As the World Affairs Council of San Antonio (WAC) prepared to stage its Wednesday evening gala at Red Berry Estate to honor human rights attorney Shannon Sedgwick Davis as its 2022 Citizen of the Year, the week’s headlines served as a stark reminder that all things global hit home here.

While people in San Antonio continue to go about their business thousands of miles removed from the battlefront, the anxiety over world tensions is palpable.

A global pandemic finally seems to be easing with the spread of COVID-19 in retreat, but there is little reason to feel relief as a spreading conflict looms.

On Tuesday, three generations of my family gathered to view President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. The first 12 minutes of his 62-minute speech were devoted to condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A new Cold War between the United States and Russia has arrived, and the prospects for worsening relations with China are strong. The two superpowers, the U.S. and Russia, have been engaged in one war or another almost every moment since our two adult sons, now in their 30s, were teenagers.

Now, after China’s uncontested takeover of Hong Kong in 2020, in blatant violation of the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration, is that regime’s violent play for Taiwan on the horizon?

The rest of the world — at least those nations willing to take a stand — finds itself limited to economic and diplomatic responses to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The specter of a NATO military response risks escalation and nuclear confrontation with President Vladimir Putin, a Russian dictator driven by his post-Soviet Union grievances and now acting with reckless abandon.

The high stakes the U.S. confronts in responding to Russian or Chinese aggression has, in effect, limited the Biden administration’s perceived options. Even now, the U.S. response to Putin’s war, while wreaking economic havoc in Moscow and discomfiting his billionaire cronies, is otherwise seen as limited by the realities of a changing world order.

This column was written before the WAC event, during which I was invited to moderate a conversation between Sedgwick Davis and former congressman Will Hurd, a national security and intelligence expert. The moderate Republican chose not to seek reelection to the 23rd Congressional District in 2020.

Sedgwick Davis is the CEO of the Bridgeway Foundation, which works to end mass atrocities around the globe. She is the author of the 2019 memoir, To Stop a Warlord, her personal account of her campaign to build an international alliance to neutralize Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army militia in Uganda and neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after years of massacres and mass kidnappings of children Kony pressed into servitude and military service.

San Antonio author Shannon Sedgwick Davis is photographed with David Ocitti, whose experiences in a brutal guerilla group and his escape from it, are featured in her book <i>To Stop a Warlord</i>.
San Antonio author Shannon Sedgwick Davis is photographed with David Ocitti, whose experiences in a brutal guerilla group and his escape from it, are featured in her book To Stop a Warlord. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Sedgwick Davis and her foundation more recently have been engaged in assisting Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

Hurd is, in my opinion, a national security expert unfortunately sidelined in this moment. His gravitas reflects his past experience working abroad for the Central Intelligence Agency, his grasp of cyber warfare and foreign affairs and his six years in Congress, where few of the aging members grasped the 21st Century challenges the nation faces, and frustrated Hurd’s intent to act with greater urgency.

Hurd’s own book, American Reboot: An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done, is being published by Simon & Schuster this month.

From the publisher’s website:

“Hurd takes on five seismic problems facing a country in crisis: the Republican Party’s failure to present a principled vision for the future; the lack of honest leadership in Washington, DC; income inequality that threatens the livelihood of millions of Americans; US economic and military dominance that is no longer guaranteed; and how technological change in the next thirty years will make the advancements of the last thirty years look trivial.”

There will be no shortage of questions to pose to Sedgwick Davis and Hurd as they reflect on current affairs. Whether there are any answers to give us comfort in San Antonio is another matter.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.