As the world turns its eyes to the Korean Peninsula – this time in the spirit of celebration and sportsmanship as the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games gets underway – I can’t help but notice the political tensions bubbling under the surface as we see the two Koreas parade into the Olympic stadium under one flag. While there is a sliver of hope in seeing North and South Koreans come together to compete, I fear, as I told Andrea Mitchell this week, that things will appear to get better before they get worse again. Unfortunately, the ongoing disagreement between North Korea and the rest of the world over the nuclear weapons program is going to make it very difficult to turn this into more than a momentary feeling of goodwill. The hard work of discussions and diplomacy must continue.

Speaking of parades, President Trump caused quite a stir earlier in the week when he declared that he wanted his own parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the likes of which he’d seen on his visit to France on Bastille Day last year. As I wrote in an op-ed for TIME Magazine, I am very respectful of French culture and the French military, but the idea of a big, showy, expensive parade reminds me less of our French allies and more of the old Soviet Union “Who has the biggest missile?” extravaganzas, or the truly creepy North Korean jitterbug marching style galas, with the even creepier “young leader,” Kim Jung Un, urging his nation of sycophants on in wildly over-the-top applause, which has a clap-hard-or-die feel to it.

If the idea is to express our gratitude for our troops, I can say, as someone who has spent his fair share of time marching, there are better ways to do this – perhaps by organizing picnics or barbecues on holiday weekends where our troops can spend time with their loved ones, off-duty.

Talk of dictatorships and young sycophantic leaders brings me to highlight a U.S. diplomatic trip that recently took place way-under the radar, but which deserves some attention: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just undertook a five-day trip to Latin America, an area I’m quite familiar with given my time as commander of U.S. Southern Command. Now, don’t misunderstand me – in no way do I believe that Latin America is led solely by dictators and sycophants – though Nicolas Maduro’s leadership of Venezuela is cause for extreme concern as his execrable regime causes strife, hunger, and oppression there.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg View, I’ve laid out six steps that should be taken vis-à-vis a strategic approach for the U.S. towards Latin America. One of those steps details my thoughts on how we should be working through the issue in Venezuela, but five of those six address what we can be doing to build on the good that can come from working with our neighbors to the south. We’re lucky to have such willing partners in the region – and the U.S. should be doing more to engage our friends and allies there. Secretary Tillerson’s trip is a good start, but it’s only a first step.

Finally, it was a big week media-wise for a number of my colleagues as well; this week saw the kick-off of the Distinguished Speaker Series put on by our Tufts University colleagues over at the https://tischcollege.tufts.edu. Their inaugural speaker for this series was Vice President Al Gore and, in a talk moderated by Fletcher’s very own Director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) Kelly Sims Gallagher, the Vice President came to campus to talk about everything from climate science and technology, to civic engagement, political will, and climate refugees.

Prior to that event kicking off, Bloomberg Radio Boston came to do a live broadcast of their show from the Tufts campus and, aside from chatting with Vice President Gore, spoke to several of our Fletcher professors about their expertise on all different angles of the climate crisis. They spoke to Kelly about her involvement in getting the Paris Agreement off the ground; they chatted with Prof. Emeritus Bill Moomaw, founding director of CIERP and co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paper that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007, about his work in climate policy (he briefed then-Senator Gore on climate policy back in 1988!) and they talked with me about my recent op-ed in Bloomberg calling climate change the most pressing threat facing America. Finally, in this week of manic market fluctuations, and Bloomberg being Bloomberg, they also took the opportunity to speak to our very own Professor of International Economics, Michael Klein, co-founder of Econofact, and former chief economist for the  Office of International Affairs of the United States Department of the Treasury about what was going on this week on Wall Street.

All in all, this was an incredibly busy week for the media, the markets, for geopolitics and diplomacy. 2018 is certainly off to a roaring start…now let’s see what the week ahead of us has in store…

As always, thanks for reading.

 

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