The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday March 20th

Engage in foreign policy dialogue

A statesman once said, “No foreign policy — no matter how ingenious — has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.”

Great Decisions, a program led and taught by undergraduates  on UNC’s campus for more than two decades, embodies this idea by encouraging our generation to analyze and engage major global issues.

The program provides a collaborative setting to foster a vibrant intellectual climate on campus through an eight-part speaker series covering some of today’s most pertinent global topics. Each lecture is then followed by intimate discussion forums.

With every speaker, a member of Great Decisions will write insightful and informative columns on these topics, highlighting the connections to our community.

The increasing connection between our daily lives and these issues is tangible and evident. As the world becomes more interconnected, the necessity and the means to stay informed and involved have only intensified.

Two weeks ago, the world watched in horror as Haiti faced a terrible humanitarian crisis after being hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

In peace-building and humanitarian efforts, the international community confronts the reality that much of the devastation has been perpetuated by the shortcomings of the international community’s policies on peacekeeping and infrastructure development.

Haiti’s story is hardly unique. Failed states and the growing consequences of the limited effectiveness of international organizations cannot be ignored.

In April, UNC professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja will discuss peacekeeping in the Congo, sharing lessons that can be applied to the hot-button states of Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and even Haiti.

Even closer to home, the now infamous “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, focused international attention on Yemen, a country many Americans could not place on a map prior to the incident.

While poverty-ridden Yemen has garnered significant media attention in recent weeks, it has long been mired in internal conflict that has developed a regional dimension, contributing to the instability that has created a comfortable base for al-Qaida and the proliferation of extremism.

In March, ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer will share insight from his experiences serving as former chief of the CIA Counterterrorist Center’s Osama Bin Laden tracking unit.

Great Decisions will host compelling speakers throughout the semester, ranging from scholars to diplomats, including Daniel Kurtzer, a prominent architect of American policy on the Middle East peace process and Bruce Bagley, a leading expert on drug trafficking between Latin America and the United States.

We no longer live in a world where foreign policy and global relations rest in the hands of elites; ideas must be exchanged by the broader public for policies to be successfully implemented.

We urge the entire UNC community to become a part of these conversations, where the impassioned and innovative idea of today can be the solution with global implications tomorrow.


Taylor Jo Isenberg and Angela Chen are the Co-Chairwomen of Great Decisions.  You can contact Taylor Jo at and Angela at

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