Temple Student Attends West Point Conference

John J. Mulholland, Jr.
Temple University
Class of 2006

From November 11th until November 13th, the United States Military Academy at West Point held its fifty-sixth Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA 56), with the theme, “Beyond Hegemony: The Goals and Consequences of American Action at Home and Abroad.” I was nominated by the History Department to be one of Temple University’s two representatives. At the conference, more than 200 students from throughout the United States and Canada, delegates from foreign military schools, and Fulbright scholars representing more than 30 countries, along with West Point cadets, sat on panels developing policy recommendations on how the United States should respond to different areas of the world and topics of global significance. At the end of the conference, each panel would submit a high-quality policy paper that could be used by our newly elected and re-elected leaders to implement policies.

Developing policy recommendations on how the United States should respond to the unique challenges and opportunities presented by Sub-Saharan Africa was the focus of my panel. Professor Femi Mimiko and Jeffrey Peterson, U.S. Army, co-chaired the panel. Mimiko was born in and teaches in Nigeria and gave an important and knowledgeable perspective about Africa, from hands-on experience in Africa. Peterson understood American foreign policy formation and the real-world necessity of being able to “sell the policy” to policy makers. Two students from Africa and students from all across the U.S. sat on the panel. My own education in Temple’s History Department, particularly the courses Honors: American Empire, with Regina Gramer, and Third World History, with Teshale Tibebu, allowed me to understand the dual impact of American foreign policy and the history of Africa on contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa.

As the discussions proceeded, the panel found that there were three major problems affecting Africa that the U.S. could positively impact: the lack of economic development, transparent governance, and effective health care policy. The reason for involvement in African could be justified for the need for stability to wage the “War on Terror,” the need to diversify America’s source of resources (such as oil), humanitarian concerns, and the potential for markets in Africa. Specific members of the panel found certain policy choices and reasons for involvement more pressing. The panel agreed to form subcommittees in order to perform research and find policy formations that would be feasible, in the current domestic and geopolitical climate, and would be successful.

I sat on the economic development sub-committee, where I had a significant impact on our policy recommendation, “Establishment of Encouraging Partnerships to Develop Africa” (EPDA). My experience in trying to find common ground in discussions in Honors: American Empire, helped me develop a compromise between panel members who disliked “Big Government” and those who felt aid to Africa needed to be significant in order to be effective. The solution we agreed to in our policy paper was: To promote viable business partnerships between American and African corporations in order to develop Sub-Saharan Africa as a viable economic region and trading partner for the United States, by adopting a regional approach. The plan involved giving tax benefits and investment capital to corporations and governments that accepted certain restrictions. Our proposals were well received by the rest of the panel and included in the final policy paper, as were many of the others. The conference as a whole was a great experience with various speakers at both the plenary session and evening dinners, with many opportunities to interact with our fellow council participants.