Mitchell said he believes that there’s no such thing as a conflict that can’t be undone.

"Every conflict comes to an end," he said. "They are created, conducted, and sustained by human beings. The question is, do they come to an end through a total military victory and the consequences that flow from that, or do they come to an end through a negotiated agreement?"

"If you want to have a peaceful resolution, there has to be a compromise that enables both sides to feel that they have achieved a fundamental objective," he explained. "Humans and governments act out of self-interest, but people often are unable to perceive their true national or individual interest until they go through a period of trial and difficulty. While there are vast differences in religion, language, culture, and historical narrative, there are also common interests."

Mitchell thought the situation was persuasively and concisely defined by President George W. Bush when he traveled to Jerusalem in 2008.

"President Bush made the argument to Israeli and Palestinian leaders that they should be vested in each other’s success because that is the only way they can achieve success themselves," said Mitchell. "To the Israelis, he said, ‘You have a highly successful state, but you don’t have security for your people or normal relations with many of your neighbors. The only way you’re going to get that is if the Palestinians get an independent, sovereign, non-militarized state living side by side in peace with Israel.’ To the Palestinians, he said, ‘The only way you’re going to get a state is if the people of Israel have reasonable and sustainable security.’"

"Israeli and Palestinian leaders should be vested in each other’s success because that is the only way they can achieve success themselves."

- George Mitchell

Sachar pointed out that over the last decade, the approach of security cooperation with Israel is losing popularity with Palestinians.

"President Mahmoud Abbas is being seen much more like the implementer of Israel’s occupation than the leader that will bring Palestinian independence," said Sachar. "There are calls even from within his own party for the Palestinian Authority to stop the security cooperation with Israel."

Mitchell and Sachar made the case for an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians not just for their sake, but for the sake of the entire region.

"We think an agreement with the Palestinians would enable a regional coalition of Israel and Arab states in opposition to Iran’s continued drive for hegemony, which has gone on for a thousand years and is going to go on long into the future," said Mitchell. "It may not be the principal purpose of an agreement, which is to meet the needs of the two societies directly, but it’s a very important subsidiary."

As for getting Hamas to join peace talks and commit to non-violence, Mitchell compared the situation to the peace process between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which he helped broker.

"In preparation for the talks, I prepared what became known as the Mitchell Principles, a set of commitments to nonviolence that would be required of any party entering the talks," said Mitchell. "Sinn Féin did not enter the negotiations or agree to the principles until the talks got going, then they finally did agree. I believe there’s zero incentive for Hamas to get involved now, and they’ve stayed out. But if they see that a process is serious and may in fact result in a Palestinian state, I believe that will be the opportunity to get them to move on the conditions for their entry to the talks."

"[Ireland was] easy to deal with compared to the Middle East."

- George Mitchell

Mitchell said the way Israel has been negotiating is sending the wrong message.

"When Hamas kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit [in 2006], Israel negotiated through intermediaries over a long period of time to gain his release through the swap of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to Hamas," said Mitchell. "The message that is sent is that violence pays off. It works. It gets a response. Peaceful efforts to negotiate don’t get anywhere."

Mitchell remains optimistic about the prospect for an agreement between the two sides, though he acknowledges that it is an extremely difficult situation.

"During my five years in Northern Ireland, I thought the Irish were very tough to deal with," said Mitchell. "Then I spent six months with the Israelis and Palestinians, and realized the Irish are easy to deal with compared to the Middle East."


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

Duterte's Turn to China is a Rebalance, Not a Pivot

DECEMBER 21, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is not pivoting completely to China, but rather rebalancing relations with China and the United States, Ms. Shihoko Goto and Dr. Robert S. Ross told Pacific Council members in a Situation Briefing teleconference.

Goto is the senior Northeast Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Asia Program. Ross is a professor of political science at Boston College and an associate at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

After assuming the presidency in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has stirred significant controversy with his anti-U.S. rhetoric. Though a historically strong U.S. ally, Duterte declared his country’s "separation from the United States" and praised China during a recent visit there. He has called President Obama and other U.S. officials offensive names, cancelled joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises, and said he may annul a 2014 defense pact that allows U.S. soldiers to deploy to the Philippines. 

"It’s important to remember that bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States really do remain strong."

- Shihoko Goto

"President Duterte signaled that the Philippines has become too close to the United States and too distant from China," said Ross. "Duterte is seeking to rebalance the Philippines’ foreign policy between the two great powers. His diplomacy can be rather erratic and flamboyant, but the underlying trend is one of a greater balance. This poses a challenge for the United States."

Goto agreed that it’s not a "turn towards China."

"It’s really about a repositioning of the Philippines and a diversification of their foreign policy stance," she said. "It’s important to remember that bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States really do remain strong."

Goto also pointed out that Duterte was democratically elected and leads the country with a majority of public support.

From China’s perspective, U.S. support for the Philippines has been an area of concern, according to Ross. China sees that support as challenging their sovereignty claim in the South China Sea. Starting in 2013, the United States supported the Philippines’ case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a case the Philippines won.

"America’s effort to use the [UN Convention on the] Law of the Sea as a way to both express its determination to challenge China’s rise and to establish support for its allies was for the most part unsuccessful," said Ross. "After Duterte took office, he signaled very clearly that he would not stand by the court’s decision against China, despite the victory for the Philippines, and that he was going to improve relations with China."

"The U.S. need to keep South China Sea islands out of the hands of China is minimal."

- Dr. Robert S. Ross

He added that China is simply too important for the Philippines to risk taking sides between China and the United States. Ross criticized Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for putting the Philippines in a difficult position by challenging China.

"With China as a rising power, that’s not a place you want to be," he said. "Duterte has said to the Chinese, ‘I’m going to fix this. Yes, we won this case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, but the legal decision in the ruling is irrelevant for how we negotiate with you. We’re going to negotiate these islands bilaterally.’ That’s what China had insisted all along, instead of internationalizing it by bringing in the United States or the court system."

Ross argued that since there’s no oil in the South China Sea, U.S. interests there are insignificant. 

"The U.S. need to keep South China Sea islands out of the hands of China is minimal," he said.

Goto agreed that the United States doesn’t have a stake in the islands, but added that "the situation of island ownership has not been resolved."

Goto and Ross also discussed the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) going forward. 

"Is the golden age for ASEAN centrality over?" asked Goto. "President Obama ensured that the United States engaged directly with Southeast Asian nations. Will Trump want to continue that engagement in the region? One of the first ways he will be able to manifest his commitment to the region will be whether or not he shows up at the upcoming ASEAN summit in Manila. Part of the art of diplomacy is actually showing up. If he’s not there, that sends a strong signal about where U.S.-Philippine ties will be."

Listen to the full conversation below:


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

Colombia’s Peace Deal Should Advance, But Challenges Remain

DECEMBER 14, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will likely move forward, but there are challenges left to overcome, Ms. Katja Newman and Dr. Abbey Steele told Pacific Council members during a Situation Briefing teleconference on the prospect of peace between the government of Colombia and FARC.

Newman is the founder and president of KSN Consulting, Inc. Steele is a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Amsterdam. The discussion was moderated by Dr. DJ Peterson, president of Longview Global Advisors.

After Colombian voters rejected the peace deal President Juan Manuel Santos struck with FARC rebels in October 2016, negotiators went back to the drawing board. An amended agreement was recently approved by Colombia’s Congress. The deal cleared a critical hurdle on December 13, 2016, when Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the government's plan to fast track the accord. 

"This new peace deal is quite successful in comparison to previous attempts because there is a plan in place to demobilize the rebels, which is a clear distinction from previous peace attempts," said Steele. "FARC formed in 1964 and has been fighting the Colombian government since. This is the first time in all those years that the Marxist-Leninist organization has recognized Colombia's government and economic system."

"This is the first time in [since 1964] that the Marxist-Leninist organization [FARC] has recognized Colombia's government and economic system."

Dr. Abbey Steele

Steele added that there are still some existing risk factors involved with the new peace agreement.

"One is that the [National Liberation Army or ELN] has not begun peace talks yet with the government," she said. "In previous demobilizations, combatants simply join other armed groups. Some FARC fighters may join ELN."

Newman said that the rejection of the original peace deal by voters was surprising but small. The margin was less than one percent.

"There are several reasons it wasn’t approved, including low voter turnout and terrible weather that day," said Newman. "Also, although he’s popular internationally, President Santos’ popularity at home is quite low. And like we’ve seen in the UK and the United States, there are these latent feelings of frustration that just didn’t show up in the polls."

Peterson noted that one of the lessons learned this year is that referendums should not be used to decide very important issues.

"There is a lot of opposition from Republicans in the United States to the peace agreement with FARC rebels, so it’s something to keep an eye on."

Ms. Katja Newman

Newman also said that there is a lot of concern in Colombia right now about what will happen next under the Trump administration.

"The United States has been a long-time supporter of Colombia," she said. "However, there is a lot of opposition from Republicans in the United States to the peace agreement with FARC rebels, so it’s something to keep an eye on. It’s important for the United States to stay involved and informed."

Steele pointed out that the cocaine trade in Colombia will continue despite the peace agreement between the government and FARC.

"Some of the rebels have specialized knowledge of the trade, so we can expect some of them to continue with the cocaine trade," she said. "As part of the deal, FARC is supposed to help transition farmers from coca to other crops, but cocaine is quite lucrative. As long as it remains illegal, illegal organizations in Colombia will regulate it."

Newman agreed, adding, "If demand for cocaine stays the way it is, other illicit actors than FARC will pick up the trade."

Listen to the full conversation below:


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

In the spirit of fostering transatlantic dialogue, next week I will travel to Germany to represent the Pacific Council on International Policy during the German Federal Foreign Office’s "Think Transatlantic" Study Tour, an informational visit for young writers and researchers of U.S. think tanks.

I will visit Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Berlin to meet with officials from the Federal Chancellery, the Bundestag (Parliament), the Federal Ministry of Defense, the European Central Bank, the Bundesbank (German Federal Bank), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, the Die Zeit newspaper, the German Council on Foreign Relations, the Körber Foundation, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, the Hertie School of Governance, and more.

In a letter to president and CEO Dr. Jerrold D. Green inviting the Pacific Council to participate in the study tour, German Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig wrote, "In times of myriad crises and shifting global influence, we should deepen our alliance across the Atlantic and ensure its continuity. For this, we need the next generation of government and public policy leaders. To help build that next generation of transatlanticists, the German Embassy over the past years has invited young, promising experts from a select number of think tanks and other institutions to gain firsthand experience in Germany on foreign, political, business, security, media, and economic policy issues."

Stay tuned to the Pacific Council’s Newsroom, Twitter, and Facebook during the first two weeks of December 2016 for dispatches from Germany as I engage in a dialogue with high-ranking German decision-makers and government leaders, the scientific community, and members of the media and private sector. Also stay tuned to my personal travel blog, Junket Journal, for posts on my trip to Germany and Geneva, Switzerland.

'Come together'

Bernie Sanders talks about resisting Trump’s policies, reforming the Democratic Party and his new book at the Alex Theatre

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/1/2016

“Rethink your role in the political process,” Bernie Sanders told a packed house Tuesday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. “It’s great that you vote every two or four years, but we need more than that to be effective. We need to mobilize millions of people to get engaged in the political process and join this fight to move a progressive agenda forward.”

The Independent senator from Vermont and former Democratic presidential candidate first addressed the crowd solo at a podium on stage and then was interviewed by comedian Sarah Silverman to promote his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. Sanders’ wife Jane was in attendance and received a standing ovation.

“It’s important for everyone to remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes,” said Sanders. “In his delusional manner, Mr. Trump has not recognized that, but nonetheless it is a fact. And what that means is Mr. Trump does not have a mandate.”

When Silverman came out on stage, a few audience members loudly booed. During the primaries, Silverman was a staunch supporter of Sanders, but after Hillary Clinton won the nomination, Silverman threw her support behind Clinton, much to the dismay of die-hard Sanders supporters. During the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in July, Silverman told Sanders supporters who were protesting that they were “being ridiculous.” When she came on stage at the Alex on Tuesday, one audience member who booed also shouted, “You’re ridiculous, Sarah!” She didn’t respond, and Sanders thanked her for supporting his campaign before they moved on to the interview.

“The first question I should ask you, something that’s been on everyone’s minds since the election, which is, ‘What the fuck?’” Silverman said.

“Is that the entire question?” Sanders laughed. “As we try to figure out how best to deal with President Trump — and I am as reluctant as you are to say that phrase — people must not think members of Congress can do this alone. We need a mass movement of millions of people who are engaged in the political process.”

He added that people won’t agree on every issue, but there is one area progressives cannot compromise on: bigotry.

“In many ways bigotry was the cornerstone of Trump’s campaign,” Sanders said. “But when we look back at the history of this country, as the result of the millions of people who struggled against discrimination over 200 years, we have come a long way and made real progress. So our message to Mr. Trump is, ‘We are not going back.’”

However, he added that those who think all of Trump’s supporters are racists, sexists and homophobes are mistaken.

“Some of them certainly are, but I don’t think the vast majority of them are,” he said. “We live in a very silo-ized world, meaning we end up only associating with people who think like us. What Trump did was very clever. He, of all people, said, ‘I hear your pain, and I will take on the political, economic, and media establishment.’ What he tapped into in many parts of this country is a pain and level of despair which you never see on television, but is very real. People don’t feel like they have a sense of purpose.”

Another reason Trump won the election, Sanders added, is because of the weakness of the Democratic Party. If the Democratic Party had done nothing else but raise the minimum wage to a living wage during their eight years in power, he said, they would have reached those who voted for Trump.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, recently appointed Sanders to be part of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team. Sanders will handle outreach to key party constituencies.

“And I assure you, I will do outreach,” he said. “What we are going to try to do is completely restructure and reform the Democratic Party and make it into a grassroots party which welcomes working people and young people and people who are prepared to demand that we have a government and an economy that works for all of us and not just the one percent.”

Sanders mentioned that he got in trouble two weeks ago for saying, “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” In making the argument against identity politics for the sake of identity politics, many interpreted Sanders’ comments as criticism of Clinton’s campaign.

“Let me repeat it,” he told the Glendale crowd on Tuesday. “It is not good enough to support a candidate just because they are black or gay or a woman. They have to have the courage to stand up to big money interests. We need a party that has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and all of the powers that be. This country in many respects is moving toward an oligarchic form of society. A handful of billionaires control our economic and political life. If you’re not willing to engage in that struggle, well then I don’t think you’re doing serious politics.”

Fortunately, Sanders said, the American people are on the side of a progressive agenda.

“Whether it’s raising the minimum wage to a living wage, ensuring pay equity for women, putting millions of people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, demanding that Donald Trump and his billionaire friends start paying their fair share of taxes, making public colleges tuition-free and addressing the planetary crisis of climate change, there is overwhelming support for these ideas,” he said.

In order to make those ideas a reality, though, more people will need to get involved in the political process and vote.

“Just the other day — it’s hard to keep up with Trump’s tweets — he claimed millions of people voted illegally,” Sanders said. “That is total and absolute nonsense. When he said that, what he was really doing was sending a message to Republican leaders all over the country that they have got to increase their efforts toward voter suppression. That’s what that message was about. Republicans don’t want people to vote. We need to make voting as easy as possible. We want the highest voter turnout in the world, not the lowest.”

The event was sponsored by Vroman’s Bookstore and was originally slated to take place at All Saints Church in Pasadena, but was moved to the Alex due to overwhelming popular demand.

Sanders’ book has two parts: one is about his presidential campaign and the other is an outline for a progressive economic, environmental, racial and social justice agenda. Considered a fringe candidate in the beginning with no money, political organization, or name recognition, Sanders took on the Democratic establishment, received more than 13 million votes and won 22 states during the primaries.

“I left the campaign with a sense of optimism,” he said. “I know these are tough times, but there are extraordinary people across this country. I don’t have all the answers. Nobody I know does. We’re going to have to come together on this. If we put our minds to it, if we do not allow demagogues to divide us up by race or sexual orientation or whatever, if we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Fight the power

Battle lines are drawn in the struggle against Trump’s divisive policy plans

By Mercedes Blackehart and Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/1/2016

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Los Angeles and a dozen other major US cities for several days following the surprise election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes.

Incensed by Trump’s rhetoric about banning Muslims, building a wall along the border with Mexico to keep out the “rapists and drug dealers,” and grabbing women’s genitals and kissing them without consent, people of all ages and walks of life — including families with small children in strollers — expressed their outrage at the next president’s proposed policies.

Making it clear what he thinks of the First Amendment, and repeating a claim that has since been debunked, on Nov. 10 Trump tweeted, “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

This photo essay was taken during the Nov. 12 protest in downtown Los Angeles. The rally began with speeches at MacArthur Park, then marched east through the streets of downtown Los Angeles to the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building. Following more political speeches at the federal building, throngs of protesters marched off in different directions, with most heading back to MacArthur Park.

The LAPD said there were 8,000 protesters, but there were clearly tens of thousands more people in the streets than that. Countless officers blocked the entrances to the Harbor (110) and Hollywood (101) freeways after protesters in previous days shut down freeways across the country.

Despite media rhetoric about these being violent riots, this protest was entirely peaceful, with several protesters seen shaking hands with police officers and thanking them for their service. In return, some officers threw up peace signs to the passing crowd. Cars stuck in traffic because of the protest honked their horns in solidarity with the protesters.

One man attempted to argue with a group of young female protesters about the purpose of the protest. “None of us dispute the election result,” one protester responded. “That’s not the point. It’s about showing our resistance to this man and what he stands for.”

These were some of the chants heard during the demonstration:

“No Trump! No KKK! No racist USA!” a chant later used by Green Day during the American Music Awards on Nov. 20.

“My body, my choice!” female protesters yelled, followed by male protesters yelling, “Her body, her choice!”

“When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back! When Muslims are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back! When women are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

And of course, the signature chant was “Not my president!” a refrain seldom heard in Los Angeles since the George W. Bush era.

Back at MacArthur Park, protesters filled the intersection at West Sixth and South Alvarado streets for hours. Dozens of police officers in riot gear lined up in the middle of the street, awaiting orders to disperse the crowd. After several tense moments on the cusp of potential violence, police decided to stand down and drove their vehicles away from the protest.

For Trump, Focus on Transition, Wait on Foreign Policy Plans

NOVEMBER 22, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

President-elect Donald J. Trump should focus on his administration’s transition rather than rushing to get everything on his foreign policy agenda done in the first 100 days, Dr. Elizabeth N. Saunders and Dr. Kori Schake told Pacific Council members in two teleconferences on the foreign policy challenges facing the incoming administration.

Saunders is an assistant professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Schake is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The two teleconferences were moderated by Dr. Jerrold D. Green, president and CEO of the Pacific Council, and Mr. Robert C. O’Brien, managing partner at Larson O’Brien LLP.

The 45th president of the United States faces a wide array of challenges as soon as he takes the Oath of Office on January 20, 2017. From the ongoing war in Syria to tensions in the South China Sea and the reality of a nuclear North Korea to an increasingly aggressive Russia, the next administration will be tasked with developing and implementing a plan for the country’s future global engagement. But first things first, Saunders and Schake said: Trump needs to focus on his administration’s transition.

"The basic structural problem facing any president-elect is that there are approximately 4,000 jobs to fill," said Saunders. "That doesn’t seem like a lot to standards of some industries, but it’s a lot. What normally happens is the president-elect would plan to draw from the foreign policy bench of his party. If we had any other Republican nominee, there would be a relatively orderly transition in which a lot of policy papers would have been generated, people would have already been slated for particular jobs, and they’d be drawing on a well-established network."

"Encouraging Trump to make fast decisions may not make them the best decisions. It’s a mistake to put pressure [on Trump] for big changes in the first 100 days."

- Dr. Kori Schake

Schake downplayed the need for Trump to move fast during his first 100 days, and instead suggested that he take his time.

"Encouraging Trump to make fast decisions may not make them the best decisions," she said. "It’s a mistake to put pressure for big changes in the first 100 days, especially since Republicans control both houses of Congress. He has two full years. He doesn’t need to rely on the honeymoon of a recent election result to persuade Republicans in Congress on the pieces of his agenda that Republicans already agree with. On those things that Republicans don’t agree with, rushing will not help him either."

Saunders explained that there was an unprecedented split between the establishment Republican foreign policy group and the Republican nominee, leading many to wonder who is going to fill all those jobs.

"The early signs of a reconciliation between the ‘never-Trumpers’ on the foreign policy side and the Trump inner circle are not promising," she said. "That’s going to present problems."

Saunders added that the appearance that the transition is behind schedule and poorly managed is worrisome.

"Policy papers and transition papers are boring, but they are the bread and butter of transitions," she said. "Small matters of protocol are typically highly managed. In a government of this size and a country of this importance, those sorts of details can be very helpful in ensuring a smooth transition. As it is, the smoothness of the transition will have to fall to every day bureaucrats."

"Foreign policy typically doesn’t play a big role in elections, but elections certainly play a big role in foreign policy."

- Dr. Elizabeth N. Saunders

Saunders pointed out that Trump’s campaign focused on the idea of changing the status quo in Washington.

"Even if you want to change the status quo, you don’t want to do it in a haphazard way, but a deliberate way," said Saunders. "Also, it’s not so easy for one person’s knowledge in one domain to transfer to another. This idea that business acumen translates readily into governance acumen does not really hold much water."

Saunders said that it will fall to elites, especially Republicans, to hold the Trump administration accountable.

"The Republican Congress will, for better or worse, be a source of oversight," she said. "If things get too out of hand, it will be politically difficult for some Republicans to support his foreign policy. Foreign policy is an area that calls for special attention in the coming years because of Trump’s power and lack of expertise. The president can do a lot on foreign policy out of public view. Foreign policy typically doesn’t play a big role in elections, but elections certainly play a big role in foreign policy."

"If he tears up the Iran deal, Europe is not going to go back to enforcing sanctions on Iran. Instead, the Trump administration should strongly enforce the existing conditions of the Iran deal."

- Dr. Kori Schake

Schake emphasized the importance of Trump focusing on strengthening the United States’ alliance relationships in his first 100 days.

"I know that’s not his natural inclination, but if I were advising the president, I would strongly encourage him that the strength of our alliance relationships makes easier and more cost effective anything else we want to do in the world," she said.

She added that Trump should start in Asia because his campaign rhetoric about those countries was alarming to them. She said that the Middle East should be his second priority and Europe his third.

"The things he said about America’s Asian allies are particularly alarming to those countries because they rely so heavily on the United States," she said. "He should conduct a series of quiet, private conversations with foreign leaders, send the Secretary of State around to America’s closest allies to hear what they’re worried about, reassure them where they’re mistaken, and begin to chart a common course where the president wants to do things differently. Helping make predictable for our closest friends and most reliable allies any changes we’re going to make will be really important and it will buy him a lot of goodwill."

"This idea that business acumen translates readily into governance acumen does not really hold much water."

- Dr. Elizabeth N. Saunders

On the Iran nuclear deal, Schake listed two reasons for why she thinks the agreement will be harder for Trump to deal with than his campaign rhetoric suggested.

"He has been all over the map about where and how he would use military force, and it is a multilateral agreement," said Schake. "If he tears up the Iran deal, Europe is not going to go back to enforcing sanctions on Iran. Instead, the Trump administration should strongly enforce the existing conditions of the Iran deal."

On Syria, Schake said Trump’s policy should focus on taking the humanitarian crisis seriously because "it is the right thing to do."

On North Korea, Schake said the most powerful threat Trump can make is regime change. "The threat to Kim Jong-un’s government should be, ‘If you attack South Korea, we will force the end of North Korea’s government.’"

"Trump will come to see that some of his rhetoric during the campaign is actually quite costly for the United States," she said. "Fortunately, allies will help the United States because they don’t want a United States stampeding around making the world less safe for them."

Read interviews with Pacific Council experts on the Trump administration’s First 100 Days, and listen to the full conversations below.

Featuring Dr. Elizabeth N. Saunders, moderated by Dr. Jerrold D. Green:

Featuring Dr. Kori Schake, moderated by Mr. Robert C. O'Brien:


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

After Liberating Mosul from ISIL, the Hardest Part Begins

NOVEMBER 13, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The hardest part of the battle to retake Mosul will come after ISIL is driven out, Dr. Jessica Ashooh and Dr. Renad Mansour told Pacific Council members during a Situation Briefing teleconference on November 10, 2016. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Mietek Boduszynski, assistant professor of politics at Pomona College.

Ashooh is deputy director of the Middle East Strategy Task Force at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Mansour is an academy fellow at the Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"There have been some signs of hope in the military battle," said Mansour, who has been traveling around Iraq the last few weeks. "There will be complications, but in the end ISIL will be removed from Mosul. The issue is, we don’t have any sense of what type of political agreement or compromise has been reached between these different groups for what comes next, because once ISIL is removed there will be a security vacuum. To some extent the military battle is the easiest part and being done quite effectively, but unfortunately we’re all wary of what might come next."

Mansour said that the Iraqi army and police are leading the frontlines of the fight by moving into the city of Mosul and clearing it of ISIL fighters. Supporting them are Shia militias known as popular mobilization forces, who have pledged not to get directly involved because of certain sectarian fears that Sunni residents in and outside of Mosul have. ISIL, on the other hand, is using suicide car bombers and human shields in their urban warfare campaign to hold the city.

"Once ISIL is removed there will be a security vacuum."

Dr. Renad Mansour

"In general, the spirit amongst Iraqis who I’ve met, from the political elite to the people on the street, is very high," said Mansour. "There is this general sense of mood that 'finally we’re combating ISIL.' There is also collaboration and cooperation between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army and police, something that just a few years ago would have been seen as impossible because these are two antagonistic forces."

Ashooh agreed that regional players need to start thinking about what will happen after ISIL is removed from the city.

"The goal going forward after the liberation of Mosul has to be to restore the conversation to political matters and to make the population of Mosul feel like they have a stake and a say in the future of their own governance and the future of the Iraqi state," said Ashooh.

She added there has been a divide between Mosul and Baghdad since 2003.

"The problem of Iraq that we’re facing today is that sectarian issues have been laid upon governance issues," she said. "So instead of people fighting over political parties and matters of policy, they’ve reduced their political dialogue to sectarian identities. That’s really a problem because if something is a policy issue you can negotiate it, but it becomes much more difficult if it’s sectarian or religious."

"Lots of people will be eager to counsel President Trump on Iraq. I hope he’s open to listening to their experience."

Dr. Jessica Ashooh

Ashooh said she disagreed with the notion that Iraq is a different case than other countries in the region because it did not experience an Arab Spring event.

"I would say that the ISIL takeover of Mosul was Iraq’s version of an Arab Spring uprising because there had to have been a certain level of acquiescence and of people being fed up with the federal government and wanting to burn the place down," she said, adding that this was aided by an incredibly savvy social media campaign by ISIL.

Ashooh also discussed the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, which further complicates operations like the Mosul battle.

"Turkey right now has 2,000 troops stationed in northern Iraq – which the Iraqi government considers invading forces – to guard against the possibility of Kurdish forces they consider terrorist groups from being able to establish their reach near the Turkish or Syrian borders," she said. "Turkey is looking to make sure that Kurdish factions do not make territorial gains in this battle as well."

Ashooh added that there needs to be a process of negotiation between these regional powers if the situation is to be stabilized after ISIL is cleared from Mosul. Among those players is the United States.

"Lots of people will be eager to counsel President Trump on Iraq," she said. "I hope he’s open to listening to their experience."

Listen to the full conversation below:


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.

'Beauty' Fights Back

Author and activist Ellen Snortland’s documentary on women’s self-defense screens Friday at Laemmle Playhouse 7

By Justin Chapman, 11/10/2016, Pasadena Weekly

Ellen Snortland first published her book “Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls” in 1999. A powerful treatise calling for women to take charge of their own self-defense both verbally and physically when being attacked, she has spent the past 10 years turning the book into a documentary of the same name.

The film just finished a weeklong run in New York City and begins a second weeklong run starting tomorrow at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. The film will air four times a day until Nov. 17 as part of a campaign to make the documentary eligible for the Academy Awards and Independent Spirit Awards.

“I primarily identified as a writer and author, not a filmmaker,” said Snortland, a longtime Pasadena Weekly columnist. “But I thought, ‘You know what? There are a whole bunch of idiots that make movies all the time. I’m an idiot, I can do this.’ I’m a little bit of a poster girl for ‘it can be done.’”

Taking Action, Saving Lives

The documentary is a natural extension of Snortland’s lifelong work around women’s self-defense. She serves on the board of IMPACT Personal Safety, a nonprofit started in 1985 that trains women, men and children in full-force, full-impact self-defense and boundary-setting techniques. She grew up in Colorado and South Dakota, received a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, founded the first all-female theater company in the early 1970s, acted in and directed several TV shows during the 1980s, attended United Nations world conferences and annual UN meetings as an nongovernmental organization (NGO) delegate and journalist and wrote and performs a one-woman show about growing up as a Norwegian American. She is also the co-author of “The Safety Godmothers: The ABCs of Awareness, Boundaries and Confidence for Teens” with Lisa Gaeta.

The documentary was funded entirely by individual contributions as small as $5 all the way up to $100,000. The project has cost about $250,000 as well as another $250,000 with in-kind contributions. In partnership with Providence Entertainment Group and El HaLev, “Beauty Bites Beast” screened in Israel earlier this year and has been accepted into the Nova Scotia Sunrise and Delhi International film festivals.

The documentary was scheduled to play at the 40th Montreal World Film Festival in September, but managerial and financial problems led to last-minute resignations of many staff members and cancellations of two-thirds of screenings. “Beauty Bites Beast” played for 12 minutes before the projector broke down. One of the festival jurors was found dead in his hotel room. (Read Snortland’s column “When ‘Best’ Isn’t Good Enough” in the Oct. 6 issue of the Weekly for the full story).

Undeterred, Snortland is aiming high by applying for the Academy Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards because she believes the film’s message is so important that it saves lives.

“I made it for people to take action,” she said. “To make sure they get their children trained in what we call empowerment self-defense. I want them to come away with the understanding that the drive to defend oneself is not a gendered attribute. And I’m out to impact at a policy level. We want to get DVDs to legislators, to the people who make decisions about grants.”

The documentary points out that the Violence Against Women Act of 1993, its reauthorization in 2013 and the White House Task Force on Ending Sexual Assaults Against Students in 2014 include no mentions of self-defense.

“It’s all oriented toward before and after being attacked. There’s nothing about what to do during an attack,” said Snortland. “My movie is the ‘during’ part. In the surveys we hand out at screenings we ask, ‘Has your view of violence against women shifted after seeing this documentary?’ Our ‘yes’ rate is 90 percent.”

Ending Violence Against Women

The documentary came about after Snortland met an American in 2006 who owned a factory in Tijuana. At the time, hundreds of women were being kidnapped, raped and killed in Juarez. The factory owner read the “Beauty Bites Beast” book and asked Snortland to train his female workers in Tijuana on how to defend themselves. She agreed, as long as she could film the sessions. Those scenes are among the most powerful in the film, showing impoverished women undergoing a remarkable transformation in realizing that they are not powerless to defend themselves. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, delivered their graduation speech at the end of the sessions.

Nagin Cox, an assistant at IMPACT and spacecraft systems engineer at JPL, also traveled to Tijuana with Snortland to help train the women. Cox called the experience “amazing and rewarding.”

“The themes of empowering women and women’s self-defense are universal,” said Cox. “It’s not just about women learning to physically defend themselves; it’s about women learning that they have a right to their voice, that they have a right to be heard.”

Dr. Munazza Yaqoob of the International Islamic University invited Snortland and her husband Ken Gruberman, who serves as co-producer of the film, to screen “Beauty Bites Beast” to a group of 300 Islamic female scholars and researchers at the Critical Thinking Forum in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore early next month.

“We are blown away by the prospect of sharing the liberating message of ‘Beauty Bites Beast’ with young female Islamic scholars who are ready, willing and able to take on shifting the conversation about ending violence against women,” Snortland wrote on the Indiegogo campaign she created to help fund the trip.

“Female elephants, lions — all are just as fierce in self-defense as males,” feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem said about the documentary. “Only our species is taught to be ‘feminine’ and defenseless.  ‘Beauty Bites Beast’ shows how women around the world are taking back our strengths and lives.”

For more information, visit

'Together Again'

Comedy legends Eric Idle and John Cleese of Monty Python reunite for a two-man show at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium

By Justin Chapman, 11/03/2016, Pasadena Weekly

On Nov. 18, 2014, Eric Idle interviewed fellow Monty Python member John Cleese at the Alex Theatre in Glendale about his memoir, “So, Anyway …” The video was viewed more than a half-million times on YouTube, proving to Idle and Cleese that there is still a healthy appetite for everything Monty Python-related. Cleese got the idea to take their two-man show on the road.

Following a successful run last fall on the East Coast as well as a sold-out run in Australia and New Zealand in February, “Together Again at Last ... For the Very First Time” has embarked on a third tour on the West Coast and Canada through at least Dec. 3, including a show at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Nov. 11.

“It was just something rather wonderful, two old people getting together after 50 years,” Idle, 73, told the Pasadena Weekly in a recent phone interview. “It wasn’t something I planned, but it turned into a very pleasant evening with an old friend talking about old times. It’s become more like a double autobiography in an odd way now.”

Silliness Required

The show is partly scripted and partly improv, combining storytelling, sketches, musical numbers, exclusive footage and aquatic juggling.

“We gave it a shape but we don’t lock it down,” said Idle. “So we can go anywhere we want to, which is great at our age because we forget the words to sketches and we can just own up. And then the audience laughs even more if we’ve forgotten it. But we don’t go anywhere that we’ve been; we don’t do Python sketches that they know. We do stuff from other things we’ve done that we like and make us laugh still.”

Although they haven’t performed the show since the Brexit vote, Idle said the topic will likely come up during the new tour because he was against the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and Cleese was in favor of it.

“I’m sure Brexit will come up and we’ll abuse each other,” Idle said. “John will say how wonderful it is and I’ll point to how many pounds I’ve lost. It’s amazing to me that something as stupid as a referendum did this, which is the wrong way to deal with something so complex. It was an opinion poll; there’s no legal basis requiring the government to act on it. If they had any balls they’d say, ‘We think this is a bad move.’ You want people deciding these things who know what they’re dealing with, not people who are frightened of immigrants by endless headlines in the Daily Express. It is insane.”

Fun Science

The comedy icons have created a whole new act two for this tour that focuses on how Monty Python remained popular for more than a half-century and where they stand now.

“There’s sort of a nice banter that is established very early on when [Cleese] is complaining about how much he’s paid in divorces and then he attacks me for being with my wife for nearly 40 years and says it’s for lack of imagination, and I say, ‘Well, yeah, but [one woman] is a lot cheaper.’ There’s a nice level of affectionate banter and memories. It’s a very sweet, unusual show.”

Cleese told the Weekly last year that “Together Again” is “the most enjoyable project I’ve ever had.”

“We came off stage after [the original Alex Theatre show] and all we knew was that the audience had laughed a great deal and we couldn’t quite remember what we’d said,” Cleese said.

Idle’s latest project is a musical Christmas special for the BBC called “The Entire Universe.” The show covers the entire history of the universe with “real science that’s interrupted by real silliness,” Idle said.

“Everybody watches TV at Christmas because they get together with their relatives and they can’t stand each other so they get drunk and watch television,” he said.

At the end Stephen Hawking sings “The Galaxy Song,” which Idle wrote for the 1983 film “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.” Tim Peake, an astronaut who spent the summer on the International Space Station, also makes an appearance.

“When we got the idea we just thought, ‘This is just such a great subject. We have to do something really silly with it,’” said Idle. “As you must.”

Carry On

Although well known as an actor and singer-songwriter, Idle said he prefers writing to performing. He is the author of the novels “Hello Sailor” and “The Road to Mars,” as well as the musicals “Spamalot” and “Not the Messiah,” a parody of the 1979 film “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”

“I get to stay home here in LA and hunker down and write, and bit by bit you try to isolate what you might want to be interested in and what’s worth doing in the short amount of time left, and what you don’t want to do,” said Idle. “It’s been fun ever since ‘Spamalot’ to be able to say, ‘What do I actually want to write?’ I try to keep myself interested and honest.”

“Spamalot,” which premiered in 2005, is a critically acclaimed and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

“We wrote ‘Spamalot’ as a series of little sketches, and then we crammed it together,” said Idle. “It was a very fun show to put together and rehearse and change [from the film], because you have to change things from what they are if you change the medium. Although there was almost nothing we couldn’t do on stage because they’re just pretending to ride horses.”

After “Spamalot” premiered, the Pythons lost a lawsuit by Mark Forstater, a producer of the original film. The court ordered the Pythons to pay £800,000 in fees and back royalties to Forstater in 2013 because “Spamalot” was so similar to the film.

To pay the settlement, the surviving members of Monty Python performed a reunion show in 2014 called “Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go” at the 20,000-seat O2 Arena in London that sold out in 43.5 seconds. Founding Python members Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Idle and Cleese all participated. The sixth founding member, Graham Chapman (no relation to the reporter), died in 1989 at the age of 48.

Cleese infamously delivered a brilliant, oddball eulogy at Chapman’s funeral, saying, “I guess we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only 48, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun. Well, I feel that I should say, ‘Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.’”

Idle performed his fan-favorite song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” at the funeral.

‘Let’s Do It’

Following the 2014 reunion show, Palin made it clear to the rest of the group that he was no longer interested in doing Python shows. A few years ago, Jones began developing dementia, which was publicly announced in September. With Gilliam busy directing films, that left Idle and Cleese to carry on the Python banner.

“We got a very generous offer to do a show in Australia, and Michael, who’s always polite, just didn’t want to do it,” said Cleese. “Eric and I said, ‘Well, if Michael doesn’t want to do it, is there any reason why we can’t do something like we did in Glendale?’ We thought about it for a while and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Idle pointed out that the upcoming performance of “Together Again” in Pasadena is practically a homecoming for the show that was born next door in Glendale.

“I love Pasadena,” said Idle, who lives in Los Angeles. “It’s where I go for my day off. I get all my tea from Chado [Tea Room] and I go to Vroman’s [Bookstore] all the time. It’s kind of normal. It’s not like Beverly Hills, it’s a real place, a lovely little small town.”

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Should U.S. Step Back from the World? Most Members Say No

NOVEMBER 2, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The U.S. public has long been wary of international engagement: roughly six in 10 believe the country should focus on solving its own problems and let other countries deal with theirs. Still, the next administration will have a smorgasbord of complex international issues on their plate when they take office in January 2017. From the ongoing war in Syria to growing tensions in the South China Sea and the reality of a nuclear North Korea to an increasingly aggressive Russia, the next administration will be tasked with developing and implementing a plan for the country’s future global engagement. 

Panelists of the penultimate plenary debate session of Members Weekend 2016 sought to answer the question, "Should the United States take a step back from the world?" The debate was moderated by Mr. Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Mr. Benjamin H. Friedman, research fellow on defense and homeland security issues at the Cato Institute, and Mr. John Mueller, the Ralph D. Mershon senior research scientist and Woody Hayes chair of national security studies emeritus at Ohio State University, argued that the United States should take a step back from the world.

Dr. Lori Esposito Murray, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Dr. Carla Robbins, clinical professor of national security studies and faculty director of the MIA Program at the Baruch College CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, argued that the United States should not take a step back from the world.

Members Weekend attendees voted on the debate question in both a pre- and post-debate poll on the Pacific Council mobile app. Before the debate, 14 percent voted "yes," 80 percent voted "no," and four percent voted "not sure" out of 84 votes total.

"Taking a step back from the world does not mean isolation from it. It means military restraint."

- Mr. Benjamin H. Friedman

Friedman opened the debate by arguing that taking a step back from the world means fighting fewer wars and having fewer allies.

"Taking a step back from the world does not mean isolation from it," said Friedman. "It doesn’t mean protectionism, nativism, and it definitely doesn’t mean Trumpism. Nor does it mean abandoning U.S. power or entail a U.S. foreign policy that’s devoid of moral responsibility. It means military restraint. It means a more humble and peaceful foreign policy that dispenses with the myth that U.S. military forces are the key to the world’s stability and liberalization."

Murray argued that taking a step back from the world would be taking a step backwards as a nation.

"The answer is clearly ‘no,’ the United States should not take a step back," said Murray. "Withdrawal is not an option. Our leadership role in the 20th century has led to greater security and unprecedented prosperity and growth. Even if we wanted to take a step back, we couldn’t. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the information technology revolution that we led, the world has changed so rapidly in the past 20 years. We have rapidly globalized trade, commerce, markets, labor, and perhaps most importantly, information. Rolling this back is impossible. U.S. leadership is absolutely necessary to ensure that the rules are open, free, fair, and respected."

"The United States has not been a force for global security or stability but quite the reverse."

- Mr. John Mueller

Mueller said that the United States has a lot to be humble about over the last 15 years in terms of its international engagement.

"The United States has not been a force for global security or stability but quite the reverse," said Mueller. "I don’t think it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, ‘We do it this way and so should you.’ Look at the Middle East. The United States gives Pakistan $1-2 billion in aid and yet 74 percent of Pakistanis consider the United States to be an enemy. The destabilization in Afghanistan is very obvious, of course. In Iraq, the United States’ $4-5 trillion war has brought total chaos to that country and the region and has been an abject failure. And there’s destabilization in Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Stepping back from the world would not be stepping back into oblivion, but rather from overextension and from using military force to carry out goals."

Robbins agreed with Mueller’s warning about overextending the military, but disagreed with the cause of instability in the world.

"I agree we shouldn’t fight dumb, immoral wars," she said. "We certainly haven’t argued for the Iraq War. But I do not accept the premise that our alliances, values, and presence in the world are the cause of dumb wars, instability, or bad actions by bad actors. Quite the opposite. If we retreat it would send precisely the wrong message."

"U.S. leadership is absolutely necessary to ensure that the rules are open, free, fair, and respected."

- Dr. Lori Esposito Murray

Mueller made the case that if the United States hadn’t existed, Europe would have developed "pretty much the same way" after World War II as an example of why the United States can and should take a step back from the world. 

"I just want to remind everyone of the Marshall Plan and of all the money that we put into Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Europe after the war," replied Murray. "You can’t separate what the U.S. has done in terms of military policy leadership as well as economic policy leadership. They are inextricably linked."

Robbins argued that without U.S. leadership, the world would be a disaster.

"U.S. engagement abroad is not binary," said Robbins. "The issue isn’t whether to engage or not to engage, it is to do it in a skeptical and critical way, to be cognizant of the cost, to have a realistic definition of success, and to have confidence in our own moral strength."

"The issue isn’t whether to engage or not to engage, it is to do it in a skeptical and critical way, to be cognizant of the cost, to have a realistic definition of success, and to have confidence in our own moral strength."

- Dr. Carla Robbins

Friedman argued that taking a step back from the world specifically means limiting the military’s engagement around the world.

"We should take a step back from the world not by disassociating with it, but by stopping this effort to try to run it with the U.S. military," he said. "If that view seems radical, it’s because decades of efforts to justify our foreign presence around the world have dramatically shifted our sense of normalicy [sic] to the point that a foreign policy that sees no limit to our interests or powers has become kind of a bipartisan religion, at least in Washington."

Answering the same question after the debate, "Should the United States take a step back from the world?" 22 percent voted "yes," 72 percent voted "no," and five percent voted "not sure" out of 77 votes total.


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

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