During the tense months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Seth Green LAW ’06 founded the non-partisan group Americans for Informed Democracy to influence U.S. foreign policy and foreign opinion about the United States.
Today, with the involvement of approximately 50 Yale undergraduates as well as Law School and Graduate School students, AID has grown into an international organization with members at over 75 universities in the United States and the world. The group will sponsor a town hall forum on “Hearts and Minds” at 7 p.m. tonight in the Law School.
Similar gatherings were held yesterday in New York City and Washington, D.C. Over the next week, similar events will take place in cities including Berlin, Germany and Lahore, Pakistan.
Green said after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans were treated with increased sympathy in England — soon after the attacks, when he was studying in England on a Marshall Scholarship, Green said he was comforted by the sight of a British flag and a U.S. flag flying side by side.
But he said within a year, the atmosphere had become much more negative, and he and other Americans living abroad perceived a need for action.
“With regards to the Iraq war, [opponents] moved from reasonable criticism to increasingly unreasonable criticism,” Green said. “It reached such excess that a lot of us felt there was a need to bring the real America overseas.”
Green said AID has two primary goals, which developed over the course of the last two years as he observed changing British public opinion towards the United States in the context of U.S. policies toward Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Today the focus is twofold — to raise awareness [in the United States] about the rest of the world and to broaden diversity of opinion overseas about the United States,” Green said.
Green said AID hopes to encourage more Americans to get involved in foreign policy, in order to help create a more “ethical” foreign policy.
Alicyn Cooley ’05, who serves as the undergraduate campus coordinator for AID at Yale, said she became interested in the group while serving as an intern in Washington, D.C. last summer.
Cooley said AID has already sponsored two Yale events: a town hall forum in September and a screening of “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War,” in addition to weekly meetings. While its membership includes many liberals, AID makes an effort to be non-partisan, she said.
Green said AID is a “rare experiment” at the moment because of its efforts to encourage multilateralism on both sides.
“This is an attempt to do something that’s really inclusive, non-partisan and broad, but which I hope has a coherent purpose,” Green said.
Elizabeth Debevoise ’07, who is coordinating today’s forum, said speakers will include former Tunisian Ambassador John McCarthy, Columbia University Director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies Richard Betts, Newsweek Senior Editor Andrew Nagorski, and General Counsel to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Nicholas Rostow ’72 GRAD ’79 LAW ’82.
“[AID] is non-partisan, so we’re trying to get perspective from across the spectrum,” Debevoise said.
Green said the next event sponsored by AID will be a Feb. 3 lecture by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua, author of “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.”