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The Unique and Universal in Geopolitics

Martin Forum Examines Unique and Universal in Geopolitics

By Donna Emert

The University of Idaho's Tuesday, March 6 Martin Forum applies the umbrella theme of "The Interplay of the Unique and the Universal,” with a look at geopolitics and its inevitable conflicts.

As part of the university’s year-long humanities colloquium series, speaker Bill Smith examines the extent to which the countries that make up the international community can be expected to find common ground, while still maintaining their unique integrity.

Smith, director of the University of Idaho's Martin Institute and the Program in International Studies, will present, “The International Community Looks for . . . Community?” at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 6, in the Idaho Commons Crest Room.

“Since the mid-1940s, the countries of the world have acted and interacted as a single body, often referred to as the international community,” said Smith. “On the one hand, the international community seeks the common good, while on the other hand, the individual nation states within the international community often prioritize their own national interests over global initiatives.”

Smith finds evidence of these colliding priorities as they manifest in concepts like the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) adopted by the international community in 2005 and included in the U.S. National Security Strategy in 2010.

“These concepts often are easier to codify than to act upon,” said Smith. “This dichotomy is manifest in the Libyan conflict, where R2P was implemented, and Syria, where thus far it has not been.”

Smith’s talk will focus on the complications inherent in the international community’s stated goal of coming together for the common good. He will highlight some of the unexpected places where “hopeful optimism” wins out over tendencies of nations to act solely in self interest: One bright example of that hope plays out in the Pacific Northwest, said Smith, where there is an international effort dedicated to the preservation of at-risk languages.

Smith holds a doctorate degree in history and has lived in Mexico, Portugal and Spain, in addition to his native U.S. His abiding interest in geopolitics also fuels his commitment to, interest in, and deep knowledge of sports and international relations.

For more information on the 2011-2012 Humanities Colloquium, "Turning of the Wheel: the Interplay of the Unique and the Universal," visit www.webpages.uidaho.edu/humanities/.