Former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and editor of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol, went head-to-head in front of a packed Hall Auditorium Wednesday night as they shared their views on the United States’ role in the world for the fall 2013 Janus Forum.
In Richardson’s opening statement, he argued the United States’ role ought to continue to be one of headship in the world, but that it should be restricted to certain domains.
“Everybody looks to us for leadership,” Richardson said. “America needs to continue to lead but do it in measurable ways.”
Richardson listed eight main areas in which the United States ought to focus its leadership. These included religious conflicts, particularly among Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorism, disease, poverty, women empowerment and climate change.
He lauded the United States’ leadership in the domain of energy advances, particularly its recent advances in producing shale gas.
“Shale gas means the US’ is the leader in oil in the world,” Richardson said. “Shale gas is a good transition toward more renewable energy sources… Solar, wind, biofuels are the future.”
When Kristol’s turn came to take the podium, he argued the United States’ leadership ought to take the form of high levels of involvement in foreign affairs, both in diplomatic channels and through military force.
“The consequences of the US retreating from leadership would be dire,” Kristol said. “The world has some ‘neighborhoods’ that need more ‘police force.’ And if we don’t do it, no one will.”
The US should not be the sole police force, Kristol argued, and ought to continue developing strong alliances. At the same time, he cautioned against raising hopes that the world would ever be united under a single governing body.
“We’re not going to have a world government or world peace,” Kristol said. “Presidents have to have nice rhetoric about that sort of thing but we all know it’s not feasible.”
As such, the US needs to know when to step up as a nation, apart from the international community, Kristol said. On this point, the two debaters agreed. Richardson argued the US need only operate within the UN’s boundaries depending on the circumstances.
“We use the UN depending on what’s in the United States’ best interests as a country,” Richardson said in a small, classroom discussion earlier in the day.
For example, in regards to the Middle East peacekeeping issue, the United States doesn’t go to the UN because to do so would be outside the country’s best interests, Richardson said. However, when it comes to other international concerns where the US’ views line up with those of the UN, such as the matter of the Balkan nations, the US ought to cooperate with the UN.
Both Richardson and Kristol said they had been in favor of a US airstrike in Syria and saw this as an example of a time when the US ought to have taken action without UN backing.
On the whole however, Richardson said he was a strong advocate for the use of “soft power” over brute military force.
“I’m a big believer in soft power: dialogue, education, empowerment,” Richardson said.
Richardson gets his faith in dialogue from his days negotiating hostage situations in North Korea, Cuba and Sudan.
“It’s important to have dialogue and diplomacy even with bad people,” Richardson said. He compared dealing with dictators to working out a contentious issue with one’s boyfriend or mother, drawing laughter from the audience.
Having negotiated a number of hostage situations, Richardson said he understands the great value of intelligence-gathering, vindicating the NSA’s collection of metadata.
“Everybody spies on each other,” Richardson said. “We’re just better at it than everybody.”
Kristol agreed that he didn’t see any evidence that the intelligence the NSA had gathered from its allies’ cell phones had been used maliciously and was hopeful that these relationships could be repaired.
The Forum concluded with a series of questions from the audience, mediated by Student Body Vice President Courtney Bernard, regarding the government shutdown and the way it has affected the international community’s perception of the US as a power player.
“The real choice isn’t us or Russia, or us or China,” Kristol said. “It’s us or nothing. And nothing could be dangerous.”
First year history and political science major, Paul Fredrick, said he thought the Janus Forum was highly beneficial to Miami students.
“It’s beneficial for students to hear two opposing viewpoints from two highly credible sources,” Fredrick said.
Students wishing to join in organizing the next Janus Forum are welcome to attend the Janus committee meetings 6 p.m. on Thursdays in Harrison 109, chair of the Janus forum, Nick Miller said.