Since the end of World War II, the United States has played a unique security role in the world. During that time, democratic nation states have proliferated, combat deaths have plunged, and global trade has boomed. The security umbrella of the United States enabled war ravaged nations to rebuild and the Cold War came to a peaceful conclusion. War did not disappear. Suffering and poverty were not eliminated. But when compared to any other period over the last several centuries, the last half of the 20th century was a period of historic prosperity and relative peace. Most countries in the world have benefited from what many economists call the golden age.
The United States has benefited as well. But it has come at a cost. U.S. defense spending represents about 20% of the federal budget and spends more on defense than the next 28 countries combined. In 1947, the U.S. represented roughly half of the world's manufacturing capacity. Today it is less than 20%. Yet allies fail to meet their minimal commitments on defense spending confident that the U.S. will defend them. In fact, 95% of all military personnel around the world who are stationed outside their home counties are American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Their job is difficult, unpredictable, and often thankless. The question is, are we over doing it?
American Umpire explores how the United States got into this role in the first place. Then, through a series of outstanding interviews with prominent policy makers, scholars, military leaders, and journalists, it explores possible policy options for the future. American Umpire offers a balanced view and is an alternative to partisan hyperbole of the 24-hour news cycles and social media that paints foreign policy choices in black and while as either irresponsible isolationism or war-mongering engagement.
American Umpire seeks to open up a national discussion about the foreign policy of the United States in an important election year. More than anyone, presidents decide foreign policy and define our national vision.
Jim Lehrer, Narrator, brings outstanding credentials to the role. He has worked in journalism since 1959, and co-hosted "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour" for twenty years. Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards, including the Chairman’s Award at the 2010 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences News & Documentary Emmy Awards, the 1999 National Humanities Medal presented by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the National Press Club “Fourth Estate Award” in October 2011. He has won two Emmys, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, the William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Medal of Honor. In 1991, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has hosted twelve presidential debates.
Elizabeth Cobbs, Producer and Writer, earned a Ph.D. in American History at Stanford University and currently holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University. Her books have won four prizes in American history. Elizabeth has been a Fulbright scholar in Ireland, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., and a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. From 1999 to 2005, she served on the Historical Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department. Aside from her award-winning scholarship, Elizabeth has appeared in such national broadcast venues as Morning Joe, The Today Show, and NPR. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Reuters and other distinguished publications. She has a lively, dynamic style and lectures extensively on the role of the U.S. in the world.
James Shelley (Director & Producer) is the owner of Shell Studios, LLC, a San Diego based production company that specializes in award winning documentaries and corporate films. After retiring from a 35 year corporate career, Jim is now pursuing his lifelong passion. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, University of California San Diego's video production program and is pursuing an MFA in Film at San Diego State University. American Umpire is his PBS and broadcast debut.
Elizabeth Cobbs (Writer & Producer) has won literary prizes for both history and fiction. She holds the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University and is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, China Daily News, Washington Independent, San Diego Union, Reuters, and other distinguished publications. She has appeared on the Today Show, Morning Joe Show, and National Public Radio. She is the author of five books on American history, a winner of the Allan Nevins Prize, and holds a PhD in American History from Stanford University.
Joanne Elgart Jennings (Executive Producer) is an award-winning producer and journalist. As executive producer at KQED, she oversaw production of KQED Newsroom, Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders and several co-productions with the Center for Investigative Reporting, including State of Surveillance and Hunger in the Valley. During a 13-year tenure at the PBS NewsHour, Jennings produced hundreds of documentary-style news features throughout the United States and internationally - including a widely acclaimed series on AIDS in Africa. Her work has been honored by numerous journalistic organizations including the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Society of Professional Journalists, CINE and New York Festivals. Jennings lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons
Glenn Takakajian (Editor) has been a filmmaker, editor and storyteller for over three decades. He has edited a wide variety of broadcast, commercial and feature productions for Warner Brothers, Sony and Paramount Pictures, among others. A veteran documentarian, he has edited documentaries and documentary programs, for A&E Biography, VH1 Behind the Scenes, and History Channel’s Modern Marvels and Hidden History series. Glenn has won two Telly Awards for his editing and has received awards for his work on Short Subjects & Web Series.
Elizabeth Lim (Composer) is an award winning composer based in New York, NY. Her work has been performed by orchestras and choirs across the United States, in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Symphony Space. Her music has also been featured in dozens of films and video games, including projects by Ubisoft, The Weather Channel, and National Geographic. Elizabeth completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard University and recently received her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Juilliard School.
Elizabeth Maddrey (Archival Researcher) is an Emmy-nominated producer, archival researcher, and clearance consultant with a strong background in new and documentary storytelling. A graduate of St. Pauls School and the University of Virginia, she has produced for the Discovery networks, History, National Geographic, CNN, Bloomberg TV, PBS and American Public Media.
"Since the Truman Doctrine of 1947, successive American Presidents have held that the United States must be engaged in the global arena, supporting our allies and challenging our adversaries, acting not as Empire but as an umpire in the post WW II international order. Now, both the current President and a Republican challenger question whether our traditional alliances are still necessary. Is it time for a new doctrine, or should we stay steady on a course charted just after WW II? American Umpire is a major contribution to a national debate that will have long term consequences for our interests and our security."
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon
Dean & Executive Professor, George Bush School of Government & Public Service
"American Umpire delivers an intriguing invitation to re-think America's role in the world. President Obama asks, 'Have we not learned the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq?' We clearly have not. This film is a fine place to start."
Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea & Chairman, Pacific Century Institute
"Foreign policy has become an important issue in the 2016 American presidential campaign, but the discussion among the candidates is nowhere near as thoughtful as it should be. American Umpire gives everyone access to a deeper debate, showing us where American strategy has come from, where the United States has found strength and security, and where we need to think carefully about what should come next. American Umpire shows the way to a better debate about the future of American security with enduring images and expert commentary."
Associate Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas
Stanley Kaplan Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy, Williams College
"Lisa Cobbs has raised profound questions about America's role in the world, questions that demand our thoughtful deliberations"
University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies at Texas A&M University as well as the Editor of the Presidential Studies Quarterly.
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For Classroom & community Discussions
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Does it have to be forever? Let us know what you think.
Does it have to be forever? Let us know what you think.