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Dr. Steven Walt Informs and Inspires

On March 27, Berea College was proud to host International Relations Professor Steven Walt, as he talked about the problems of the current foreign policy program in America, and what could be done to fix it.

Dr. Steven Walt explained problems with America's foreign policy to students.

Holding no prisoners, Walt went straight to addressing what he believes are the most important issues regarding the present state of affairs dealing with America and its foreign policy. He quickly established three main problems to look at:
-- Running the world is difficult, and that is exactly what the U.S.A. is attempting to do.
-- Foreign policy itself isn’t really critical for America, so it can be manipulated by those in positions of power.
-- Other nations began to take concern to America’s growing power and began to resent us because of it.

According to Walt, these problems cropped up after America won the Cold War in the early 1989, only waiting to manifest themselves about a decade later, as disappointing events such as terrorism threats, Darfur and nuclear weapons issues began to occur as well. He explained the amount of change that took place during the 1990s, since America’s economy went from flying high to being in the worst debt it has even been in. Because of the success and great feeling of ultimately winning the much drawn out and stressful Cold War, America as a whole became fairly lax with its economy, at the same time as it was assuming what was essentially the biggest seat of power in the world.

To fully explain all of these complex issues and theories, Walt discussed what he believes to be the two dominant views that led to these problems. He segmented these people into two surprisingly similar groups that still have some subtle differences. The first, called “Liberal Internationalists,” are interested in globalization above all else. Because of this, they believe that American values are universal, thus meaning that it is America’s responsibility to fix all of the world’s problems. Similarly, the second group, called “Neo-Conservatists,” also believe that whatever America does has to be a good thing, holding them above all other countries and people of the world. However, these feelings are coupled with an ingrained distrust of international institutions, as well as a distinctly black-and-white, good and evil view of the world.

Primarily because of these groups, America initially understated the problem at first said Walt, only to continually overstate it ever since, which of course has lead to a series of huge debacles, culminating in the current problems in Iraq. Not only did these problems make adversaries such as Osama Bin Laden look right about America wanting to control the Middle East, but it did so in the worst way--by using the military as an extremely crude instrument to spread and express American values.

However, near the end of his speech, Walt confessed to how depressing this discussion had been. Getting a laugh from the audience, he did a convincing job of conveying a sense of hope for the nation as well; he stated that if America can soon turn to negotiation instead of immediate action, then there will be a great opportunity to get those good feelings of the early 90s back. Also, to add an exclamation point to this inspiring finale, Walt quoted a very short line from author George Orwell, which was simply “Tell the truth.” It was a resonant moment, and capped off a thought-provoking speech from Dr. Walt.

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