Saucy Dog’s Barbeque food and foreign policy discussion attracted an overflow crowd of about 120 people to Lane Hall Sept. 15.
The Alexander Hamilton Society held a debate between Robert Lieber, professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University, and Thomas West, Hillsdale College professor of politics, to debate the future of American foreign policy. Alexander Hamilton Society President John Gage said during an election season, a conversation on foreign policy was needed.
Lieber argued the United States’ foreign policy is too hands-off under President Barack Obama, while West, on the other hand, claimed the U.S. military intervenes too often and for the wrong reasons.
West said, drawing from ideas discussed by the American Founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, that the purpose of U.S. foreign policy is “to secure American’s rights, which means to protect citizens against injury at home and abroad, and refrain from attacking or interfering with other nations unless attacked or threatened.”
Lieber agreed with these principles in theory, but he said they are too narrow for today.
“We live in a world that’s globalized,” Lieber said. “Our adversaries halfway around the world can launch an attack on us. The U.S. has to be engaged with its allies, and doing this is in our interest.”
Lieber said Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest threat to the United States, while West claimed Lieber’s foreign policy views were stuck in the Cold War and that these countries are not a danger — so long as America doesn’t let terrorists into the country.
Lieber, however, said limiting immigration alone is not enough to keep America safe. He suggested an American presence in the Middle East to ensure stability, though he sharply criticized the George W. Bush and Obama administrations for how they handled affairs there.
Lieber added that America should promote capitalism and democracy, defend international institutions, support allies, and ensure regional stability.
Hillsdale Professor of History Paul Rahe, who attended the event, said alliances in Europe and Asia are helpful, but those in the Middle East need rethinking.
“I think they’re gonna fight there for 100 years,” Rahe said. “We can stamp out terrorism in one place, and it will pop up somewhere else. It could be in our interest to let them fight as long as they’re killing each other.”
Gage said the society will have two more outside speakers come to Hillsdale this semester to debate.
“The single most important thing the federal government does is foreign policy, and there is no outlet on this campus for that debate, except for the Alexander Hamilton Society,” Rahe said.