Former State Department Official Gives Update on US Foreign Policy at CLC’s Rosenmeier Forum
Tom Hanson, a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State who is currently the Diplomat in Residence at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, spoke at a Rosenmeier Forum event at Central Lakes College in Brainerd on Monday to give an update on U.S. foreign policy.
Hanson worked for the State Department for 25 years, where his career corresponded with the end of the Cold War. He described the world as being in a bipolar system at the time with the United States and the Soviet Union. Nowadays, Hanson feels the political scene has changed drastically.
“I tell my students, it’s a much more interesting time,” said Hanson. “I mean, the Cold War almost seems kind of boring in retrospect with all the moving parts we have today and all the … myriad issues that we’re dealing with.”
Those myriad of issues include many situations around the world like the Ukraine War, the war in Gaza, the Middle East in general, China’s growth in the political sphere, countries in Africa getting more involved with global issues. These and others have left the State Department stretched thin.
“It needs to be bolstered, it needs more money. So our diplomacy is not functioning as well as it could,” said Hanson. “For example, when the Gaza crisis broke out, we had no ambassador in Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, in other parts in the region. So we need to up our game.”
With foreign issues taking up a big chunk of Hanson’s talk, another issue of paramount importance to U.S. foreign policy was one the younger generation has a deep passion for.
“I guess I’m struck by the dichotomy between the geopolitical issues like Gaza, like Ukraine, and then sustainability, climate,” explained Hanson. “And I sense, and the polls indicate, there’s a generational divide emerging on that, where young people, I think, are more concerned, more focused on those threats, and they feel as if that’s being neglected.”
That sense of neglect comes on the eve of COP 28, the Annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. Political leaders, CEOs, and billionaire investors will be part of the 70,000 people expected to attend, but there is one notable person missing from the list of attendees.
“President Biden has announced he’s not going to attend, kind of last-minute decision, the reason being Gaza and being very preoccupied with the geopolitical issues,” said Hanson. “This is kind of, I think, indicative of this divide, if you will, disconnect over what the real threats are and what the – and I sense, as I say, a generational gap emerging.”
On Wednesday, it was announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will be attending COP 28 in place of President Biden amidst pushback from the President’s announced absence.