8 times a year, IAF brings top foreign policy experts to Traverse City to speak on pressing global issues.  Always the third Thursday of the month at Milliken Auditorium, our 2016-2017 season begins September 15th!  Join us by either becoming a member  or by purchasing tickets at the door.

Reception: 5:15pm

Lecture: 6:00pm
Tickets available at the door: $10
Free for current students and educators
Click here for previous IAF speakers.

“Turkey at the Crossroads”

Lawrence Mandel, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Turkey , 2014-16

Thursday, April 20, 2017
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

Event sponsored by:

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Turkey is a key member of NATO and America’s most important Muslim ally. It plays a crucial role both in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and in Europe’s struggle to deal with the flood of refugees and migrants. Indeed, Turkey has taken in more than 3 million Syrians. But following a failed coup last summer and an increase in terrorist attacks within its borders, Turkey seems to be undergoing a transformation.

Lawrence Mandel, fresh from service as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey (2014-16), brings to the International Affairs Forum an authoritative view of recent events and how they might impact the foreign policy of the new Administration in Washington.

How is President Trump likely to deal with Turkish President Erdogan, who moved quickly following the coup to consolidate power and shut down the opposition, including the jailing of journalists? How will terrorist attacks in Turkey’s main cities affect the American presence in Turkey as well as tourism? How will Turkey’s relations with the Kurds, Russia and Iran influence U.S. policy in the region?

Mandel retired in September 2016 after a 30 year career as a U.S. diplomat.


Lawrence (Larry) Mandel retired from the U.S. Department of State in 2016 after working as a diplomat for over 32 years. Most recently he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Larry’s other overseas assignments included Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Embassies in Jakarta, Tel Aviv and Budapest, Procurement Director in Tokyo, Consular Officer and Ambassador’s Aide in London, and General Services Officer in what is now St. Petersburg, Russia.  He served on school boards in Budapest, Tel Aviv and Jakarta, where he was instrumental in making new school campuses realities.

In Washington Larry’s assignments included the 24-hour Operations Center and the Office of the Legal Advisor.  Larry served as Director, Office of Performance Evaluation from 2011 to 2013, where he oversaw promotions in the Foreign Service.  Previously he was responsible for an annual budget in excess of $1 billion and coordinated overseas operations among over 40 federal agencies as Director of the ICASS Service Center.  He also served as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management, and as a Post Management Officer for posts in the Near East and South Asian regions.

Larry received numerous State Department awards, and held the rank of Minister Counselor – equivalent to a two star general in the military.  Before joining the State Department in1984 Larry was an attorney in Massachusetts, and prior to that worked as a retail executive for a chain of stores in Chicago.  He and his wife Judy have four children.  He holds a B.A. from American University in Washington, DC, and earned his J.D. at Northeastern University in Boston.

“The Cybersecurity Storm Front”

Sam Visner, Senior VP/General Manager, Cybersecurity, ICF International

Thursday, May 18, 2017
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

Cybersecurity is a term heard almost daily in connection with the “hacking” of the Democratic National Committee, stealing of USG’s personnel records, “WikiLeaks” revelations, and more. Some cyber-attacks seem intended to steal financial data, others are aimed at national security targets. One famous attack – “Stuxnet” – reportedly brought down Iran’s nuclear program for many months, bringing to light a new form of conflict where the attacker is hidden and it’s not clear who is behind the attack.

With 35 years of experience, Sam Visner is one of America’s foremost authorities on cyber-security. He is an associate of the National Intelligence Council and held executive leadership positions at CSC Global Cybersecurity, SAIC, and the National Security Agency. He teaches courses on Cybersecurity at Georgetown University and continues to serve as an adviser to the US government and commercial enterprises.


Samuel Sanders Visner is the Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cybersecurity and Resilience, ICF International. Sam also serves as co-chair of the Cyber R&D Task Force of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, and as co-chair of the Cyber Committee of the Professional Services Council.

Sam is an adjunct professor of Science and Technology in International Affairs at Georgetown University, where he teaches a course on cybersecurity policy, operations, and technology. Sam is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Intelligence Associate of the National Intelligence Council.

Sam served previously as Vice President and General Manager, CSC Global Cybersecurity, as a Senior Vice President at SAIC, and as Chief of Signals Intelligence Programs at the National Security Agency, from which he received the Agency’s highest award for civilian service. Sam also served as a member of the Board of Directors, CVG/Avtec.

Sam holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in Telecommunications from George Washington University. Sam served twice on the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force of the Defense Science Board, and has published articles on national and cybersecurity in World Politics Review, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and the Defense Intelligence Journal. Sam is married to Antoinette (Toni) Burnham, Washington DC’s leading urban beekeeper.

“Face to Face with Dexter Filkins: Journalism in a Facts-Optional World”

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author, and writer for The New Yorker

Thursday, June 15, 2017
6pm at NMC’s Milliken Auditorium

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Dexter Filkins is a fearless truth teller and one of the premier combat correspondents of his generation. After spending a decade reporting from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, Filkins penned in 2007 The Forever War, a definitive account of America’s conflicts and a searing exploration of its human costs.

A decade later, the U.S. remains mired in “forever war”, even as we continue to hear official assurances that we are “on track, making progress and meeting our goals.” Meanwhile, the rise of new forms of media have helped create audiences who reject truth-telling from the frontlines and hunger for versions of events that affirm their own points of view. For many in this politically charged world, facts have become optional.

Join Dexter and IAF’s own Bob Giles for a wide-ranging discussion that will explore challenges to journalism at home and abroad and consider the effectiveness of U.S. policy toward the Middle East and Afghanistan.


Dexter Filkins joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2011. He has written about the murder of a journalist in Pakistan, the uprisings in Yemen, the war in Afghanistan, the crises in Syria and Lebanon, the Prime Minister of Turkey, and a troubled Iraq war veteran who tracked down the surviving members of a family his unit had opened fire on.

Filkins worked at the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times, where he was the paper’s New Delhi bureau chief, before joining the New York Times, in 2000, reporting from New York, South Asia, and Iraq, where he was based from 2003 to 2006. In 2009, he won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team of Times journalists covering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In 2006-07, he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and, from 2007 to 2008, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He has received numerous prizes, including two George Polk Awards and three Overseas Press Club Awards. His book, “The Forever War,” won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, and was named a best book of the year by the Times, the Washington Post, Time, and the Boston Globe.