Voice

What can a speech on economic statecraft accomplish?

At 8:30 this morning U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give  "a major address on the role of economics in our foreign policy."  This speech is the culmination of a series of Clinton speeches and papers over the past few months, including her July remarks in Hong Kong, her essay on America's Pacific Century in the pages of FP, and her remarks on global leadership earlier this week. 

Laura Rozen has been all over this initiative, and she previews the speech

A key precept in Clinton's effort is addressing a kind of cultural lag in the sprawling Washington bureaucracy. Lead policy makers may recognize the pivotal role that economics plays in global diplomacy--but in many ways, the diplomatic bureaucracy needs to catch up. Clinton's planned speech will be in large part a call to her own agency's ambassadors, diplomatic staff and analysts to shift their thinking.

And as Clinton lays out that vision in more detail, she will stress two main bulwarks. First, she will highlight the need to advance relations with the wider world as part of the effort to revive the American domestic economic order. And second, she will stress that State Department diplomats and foreign policy thinkers need to work harder to understand how market forces are driving first-order national security challenges in hot spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

Now, as I noted last week, my full disclosure here is that I've seen multiple draft versions of this speech and might have made a modest suggestion or two (because you, dear readers, know how gentle I am with the red pen).  Last week, I was pretty pessimistic about the effect of this kind of initiative: 

I fear that the State Department is fighting through hurricane-level winds on this front to make a difference. First, the trade deals just sent to Congress are the last ones we're going to see for a while. Doha is dead, the Trans-Pacific Partnership still hasn't materialized, and all of the momentum on trade policy is to move towards futile gestures closure. The dynamic, growing economy is not looking so dynamic, and those deep capital markets are getting extremely jittery.

And this week?  Oddly, I find myself more on the "glass half full" side, for a few reasons.  First, Congress finally cleared the decks on the three outstanding trade deals, so that looks a bit less embarrassing.  Second, there does appear to be genuine enthusiasm inside the administration for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a recognition that this would be a neat-o deliverable for the upcoming APEC summit in Honolulu.  Third, my own conversation with State Department officials suggest that they've got a decent read on which geographic regions should be the focus of which initiatives.  Fourth , dwindling resources doesn't mean no resources -- the U.S. still has some formidable foreign economic policy arrows in its quiver. 

The most important reason I'm more optimistic, however, is that the Secretary will be doing two things with this speech that speeches can actually accomplish.  A speech can act as a form of reassurance to other countries that the United States gets it -- economics is a vital component of foreign policy, and Washington is ready to play. 

A speech can also signal to the foreign policy bureaucracy that there's a shift in priorities, and they had better get on the train if they want to get promoted make a difference.  If foreign service officers see that a familiarity with economics is a key for advancement, then the United States will develop a diplomatic corps that doesn't run away screaming in terror seem distracted if the words "exchange rates" or "geographic indicators" are uttered. 

Watch the speech yourself -- it will be webcast at 8:30 AM -- and let me know what you think in the comments. 

Daniel W. Drezner

The de-globalization of American higher education?

Mary Carmichael has a fascinating story in the Boston Globe on how many American universities, which were so keen to create ocerseas satellite campuses, are now retrenching.  The disturbing part of the story is the "monkey see, monkey do" nature of the international expansions of the past decade: 

Over the last decade, universities spurred by dreams of global cachet - and, sometimes, by foreign governments eager to underwrite them - built or rented whole campuses and offered Western-style education abroad. But now some schools are running out of cash as they struggle to attract enough students and develop a viable business model....

From 2006 to 2009, the roster of international branch campuses grew by 43 percent, according to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a British research firm. Qatar drew an all-star list, including Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon. By 2009, the United Arab Emirates had 40 international branches.

Middle-ranking colleges felt pressure to compete, even though some could not get foreign governments to pay their bills. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, went to Singapore. City University of Seattle went to Switzerland. Troy, a public university in Alabama, founded 14 global branches.

“Some American campuses went into it wanting to make money,’’ said Phillip Altbach, director of the Boston College Center for International Higher Education. “But many of them got into it for prestige, planting the flag overseas, a presidential feeling that they needed to be doing adventurous things.’’

Not everyone shared that vision. Harvard, for instance, has not founded any international branch campuses recently. Neither did MIT nor Tufts University.

“Every time I looked at one of these deals I said, ‘No, I don’t think so,’ ’’ said Lawrence Bacow, who has been a high-ranking administrator at all three schools. “Philosophically, I think there’s an important role for higher ed to play in the developing world, but it’s not to create knockoffs of what we do here.’’

Five things: 

1)  Go, Jumbos!!  In your face, rest of higher education outside of the Boston area!!! 

2)  The logic of expanding overseas because of "prestige, planting the flag overseas, a presidential feeling that they needed to be doing adventurous things" is a depressing data point about the ways in which the academy can be slaves to intellectual and business trends.

3)  To be fair, I'm not sure this story tells the whole, er, story.  There's no mention of the how the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession might have affected the viability of these expansion plans.  There's also nothing on the spread of distance learning.  Fletcher's Global Masters of Arts Program, for example, combines a few intensive weeks of on-location education with a lot of online interaction.  So although the tenor of this story is about the retrenchment of American universities, there are compensating trends that are still pushing American universities into the global marketplace. 

4)  Carmichael notes that one reason for retrenchment has been the difficulty of maintaining the quality of academic standards abroad.  This is encouraging yet still modestly surprising.  Why hasn't an American university gone the "f**k it, let's become a diploma mill" route as a way of making money?  Why hasn't any university done this? 

I suspect this might be one powerful virtue of the university degree functioning as a credential, but I'm curious to hear thoughts about this in the comments. 

5)  I'm thinking that Suffolk University's PR people can't be pleased with this kicker to the story:

At the end of last semester, Suffolk finally abandoned Dakar. It did not, however, abandon its students. Almost all have transferred to Boston under a special deal that charges them $10,000 in tuition, the same they paid when attending the Dakar branch and about one-third what their classmates pay. Suffolk foots the rest.

The students are adapting, though it is not easy. They dread winter and think the city’s buildings all look the same: impersonal. Some of their classmates have asked well-meaning but ignorant questions. Did they grow up living in trees? Isn’t Africa a great country? (emphasis added)