Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just Another Day Making U.S. Foreign Policy

Today something very interesting happened to my Marshall Briefing group. Right now most of you are probably thinking, "What the heck is a Marshall Briefing group?" I'll try to explain. However, I don't always get it myself so forgive me if it's confusing.

Before we left for the program, each student was supposed to get a list of 14 general policy topics pertaining to the American national politics. We were supposed to number these in order of how interested we were in each. However, seeing as I turned mine in only three days before the program began, I ended up with my 13 choice, "The Global Food Shortage." We found out our topics on the second day and were assigned 4 partners to work with. In our groups we were told to pick a very specific issue related to our field and think up a solution. After this we were to write up an 8-12 page paper explaining how, and why, the United States should implement our policy. This document would go to a panel of distinguished professors and experts in our field. Apparently, this group is commonly called the "Murder Board," because their questions are characteristically somewhat hostile. These individuals read and critique our paper carefully. Later, we give them a briefing on the subject using a short PowerPoint presentation. The Murder Board would ask us questions throughout the presentation as they saw fit.

This project is not as easy as it sounds. Many things can go wrong. Two days ago my group chose the to save the starving peoples of India. As of now, India is experiencing a massive drought due to its delayed monsoon season. After 50 cited and annotated resources were drawn, we felt confident that the best course of action was to give India money to invest in wheat and rice that is genetically modified to be drought resistant. This would increase food production and decrease food costs, which are chronically high at this point. Like everyone else we've spent mega hours of "free time" researching everything we could ever need to know about the different aspects of this policy and figuring out how we are going to apply them to India. We all agreed that we were working at a solid pace and would be able to give a good case to the Murder Board as to why they should accept this plan which we knew had some potential. However, our policy was apparently a bit too good. In fact, not only did it have potential, it had all the requirements to become official American foreign policy. Hours ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that upon her return from India the United States will take on a policy to "Strengthen {India's} agricultural yield and improve water/soil resources by supporting research on biotechnology an high-yielding crop varieties including wheat which is resistant to stem rust and rice which is resistant to drought and salinity." In other words the United States, as of today, are enacting the exact same policy that my Marshall Brief group came up with! While I am somewhat amused by this turn of events, I am also somewhat disgruntled that I am quite late right now trying to find a new topic because we have to go back to the drawing board! The briefings are required to be original and not coincide with the status quo of American policy. However, now our entire briefing is in obvious violation of this rule. The report is due on friday at 11:59pm and all I can say at this point is, "Anyone got any bright ideas?"

As always, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Matt,

    You want a good idea on how to solve the global food shortage? Come up with a plan to bring a few decent barbecue joints into our area and my little piece of the world will no longer have a food shortage.

    I know it’s short notice but if you want I can run some ideas by Hillary to make sure they’re not already on her current list of solutions to the world’s ails. Somewhere I have her direct number. I’m sure I got it when she and Bill kept sending me all of those requests for money over the past 17 years. I’m sure there’s a phone number in there somewhere.

    Although your/Hillary’s ideas about genetically altered grains is admirable, I know that India has been hesitant in the past to accept genetically altered foods. Just as here in the US we have people who refuse to eat anything the believe to be not naturally grown, a lot of third world inhabitants feel the same—even if it means seeing their families starve.