Prepare to Discuss the World

In Person Discussions
Wednesdays, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussions
Thursdays, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Great Decisions, produced by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), is America’s largest civic discussion program on world affairs. In each session, the group will cover a topic of great importance to Americans, view a short video, and discuss American policy. Attend the entire series of lectures or choose your favorite topics; no registration is required. 

A reference copy of the Great Decisions 2023 Briefing Book is on reserve for use and copying in the library, and another is available for short-term loan. You may purchase your own Briefing Book ($35) as well as an eBook edition ($25) from the Foreign Policy Association website.

Great Decisions at the Jefferson County Library has been facilitated since 2013 by Joyce Francis, Ph.D. Joyce taught International Relations at George Mason, Tulane, and American University prior to moving to the Olympic Peninsula. For further information about the Great Decisions 2023 program, contact Joyce.

Great Decisions 2023 – Discussion Topics

Course Overview & War in Ukraine

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, March 22, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, March 23, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and U.S./Western support for Ukrainians) dominates our foreign policy in 2023. Russia and Ukraine have a long, shared history and culture, but Ukrainians resent Russian domination and have developed a strong national identity. Russia feels threatened by Ukrainian alliances with the West. What does Putin hope to gain by this invasion, and what is at stake for the U.S. and the West in the outcome?

Additional Resources

Course Overview

Four Perspectives

Map of Ukraine

A Brief History of Ukraine (And Why Russia Wants to Control It) (18:28) by historian Matt Lewis

These maps explain why Putin is invading Ukraine (2:46) by CNN journalist Tim Marshall

The Ukraine War:  Operational Updates (5:40) – by Peter Zeihan, Feb 23, 2023

Energy Geopolitics

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, March 29, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, March 30, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Access to oil and gas has long held an influence over the politics of individual nations and their relations with others. But as more countries move toward sustainable energy, and supply chain shortages affect the availability of oil and gas, how will this change the way in which the United States interacts with the outside world?

Additional Resources

Map of Europe

Energy Geopolitics

Energy Geopolitics Glossary

Great Decisions Ballot – Energy Geopolitics

China & the U.S

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, April 5, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, April 6, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

For the past ten years, the United States and China have been locked in a competition for who has the greatest global influence. One major point of contention is the status of Taiwanese sovereignty, which has become even more relevant recently with the possibility that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prompt China to take similar action regarding Taiwan. How will the United States engage a China which is increasingly seeking to expand its sphere of influence?

Additional Resources

China & U.S. – Brief Summary of Reader

China & U.S. Glossary

China & the US Ballot

Economic Warfare

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, April 12, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, April 13, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Waging economic warfare consists of a variety of measures from implementing sanctions to fomenting labor strikes. Such tools are utilized by states to hinder their enemies, and in the case of the United States have been used as far back as the early 19th century. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, economic warfare has been the main means for the west to challenge Russia. How effective will these sanctions be at convincing Russia to cease its war? 

Additional Resources

Economic Warfare – Brief Summary of Reader

Economic Warfare Glossary

Economic Warfare Ballot

Video: Fareed Zakaria – The ‘Weaponization’ of the Dollar

Politics in Latin America

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, April 19, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, April 20, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Electoral results in Latin America over the past four years have led many observers of the regional/political scene to discern a left-wing surge in the hemisphere, reminiscent of the so-called “Pink Tide” that swept the area some 20 years ago. But how much do these politicians actually have in common? What implication does their ascendency have for the region?

Additional Resources

Politics in Latin America Glossary

Politics in Latin America Summary of Reader and Demographic Index

Politics in Latin America Ballot

Video: On GPS: Brazil’s left makes its comeback

2022 Democracy Index

Global Famine

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, April 26, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, April 27, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Fears of global food shortages have followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted grain shipments from the major grain producer. But what about countries and regions that were suffering before this impending shortage? How is famine defined, and how is it different from simple food shortages? What if any remedies are there? 

Additional Resources

Global Famine Glossary

Global Famine Summary of Reader

Global Famine Ballot

Iran at a Crossroads

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, May 3, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, May 4, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

By the fall of 2022, Iran was in a state of turmoil due to widespread protests against government-enforced wearing of the hijab, a failing economy, an ineffective new president, and the looming succession of the country’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Abroad, renewal of the Iran nuclear deal seemed doubtful and tensions remain high between Iran, Israel, and Arab states. Many Iranians have lost hope of a better future, and the country seems at a crossroads. How should the United States deal with it?

Additional Resources

Iran at a Crossroads Glossary

Iran at a Crossroads Summary of Reader

Great Decisions Winter Update

Iran at Crossroads Ballot

GPS:  “Tehran’s Domestic and Foreign Strategy”

Climate Migration

In-Person Discussion
Wednesday, May 10, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Online Discussion
Thursday, May 11, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

As climate change accelerates and drought and rising sea levels become more common, millions of people in affected regions must uproot themselves and seek safety elsewhere. Who are these affected individuals, and how might the United States aid them, and be affected by the migration?

Additional Resources

Climate Migration: Disasters

Climate Migration: Global Displacement

Climate Migration: Rising Sea Risk

Climate Migration Ballot

Climate-change Migrants: What can be done?