The Santa Fe World Affairs Forum aims to broaden and deepen understanding of world affairs through small, interactive, professionally led sessions on international issues for a membership of informed individuals.

Programs and Webinars

Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States

May 19, 2021

Alex Wellerstein, author of Restricted Data, professor and Director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The American atomic bomb was born in secrecy. From the moment scientists first conceived of its possibility to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and beyond, there were efforts to control the spread of nuclear information and the newly discovered scientific facts that made such powerful weapons possible. The secrecy that the atomic bomb appeared to demand was new, unusual, and nearly unprecedented. It was foreign to both American science and American democracy—and potentially incompatible with both.

This secrecy was controversial and always contested. The atomic bomb was not merely the application of science to war, but the result of decades of investment in scientific education, infrastructure, and global collaboration. If secrecy became the norm, how would science survive?

Drawing on troves of declassified files, in Restricted Data, Alex Wellerstein traces the complex evolution of the US nuclear secrecy regime from the first whisper of the atomic bomb through the mounting tensions of the Cold War and into the early twenty-first century.

Alex Wellerstein, is author of Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States (University of Chicago Press, 2021). He is a professor and the Director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He received a PhD from the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University in 2010, and has a BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Along with his writings in the New Yorker, Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine, and other venues, he is best known for creating the NUKEMAP, a popular online nuclear weapons effects simulator.

APRIL 2021 WEBINAR SERIES

2021-04-08T10:12:11-07:00

April 2021 Webinar Series

April 7, 2021:
Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, Professor, Florida International University
“Democratic Backsliding in Latin America. What can the Biden Administration do?”

April 14, 2021:
Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Council of the Americas and the America Society
“China and the Americas: Risks and Rewards”

April 21, 2021:
Joelle Uzarski, The Public Diplomat in Residence at the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California;
Francisco “Paco” Perez, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“Brazil: Dictatorship, Democracy and Disease”

April 28, 2021:
Charles Shapiro, US Ambassador (rtd), President, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
“Latin America: It’s Complicated”*

The first three webinars will be held on Zoom from 11:00 to 12:15 MDT
10:00 to 11:15 PDT and 1:00-2:15 EDT

*The fourth will be held from 11:30-12:45 MDT, 10:30-12:45 PDT and 1:30-2:45 EDT

Zoom access information will be included in the four separate webinar announcements to follow. These webinars require prior registration through the links included in our forthcoming announcements.

For additional information to accessing these webinars, please contact sfwaforum@outlook.com

PAST SYMPOSIUM 2019

Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, 2019

2019-05-01T14:20:34-07:00

Rising Authoritarianism: Can Democracy Meet the Challenge?

This year’s symposium on April 11 and 12 will address an issue of especially vital concern to us all: “Rising Authoritarianism: Can Democracy Meet the Challenge?” Taking place on the campus of Santa Fe Community College, the Symposium will bring together six specialists who will speak individually, introducing a global overview of the underlying causes of authoritarianism and of countervailing measures against its rise, followed by sessions focusing on the specific circumstances in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S.

Also included will be a student panel of foreign and dual-national students studying at colleges and universities here in New Mexico. As in the past the Symposium will offer all attendees ample opportunity for questions, discussions, and informal exchanges with speakers.

For more than two centuries, America has advocated for democratic principles starting with its Founding Fathers who proclaimed our nation to be created by and for the people, to joining with the liberal world to fight for our beliefs in two world wars. Following those wars, the United States was in the forefront of international efforts to create global institutions dedicated to peace, prosperity and justice. Our leaders have sometimes badly faltered or made poor decisions in seeking to preserve American leadership and universal values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. But we have for the most part tried to move forward towards such aspirational goals throughout our history. Other nations have not always agreed with our individual policies, but no one doubted the American example of strong democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a desire to build a world based on common values and interests.

Now, as a new era of international strongmen emerges, are America’s traditions and institutions capable of ensuring that democratic principles continue to push back on the tyranny that has threatened every generation? The symposium examines this moment with open eyes, asking tough questions about the global authoritarian threat, its underlying causes, and how it can be, and is being, countered.

When strong democratic institutions and civil society perform their essential functions, society enjoys a good faith debate about the best way to advance global and national interests. However, when rule of law is eroded, nationalism politicized, alliances strained, the press demonized and society fractured by rising hate crimes and attacks on electoral integrity, the norms that promote and preserve a resilient democratic society become frayed. International institutions based on shared democratic values can also be undermined and weakened when the U.S. government appears to question their continuing relevance.

Can the U.S. continue to be a leader that holds others to account when we ourselves falter in meeting these challenges? What causes the authoritarian impulse to break out of the democratic norm, and why do so many here and abroad find these demagogic appeals so attractive? Has a decline in American global leadership inadvertently given other nations permission to erode their own democratic institutions? Will a fractured and divided America be able, or willing, to work with other democracies holding others accountable when we fail to do so at home?

Focusing on Europe, Latin America and the US, the symposium will examine these questions in order to better understand not only the causes and symptoms that bring us to this moment, but just as importantly, to explore what can be done to meet these authoritarian challenges to democracy.

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