October 22, 2004

Berger '67 Lectures on Presidency, Security

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“The fact is, that this may be the most consequential vote you’ll ever cast,” said former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger ’67 of the upcoming presidential election. Berger spoke last night in Statler Auditorium on issues he believes to be most pressing for whomever will occupy the Oval Office come January.

The first issue Berger addressed was Iraq and the Middle East.

“The situation in Iraq is bad and not getting better,” Berger said.

He went on to say that although most Iraqis were pleased to experience their first minutes of freedom in the last three decades, there is also a “violent insurgency” occurring.

“We’re in a big hole. It’s time to quit shoveling and begin turning this thing around,” Berger said.

Listing the actions which he considers to be the “most realistic,” Berger included containing the insurgent stronghold in Iraq; intensifying the U.S. training of Iraqis; increasing communication with moderate Shi’a, Syrians and Iranians; and speeding up the disbursement of reconstruction funds.

The second challenge Berger said is taking center stage in foreign policy is the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction.

“We know the amount of inadequately secured nuclear material in the world today is enough to make thousands of bombs,” Berger said.

Berger called for a U.S.-led campaign to reduce the nuclear proliferation threat through every means possible, focusing particularly on North Korea.

“While we were debating the shape of the table, Pyongyang was repossessing plutonium… We should tell [North Korea], ‘If you verifiably give up your nuclear program, you can rejoin the world. But if you don’t, a nuclear-weapons Wal-Mart in an era of global terrorism in unacceptable.'”

Finally, Berger discussed jihadist terrorism.

He called for a three-pronged counterterrorism strategy: a strong offense, a strong defense, and the preservation of our global leadership.

“We must track down, crack down, and hunt the militant jihadists wherever they hide,” place “much more sustained attention [on] domestic homeland security,” and recognize “that leadership is empty if no one follows.”

Regardless of how aggressive Berger feels we should be on jihadist terrorism, he said he does not think that we should institute a draft.

“I don’t think a draft is necessary. We may have to enlarge the size of our military, but a professional military has proven to be a lot more effective than a draft,” Berger told The Sun in an interview after the speech.

Berger said he thinks Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) would make a better president than President George W. Bush. Among the reasons why, Berger criticized the way “President Bush has spoken… about helping bring democracy to the Middle East … [but that] this is not something the U.S. can deliver like a missle.”

In describing why Kerry is more likely to be successful at improving the problems in Iraq and limiting the distribution of weapons of mass destruction, Berger said, “In Iraq, it’s going to be hard to get international support for the next phase, but I think Bush stands no chance of getting that support.”

“Bush is looking at the situation through rose-colored glasses; Kerry has a more realistic perspective,” said.

Some students were not pleased with Berger’s appearance at Cornell. Two students stood outside Statler Hall prior to the event stuffing papers with the word “Confidential” written on them down their shirts.

When asked about their protest, Berger dismissed it, saying “It doesn’t bother me.” Most however, were pleased with Berger’s speech.

“Berger was terrific. I’m not at all surprised; he was an easy choice of speaker because he is one of our most distinguished alumni, and he comes to campus pretty frequently,” said Michael Zuckerman ’06, president of Mock Election 2004.

Berger’s speech marks the final event for Mock Election 2004. This past week, students have been casting their votes online and last night, the results were announced.

Of 6067 votes, 4264 went to Kerry, making him the winner with 70 percent of the electorate. Bush earned 22 percent of the votes, followed by Nader with three percent, Badnarik with two percent, both Cobb and Brown with one percent, and Peroutka with 16 votes ( zero percent). 78 percent of the 2935 female voters voted for Kerry; 18 percent of the female voters voted for Bush. Two percent of the female voters voted for Nader, and one percent voted for each of Badnarik, Cobb and Brown. Two women voted for Peroutka.

63 percent of 3049 male voters voted for Kerry; 26 percent of male voters voted for Bush. Four percent voted for Nader, three percent for Badnarik, two percent for Cobb and one percent for Brown.

Altogether, the night was a success, according to President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77: “Berger was articulate and thoughtful in his discussion of a set of very challenging national security issues,” and, the Mock Election overall, “was an enormous credit to the students of Cornell. It showed a level on engagement in current events…[that could] serve as a national model.”

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Senior Writer