UNF hosts lecture on America’s role in the changing world

Jessica May

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The question, “Is America in decline?” was posed to a group of 500 to 600 people at the Herbert University Center Tuesday, Oct. 16 by Walter Mead.

Mead is a Distinguished Fellow at Hudson Institute, the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and the Global View Columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He graduated from Groton and Yale and has served on the Council on Foreign Relations as the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, according to the UNF Special Events website.

UNF’s lecture on America’s role in the chanign world was hosted in the Herbert University Center. Photo by Jessica May.

To explain America’s alleged decline, Mead started by saying, “I am now pushing 70 and, through my entire life, the subject of American decline has been a constant scene of political chatter and conversation.”

“Everything was getting scarier in America: the missile gap, the space race, the national debt, the Vietnam war, Watergate and Vietnam syndrome. America felt like it was in decline,” Mead said.

He explained that we cannot judge whether or not America is in decline until everything settles down. Once everything is done growing, changing and things stop being revolutionized, that is when we can determine if America is in decline.

“Everyone wants to look at America and say it is in decline, but they don’t really see where we’re starting from. We still have a very big role to play, it’s just a constantly changing role,” Associate Professor of political science David Schwam-Baird said. “Every time we see crisis, everytime we see instability, we go ‘uh oh’. But it’s new challenges just popping up.”

“America is a revolutionary force in foreign affairs. We are the world’s chief fire marshall. We are also the chief arsonists,” he explained.

In fact, Mead traveled through two areas of the world in order to investigate and discuss American foreign policy: China and the Middle East.

UNF hosted a lecture on America’s role in the changing world. photo by Jessica May.

With regard to the importance of the Middle East to America, Mead discussed how, even though America can survive without the Middle East’s oil, the rest of the world cannot.

“The disappearance of the Middle East in American foreign policy will not affect the of oil in the United States, but despite our fracking, we cannot ignore the Middle East,” Mead said. “It’s not just us who needs the oil, Japan, China and Europe also need that oil. America’s economy would crash if Japan and China and Europe’s economy suffered, which would happen through the lack of the middle east’s oil.”

Despite the “self-imploding” governments of the Middle East, Mead said, “We cannot let any single country dominate the middle east. Anyone who had control of the world’s oil spigot, they could hold the rest of the world ransom.”

The lack of the Middle East’s presence in the world would create a worldwide economic crisis, Mead explains.  

“No American president can ignore that problem,” Mead said.


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