Students at the Burkle Center's March 11 conference add their voices to the debate over how best to wield the tools of foreign policy when dealing with governments seen as U.S. adversaries.
Which will it be: "a hands-on or hands-off approach to dealing with nations we don't get along with"?
Christina Norton, a political science major at nearby Santa Monica College, paid the $8 entrance fee for students and came to UCLA on Tuesday to understand "what has really been effective" in dealing with governments whose interests are often at odds with those of the United States--"to learn, and not just from academia."
Panelists at the Burkle Center's March 11, 2008, conference on U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Rogue States included military officers, diplomats, and government specialists on topics such as targeted economic sanctions. There were some college professors, too. Norton has taken an interest in the Middle East and says she would like to become a diplomat.
Roughly 110 of the 200 attendees were students, all but a few of them undergraduates.
Amanda Keller, a third-year UCLA student in political science, said that the conference came at a good time for her, because she'll spend her next academic quarter in Washington, D.C., learning about U.S. foreign policy towards Iran--probably the most discussed topic on Tuesday. Keller will be studying at the University of California center there (UCDC) and working as an intern for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
During a question period after his keynote address at the conference, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson acknowledged the younger members of the audience and encouraged them to take up careers in international relations.
Still, not all of the students he was addressing showed up to learn about foreign policy. For a major in mass communications, said Brittany Gibson, who is in her third year at UCLA, this sort of high-level gathering is a laboratory for observation: "it's everything I've learned ... taking place in a different field." Following Richardson's speech, Gibson said she was impressed with the "openness" and "candidness" of the participants.
As the audience waited for Richardson to take the stage, one UCLA freshman who is majoring in political science explained the relevance of the Burkle Center event for the 2008 presidential contest. The student, Rio Scharf, said that an important theme of the panel discussions was whether the next U.S. president would take "a hands-on or hands-off approach to dealing with nations we don't get along with."
"That's exactly the difference" in terms of foreign policy between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, rivals for the Democratic Party nomination. At stake in Tuesday's conference, Scharf said, was whether Obama is right to express readiness for talks without preconditions with nations such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea or whether Clinton is justified in attacking that stance.