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tv   American History TV  CSPAN  November 5, 2014 11:15am-12:27pm EST

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hoffman asks the question, is american umpire, or an empire by looking at key turning points in history, ms. hoffman argues that the united states has played the role of umpire since 1776 but also argues that umpires can't win. it's about an hour. >> thank you so much kay. thank you all for being here. i can't tell you how pleased and honored i am to be here addressing the world affairs council an especially because what i hope we're going to discuss tonight is i think one of the most critical questions of our time. >> microphone -- >> which is -- >> you're not going to know it because i didn't turn on the microphone. >> good, you're human. >> well, where is the button here, kay?
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no, the green light, right? the classic green light. so anyway, i'm here to discuss one the critical questions, i think, of our times which is why the united states assumed the role of world defender after world war ii? the question of whether we must continue this role indefinitely. now this conversation springs from my new book which i hope is available outside but also from an op-ed that i wrote for the new york times last year with the title, come home america. this was subsequently the subject of a morning joe show on the same subject. in the essay, i observed that everybody talks about getting out of iraq and afghanistan but what about germany and japan? in essence what i'm trying to raise here is a very fund amentl
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question which is where do we go from here. do we need to consider more basic changes in american foreign policy at this turning point in our own national history. because i think in many ways for me, i'm a historian that our nation suffers from a lack of historical self-awareness about our role. it's a lack of historical self-aware bs thness that makes target and that obscures and confuses or future choices. this is why history is important. i'm a cleheerleader for history. history gives s the big picture and gives us the long change trajectories that helps us make sense of the mess and turmoil of everyday crises. when i say that i'm aware that sounds like a put down. what i mean by that is that in world affairs, there are crises everyday. we need to understand the big picture which helps us make sense of our choices. now to give us an example of
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what i think is historical confusion, i like to go right to the top here and president obama said last year when he was addressing our nation about the question of intervening in the syrian civil war, he said at that time that the united states has been the chief enforcer of international law for the past seven decades. and then the president asserted america is not the world's policeman. well, what do policeman do but enforce law, right? he also said -- this was just a couple of weeks after that, he was addressing the united nations. he says the u.s. seeks a world in which state sovereignty is respected but also in which sovereignty cannot shield a regime from outside intervention. well, this is a flat contradiction. the whole point of sovereignty is absolute authority within territorial boundaries.
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now in a sense what the president is doing is he's speaking out of both sides of his mouth. what he was really saying is that we seek a world in which sovereignty is subject to external checks and balances to protect individual human rights much as the federal government operates in the united states. now by the way, i want you to already be sort of listening. checks and balances. that's such an american term but in a way this has to do with the american view an also, i think, the american role in the world. now, i think that this kind of double speak isn't intentional. i think we see it in president after president. this is not a testimodemocratic republican problem. it's an american one that we suffer from not knowing exactly where we've come from and why. i think it reflects a lack of understanding about the structure of the world in general. if we don't understand our history, no one else will.
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we're the ones who write about it. we are the ones who tell people this is who we are. well, now, by the way i hate to be a tease because i can't possibly answer all of the really big questions in 45 minutes and my idea here is to give you 300 years this 45 minutes but i will do my best. the fact is that the united states exercises a very unusual role as the nation with the greatest and yet nonetheless, very limited power in the world. the power to determine outcomes in foreign affairs. when things go wrong, people invariably don't we ask, what's the united states going to do about it? we don't say what's mexico going to do about it or switzerland or france or iran. 95% of all soldiers serving on soil other than their own are americans. that includes un peace keepers
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apr and nato troops. so these are americans solving others problems and sometimes creating others. so this raises questions. for example. are we the world's policeman or from another perspective, are we a self-important bully? that imposes its values on others? worse, are we an empire? that as many claim, seeks to dominate the world for its own geopolitical benefit and economic prosperity. that's door number one. door number two, are we as many realist believe, instead, the only power that stands between the world and armageddon between a repetition of the great depression an world war ii or even nuclear devastation of the planet? is that our role? if that's true, must we play
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that role forever regardless of what it costs our schools, our infrastructure, our domestic security, our treasury. our soldiers, our psyche. door number three or is it possible, and this is what my research suggests that the road we've been on for the past 70 years has been a detour. a necessary detour on the main path to which world history has actually been heading since 1648. that now is the time for a course correction. if i'm right, then my book challenges us to transition to the next phase of our national epic. confidently and affirmatively, learning from both successes and failures indeed to be objective, scholars must be as rigorous with identifying what went right
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as with what went wrong. well, as i said, can't cover all of this material and get it all out there but i'm going to come pretty close and for that, you will have to read my book. every author has to put this plug in there so i'm hoping you will. what american umpire does is to try to take 300 years of history and make sense of it so we can understand where we might go. so in today's talk i want to do three things. first of all i want to tell you about why i wrote the book because as kay said i'm also a novelist so i have lots of irons in the fire. i'd also like to explain why i think the reigning scholarly paradigm, this is my second objective to say not only where i wrote the book but the way of looking at the world is i think simply wrong. this is the paradigm that the u.s. is an empire. lastly, i want to propose an
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alternative explanation because this is a very persuasive explanation. in fact, people all around america are starting to call the u.s. an empire. i was watching john stewart the other day and what did john stewart one of my heroes say, isn't the u.s. a big imperial nation? no, john you're wrong but he hasn't called me yet so -- anyway. so what i'd like to propose is this alternative explanation which in a nutshell is that the world as a whole has devised new norms over the past four centuries. that these norms are not just made in america. they are really world wide but that under the press of catastrophic events in the 1940s, the u.s. reluctantly reversed its long-standing policy nonengagement and but adopted one that's akin to it was used
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to playing among its own states. the role of an umpire to compel acquiescence between squabbling governments in moments of crises. at the time we did this, we were the only nation with the relevant experience and requisite capacity. so why did i write this book? well, it is a long story i won't bother you with the whole thing but the way it goes back when i was first interviewing to be a graduate student interviewing for an important national scholarship. i was very excited and nervous about the process. there was a panel of experts who were interviewing me and i was going into the field of what's called diplomatic history at the time. i was asked eager young thing that i was, why do you want to enter a dying field? >> well, i didn't know it was dying until he told me that so i had to bunt very quickly and say well because we can't let it die, right?
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this is too important the subject of america's relationship with the rest of the world. but he was right. as i discovered. in the field of history, it was dying for a couple of reasons. one is that cultural and social history had become very attractive after the 60s and 70s and 80s but i think the other reason why is i think probably a lot of young scholars were instinctively repelled by a field in which there was ever really one answer to every question which is if you were looking at what had happened in the world, the answer was always pretty much america messed up. so whatever the reasons, scholars left the field of american diplomatic history. what happened is that political scientists took it up and they are mostly concerned with modern policy issues. their knowledge of history is not deep. that's not their field. the historians who stayed in the field were historians who generally subscribed and often
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generally still do subscribe to the idea that the american record is one long story of empire and imperialism. that goes back to george washington and ben franklin. but empire i think is a terribly misleadingly term that obscures the challenges as i said facing us today and a misdiagnosis as we know is often more dangerous than no diagnosis at all. because with a misdiagnosis you can make the wrong prescription and in fact, there are groups like al qaeda which also claim the u.s. sis an empire to which there's only one answer which is death to the empire or death to america. what i'd like to do is tell you a little bit about who some of these people are because sometimes i myself think am i exaggerating this that this is the raiceigning way of understanding the u.s. among the
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world or at least my peers in the scholarly community. this is a book by neil ferguson a brit, kol colealous, the rise fall of america. a history of american imperialism. how about among empires by charles mayor, harvard university professor. american ascend hessy and its predecessors. the consequences and realities of u.s. diplomacy and empires, the way of life. the granddaddy of them all. this is actually the 50th anniversary edition of this book. very simply named empire by michael hart and antonio negrie, duke university or irresistible
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empire. one historian said that the u.s. and europe has not had the monroe doctrine but the merylinn monroe doctrine. in price of empires. this is a historian at ucla. by the way i want to suggest that this is not all criticism from the left. sometimes people from the opposite side of the political spectrum will say we need more empires and we wish the u.s. is a better one. that's thoeanother way of interpreting it. this is probably the most famous interpretations of the u.s. is an empire who wrote in fact what's now called the empire trilogy so i sometimes feel like i'm arguing against lord of the rings in edition to everything else because this is really the sort of reigning paradigm.
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the interesting thing about this term empire is that almost nobody defines it with any precision. it is this absolutely sloppy catch all phrase that's used to describe everything from tourism and religion to foreign investment and war. now, i know you're saying why don't you be a little more direct about what you don't like with that term because i actually feel pretty strongly about this but essentially the term to an important extent, it's used to describe most every catastrophe in the world and any catastrophe many which the united states is associated as an outcome of our atetempt to control and really exploit the rest of the world. as if this is the only possible explanation tore america's mistakes or its successes. so to give you a little sense of the peek into this book, all you've seen here are the titles. i want you to get a sense of
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what's the flavor of this criticism. khamers johnson has described as america's bases abroad as quote, striking evidence for those who care to look of an imperial project that the cold war obscured. another historian in this vain who sees himself as a conser conservatives say he's so far to right that he's come around to the left is that the intervention in iraq was quote a war for the imperial because the purpose of american foreign policy in total is quote to expand an an american impeerium. >> on the clearly left side, the world socialist web says quote, iraq was a predatory imperial exist war carried out as part of a long term strategy to reorganize the middle east to secure american interests.
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another british commentator writes quote when people tell me that the american empire is weakening, i say, don't underestimate it. europe and the middle east fall into line whenever the united states says this has to be done and that has to be done. so the only really sovereign nation today is the imperial nation. this is not just in the ivory tower that these accusations are booted around. in fact after the great tragedy of the boston bombing, the neighbors of the tsarnaevs said he went ranting about the american empire. by the way, president obama, this accusation of the u.s. as an empire has been out there to prevalently since 2003 but not
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only does bush but oer balm ob out about this and obama toll the un last year cold the notion of an empire isn't born out by america's current policy. we seek a world in which nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations. the president said this. about an hour later, there was a commentary about this on democracy now. a radio station associated with the nation. at that time, the commentator said, quote, obama basically came out and said the united states is an empeerialist nation and we will do whatever we need to conquer areas and take resources from the world unquote. i don't know what machine he put it in to get that translation out but the point of that is is that when you wear a certain kind of glasses, or maybe a certain kind of hearing aid, you only hear it in a certain way. that's why i think this is a
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terribly important conversation for us to have. so when john stewart and others lively say well we're an imperial nation, i say don't like that line down or at least submit it to analysis. so that's why i'd like to step now to talking about the reigning paradigm in the historical profession and on what basis the united states is called an empire by serious well meaning, you know, virtuous scholars, many of whom are my personal friends. one of the base ises for this i the united states was expansionist throughout the west. here we are in colorado. we know the u.s. expanded over native-american nations an went to war with mexico. that's why we call the u.s. an empire. other people say no, no, no. the main reason to call the u.s. an empire is because of its 20th century military dominance. the bases that we have all around the world and the
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coincidental, not coincidental spread of american values that have seemed to trail along with these bases. so some people say that's why we're an empire. others -- other scholars will say it's the 21st century economic dominance and that our economic dominance, how else do you explain it, right? it must come out of this imperial quest. i was writing this book that harvard press brought out just last year was they thought when i take off these glasses and hearing device that filters evide evidence, he actually find there's a lot of very obvious evidence that argues against these forms of interpretation. the u.s. is an empire because it expanded across the west. that does sound fairly imperialistic doesn't it especially considering the war against mexico. it sounds that way until you
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learn context of that. in the early 19th century this has happening -- i like this picture because it shows what a crazy quilt latin america was after it declared independence. in fact what happens was that there were 21 border wars very similar to the u.s. sl/mexican border wars. this one shows the latin america/pacific where chunks were taken out of bolivia. very identical in many ways to the american expansion. so if we want to call chile an empire or argentina an empire i say do it but those became states in which the rights of citizenship became defined a different way. they are very different from
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empires. they are just a different animal. by the way they didn't stop at budding up against their neighbors, they also expanded against native-american people. vast campaigns taken to dispossess native-americans of their lands. those are horrible events. we all know how horrific these kinds of campaigns were, very brutal an yet this is what nation states were doing. the 19th century is the era we know as nationalism and nationalism is often not pretty. the standards of nationalism have changed over the years. we don't call it empire because it's a little bit of a different thing. now the other reason why we tend to compare the united states to empires of the past is because of military bases. now, again, that seems logical on the face of it. accept when you consider that when the united states has military bases abroad, it has it on the basis of a contractual
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agreement with the host country. you know what, the host can kick us out. you know what happens when the host kicks us out, we go. empires don't exact that way. they don't. in fact, i like to show this slide because this is the years that the united states was in france before our oldest ally kicked us out after world war ii. they said yankee go hope. i'm sure they said it in some nice polite french sort of way perhaps with a glass of wine but in any case, the united states left. they asked us to leave add we did. the same is true of u.s. bases in the philippines and elsewhere where the united states has left after a period of time. in fact everywhere the united states has intervened it has ultimately left. now the other reason why people will sometimes say the u.s. san empire is because of its economic prowess. i always like to say to this, consider one fact. the united states has the
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world's largest economy in 1890. 1890 before the first doughboy hit the shores of france. before the united states joined united nations. any such things. so america's economic story is a very different story from that of empire. and this is where we all get stuck. we say yes, but the united states is the primary garuarant of world security. why do we get involved in all of these other countries. now, by the way, the jap on ease call , japanese call it the doctrine which translates into let america do it. now, why is that? this came out of world war ii. in fact one of the interesting parts of this story is that there wasn't one country other than the united states that was willing to sign a peace treaty with japan at the end of the world war ii because of its
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behavior in that war. you think nazi germany was bad, but because of japanese empiriali empirialism, nobody was willing to sign a peace treaty. it wasn't until 1951 that there was a second peace treaty. what happened is in the very same week that the peace treaty was signed with multiple countries with japan. that was at the end of the week. at the beginning of the week, the united states signed something that promised australia and new zealand that we would be there again if japan ever did that again. at the same time we signed a treaty that we would be there. >> after that everybody was willing to sign a peace treat
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ky to rehabilitate japan and principling bring it back to the modern world. the united states undertook this role. part of the reason it's so hard for us to understand exactly how the world unfolded is because we do see the fact that the united states's influence has spread at the same time that there has been a spread of certain values which we tend to call american values but i don't think that we need to explain this as being all a part of a plot for the united states to rob others of their autonomy and their resources. the reason for that is because the very same 70 years in which the united states has had its greatest period of influence, is the same period of time in which the number of sovereign countries, autonomous countries able to make their own decisions has actually quadrupled from 50 to 200. in the time of the greatest economic prosperity in all of
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human history. how can that be an example of imperialism. what is the alternative explanation. phase three of this talk. this is why i wrote the book. this is why i think the other guys are wrong. so what is my idea? well, i think that one way -- the best way we can explain the spread of american values is because they are not american. if we wish to understand america in the world we actually need to know something about the world. what world history shows is that the spread of useful techniques of human governance and economic production have always spread outward from their point of origin. that a lot of these values, some of them did not originate in the united states and even those that did, me is spread outward because other people wanted them not because they were coerced in any way. owe give you an example of this.
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about 30 years ago if anyone had said to you, you will all have a computer in your pocket in nirt ye 30 years you would be thinking how will i walk. the fact is that we all have computers in our pockets and this is not because apple had to coerce anybody to buy its iphone. people line-up to buy the iphone. so we now have these devices from silicon valley to siberia. i think what we have to compare this to the fact that there have been other monumental changes in human history that we don't deny. similarly human governance has changed. i think of this as the transition from the paleo lithic to neolithic. when farming was invented
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discovered. another change was industrial arevolution. nobody goes around saying you must drive a car you chinese person. no, people want cars and machine because of the valuable things that they bring to human life. we don't go around when we order a sandwich saying i'd like a ham and cheese on iraqi bread because wheat was made there or i want a mexican corn dog, silly examples could go on. the fact is that -- i think this is absolutely true. a similar ethical transition has gone on in human government. the united states has been a big part of that. to give you a sense of that, the united states became a big part of the transition which was a transition that took place over many centuries from empires that
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competed militarily towards capitalist republics that compete economically. it's just the world we have. the u.s. has been a big part of that not because it forced other people to do this rather they reler elected to. in a way, its stature grew because like the iphone, it was cool. now to give you a sense of this, the latin-american rooer pepubl after the united states was formed, latin america countries -- colonies began to break away from spain and portugal. they all declared themselves republics like the united states had done. did the united states make them do this? no, we were this little country at that time. we did not. in fact they went one better than us. they took the ideas and they ran farther in some ways. they abolished slavery, 40, 50
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years before the united states did. france, also declared a republic. did we make them do that, no? nevertheless, the united states was important because it showed that certain things could be done. things that people had talked about for generations upon generatilations but they though were all silly pipe dreams. the united states showed you could have a chief executive that retired after a designated term also that it was possible to create durable peace among competing states in which would be on some basis other than a volatile balance of military power. thirdly that you could have open commerce across boarders. if you want to know why the united states was wealthy by 1890 on global terms, a lot of that had to do with open commerce across state boarders. we had the european union a long time before they had the
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european union. in any case, what the united states did is that it showed that there were certain kinds of pipe dreams that he could actually realize. as was said by a french observer in 1830. he was such an interesting fellow. he was somebody who knew washington. he knew jefferson. he was there on the ground when the revolutionary war was occurring. he was also the diplomat for france who arranged the louisiana purchase. he came back to see america in 1830. he marvelled at it. he said i saw a former president walking along the sidewalk. he just thought that was the most amazing thing. he said the government of the united statess into model in ancient and modern times what the united states demonstrated is possibilities much as majelain demonstrated that the world was not flat.
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he didn't make the world round, he simply circumstance um n circumnavigated it. >> i think it's better than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. they have too much of an american flavor. these are really world values. the transition by which nations replaced empires. this happened. this has happened over a period of many years. really it begins with the treaty of west falia in 1648 when the europeans kick out papel authority and say no, we are states onto ourselves and continues through the break up of the soviet union in 1991. it's a long process but it does happen. now what do i mean by these values? i would like oto explain them very briefly because we're coming up to our time dooeadlin
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but i'd like to begin with adam smith who wrote the wealth of nations in 1776 he talked a lot about the fact that if nations were open, that if trade could proceed in an open way that not only would society become freer but it would become more personally fulfilling and also more prosperous and wealthy.
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in any case, china did close itself off for about 50 -- 40, 50 years. what they found however is by closing off all access to the west, they actually becoming poorer and poorer. so in 1979 ping did a 180. not because china lost the cold war. not because china ceased being communist after its own definition. but because ping saw china falling through the cracks. he initiated a policy called opening up. as a result of that something like 3 million chinese have been pulled up out of poverty. so many people ask me, how can we trust china? i say we don't necessarily have to trust china but we can trust the process. the trial process that has made it in the self-interest of
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nations, like china, to open up their markets and compete with others. the principle of arbitration is very old principle. this is a peace treesy of west fail yeah of 1648. the idea, how about this, instead of nations warring with each other to advance their interest, maybe they should arbitrate their interests. that would be a better -- not only a more moral way of getting on in the way but a more profitable way of getting along in the world. the first example of this is the peace of westphalia which predates the united states by at least 125 years, something like that. but the united states had an equivalent of it. i always like to point to the constitutional convention. america was kind of weird -- well, america still is weird. but part of its weirdness is the idea you could have states that were neighbors and normally the
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traditional idea was your neighbor was always going to be your worst enemy. why? who's going to steal your stuff first? your neighbor. look at ukraine and russia today. it's your neighbor you have to watch out for. so the united states formed an arbitrational process by creating a federal government design basically to coral states that otherwise might come to blows. the last principle is the principle of transparency. i like to show mikhail gorbachev because transparen serves arbitration. you can't have either without transparency. this is certainly not just a western vibe today. the policy of gorbachev who benefitted for the benefit of his own country, not because -- at that time anyway, not because he lost the cold war. this truly has been a transnational value. have you noticed the swiss have been in trouble in recent years
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because they're nontransparent to the banking. who thought we would see glass windows in the swiss bank fault? the criticism you could make is you are insufficiently transparent. that's not good. so this is truly an international value. so the outward spread of these new tools for human organization explains the spread of american values without coercion. but it doesn't explain why the united states got involved. why the united states jumped with both feet in 1947 into the world we continue to have today. and i think that the answer is not just an answer which naturally enough will say, well, world war ii and then the cold war and the soviet union seem to be on the verge of nabbing western europe. everybody else was devastated. who was going to take up this kudjul, so to speak. the british war on wartime rations until 1955.
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until 1955 the british rations for butter, cheese, meat, and other basic foods. the cricket has gone off. thank you. in any case, the united states did this for reasons that go beyond the historical moment. there's something in our dna. there's something in our dna. and it goes back to this word umpire. it was a word our founders used to explain what they were trying to create by creating a union of sovereign states that would prevent ultimately these sovereign states from falling out amongst each other. and so in the federalist papers they explain this. if you read the federalist papers you'll see such quotes. john jay, one of the authors of the federalist papers he wrote, in disputes between the states the umpire would decide between them to compel acquiesce sense. alexander hamilton who organized those papers -- here he noted
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that athens and sparta did so much worse stuff to each other than persia ever threatened because tiny states butting up against each other with intense rivalries. james madison said what better umpires, quote, could be better than representatives in congress. the federalists created what they called an umpire, higher sovereignty with the job and coercive responsibility that imperial metropols played throughout history. no state could expand its borders within another state, a sister state, so to speak. and the federal government in extremis would intervene in crisis -- you can count on one
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hand the time the federal government has done this because it's dangerous. it's dangerous out there. the whisky rebellion of 1794. the nullification crisis of 1833. the civil war of 1861. the little rock integration crisis of 1957 and so on. and so today, the united nations enjoys a status which is very similar to the u.s. before we had a constitution. which is to say, that there is a union among states. but u.n. security council has limited powers of enforcement, has no powers of taxation, has no army, no navy. so, how can it exercise this umpiral role? so part of what happened at the end of world war ii when the u.s. was pressed, truly pressed by its allies. not the soviet union but others. to come in and fulfill this role, the united states had experience in the role. explains why when france told us to leave, we did, because the
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umpire is not there to take the place of the states. it's there to facilitate the functioning of the states. so what has been the consequences of all of this for the united states and the world? being an umpire is a dangerous and difficult job. the consequences when you get it wrong can be terrible. whether it's south korea or south carolina. because our worst war ever was in south carolina -- began in south carolina. so, the results have been mixed. i think in many cases the united states got it right and in some cases we got it really wrong. the u.s. held the line in west berlin and that turned out very well. south korea as well. we're still holding the line in south korea. we held what looked at the time like a very similar line in south vietnam, and that was a terrible, terrible mistake. terrible disaster. and we've had to make a lot of terrible and hard calls. in iraq in 2003 we misdiagnosed
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weapons of mass destruction. in iran in 1953 we misdiagnosed the threat of communism but at the same time we functioned as a umpire not an empire. the u.s. defend the the territory of egypt. we threw our best friends, france and britain, out of the game, and we allowed things to resume. we did not take the place of the sovereign government of egypt. what happened after world war ii is that the world entered what historians call an economic golden age. all kinds of historians will tell you this. it's also true that in every decade since the second world war, violence between states has gone down. in every single decade. since 1947. now, what are the results been for the united states? those are the results in the world. some bad, some actually quite good, dramatically good. well, one of the problems for the united states is that we have become, you know, the
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defender of all. our best allies spent our very best allies spent 1% to 2% of gross domestic product on defense. we spend 4% to 5%, depending on what era we're in. 85% to 90% of our defense budget goes to the protection of shores, other than our own. and as our muscles bulge, everybody else's muscles atrophy. that's what happens with muscles when you don't use them. this shows you aircraft carriers. we have close to a couple dozen. france has one. china has one. et cetera, et cetera. we were first in per capita income in 1950. we are 17th in per capita income today. we are 50th, 50th in the world in life expectancy. the u.s. had a structural trade deficit beginning in 1971 and we've been a debtor country since 1985. our trade imbalance was $40 billion a year in 1992. today it is $40 billion a month.
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we remain a prosperous and vibrant country, but we don't have to remain the only umpire of the world. former defense minister peter mckay has called for allies to help share the burden. and i think we need to hear more. and we need to do more to create the expectation that it's time for others to not just step up to the plate, but step behind the plate as the umpire. this won't be easy but it is possible. tragedies will occur, as world history amply shows. but the most stable system is one that all nations want and most are prepared to defend. realists or unrealistic in thinking america can or should do it all. those who describe america as an empire are naive in assuming only washington wants or writes the rules. the other problem with the use of the word empire is you see umpires -- umpires are never popular. and by definition, they can't
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win. that's bad enough. but to call ourselves an empire, to volunteer for this label, which is one the most pejorative in the last 100 years is to put a large "kick me" sign on the back of ourselves. because umpires do make mistake. they're never entirely neutral, their field of vision is imperfect and they cannot win. but no one wants to play the game without them. understanding the need for better, more equitable, more sustainable mechanisms of global enforcement allows us to have better conversations here, in denver, and around the world, about how to make this happen. because good leaders develop new leaders. placing responsibility squarely on europe and other regions that benefit just as much as we do from a peaceful world is not a matter of cowardess or decline. it is a matter -- it is a test of our courage. thank you.
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thank you very much. i think jan is going to take questions -- well, i'm going to take the questions but she's going to help me. well, i like to think i've solved everything. >> thank you very much. i haven't had a chance to read your book. you may have referred to this, but when you talk about the role of umpire, could you explain the role of the cia? in that? could you also just talk a little built aboutit about assa? we can talk about that all around the world. and what is that role of america? >> absolutely. >> thank you. >> and the word umpire, it's not a perfect term, obviously. and an umpire on a ball field doesn't have secret service running around, et cetera. in the united states what's happened is united states took up a security role. and sometimes we've played that
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very badly and sometimes we've played it very well. as i tried to give you -- i think there are some measures which suggest overall it's gone well. it's gone disastrously in some places. one thing it certainly has done is bring us right into the thick of all the age-old forms of enforcement. and enforcement is rarely pretty. and as we know, you know, police officers today in america, you know, they're armed citizens around them are armed. it creates very ugly situations. and the united states has had a policy -- well, we ruled assassinations out. then we kind of ruled them in. it's been back and forth. but it certainly has created some very ugly scenarios. i don't think those are inconsistent with the idea, however, that this is -- you know, what has been a part of modern enforcement, whether that's true of the interpol, you know, most nation states, especially those of any size do
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have secret services and do have intelligent services. the other weird thing about the united states, which goes back to transparency, the united states is the only country i'm aware of in world history that created a secret agency, and then announced it. in 1947 the united states passed national security act and we said, we're starting a spy agency over here. by the way, when did britain acknowledge the existence of mi6? 1994, '95. sis, secret intelligence service, in 2001. so, spy services really are a part of the modern world. but again, the united states is this odd hybrid. we try to do it in ways consistent with our values. at the same time, obviously, it's a tough situation. other questions?
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by the way, happy to tell you, i myself, am shy about questions. i know you don't believe this. when i sit in your seat i think, oh, that sounds dumb. i can't ask that. so, if you ask any question, i'll be totally thrilled. >> i have one. >> thank you. >> that is after your interesting and provocative introduction. where should we be going now? most of us are not as well read. your background has such comprehensiveness to it, i thought maybe you had some thoughts on our future. >> well, this is where historians fear to tread. but i am treading in this territory now. to me it seems self-evident that if you have a world system that rests on one pillar, that's not as stable as a system that has multiple pillars. certainly was the case that both franklin delano roosevelt and harry truman expected all american troops would come home after the end of world war ii.
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the united nations would take upon its role coordinating this difficult, bumpy process as winston churchill said, the worst thing about fighting with allies is not fighting with -- is fighting -- not fighting alongside allies. so, there was an expectation that the world wouldn't be a perfect place but it would be on multiple supports. that all got kicked out because of what happened at the end of world war ii. there was too much devastation across asia, too much devastation across europe for that to be practicable, especially considering the expansive soviet role at that time. so, 70 years, i think, is enough. and i know this is hard. and it's frightening. but that's why i say we need history to see trajectories. we can say, listen, we're not the only ones whose interests are at stake here. in fact, i said this to a european friend once who was giving it out to me as usual, we americans were such bruisers, et cetera. i said, you know, deon, we could
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probably afford better than almost anybody. if anybody was going to be artargic, meaning not trading with the rest of the world, we could roll up our carpets to europe and asia and said, we could be the most self-sufficient country. he got the most horrified look on his face. you wouldn't go home, right? because the fact is the money we all pay and the lives that we spend and the families that we risk are ours. and so when people say, what do you -- what are you going to solve in fak stan next week? how are you going to correct isis in, you know, iraq the week after that? i think we must begin to say, what are you going to do? because, honestly, it's your homes that are going to be bombed and your lives that are on the line. it's so easy to sit back. i think china's a good example of this in south korea. again, what are we doing there 60 years later? we're upholding an arm stis.
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there's not a peace treaty. i would love to see peace there. obviously, 60 years of doing the same thing isn't producing that. and maybe these countries, which are now prosperous, thriving, democratic countries, in the case of south korea and japan, maybe there's more they can do. and maybe there's more that china can do. because we always get to be bad cop if china gets to play good cop. and it's time to start reversing those things. but i think that unless we begin to step back, others won't step up. and that's a frightening process. we have the tiger by the tail. unless you establish a goal, you will never get there. >> you've touched on what my question was, but, you know, i think after afghanistan and iraq, most of us, including me, wanted to say, let's just look at our home.
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let's look at what we can do for america. we have a lot of needs here. let's just stop this. and then isis comes along. and i'm looking at russia and the ukraine. and i'm thinking, why are we involved in what russia and the -- does with the ukraine? i mean, is that any of our concern? isis is a question mark right now whether they really are a threat to america or not. so, yeah, if you would comment a little more about that, i would love it. >> these contemporary crises are always frightening. i'm making a documentary right now on the question of balance between guns and better. what our foreign involvements do in terms of our ability to invest here at home and how we can balance those things out. i agree. we have a concern because we're part of the world.
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the united states is very -- is a vibrant member of the international community. supports the u.n. is a funder of many international institutions. that would and should continue. but i think it's time to start distinguishing more clearly between existential crises, which, in fact, the entire global system, and things which are regional in character. as horrible as they are, as terrible as they are. i like to compare the syrian war with our civil war, because they happened at the same time. there was actually a syrian civil war at the time of the american civil war. what happened in the syrian civil war in that period, 1860, is that the europeans were horrified, you know, at the blood shed. they decided, should we intervene? they did. they sent troops. they stopped the blood shed. the american civil war, by the way, about 10,000 syrians died. in the american civil war, about
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100,000 americans died. they didn't intervene there. our war burned out. it eventually burned out. it's sad and tragic as it was, even though it accomplished an important task, it was a very tragic war for us. and i'm not sure anybody intervening in that could have changed that for us. the syrian civil war continues. intervention isn't always the best thing. >> thank you for your discussion tonight. it seems that much of your opinion follows along and supports the obama doctrine, if i'm right. that we are strong, we are leaders. we don't necessarily need to intervene or intervene with warfare. we are already intervening with our ideas and our -- and our --
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you know, our influence. but there in the ukraine, right now putin is not renegotiating the borders of the ukraine. he is choosing to bring -- to escalate it with the military. how does that fit into -- how should we respond? how should the u.s. respond? how does this fit into this new obama doctrine? >> several questions going on there. as a part of this work i'm doing right now, in this documentary, mentioning we interviewed general who took over for david petraeus in iraq. and one of the things he pointed out i thought was very wise. he says, our enemies will bring us the opportunity for coalition building. the old saying, you don't make peace treaties with your friends up.
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make peace treaties with your enemies. we need to make coalitions with unusual partners, whether it's in fighting isis or the crisis in the ukraine. and what we -- there's never going to be a good moment to say we step back, you guys step up. because there's always going to be a flash point. but we have to start somewhere. we have to begin the process. is that the obama doctrine, per se? actually, i think the american people are showing, as one lady here just said, not just what we call the war weariness. i think it's a kind of wisdom, honestly. there's been a poll that's been taken since the early 1960s asking should we intervene in the rest of the world or let the world get along as best it can? this is a poll the pew polls have been forward. the numbers since the 1960s, yes, we need to make the world make its own way has gone up and up. this past year it's above 50%. that's not just a democratic sentiment. in fact, ironically, condoleeza
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rice, george bush's adviser, was famous for saying, before george bush was elected, although that was a disputed election. we won't go there. but when he was -- before his inauguration, she had said, it's time for america to not take on every humanitarian crises because people will see us as an empire because we need to let other people take care of their own dirty laundry, et cetera, et cetera. but then we're presented with a cries, 9/11. in the case of 9/11, when there an existential crisis that hits us here at home, you can see why it's important to respond. but something that's 8,000 miles away, where there are a lot of other competent, prosperous, decent nations surrounding that area who can weigh in if they choose to. if they choose not to, then shame on them. does that affect us? do we need to go in there and save it? no. of course, the odd thing about
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the end of the cold war is it gave us more people to defend. before we knew that there was an iron curtain. everybody back there had been left behind the lines. so sorry. but at least we don't have to defend them, too. now the cold war -- iron curtain goes up and now we've got all the others on our laps. part of the problem here too, by the way, this is a larger question and actually sanford institution -- hoover institution i've discussed this with condi rice, who is coming here to denver soon, which is lovely. she was confirming something i've been thinking about as a historical problem, but one of the things that happened is nationalism has taken hold as empires have disappeared. it's like when predators go away, prey proliferate. we've got more deer when you get rid of the grizzly bears. so, there are no empires. the number of small nation states just keeps going every year, the maps have to be changed. the problem with that, and many good things with that, but one
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problem with that is when nation states aren't competent, nobody picks them off anymore. the herd, so to speak. and so what happens is you have a lot of small nation states, and we all applaud that. but at the same time, the fact is that not all of these nation states are competent to run their economies. they struggle with internal cohesion. and, again, that has also increased the number of possible people we have to defend because they have a right to self-determination. but why us? why almost only us? that's not right. and i don't think it's not just not right, it's not sustainable. it's not practical. we americans are practical people. >> with respect to nuclear proliferation, how do you see that issue evolving in the future and what is the role of the united states or any other country that is in europe, et
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cetera? >> that's such an excellent and complex question about nuclear proliferation. and that's the kind of issue where we can say, this is an existential issue. this could lead to the destruction of major cities, it could lead to the devastation of the entire planet. so there american leadership, you know, using the soft power that we have, you know, putting forward a better example than we have done at times, continuing the efforts that were made during the period of detante, during the presidency of george h.w. bush, to dial back on nuclear arms. i think those are incredibly important initiatives. the united states will be and has been an excellent world citiz citizen, in most ways. in some ways we've been terrible. who's perfect? and sometimes it's been with terrible consequences. but the fact is is that we do need to exert leadership on this kind of question.
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you have to distinguish between the big questions and the small, regional ones. >> just a question using an analogy of the swamp and the alligators. i think we can all agree on the long-term goal and the movement of history. but right now people in our government are saying, we should bomb in syria regardless if we have boots on the ground or not to bite the head of isis. others are saying, don't do that. let the locals take care of this. this is not our problem so we have a dilemma, and maybe tomorrow night we'll hear what is going to happen, but from your perspective, if you had to make that decision now, i'm hearing you -- i think i know where you're going to go, but i don't know that because i don't know you. if you had to make that decision right now, do you bomb the head in isis and syria, without boots on the ground, or say, look, this is -- you guys have to step
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up. we've done our part. what would your decision be? call in the air force or say, pull them back? >> if it were me, an unelected individual, perhaps for good reason, i would say absolutely, you people need to figure this out. not because it's not bad. but first of all, isis is not going to invade new york, right? okay, they might try to bomb a new york tower. i mean, bad stuff happens. but the fact is the sunni/shia divide, which is part of all of that. le caliphate is a sunni thing. they hate it. they need to figure that out. there are sunni governments not stepping up, shia governments not stepping up. and if we go in there to stop this problem, which is an important problem, but if we go in to solve it for them, it will probably not solve it. we started that process in 2003. it has not gotten better for the most part. despite heroic sacrifices.
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yes. >> bill :ton has said his biggest regret of piz presidency was not intervening in rwanda. when do we as a powerful, rich nation have a moral obligation to intervene in a humanitarian crisis like genocide? >> this really comes under the rubric of what the united nations is now calling the responsibility to protect, which was, as i understand it, i'm not deeply familiar with this, but this was canada mostly initiating this will motion, and essentially the united states gets nominated to take on the responsibility. again, thank you, canada. this responsibility to protect is important. obviously, this goes back to the holocaust and the belief we should not allow things like this to happen again. part of this goes back to the problem of the proliferation of nation states, small nation states, where you do not have imperial power which has some responsibility for policing the
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local populations. i know that's bill clinton's greatest regret. i think that other african nations had a much greater responsibility. not only did the united states under clinton apologize for not helping this country, which i think maybe 6,000 miles away. but i think maybe -- i can't remember the other -- maybe it was holland. somebody else also apologized. i did not hear an apology from the organization for african unity. i did not hear an apology from, you know, the arab states. i think that if we believe as a world community that these things are important, then we must put the responsibility on the world community. again, up, for us to take the shame of having not done that, i think just ups a little more everybody else' expectations for all the problems that the united states should have, could have, would have solved in country after country when countries
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aren't competent to solve their own problems. so, it is tragic. my heart goes out to these people, victims of isis to ukrainians, you know, really, really does. as a historian you get very involved in the lives of people who have suffered historically. my heart is engaged now. but i think that long-term solutions, not band-aids, are local solutions. >> i think that's a terrific place to stop. i think i thank you. i'm not sure. [ applause ] what i am sure of is you have given us a whole new framework to analyze our thinking against. and it's going to be tough. and i will also say that if you missed it last night and you want to hear a different point of view, go online and look at
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don lemons interview last night with raza aslan. he has a different point of view, particularly about isis. it was interesting to me to hear you tonight, having heard him last night. i think we all thank you so much for coming to denver. we hope you'll come again soon. >> thank you. >> here are just a few of the comments we've recently received from our viewers. >> calling to comment on a debate i saw between bruce fine and a man named john uh regarding the declaration of war and the war powers act. quite interesting to watch the legal debate. and it also demonstrated some of the ineptitude of the neocon proposition that from the
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beginning of any war, the president is the ultimate hearsay of the countries ability to go to war. >> i would like to commend c-span2 for airing the information from the writers on grief and the military. it was excellent information that gave depth, interaction, and dynamic and nuances, and the reality, for instance, that post-traumatic stress disorder can climb up and can be resolved if you continue to try various interventions. >> i think american history tv
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on c-span is one of the best programs available. i wish we could do it more than once a week. >> and continue to let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. e-mail us at or send us a tweet at c-span #comments. join the c-span conversation, "like" us on facebook, follow us on twitter. next on american history tv, stanford university history professor jack rakove talks about james madison's role in the crease of the constitution. he also exmroefrs madison's arguments in the federalist papers, co-published with alexander hamilton and john jay. annapolis hosted this event. this is 90 minutes. >> i am chris nelson, the president of st. john's college.
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ist my great pleasure to welcome you to the college for great issues forum, sponsored by the friends of st. john's. we have a rich tradition at the college of encouraging life-long learning and inviting our friends, neighbors and wider community to join us for programs such as today's lecture. we gather as fellow learners to seek a greater understanding of enduring and challenging questions. for the past two decades, the great issues forum has brought the campus noted leaders and thinkers. elliott richardson, former attorney general, known as hero of watergate, commentator and political adviser, richard gergen, sandra day o'connor, arthur ashe, thomas king, governor of new jersey and chairman of the 9/11 commission. so, jack, you've got a


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