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Public Affairs : 66th SCUSA

Worst-case scenarios discussed at 66th SCUSA 

Story and photos by Kathy Eastwood
Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 20, 2014) — The U.S. Military Academy hosted the 66th Student Conference on United States Affairs, Nov. 12-15, with the theme “What is the worst that can happen?” Delegates arrived to the academy prepared to discuss what today’s worst-case scenarios are and to what degree is the U.S. foreign policy prepared to respond to them.

Approximately 200 student delegates from 150 American colleges and universities joined with 150 USMA cadets, more than 20 foreign students and 40 senior participants for this year’s conference.

The delegates participated in 15 round table discussions, often with those who are well versed in or work in the field of diplomacy or the Foreign Service. Facilitators included Barbara Bodine, retired ambassador to Yemen, and Max Brooks, author of the “World War Z,” who joined a panel discussion “Imagining the Worst Case: Aliens, Zombies and Popular Preparedness.” Brooks has written books shedding light on what people can—and should be—prepared to do to not only survive, but thrive in the face of real-world threats, disasters and the unexpected.

Class of 2016 Cadet Regina Parker has been involved with SCUSA since her plebe year, and served as the operations officer for the 66th iteration.

“This is going well,” Parker said. “It’s the most significant and largest student conferences, which is cadet-initiated and cadet-run. We have been planning this since January.”

The delegates took on issues such as “The Persian Bomb: Prospects for a Nuclear Middle East,” “What Hath America Wrought: Post-Occupation instabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq” and “The Soldier and the Narco-State: Cartels, Federales, and the Future of Latin America.”

“The round table discussions overall, looked at what is the worst that can happen,” Class of 2016 Cadet James Campbell, security officer at the event, said. “We looked at what the next financial crises will be, climatology and nuclear warfare. It’s like we have this big think tank.”

The keynote speaker, retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, spoke to the delegates about today’s top issues during the SCUSA banquet Nov. 13 at Eisenhower Hall.

“Rivals and partners; China, Russia, India, the European Union, Japan and Brazil are growing economies or important militarily,” Pickering said. “We have the opportunity of finding ways to work with each. Where can we find common interest generated by a set of actions they can take with them? The reduction of nuclear weapons and certainly environmental concerns are issues we share with China.”   

Delegates attending the 66th annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs use a round table forum to talk about post war instability in Afghanistan and Iraq in Jefferson Hall Nov. 13 during the four-day event. Approximately 150 cadets, 40 senior participants, 200 students from 150 colleges and universities from the U.S. and 20-30 foreign countries served as delegates to the conference. 
Retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering was the keynote speaker at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs Nov. 13 at Eisenhower Hall. Pickering holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. Pickering chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board in 2012.

Energy, environment and climate change, which has the potential to affect our national strength, is another main issue that concerns the global environment.

Another issue is ISIL and radical fundamentalism, which Pickering feels may be resolvable in the political area and is not confident that ground forces is a sound idea in dealing with radical fundamentalism.

“I wish I could say I was confident that I had an answer for ground forces and the military equation, but that is elusive and difficult,” Pickering said.

Molly Hampton, coordinator of enrichment programs for One to World organization, brought 24 International Student delegates from 18 different countries to the conference.

“Our students walk away with a great foreign policy attitude,” Hampton said. “This is fantastic; the conversations have been great because of the caliber of the student delegates. We have one Egyptian student here who experienced the Arab Spring. His insights were very impressive.”

Delegates concluded the conference by submitting a policy recommendation to their peers, the best of which are published in the Undergraduate Journal of Social Sciences.

One objective in SCUSA is to enhance civil-military relationships with contemporaries in civilian colleges and universities. The student delegates live in the barracks with their cadet hosts for the four-day conference and dine at the Cadet Mess.