Today we put our knowledge of international security to the test and finished the weeklong course with Brigadier General Cuzzelli. We were assessed through an oral quiz and an oral essay response to a question which was done in groups. This was a very effective way of reviewing what we had learned while also having the opportunity to be corrected with some of the answers that demonstrated ambiguity or misunderstandings of the subject before finishing the course. The oral quiz allowed us to receive feedback from our professor, Dr. Birchfield, and a retired Brigadier General who spent much of his career at NATO, thereby gaining multiple perspectives on issues.
The subjects we were tested on ranged from the structure and operation of NATO to the EU’s competences in the areas of defense and foreign policy, all topics that we were exposed to during our site visits to the European institutions and SHAPE. The securities course framed much of what we had learned at these site visits in the context of global issues such as the rise of China and its Belt and Road initiative, terrorism, and the threats posed by Russia to name a few. While the oral quiz tested us on knowledge of specific institutions, their functions, and NATO’s development over the years, the oral group essay allowed us to demonstrate our understanding of currents events in light of what we had learned throughout the week.
The question my group faced was “What should China’s role in the world be and the West’s response?” To answer this question, we cited examples ranging from China’s island building in the South China Sea, their Belt and Road Initiative, military expansion, and relations with developing countries. We concluded that much like Theresa Fallon had informed us previously, China is very subtle in influencing international affairs to their benefit in the long run. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Belt and Road Initiative. Ms. Fallon used the example of a frog being boiled (as frogs can’t tell that they are being boiled until it’s too late) to describe China’s foreign policy, with the West being the frog. We concluded that our greatest hope in maintaining Western values and ensuring the importance of the West on the global stage was through sustaining strong intra-European and transatlantic relations while also opening up to more developing countries so as to prevent their tilt towards China. We can be much stronger in facing a threat such as the rise of China as a united front. However, unfortunately, this seems to be lost on our current president as NATO commitments, transatlantic relations, and even relations with our immediate neighbors to the north and south seem to be in question.
We of course could not say goodbye to Mr. Cuzzelli on an academic note which is why we were all treated to Lunch at the Euroflat hotel with great views of the Brussels skyline. This also provided an opportunity for the students to get to know Mr. Cuzzelli on a more personal level and without the confinements of the Q&A cessions during the lectures. The week had proven to be invaluable as we not only learned about the issues in international security, but also gained a brigadier general’s perspective.