’17s Talk Russia!

The ’17s met last Thursday (3/31/16) to discuss summer travel leadership assignments and the current state of affairs between Putin and Ukraine. As far as the Baltic Trip discussion goes, each of the ’17s was given a country (either Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Stockholm, or general leadership activities) and the month of April to become a subject matter expert of his or her respective country and develop an itinerary for the time spent in that country, as well as travel between one country and the next destination.

Following the general run-down of the Baltic trip, we had a productive discussion about the potential for further Kremlin action in Ukraine, and whether Russia in Afghanistan and Syria recently could be considered an indicator for future military conquests re: the cover article of the most recent issue of the Economist: “Hollow Superpower: Putin, Syria and the Propaganda Machine.” Ukraine is currently very reliant on Russia for economic reasons, and due to massive amount corruption and extremely inefficient bureaucracy in the Ukrainian government Ukraine finds itself unable to achieve its goal of military expansion in order to provide sufficiently formidable resistance against Russian forces. The ’17s reached the consensus that, although the Russian economy is currently experiencing a bout of depression, to Putin, military action is an end in itself rather than a means. Therefore, now that his involvement in propping up Assad in Syria has been terminated, and was for the most part successful– at least temporarily– Putin needs another military outlet in order to increase his approval ratings among the Russian people, Ukraine being the obvious candidate. Is aggression on the part of Putin dangerously imminent? The ’17s say, due to the current state of Russian affairs, not necessarily. However, it might not be a bad idea for NATO to focus its attention more heavily on that area should conflict arise.

DIME Seminar 2016

The International Relations Fellows of Norfolk Academy’s Center for Civic and Global Leadership explored global crisis strategy during a two-day seminar.

The second annual DIME Seminar focused on the four elements of national power—Diplomacy/Development, Information/Intelligence, Military, and Economics. Each International Relations Fellow was assigned a position to role play during a mock foreign policy crisis: The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, had been assassinated. How should the United States react?

To prepare for their roles as advisors to the U.S. President, Fellows heard from a panel of experts:

  • Tom Baltazar, retired U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer with extensive experience within the U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Bryan Kurtz, expert on international development and “expeditionary economics”
  • Dave Maxwell, retired U.S. Army Green Beret who now teaches at Georgetown University
  • Lindsay Moran, former clandestine officer of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Susan Zelle, retired senior diplomat

The students and their parents attended a dinner and heard a keynote speech from Howard H. Hoege III, founder of 3H3 Leadership and a lecturer at University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.  The keynote speech was entitled, “Judgement and Empathy:  Bridging the Gap Between Historical Knowledge and Tomorrow’s Reality”.  

On the second day, students met in the SEAL Heritage Center at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek to tackle the second stage of their task—designing national strategy options to present to the POTUS (President of the United States), performed by Norfolk Academy parent Amy Bernert. Students had to adapt their plans to respond to evolving conditions within North Korea before the 2 p.m. meeting deadline. After several trial runs and perhaps a few nerves, the students presented their ideas to President Bernert.  The simulation concluded with a “hot wash” (discussion of lessons learned).

~ Dr Rezelman
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CCGL Host UVA’s Dr. Christine Mahoney

On Thursday 4 Feb, at our seasonal CCGL Leadership dinner, the Fellows met to listen to Dr. Christine Mahoney, a professor at the Frank Batten School in the University of Virginia. Dr. Mahoney taught us about social entrepreneurship and provided various examples of successful companies that employ social entrepreneurship. We learned about nonprofits and for-profits, and how the two types of organizations often act similarly to help the community around them. In addition, at the end of the presentation Dr. Mahoney gave us several valuable business models for establishing nonprofits. While learning about these important business models, we were also inspired by Dr. Mahoney to find our calling and commit to it, whatever it may be. Her talk left lasting impressions on us to generously serve our community as social entrepreneurs through developing successful nonprofit organizations and fundraising.  Thanks to Dr. Mahoney’s inspirational talk, we will carry these lessons with us as we grow and begin to assess our career options.

~ Jimmy Peccie ’18

’19s Dig Deeper into African Issues

Last week, we went further in depth on a African issues looking specifically at Nigeria. We read an article from Foreign Affairs entitled “Reforming Nigeria” which examined the growth of Nigeria’s government and economy. The major topics we discussed were the roles of women in Nigerian politics along with Nigeria’s plan for diversifying their economy in the future. The topic of oil again re-entered the conversation as oil prices continue to drop and countries reliant on the commodity continue to suffer. We concluded that Nigeria still has a long way to go, but it is on the right path to continue its growth and sustain its economy despite the current turbulence of oil prices.

~Arman Shekarriz ’19

’17s Offer Advice to Potential Applicants!

With the application process beginning for the 8th graders, the current IRFs would like to give some advice to anyone who is getting ready to apply to the program
1. Be Honest!!!
-whether you’re answering questions in the interview or on the application, answer as honestly as possible. Don’t try to fake it.  Do not try and provide the “right” answer because there is not one.  Just answer thoughtfully and be ready to justify/back up that answer.
2. You don’t have to be an IR expert.
-Most of us were not experts on the Arab Spring or North Korea when we were in 8th grade, so don’t feel like you need to be. By simply watching the news a few times a week you will become more knowledgeable about the world and that is a great place to start.
3. Take your time on the essays
-The essays are very important to the application process. Simple things like cutting out typos and grammatical errors go a long way in helping you become a fellow. So take your time and revise, revise, revise!!
4. Recommendations
-Ask for recommendations from teachers whose class you do well in and also who you have a good relationship. Teachers who really know who you are as a student and individual write the best recommendations.
5. The interviewers (Dr. Rezelman, Mr. McMahon, and Mr. Wetmore) want you to do well!!
-Don’t be intimidated. Everyone gets nervous during the interview but remember that the interviewers hope you do well. If you are still very nervous, try asking Dr. Rezelman about otters. That will definitely help break the ice.
6. If you have questions, ask one of us!
-Don’t be afraid to approach any fellow to ask them for advice. We all would be more than happy to give you some tips or talk about our own application process. Also, it might just impress the directors to ask one of them about the fellows program (wink wink).
Best of luck with the application process!
-Nico Moscoso ’17

’17s Discuss ISIS and the U.S. Involvement in Syria

February 2nd, 2016: The ’17s met today for a discussion on ISIS and US intervention in Syria. We all agreed that ISIS was not currently an existential threat to the United States and thus any war against them would be a war of choice from the US perspective. However, after a long discussion on revolutions (see article #2) and ideas of how to take on ISIS, we came to the consensus that containment of ISIS would be the best strategy. We believe that it would be better to let ISIS fall on its own, since that will help change the culture in the Middle East so that radical Islam is diminished. The group also concluded that the world needs to stop the flow of Muslims from outside of the Middle East to ISIS by partnering with Imams, who can keep Muslims from becoming radicalized. Overall, it was an incredibly fun and invigorating discussion! Read the articles for yourself and see what you think.

Class of 2020 begins CCGL Admissions Process

February 1st, 2016: Today, another exciting admissions process began for the IRFs and CCGL as a whole. Chase Yager ’18 organized the presentation for the IRFs. He spoke to the current 8th graders about how awesome the International Relations Fellows program is and how they should all apply. He also called upon Jessica Williams ’16 who talked about her experience as a Fellow, Jaden Baum ’17 discussed about the symposium process, Jimmy Peccie ’18 shared his experiences with international travel, and Daniel Moscoso ’19 concluded with the day-in- the-life of a Fellow.  They all did a fantastic great job and we couldn’t be prouder of them and their student led presentation. Best of luck to the 8th graders in their applications!

-Nico Moscoso ’17

’19s Get Heated Over U.S. Policy in Middle East

In our meeting last Friday, the ’19s began discussing articles from the Economist involving current news about Africa. One was about the tension between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, concerning the use and misuse of hydroelectric power generated by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Another was about the decrease in both the supply and demand of diamonds in Botswana, forcing the democratic country to find other ways to “spark” the economy. Eventually, the discussion flipped to the topic of the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran, which had placed sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and international trade. This is where it got heated. We disputed over why the Iranians sent their uranium to the Russians of all people, which caused us to question Russia’s intent in the Middle East. By backing the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and being friendly to Iran, Russia may have successfully gained more influence in Middle Eastern than the U.S. This observation caused us to think deeply about U.S. foreign policy, which brought us to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. By this point, we were all acting like true politicians. We questions whether or not the United States should value American lives more than those from foreign countries or how, if at all, we should allow Syrians fleeing their country into the United States. At the moment, these questions are still up for debate, but we’ll save them for another time.

~Alexander Burkett

’19s Focus on African Development

This past Friday, the ‘19s read “Africa’s Economic Boom: Why the Pessimists and the Optimists Are Both Right”, by Shantayanan Devarajan and Wolfgang Fengler in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.  This article discussed Africa’s economic state and encouraged us to think about Africa’s trajectory for the future. We discussed  Africa’s success and challenges, such as corruption.  We pondered how the people and nations could break the trend of corruption and harness their success.  We discussed the role of foreign investors, their influence and the dependency on oil and commodities.  We concluding that Africa’s upward trends do not come from commodities alone and a balanced mix in the future will potential signal positive results. We discussed the background and job of the author to thus put the entire article and inclusion in Foreign Affairs into context.  

~Brammy Rajakumar

’17s Debate U.S. Foreign Policy Trends

On Thursday the 21st, after a semester of discussing policy and current events as they pertain to foreign nations, the ’17s participated in an interesting discussion on the foreign policy of the United States, with a series of four prompts guiding the discussion. The prompts and respective consensuses were as follows:

  • The U.S. maintains a very “20th-century-esque” outlook when developing policy (i.e. “you’re either with us or against us”, etc)

The consensus: As the Cold War receded in the rearview mirror and nations become increasingly interdependent (see discussion point #3 for more on this topic), the concept of a political enemy, with the exception of terrorist organizations, morphed into the concept of competitors, usually economic. During the Cold War, the global struggles were very much a zero-sum game, whereas present tensions between major world players, namely U.S. and China, are of economic competition, and due to balances of trade both nations would suffer if one or the other were to lose influence.

Additionally, recent developments in the oil market have allowed the United States to become more independent, opening a new realm of policy moves that were not viable when the availability of fossil fuels was in question.

 2) Alliances between nations can have different levels of obligation on the part of one or both/all parties and still be successful (i.e. purely economic or purely political relationships– not necessarily an “all-in” agreement). To further clarify this idea we asked if strong nations were obligated to protect vital interests of their allies, esp. weaker allies? Does this apply if vital interests in question are not necessarily shared interests?

The consensus: Vital interests of the United States should always be prioritized over the interests of other nations; especially interests directly concerned with the safety of the U.S. are also in question. Additionally, this point also sparked an interesting discussion of what exactly are the vital interests of the U.S., and whether they’re subject to negotiation. However, vital interests are inherently non-negotiable, therefore the debate turned to the subject of whether or not current highly contested vital interests were actually vital interests at all, or more just pressing matters and obligations that do not directly pose a threat to the safety of the United States.

3) Isolationism is an outdated mode of foreign policy. By extension, is an isolationist nation a weak nation (on the global scale)?

 The consensus: Outsourcing, offshoring, and the rapid rise of social media have all created a global culture in which it is no longer viable for nations to be completely disconnected from the rest of the international community. Major players have become increasingly more invested in the success of their counterparts as economic interests overlap, the United States and China being the most obvious example. Additionally, as the United States is often the nation who sets the precedent for the rest of the world to follow, the U.S. finds itself holding a unique sort of power that would be disadvantageous, if not dangerous, to forgo.

4) The objective of fostering democracy in developing/struggling nations is necessary, and largely beneficial facet of U.S. foreign policy

 The consensus: This prompt led to by far the most lively debate among the ’17s. The agreement reached was that democratic revolutions, to be successful, must be popular revolutions, and popular among a large majority of citizens of a nation. Unwanted third-party intervention in order to foster democracy in less-than-ideal situations often proves to be a band-aid solution (often ultimately leading to long-term instability) to larger issues rooted in not only the political system, but also the economy and social landscape of a nation.


Hallie Griffiths –