Talks to Focus on Military SpendingBy Deena S. Disraelly
Professors, military science specialists, and students from five area universities will discuss "Military Spending After the Cold War" in a series of five conferences.
The participating universities are: MIT, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Harvard University, Tufts University, and Boston University. Each university will host one of the five events.
Each of the five forums focuses on a different aspect of the defense budget and American foreign policy: "Reassessing Our Military Priorities," "Weapons Proliferation and Arms Trade," "The New World Order: Structures for Stability," "The Economic and Political Realities of Converting to a Peacetime Economy," and "How Much is Enough? Future Directions for Defense."
At each forum, the professors and specialists give short speeches on topics related to the main subject. The floor is then opened for questions and comments from the audience.
Terri Crystal, a senior at UMass-Boston, started the colloquium as an independent study project. "I was looking at different items from the [U.S.] budget, and it seemed like we spent a lot on the military. . . Where's it going? How might it best be spent?"
Crystal began researching the military spending budget. "As I looked into it, I realized it was much more complex," she said, "which is why there are five different forums. There's a lot to discuss about our foreign policy."
Janice M. Yoo '93, an MIT student who helped organize the conference, said"We knew we needed to discuss weapons proliferation and arms trade. To determine how much is enough, we needed to go into different components of security issues, international relations issues, and economic issues, which are all related. It was just a matter of separating these into five different topics for the conference. That was one of the most interesting parts for me."
The organizing group, comprised of students from each of the five schools, knew which topics they wanted to focus on, but had minor problems settling on appropriate titles. "For example, we knew that we needed to talk about several international organizations and the legal system, but eventually, instead of focusing just on international legal aspects, we decided to name the section `Structures for Stability'," Yoo said.
Yoo, a political science student, got involved in the colloquium, because she thought "more of these student-run seminars should go on. It was a great idea."
"We got advice from various faculty and people in the community about what we should discuss and who we should have speak," Crystal said. "I got in touch with students from different schools and they got in touch with their faculty."
Selecting speakers took time
"The part that we probably worked hardest at was trying to decide who we wanted to speak. That part took a lot of discussion, then trying to get those speakers to come. Then, once we got answers from them, we had to decide again who we wanted to come," Yoo said. She wrote many letters to academics, businessmen, and people in the military and the government, asking them to come and speak.
Many MIT faculty members were included in the collection of speakers. One of them was Kenneth A. Oye, director of the Center for International Studies. Oye moderated the "Weapons Proliferation and Arms Trade" forum, held at MIT. "It was an interesting consortium. I thought that it was an exceptional group of questions coming from the audience, on a very diverse set of topics," he said. He initially agreed to speak at the forum because he was glad to see "this kind of initiative taken by students on contemporary issues."
Other MIT faculty involved in the colloquium were Stephen W. Van Evera, assistant professor of political science, Kosta Tsipis, director of the Program in Science and Technology for International Security, and Barry R. Posen and George W. Rathjens, both professors of political science, defense, and arms control studies.
Crystal said she was pleased with the results of the MIT forum. "I think everybody got something different out of it," she said. She believed that the discussion format suited both those who knew about arms trading and weapons proliferation, as well as those who didn't. "It was interesting. I'm trying to absorb it; some of it went over my head, I think," Crystal said.
The Harvard and MIT forums have already taken place. Tufts will host "The New World Order: Structures for Stability" on October 8. UMass-Boston will hold "The Economic and Political Realities of Converting to a Peacetime Economy" on October 13, and Boston University sponsors "How Much is Enough? Future Directions for Defense" on October 15.