U.S. role in international relations debated at Ford School

Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 9:05pm

Former Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky discusses the importance of U.S. international leadership in foreign affairs along with former Ambassador Richard Boucher and former Department of Defense analyst Phillip Lohaus at Weill Hall on Thursday.

Former Ambassador Melvyn Levitsky discusses the importance of U.S. international leadership in foreign affairs along with former Ambassador Richard Boucher and former Department of Defense analyst Phillip Lohaus at Weill Hall on Thursday. Buy this photo
Matt Vailliencourt/Daily

 

Phillip Lohaus, a research fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, discussed the role of America in international leadership at the Ford School of Public Policy Thursday.

Lohaus, who worked as an analyst at the Department of Defense from 2006 to 2012, was the editor for the AEI report “Why American Leadership Still Matters,” which was authored by former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I–Conn.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R–Ariz.). The report advocates for an increase in United States involvement in foreign affairs, and the promotion of free enterprise principles globally.

In his opening address, Lohaus told the audience that U.S. involvement in international affairs has had a positive impact on the international economy and global security, and current patterns of disengagement have had troubling consequences.

“Events, since 2013, have highlighted just how much is at stake when America pulls back from its leadership role in world affairs,” Lohaus said. “In Europe, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has annexed the Crimean Peninsula and conducted an undeclared war in Eastern Ukraine, and in the Middle East the ongoing Syrian Civil War has had a devastating toll in lives lost and refugees created and has created a space for the armies of the Islamic State to conquer key Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Mosul.”

In defining “Why American Leadership Still Matters,” Lohaus said the collaborators on the report identified three pillars of American engagement in the world, which he stated were military security, economics and human freedom.  

Former ambassadors and current Ford School Profs. Richard Boucher and Melvyn Levitsky also joined the discussion panel.

Boucher, a former U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, responded to Lohaus, saying he believed the report relied too heavily on platitudes.  

“It uses phrases like ‘proactive,’ ‘persistent’ and ‘powerful’ — which, frankly to most of the world sounds like ‘pushy,’ ‘preachy’ and ‘punchy,’ ” Boucher said.

He urged that the government should instead take a more active role in diplomacy rather than military confrontation, and use the military as a means of dealing in international affairs. In regard to the role of the military, he warned, “If you are a hammer, then everything you see becomes a nail.”

Levitsky, former ambassador to Brazil, praised the AEI report, which he said was reminiscent of President Barack Obama’s 2015 report on national security strategy.  

Levitsky’s remarks focused on American commitment to international human rights. Speaking to American diplomatic successes in that arena, he cited the pressure that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger placed on USSR ministers during World War II, which he said then led to the release of roughly 120,000 Soviet Jews from prisons and gulags.  

“One of the things that was interesting about the (Edward) Snowden WikiLeaks was that many (of the released documents) were international cables, reports that showed how much America was doing in quiet diplomacy in a number of countries,” he said. “We were trying to convince several governments, that we had relationships with, to treat the oppositions better, to not jail them, and to release those who were jailed.”

Public Policy senior Grace Lutfy, who helped organize the event, said after the event that she thought the discussion was a success.

“We had a really good turnout across all generations, which was really nice to see,” Lutfy said. “I thought the panelists were fabulous; they were very knowledgeable about the issues, and the question-and-answer section really brought out their strengths on the subjects.”