Yi Jun Mock
US Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference 2018
From the 10th to the 12th of April 2018, I had the distinct pleasure of representing the Department of International Relations at the 58th United States Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC). Since its establishment in 1961, NAFAC has brought 150 civilian and military delegates from the United States and around the world to the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis to discuss key international issues.
This year’s theme was Guarding Liberty in a World of Democratic Undoing – acknowledging the challenges to liberal democracy facing the world today. As in past years, NAFAC’s lineup of speakers to explore this pressing theme was nothing short of incredible. Keynote lectures were delivered by such speakers as Yale University’s Dr Timothy Snyder, Commander of U.S. Southern Command Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, and Johns Hopkins University’s Dr Hal Brands. The panels – featuring prominent academics like Dr Yascha Mounk and Dr Torrey Taussig, seasoned members of the fourth estate like Editor of the Washington Post’s Global Opinions Section Mr Christian Caryl, and distinguished diplomats like Ambassador Ryan Crocker (ret.) and Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II (ret.) – tackled a challenging swathe of topics from social media to non-traditional security threats, immigration to regional tensions.
During the conference, delegates were given the opportunity to discuss specific aspects of the conference theme in small roundtables. I was part of the Indian Innovation: Rapid Changes in Indian Technology, Economic Development, and Democracy roundtable, where we covered a plethora of topics ranging from defense spending, to demonetisation, to soft power in the Indian context. Writing a paper to prepare for the roundtable on Demonetisation & Digital India: The Benefits of a ‘Faceless, Paperless, Cashless’ India was a fascinating learning experience, and it was an honour to have had it selected as the Runner-Up International Delegate Paper in the NAFAC Paper Competition out of 56 international delegate submissions.
Beyond academics, NAFAC also provided unique insight into life at the USNA. Whether it was watching Noon Formation and eating lunch with midshipmen squads in King Hall, visiting the Yard’s historic landmarks like the Memorial Hall and the Crypt of John Paul Jones, or seeing Jimmy Carter’s midshipman uniform and the ‘Don’t Give up the Ship’ flag from the Battle of Lake Erie in the Naval Academy Museum – the experience was an exhilarating peek into the storied history of the U.S. Navy. In particular, the singing of the Navy Blue and Gold inside the humongous Alumni Hall by the 4,500-strong brigade was an experience I will never forget.
I would like to express my appreciation to USNA, NAFAC Director Michael McKinney, and the dedicated staff of midshipmen for organising such an engaging conference, as well as the Department of International Relations for nominating and funding my participation in NAFAC. Fair winds and following seas to all NAFAC delegates and staff – till next we meet again!
The trip was made possible through funding by the Department of International Relations, LSE.