Associate Professor of Economics Charles Steele speaks on the idea of the United States as the world's mediator. (Elena Creed/Collegian)
Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele speaks on the idea of the United States as the world’s mediator. (Elena Creed/Collegian)

Last night, faculty members clashed over the topic of the United States as world arbiter.
The panel, spon­sored by the Hillsdale College Student Vet­erans Asso­ci­ation, con­sisted of Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Pol­itics John Grant, Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele, and College Chaplain Peter Beckwith.
“It’s a fun­da­men­tally prob­lematic issue,” pres­ident of the asso­ci­ation senior Nathan Seither said. “What phi­losophy should animate us as a hege­monic power? When we look into recent events, we see some of the problems with that phi­losophy, namely ISIS. Yet, how have coun­tries like Germany and Japan been suc­cessful?”
In a broader sense, the panel members con­sidered the dis­cussion an important way to gather per­spec­tives.
“I always look forward to hearing how my col­leagues in other depart­ments approach things,” Steele said. “It’s a great way to learn.”
Grant said these kinds of dis­cus­sions not only help the pro­fessors, but also the audience as well.
“I think panel dis­cus­sions can be valuable because they give the audience the chance to hear a variety of informed per­spec­tives on the same topic in one setting,” he said. “Ideally, this helps facil­itate the pursuit of truth, which is the goal of any genuine liberal edu­cation.”
The central question of the panel came from dis­cus­sions by the vet­erans at their monthly meeting, according to Mike Aavang, vice pres­ident of the asso­ci­ation.
“We put it out there to the vets and we got a lot of good ideas,” he said. “Nate and I sat down and went through them all. We thought this par­ticular topic had a lot of rel­e­vance to con­tem­porary events. It felt like a fertile ground for dis­cussion.”
Aavang also said this par­ticular topic held impor­tance for vet­erans of recent wars.
We have this whole gen­er­ation of young vet­erans who are feeling dis­il­lu­sioned after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars because they saw all of the loss during the war and now it looks like it’s all for nothing,” he said. “Now, they’re won­dering, ‘What the heck is going on here?’”
The dis­cussion itself pro­duced no major dif­fer­ences of opinion between the panel members, with all agreeing that America should not be a global arbiter. Each brought dif­ferent per­spec­tives on the issue, however.
“Maybe it’s not a good idea to let in people on a tourist visa to take one-way flying lessons,” Grant said, focusing on the par­ticular problems that come with a porous border rather than inter­vening in foreign affairs.
“Take Japan and Germany. We oblit­erated those coun­tries, and have sus­tained mil­itary oper­a­tions within them for 70 plus years,” Beckwith said. “That’s not doable in every sit­u­ation. Also, the use of combat for political pur­poses is a total failure. It failed in Vietnam, and it failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When you go to war, let the war­riors run it.”
Steele focused on the dif­fer­ences in soci­eties and the insti­tu­tions that arise from them.
“Do you really think that estab­lishing the same formal insti­tution in dif­ferent soci­eties will produce the same outcome? If you say no, then you agree with me. If you say yes, then I’ve got some nice tropical beach­front property in North Dakota to sell you.”
Aavang said the asso­ci­ation plans to con­tinue the panel dis­cus­sions every semester. Aavang said he would like to see a greater con­nection between vet­erans and the college com­munity.
“There’s a reason the college recruits vet­erans,” he said. “We’re extremely approachable, and we are more than happy to answer ques­tions about the mil­itary or any­thing else. We want to be a resource for the college.”