Humphrey dean: international students vital to U.S. security

by Elizabeth Dunbar

International student exchange is an essential part of U.S. national security, the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs’ new dean said Thursday.

“If we continue to throw road blocks in the way of international exchange, we’ll be helping those who would demonize the U.S.,” Humphrey Institute Dean J. Brian Atwood said.

As part of International Education Week, Atwood gave the inaugural Walter H. Judd Lecture on the challenges to U.S. power and the importance of diplomacy after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Approximately 100 people attended the lecture, including the first Judd fellows, who spent time abroad doing research and internships with their fellowship grants.

Atwood said increasing security and U.S. military power is insufficient to maintain national security.

“International exchange is more important today than ever before,” he said. “In these perilous times, we need more exchanges among nations – not less.”

In addition to the increased scrutiny on foreigners causing problems for international students entering the United States, Atwood said recent U.S. interactions with the United Nations defy U.N. principles.

“We are at risk of undermining the charter by using it as a vehicle for U.S. foreign policy rather than respecting the purpose of the U.N.,” he said.

U.S. security interests should not contradict previous efforts to foster international cooperation, Atwood said.

“It would be sad indeed if we permitted fear of a band of criminals to cause us to act in conflict with the international structure the U.S. helped erect to preserve its interests,” he said.

In addition to cooperating with other nations, Atwood said the United States must also invest in assistance projects to fight poverty.

“We know that demagogues and terrorists can exploit the conditions of poverty,” Atwood said, explaining that terrorists can easily hide in nations with high poverty rates because of instability, and people living in poverty are at risk of becoming terrorists.

“They are a threat when they become desperate,” he said. “If we don’t start dealing with people that need our help today, the world will be chaos in 10 years’ time.”

Kimberly Ford, an urban planning graduate student and Judd fellow, said her experience in Egypt and other countries gave her a different perspective of the world’s political situation, especially in relation to Iraq.

“It was a vital part of my development and my ability to look at the world objectively,” she said. “I don’t see my life as any more valuable than an Iraqi citizen’s life Ö I see myself as a citizen of the world.”

Elizabeth Valitchka, a Judd fellow studying maternal and child health, said her experience in Cuba helped her see a different health care system function.

“Cuba is kind of a last frontier – somewhere that hasn’t been touched by the U.S. like other countries,” she said. “Breaking down that mystery and seeing that they are functioning really starts to demystify Cuba.”

Though few of the Judd fellows said they experienced hostility abroad, Richard Hermes said his experience in Ireland showed him that negative feelings toward the United States also can exist in a country with traditionally good U.S. relations.

“There’s hostility now, and it’s because they’re afraid of our policies,” Hermes said.

Atwood said implementing policies consistent with U.S. values of democracy, freedom and opportunity will prevent further negative reactions to the United States.

“There’s a great deal of respect in the world for what we stand for,” he said. “But if we start acting like something we’re not, we’re going to lose that respect.”

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]