What began as an academic exercise in Occidental College Professor Derek Shearer’s "American Grand Strategy" class earlier this year — developing a comprehensive series of strategic foreign policy recommendations for America’s next president — has begun to attract national and even international attention.
Copies of Rebranding America, a 47-page report on how to improve the United States’ standing in the world, has been sent to campaign advisers to both Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama ’83 and is being downloaded and read by people all over the world, Shearer told National Public Radio in a story aired July 24.Some foreign policy experts have come back to me and said, ‘Your students have shown this isn’t rocket science,’" Shearer — Stuart Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland — told NPR. "Smart undergraduates can figure out practical policy solutions just as well as, maybe better, than experts who like to have grand theories for things."
At the urging of his students, Shearer offered his "American Grand Strategy" class this spring. The course’s scope was the future — what ought to be U.S. foreign policy for the new administration that will come to power next January.
"The students decided that it is vital for the next administration — whether headed by a Democrat or Republican — to regain the moral high ground and take strategic initiative: to lead rather than to dominate, to be a beacon more than a bullhorn," said Shearer. "In essence, the students want the U.S. to be the good guys and to be smart about how we make this transition."
Led by rising seniors Kera Bartlett and Ian Henry, students agreed on the top 10 challenges that the next president will face, including the war in Iraq, oil and energy issues, and transnational terrorism. Breaking into teams, the students produced an analysis of the key issues in each category, defined America’s strategic interest and then proposed actions that the next president might take in his or her first month in office, first six months and first year and beyond.
"As Diplomacy and World Affairs majors, my fellow students and I have intensely studied American foreign policy and how the world views us for three years," said Ian Henry, who also was interviewed by NPR. "Our class was diverse, with viewpoints spanning the entire political spectrum from liberal to conservative as well as the global perspective from international students. We the found the current state of American foreign policy to be lacking, and we were tired of simply complaining about it. The result is "Rebranding America," in which we present an even approach to foreign policy and several pragmatic steps that the next president could take."
"Rebranding America" is available at OxyWorldwide.com, the College’s student-run foreign policy website.