As the United States enters into 2018 with a more isolationist position around the world, the impact of its role is felt internationally, nationally and locally.
“We have kind of retreated in terms of our presence when the United States withdraws from things like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) and the Paris Climate Agreement,” University of Nebraska-Omaha Professor Emeritus of International Studies Tom Gouttierre told Lincoln Executive Club members Monday. “We are strengthened by key relationships. I think it’s better to have a seat at the table than to not have any part of the discussions.”
Gouttierre then turned to the economic impact of a shrinking U.S. presence in the world.
“It affects all of it,” said Gouttierre, who in the past has been involved in an ongoing dialogue between U.S. and Russian relations. “Local communities in Nebraska are tied up into the global trade agreements. We profit. Our economies profit. In Omaha, our foreign student population contributes nearly fifty million dollars per year to our economy.”
The repeal of NAFTA could have another local impact. Gouttierre quoted a U.S. Chamber report that warns the repeal of NAFTA could risk the loss of 90,000 Nebraska jobs.
Gouttierre retired two years ago from UNO after 41 years at the institution and after building the International Studies department from the ground up and culminating with his role as Dean of International Studies and Programs. He is widely regarded as one of the leading experts on Afghanistan and U.S.-Afghan relations in the Western Hemisphere. He has consulted with five U.S. presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barrack Obama about international policy and our nation's place in the world.
Gouttierre referred to a recent newspaper editorial he’d read and pointed out two simple goals to meet in the New Year for U.S. foreign policy.
“We need a foreign policy that meets with a security policy without war. And, we don’t want to be disruptive of trade policy.”
Internationally speaking, Gouttierre said Australia has been uncomfortable with the U.S. position of electing to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade.
“As a result, what Australians have seen happen is a situation that their leading trade partner, China, has become a more major military power in that part of the world,” Gouttierre said. “China has been placing landing strips in the area called the Nine-Dash Line and claiming most all of the South China Sea. This all comes under the assertion of the Chinese not being challenged by anyone.”
Gouttierre said protests in Iran ring completely counter to the protests of the past. In particular, he said the protests and uprising in the spring of 2009 were different than the latest episodes. For 2017 and into 2018, the Iranian protests are not urban-based, but do trace back to the middle class, according to Gouttierre.
“Throughout the history of Iran, changes occur in the middle class. Iran has always had a strong middle class. All the way back to the days of the old center of the silk trade and mercantile. When the middle class is not happy, the youth are not happy.
“But, these protests (2017) have a rural shift to them. We’re talking the towns of Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz.”
Gouttierre drew another contrast between the protests of 2009 and 2017, which refers back to what the youth of Iran are dealing with today.
“There were 1 million smartphones back in 2009,” said Gouttierre. “Now, there are over 48 million in Iran. The youth are staying in touch with what’s happening in the world today.”