Debate on U.S. foreign policy comes to the U

Eric Swanson

As tensions over U.S. foreign policy and national security divide Americans, people at the University had the chance to discuss their views and concerns with a former senator and ambassador Tuesday.

“The People Speak: America Debates its Role in the World” – a debate and discussion series featuring experts and citizens with varying views – visited the University, with former Minnesota Sen. Rudy Boschwitz and former ambassador to Rwanda Bob Flaten as guest panelists.

“The People Speak” was organized to encourage citizens to debate U.S. military action, U.N. and U.S. relations, and U.S. international commitments. According to debate organizers, more than 1,000 foreign policy debates will occur around the country in October.

In front of students, faculty and community members, moderator and Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Dean J. Brian Atwood asked guests questions ranging from pre-emptive strikes in Iraq to U.S. international relief.

Speakers and audience members, however, focused mainly on President George W. Bush’s decision to take military action in Iraq without U.N. backing.

“We would be better off if we had international support in rebuilding Iraq,” Flaten said. “We are not the only ones that will benefit or lose as the Iraqi situation develops.”

While Flaten said the U.S. military should have waited for U.N. approval, Boschwitz said such support was not essential.

“Most of the U.N. is not comprised of liberal democracies,” Boschwitz said. “The U.N. is a place where things are delayed, diluted and put off.”

Boschwitz cited several examples in which the United Nations did not act, including the situations in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Rwanda.

Despite their debate, the speakers agreed Iraq should become a democracy.

“Great things will happen,” Boschwitz said, referring to a potentially democratic Iraq. “Iraq is a country with lots of potential.”

After the debate, students were quick to voice their opinions, which were also divided.

“I thought it was very informative and intriguing,” senior Amanda Hutchings said. “I agree with Sen. Boschwitz and President Bush completely.”

Graduate student Brandon Crook said he was critical of Boschwitz but enjoyed the event.

“It was an interesting opportunity to hear some conflicting viewpoints,” he said.