November 17, 2004

Forum Focuses On U.S. Foreign Policy

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The University’s chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy brought the Cornell community a discussion of the future of American foreign policy yesterday in McGraw Hall. The forum, entitled “The Next Four Years: What the 2004 Election Means for America’s Role in the World,” hoped to bring an arena of open expression and scholarly debate to the student body. AID is a non-partisan, student-run organization that seeks to foster global understanding by coordinating town hall meetings, hosting leadership retreats and publishing opinion pieces and reports.

Josh Dormont ’05, president of the new AID chapter at Cornell, moderated the forum in front of an attentive 50-person audience.

The event centered on a panel of distinguished Cornell faculty: Prof. Fredrik Logevall, history, Prof. Jeremy Rabkin ’74, government, and Prof. Elizabeth Saunders Ph.D. ’78, government. Each was instructed to prepare a five-minute dialogue addressing issues that dominated this year’s heated presidential election. Topics included America’s image overseas and the changing role that the country holds in global conflicts. Following this discourse and a brief period of follow-up, students were given the opportunity to direct questions to the professors.

Logevall, the first speaker, told listeners that it is difficult to overstate the degree to which foreign nations and peoples have turned against the United States in recent years. He found it striking that at a recent NHL hockey game in Montreal, fans booed the U.S. national anthem as it was projected over the sound system. Past presidents, he commented, understood that American power was limited and thus pursued a collective international approach to security. However, the Bush administration, he continued, is bent on transitioning to a unilateralist position that acts without the consent of foreign nations.

Saunders focused her commentary on the internal influences of foreign policy, which she believes include the electoral coalition, party ideology and presidential advisors, among others. She cited former secretary of state Colin Powell as the lone voice for multi-nationalism in the current administration. With his resignation, Saunders says the U.S. will only “increase its willingness to use military force in a preemptive way.” She expressed worry regarding President Bush’s lack of deliberative skills and the possibility that he may be next in a line of “dangerous” presidents who win re-election and proceed aggressively in domestic and international arenas.

European inconsequentiality was at the heart of Rabkin’s talk. He stated that at the conclusion of the Cold War, America was no longer committed to the defense of Europe. Rabkin downplayed the importance of the U.S.’s current relationship with the continent and insisted that Europe’s way of handling international affairs is fruitless. Referring to their tactics in the Middle East he said, “Europeans have this fantastical notion that the way to deal with jihad terrorist threats is to appease them.” Rabkin argued that over the next four years, America needs to strengthen worldwide free trade through NAFTA, even though, “they are not going to like it in Europe.” In addition, he believes the United States needs to continue to strengthen relations with Latin America, India and Japan.

Upon completion of the professors’ remarks, the floor was opened up to student queries. Elias Saba ’08 asked the panel, “… could [you] tell me what it means to actually win the war in Iraq?” Rabkin answered that a victory in Iraq meant that the nation’s elected government had the ability to control its territory, maintain loyalty from the people and uphold a sovereign state. His thoughts were echoed by Logevall.

Other topics broached by students included the importance of China in comparison with other nations, the difficulties of capturing the “hearts and minds” of Arab Muslims, the connection between terrorism and Osama bin Laden and the vulnerability of the United States post-Sept. 11.

Archived article by Rachel Weiss
Sun Staff Writer