Senior Hannah Erdman addresses U.S./Israeli relationship

U.S. and Israeli foreign relations and how this relationship affects the United States’ ability to create policy and work with the Middle Eastern countries will be addressed by Hannah Erdmann ’14 in a capstone presentation on Monday.

Erdman, originally from Jefferson, Wis., will present “The Special Relationship: Help or Hindrance in the Middle East?” at 6:30 p.m. March 31 in East Hall Little Theatre as one in a series of National Security Studies Capstone Presentations.

A second presentation by Erdman, “Secrets or Security: The Role of the Media in Securing the Nation,” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 7.

“I spent quite a bit of time looking at the historical relationship the United States has had with Israel along with the growth of the Israeli lobby in the United States and what roles those two aspects play with foreign policy in the Middle East,” Erdman says.

Issues she researched include: What role the interest groups and lobbying efforts play in the U.S.-Israeli relationship; whether there is a moral obligation for the United States to maintain a special relationship with Israel; and how the United States can move forward with other Middle Eastern countries while allied with Israel.

“I then used the Arab-Israeli conflict, Syria and the U.S. war on terror as case studies for the differences between Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors in terms of goals, outcomes and policy in general,” Erdman says.

She concludes in her thesis that the special relationship the United States has with Israel is, indeed, harmful for the United States, “in terms of its image with Arab countries and its ability to be adaptable with the foreign policy goals in the region, and the fact that the Israel lobby is too powerful for the health of both the United States and Israel as nations,” Erdman says. “It will be a cautious move away from supporting Israel’s every decision but one that would be in the best interests of the United States for the future.”

Erdman also will examine the media and its role in national security, specifically what happens to national security when classified information is leaked through major media networks like The New York Times or major broadcasting networks.

She says examining the First Amendment’s freedom of the press clause and the need for some information to remain secret for the security of the nation has always been an interesting dilemma for her. “It took quite a bit of thought and time to determine a path to work within the First Amendment but also respecting that sometimes the government is looking out for the country by keeping military operations and surveillance programs secret to protect lives of Americans at home and abroad,” she says.

Her research news sources included the Pentagon Papers, the WikiLeaks website and the Edward Snowden scandal as case studies for what happens when the media releases classified information.

“I looked at consequences of each of these cases and determined that with each publication, military and government secrets have reached the hands of enemies and allies alike,” she says. “The United States was (made) to look bad and to admit truths that make it difficult to function properly in the world.”

Communication is the key between both the Executive Branch and the press, Erdman says. “The Constitution puts into place things like freedom of the press and presidential powers of securing the nation, but it does not give either side the right to print whatever it wants nor keep documents hidden from the public.”

She says in order for people to operate as fully informed citizens of the United States and participate fully in society, both the government and the press need to inform the public.

Erdman participated in Ripon College’s fall 2013 Career Discovery Tour to Washington, D.C., where she met with members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After graduation, Erdman plans to take a year off and apply for graduate programs in international relations and foreign affairs for the fall of 2015. “My two research projects will be helpful to my future because I have been able to explore multiple aspects of my field in areas that are interesting and relevant to the world and the United States’ policies as a whole,” she says.

-Tsering Yangchen ’14
Madison, Wis.

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