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.

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The Department of State in the Biden Administration

September 29, 2021

Ambassador Mark L. Asquino

In January, President Biden pledged to reverse the disastrous mismanagement of the Department of State during the Trump Administration. He nominated as his secretary of state was Antony Blinken, a highly-experienced foreign policy expert. Blinken has brought to his job years of experience as a senior Congressional staffer, senior official at the National Security Council official and as a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. Biden and Blinken have both pledged to restore the foreign policy preeminence of the Department of State, which has been in decline for decades.

Eight months into his tenure, Blinken has successfully lobbied for a significant increase in State’s budget, including funds to expand its staffing. To address the old refrain that the Foreign Service is “pale, male and Yale,” he’s appointed the Department’s first diversity and inclusion officer to attract more minorities and women to its ranks.

But Secretary Blinken has come under harsh criticism, including from some in the Democratic Party, for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and especially management of the Special Immigrant Program. Some Republicans have called for him to resign. Many in the media claim that military and security priorities continue to overshadow the traditional role of diplomacy in advancing U.S. foreign policy interests throughout the world.

Ambassador Asquino will evaluate how well Secretary Blinken has done during the first year of the Biden Administration in restoring the Department’s influence and mandate in foreign policy formulation and implementation.

Ambassador Mark L. Asquino is a retired, career Foreign Service Officer. His three decades plus career included postings in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia and Africa. During 2012-2015, he served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Spain’s only former colony in sub-Saharan Africa. Mark is fluent in Spanish and

The Speaker Ambassador Mark L. Asquino is a retired, career Foreign Service Officer. His three decades plus career included postings in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia and Africa. During 2012-2015, he served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Spain’s only former colony in sub-Saharan Africa. Mark is fluent in Spanish and has a working knowledge of French, Russian, Romanian and Italian.

In the Spring of 2016, the U.S. Department of State asked him to return temporarily to government service. Mark spent ten weeks as the Acting Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius. In recent years he’s accepted short-term assignments with State’s Office of Inspector General.

Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Mark was the Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Oviedo in Asturias, Spain (1975-76). He earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from Brown University, where he also received his undergraduate degree.


Thursday April 16 and Friday April 17, 2020

at the Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 “The Warming World:  Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides, Rising Turbulence”

SFWAF Symposium 2020

Scientific study after study demonstrates the enormity of the impact of climate change on earth’s biosphere.  These changes range from the Arctic’s melting icecap and the desertification of parts of Africa to rising sea levels submerging Pacific islands and parts of populous countries like Bangladesh.  The increase and intensity of typhoons in Asia and hurricanes in the Caribbean, wildfires in California and Indonesia as well as melting ice, changing trade routes and new security threats in the Arctic are all part of this manmade phenomenon.

Some of this story plays out in 24/7 news – but much more does not.  What do we know about the national security impact of climate change and how US military planners are attempting to prepare for it?  What about its relationship to the increasing flows of migrants uprooting and risking their lives to cross continents, borders, rivers and seas in search of safe havens often to be met by hostility, indifference and uncertain futures?  What about the spread of disease and the possibility of pandemics we have yet to discover?  How can we address technological impediments to climate change mitigation?  Finally, why are even the governments of countries which have been on the forefront of climate mitigation, unable to move to a new economy based on alternative energy?

If we’ve known for years about the warming world, why hasn’t more been done to try to slow or deter its worst effects?  Many people now understand that climate change is, foremost, driven by rising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas and current agricultural practices like raising livestock and clearing land resulting in changes in our atmosphere leading to warming of the planet.  But are major impediments exclusively from oil and coal companies trying to preserve the bottom-line?  Are infrastructure and unemployment fears also holding us back? Are new technologies available or on the horizon to help mitigate the worst effects of the earth’s rapid warming?

The impact of global warming is not just an issue for scientific researchers, for military planners confronting the next national security threat or for energy company executives preserving short term profits.  It is more critically an issue that directly affects our lives and the future of our children.

Dealing with the New Normal:  Climate change is global.  Rising temperatures respect no national boundaries.  This is the new (ab)normal. As such it presents complex transnational problems.  It is an ever shifting calculus. It requires involvement from all levels of government, international organizations, large corporations, local city councils, small startups, researchers, teachers, students and all citizens of planet earth to begin to cope with this heretofore silent crisis.

This symposium will explore the interrelated issues of coping with the warming world from the vantage points of national security, economic viability, health and human welfare.


Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, 2019


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

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