Newly Formed Group on Campus brings President Trump’s Foreign Policy Center Stage

On Thursday, April 26, a newly formed student group, The Haverford International Relations Society (HIRS), hosted The Trump Doctrine: The Future of American Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Latin America. The event’s speakers were Anita Isaacs and Barak Mendelsohn. More than eighty students came to Sharpless Auditorium to hear the professors give their thoughts about the Trump administration’s foreign policy and its implications.

Nate Kennedy ‘18, one of the co-presidents of HIRS, was enthused by the turnout given that this was the group’s first event.

A packed crowd attends the first HIRS talk.

A packed crowd attends the first HIRS talk.

Kennedy said, “The premier event exceeded our wildest expectations. The questions were very relevant and the responses from our panelists were quite comprehensive. The event was everything we could have hoped for and more. It was really great to see Haverford students from different academic backgrounds asking nuanced questions about all aspects of Trump’s foreign policy.”

Both professors’ prepared remarks were pointed criticisms of President Trump’s actions.

Professor Isaacs opened her remarks by referencing an ICE raid that took place not far from Haverford. Isaacs made the point that deportation has a tremendous economic impact. Guatemalans are sending millions of dollars in remittances to their native countries because they are scared that they might be deported. Professor Isaacs added that countries within Latin America have powers they can use to retaliate against President Trump if he goes forward with his plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA).

Professor Mendelsohn took a different tact. Professor Mendelsohn argued that President Trump’s election strengthened the U.S. bargaining position. President Trump’s behavior reset many relationships with other countries, and countries are making considerations that they usually would not make. The aggressive approach Trump employs could have strong bargaining advantages. However, that approach requires strategy, not just impulse. Too much aggression can be counter-productive. Trump can alienate allies by picking unnecessary fights with Australia and Germany while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and congratulating Turkish President Erdoğan.

The Haverford International Relations Society, while new, produced a highly successful event, and student reaction to this panel was immensely positive.

“It was so encouraging to see such high levels of community support at an event that meant a lot to us,” said Jessica Blitz ‘18.

The HIRS wants to use this event as a building block moving into next semester.

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