Smart Growth

Colonel Mark Mykleby, a retired Marine Corps veteran, discussed how American sustainability helps improve international relations. The talk was part of the Fireside Forum on Foreign Policy on the windy night of Tuesday, February 21.

Mykleby, a Minnesota native, discussed his time at the Pentagon. His objective was to develop a broad national security plan for the United States. Mykleby’s focus was on the big picture of American involvement in other countries, rather than focusing on issues with specific nations. According to Mykleby, if the United States develops sustainable agriculture and healthy economic growth, then the nation will gain international respect and have a powerful influence.

Then, local correspondent Deborah Fugenschuh applied the national issue to a Wisconsin context. She said Wisconsin is progressing with sustainability, but still has room for improvement. Local residents sporting ‘I Voted’ stickers, suit-clad business men and women and approximately ten students attended the event. The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Institute of World Affairs (IWA) and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sponsored the forum. Robert Ricigliano, the director of IWA, said the purpose of the event is to educate voters and apply international policy issues to the citizens of Wisconsin.

Mykleby’s time in the Marines influenced his policy ideas. He was adamant about being a bipartisan, non-political policy maker. “We [the Marines] serve the people of this nation,” he said. Mykleby added, “Marines swear an oath to the Constitution of the United States. We swear on an idea.”

Mykleby insisted America needs to focus on smart growth at home. According to him, 50 percent of Iowa’s topsoil is gone and the current agricultural practices are not sustainable. Mykleby also said the human race is consuming 1.5 global resources. That means the current world population needs a planet and a half in order to support itself. The United States has to diversify and build resiliency in order “to take a punch in the belly,” he said.

The States should also focus on education and empowering the citizens Mykleby said. “What can we [the United States] be in the 21st Century,” he asked. “The world needs America to be at its best,” he continued. When this happens, “America will have influence and credibility abroad,” he said.

Local correspondent Deborah Fugenschuh, president and CEO of Donors Forum of Wisconsin, added a Milwaukee perspective to Mykleby’s speech. She said Wisconsin has similar interest to the national ones. This state needs “secure homes, healthy food, and quality education as the key to higher quality of life,” she said.

Doug Savage, the assistant director of IWA, organized and hosted the event.  He said it is important for voters to be aware of foreign policy because “there is an increasingly blurred line between domestic and international issues.”

Jim Palasz of Shorewood attended the fireside forum. He relaxed with a cup of coffee in an armchair and said “the event is informal and I like it.” Palasz enjoyed the open forum and freedom to ask for clarity on difficult issues such as how sustainability applies to American foreign policy.