Discussion held on global leadership


Jackie Jahfetson

“Global order is changing… You don’t have to be a superpower or a great power to lead. So just because the American leadership may or may not be declining, it doesn’t mean the United States cannot lead. No single power can lead this world,” said Amitav Acharya, international relations professor at American University in Washington D.C.

The Indian-born Canadian scholar talked to a group of NMU students and professors via livestream from Calvin College in Grand Rapids in a lecture titled “Is American Global Leadership Waning?” on Monday, Feb. 26. Acharya discussed how the United States’ role as one of the major dominant forces is changing, and how current leadership is affecting that transition.

Though the title of the lecture may seem controversial, Acharya made it clear it’s not that the United States’ power is declining, it’s more of how the nation has receded from being a dominant world player, said Carter Wilson, department head and professor of political science. Acharya’s nonpartisan view of the current administration under President Donald Trump pointed out that the current leadership is not the sole cause of the decline, but it may be contributing to it, Wilson said.
“The ‘waning’ of the American leadership role is not just a function of the rise of other nations, it’s a function of deliberate choices made by our current political leadership,” Wilson said, adding, “It’s a matter of politics, personal values and political ideology in terms of judging that.”

Streamed from different locations, the lecture comes as part of “The Great Decisions Global Discussion Series” sponsored by NMU, the Political Science Department and Public Administration. Audience members can also join in the discussion by texting their questions to the speakers.

As a member of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, NMU serves in providing students ways to examine and understand controversial issues that are encompassing much of today’s world, Wilson said. With American global leadership, Acharya’s lecture revealed that this is an issue with no clear-cut answers, he said.

“[Acharya’s] presentation, provided a much more in depth, detailed and complex portrait of the dynamics of global politics,” Wilson said. “Education is enlightening and educated political decisions are much better political decisions.”

The lecture offered students an open perspective to world issues, Wilson continued. It was “interactive” and “exciting” for students, faculty members and the community while looking at both sides of the spectrum, he said.

“As political scientists, we would like to do more description and less judgment, and I think that’s exactly what that lecturer did. [Acharya] just described what was happening without making any valued judgements,” Wilson added.

The series will resume on March 12 with “Putin, Russia and the New Cold War?” featuring Susan Glasser, Chief International Affairs Columnist and author of “Rising: Vladimir Putin and the End of Revolution.” Open to all, the lecture series are held from 12 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. on Mondays in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) in room 111-C and will continue through March 26.