Professor enjoying Fulbright experienceDr. Robert Swansbrough is enjoying his busy role as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching and traveling in China and presenting Fulbright guest lectures.  Fulbright supports this travel and the inviting host university provides housing and often banquets.  At each visit, Fulbright requests that Swansbrough give two lectures.

Swansbrough, Associate Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science at UTC, teaches an undergraduate course on American Government at Sichuan University’s campus 30 minutes from downtown as well as a graduate seminar on US Foreign Policy at the downtown campus.  Sichuan University, a campus of 60,000 students, is located in Chengdu, a city of 12 million in southwest China.

Recently, Swansbrough attended the conference “China-US Relations under the Obama Administration: Theory & Policy” as an invited scholarly participant. Organized by the Center for American Studies, Sun Yat-Sen University, the host city was Guangzhou, formerly called Canton in south China. Chinese participants came from different mainland universities and from Hong Kong and Macao. Several other American Fulbright professors also participated.

“The first day of panels and general discussions were all in English. The second day was in Chinese. I had a Chinese student verbally translating in one ear while an undergraduate wrote out a summary of a Chinese speaker’s remarks! I was permitted to respond in English!” Swansbrough said.  Read a summary of Swansbrough’s presentation on America’s post-Cold War search for a new strategy at the end of this story.

“I should point out the group concurred that neither the US or China had developed at this point new grand strategies for this rapidly changing world. However, there were, not surprisingly, sharp differences on other issues, such as the sale of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. It was truly an international scholarly meeting, with free-flowing discussion and an honest exploration of different viewpoints and perceptions,” Swansbrough said.

Swansbrough’s schedule included Fulbright Guest Lectures at Xiamen University, Beijing Normal University and Jiangnan University (Wuxi), the Institute of Middle East Studies at Northwest University, and Nanjing University.  At Chongqing University, Swansbrough he spoke to 400 English majors in the School of Foreign Languages and later in the day to 100 law school students.

The first week of June, he will lecture at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou.

When Swansbrough spoke at the Chengdu Consulate to a group of high school and college students, he presented a PowerPoint slide presentation of UTC, Chattanooga and the Sewanee 4th of July parade (2009) as an illustration of life in a small American town. He was asked about The Trail of Tears.

“I was surprised the student had done such research on Chattanooga,” Swansbrough said.

“Search for a New U.S. Grand Strategy”

Professor Robert Swansbrough

2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar Lecturer

Sichuan University

This presentation highlights America’s post-Cold War search for a new grand strategy to replace the foreign policy of containment of the Soviet Union, articulated by President Harry Truman in l947. The only United States strategy prior was isolationism/neutrality, enshrined in President George Washington’s warning against peacetime “entangling alliances.” The U.S. sought to avoid involvement in the wars of Europe, focusing instead on free trade and commerce—and continental expansion.

The shock of the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor shattered America’s neutral stance. After World War II, America sought to return to its continental haven, rapidly demobilizing its men in uniform, but creating a political vacuum as a result. However, the weakness of post-war Britain forced President Truman, after Soviet prodding of Iran and Turkey, plus a civil war in Greece, to announce his containment policy. This policy remained intact, supported by Democratic and Republican presidents, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, President Richard Nixon sought to alter the ideological rigidity of the doctrine through his call for détente, rapprochement with China and SALT negotiations.

In the post-Cold War period, President George H.W. Bush suggested a New World Order, based on the unprecedented collective security collaboration of the five great powers on the U.N. Security Council during the 1991 Gulf War. President Bill Clinton initially embraced globalization, until the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Haiti forced him to assert more international leadership, highlighted by multilateral peacekeeping and nation-building missions.

Some argue that after the 9/11 al Qaeda terrorist attacks on America, President George W. Bush proclaimed a new, muscular grand strategy in the administration’s 2002 “National Strategy of the United States of America.” The strategy, elaborated upon in Bush’s speeches and actions in his first term, called for global U.S. military superiority, a focus on the oil-rich Middle East, disparagement of the United Nations, rejection of traditional diplomacy and the aggressive support of democratic movements. The neo-conservative assumptions were based on a uni-polar worldview. In his 2005 Inaugural Address, President Bush called for the “end of tyranny.”

However, Bush administration miscalculations in the 2003 Iraq War, based upon optimistic scenarios of neo-conservatives, led to an insurgency, growing American casualties and lack of support from the U.N. and allies not part of the ad hoc “coalition of the willing.” The administration’s post-9/11 anti-terrorist policies resulted in extreme interrogation methods, secret “black” detainee sites and the embarrassing disclosures of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. The neo-conservative so-called grand strategy ended ignominiously after American voters reacted to the abuses and costs of the Iraq War by giving control of Congress to the Democratic Party in 2006 and electing Barack Obama president in 2008.

The Obama administration has described its foreign policy as “pragmatic idealism,” but its broad strategic components remain unclear. President Obama has rejected the harsh detainee policies of the Bush administration and plans to close the Guantanamo prison. He appears much more concerned than his predecessor with working with America’s allies and dealing with issues on a multilateral basis. President Obama also rejected the idea of coercive diplomacy and engaged in bilateral diplomatic talks with North Korea and Iran.

During his visit to China, President Obama declared that the relationship between the United States and China would be critical in shaping the 21st century. Diplomacy on the part of both nations has sought to quietly resolve a number of issues, sometimes despite angry public denunciations to mollify public opinion. Clearly, the Obama administration recognizes China’s rising economic and political role in the world and seeks its cooperation on dealing with issues such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism. However, the outline of a true “grand strategy,” as it applies to Asia and China, remains undeveloped. A wait-and-see attitude appears evident, as trust-building negotiations proceed. Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy’s new 2007 strategy calls for a war prevention role, as America assumes a less dominant role in the Pacific, playing a mediating role among the major regional powers.

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