The Yale Political Union kicked off its 2009–’10 debate schedule Tuesday night with an address from journalist Peter Beinart ’93 — someone who, in his own words, “wasted some of the best years of [his] life” at Yale.
Beinart, who edited the left-leaning newsweekly The New Republic from 1999 to 2006 and currently holds a senior fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that negotiations with repressive regimes should form a component of United States foreign policy in his keynote address Tuesday night. The debate, titled “Resolved: The United States Should Negotiate Directly With Repressive Regimes,” drew nearly a full house to the lecture hall in Sterling-Sheffield-Strathcona Hall.
Beinart, who chaired the YPU’s Liberal Party during his time at Yale, drew resounding thumpings of support when he argued that opposing the resolution would be “totally insane.”
Negotiations with oppressive regimes, such as the China of Mao Tse Tung and the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, aided the United States considerably in the past, Beinart said.
And as for those who would argue that the United States go to war with hostile regimes, Beinart said negotiation is first necessary “to make sure you have a war you can actually win.”
Beinart’s keynote impressed Matthew Shaffer ’10, who praised Beinart’s “oratorical opulence” and “encyclopedic knowledge of international politics.”
Jaymin Patel ’12 said he disagreed with Beinart’s contention that repressive regimes have a history of good-faith cooperation.
“Repressive regimes have an undeniable history of breaking every negotiated promise,” Patel said. “Just look at Hitler before WWII for an example.”
Shivani Vohra ’13 said she felt Beinart’s arguments were sound and dismissed student rebuttals that claimed negotiation with repressive regimes would de facto condone those regimes’ actions.
Beinart is the author of “The Good Fight: Why Liberals — and Only Liberals — Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again,” published in 2006 by HarperCollins.