Former secretary of state speaks with students

Former secretary of state speaks with students

Global studies students attended class Wednesday eager to address their questions about current international issues to guest lecturer Warren Christopher.

By Hoorig Santikian

In a lecture and subsequent question-and-answer session, which was open to other students and community members as well, the former secretary of state, who served during former President Bill Clinton's administration, discussed the actions he thinks the United States should take in current international affairs.

For the past three years, Christopher has also taught a seminar at UCLA through the Honors College that focuses on current international issues.

In his lecture, Christopher offered his outlook on significant events that took place during his lifetime, highlighting the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the assassinations of former President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and former Attorney General Bobby Kennedy in the 1960s, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

These events changed the world, he said, and, when addressed together, offer a historical context in which to place the Sept. 11 attacks.

The attacks increased the United States' sense of vulnerability and made it evident that the country was subject to attacks by non-state actors such as a terrorist organization, Christopher said.

"It changed our whole outlook on the world," he said.

Christopher also presented his views on the actions the United States took following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Invading Afghanistan and expressing commitment to preemptive action were natural and expected reactions, he said.

But the invasion of Iraq was an unjustifiable course of action, he said, calling it a "preemptive war rather than a preemptive attack."

Following the war in Iraq, Christopher added, some countries are concerned they might be next to face an invasion from the United States.

In the question-and-answer session that followed his lecture, Christopher said one way the United States can rebuild its reputation is by using its "soft power" – offering aid and support around the world.

Christopher also addressed other international issues raised by students in the audience, including the threat posed to the international community by the spread of nuclear technology to state and, possibly, non-state actors.

Today's global community still faces the risk of a nuclear attack, he said.

"The nuclear genie might get out of the bottle," he said.

Christopher emphasized that the possibility that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons poses the most dangerous situation U.S. foreign policy has to address.

North Korea, he said, functions as an irrational society, which makes it hard to predict actions it may take.

"We need to deal with North Korea with great care," he said.

Christopher also emphasized that the United States should employ diplomacy to negotiate with Iran on its efforts to enrich uranium.

Iran has said it needs the enriched uranium to produce nuclear power plants, but the United States and other foreign countries are worried that the uranium will be used to produce nuclear weapons, Christopher said.

He added that he has hope that negotiations will prove effective.

The lecture, which was held in De Neve Auditorium, is the first of a series of four lectures by influential figures scheduled for the global studies introductory course. Other speakers are expected to include former Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale.

These lectures add to the class by connecting coursework to real-world events, said Ariele Greenfield, a second-year undeclared student taking Global Studies 1.

Greenfield added that she appreciated the opportunity to hear a discussion about what international actions an experienced official like Christopher believes the United States should take.

Christopher's career in politics also includes serving as deputy secretary of state during former President Jimmy Carter's administration, during which time he played an influential role in negotiating the release of American hostages in Iran in 1979.

But some members of the audience said that while they also appreciated hearing Christopher speak, they had hoped to hear new information about current international issues.

Jon Everett, a third-year international development studies student, said he had hoped that Christopher would suggest more specific solutions to the global issues that were discussed.

Originally published in the UCLA Daily Bruin May 5, 2005

Published: Friday, May 06, 2005