Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, delivered his personal perspective on Bush’s foreign policy at a Berkeley College Master’s Tea on Monday.
Facing a packed audience, Rodman touched upon a number of international issues, including the roots of neo-conservatism, the current war in Iraq and the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Rodman said that this is a “Wilsonian moment in history,” citing the rise of democracy in Palestine, the Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rodman began his talk by tracing the origins of neo-conservatism back to President Ronald Reagan, who Rodman said used both a geopolitical muscle and the ideology of freedom to defeat communism. Once a self-characterized realist, Rodman said that he had to “come to terms” with Reagan’s successful use of ideology.
Rodman said the American people have a strong “moral sense” that supports using ideology in international affairs.
At first, President George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 with a realist approach to international affairs, one that emphasized national interest and humility in international affairs, Rodman said.
But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, created the need for preemptive strikes to prevent the possibility of “catastrophic terrorism,” he said. Rodman said this position has been expressed by the Hart-Rudman Commission, a bipartisan effort to examine national security policies of the 21st century.
Rodman stressed that to win this conflict against terrorism, the United States should not only apprehend those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, but the nation should also organize an “aggressive counterattack across a broad front” to disrupt the entire “network of radical terrorists.”
An ideological hatred against the United States drives terrorists, Rodman said. To address this, Rodman said the United States should strive to solve the “root causes” of terrorism — tyranny and corrupted government — by promoting free government.
“If we’re up against an ideology, the way to counter it is with ideology,” Rodman said.
Taking a moment in his talk to focus on Iraq, Rodman said that the administration hopes that the recent elections would discredit extremists, create more domestic intelligence and send a message for political unity to the Sunni, Shiites and Kurds.
Rodman said that the insurgents, including foreign terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, failed to disrupt the political process. He expressed confidence that the upcoming transition government will succeed because it would empower the “majority of Iraqi” moderates who want the best for their nation.
“We don’t want the Iraqis to love us, but love their own future,” Rodman said.
Peter Kjeldgaard ’08, who attended the talk, said he appreciated Rodman’s straightforwardness.
“He presented a very pragmatic and goals-oriented take on foreign policy, but he wasn’t very aggressive in asserting controversial positions,” Kjeldgaard said.
But Amelie Hutchings ’08 said that he did not hear any new information from Rodman.
“The impression I got from the talk was the same impression that I hear from the conservatives,” he said.