At a debate Thursday organized by the Yale Political Union, Peter Beinart ’93 told a group of about 30 students that the YPU has not changed much since he left Yale.
“You all look and sound the same as when I was here — you have succeeded.”
Beinart, a Rhodes scholar and editor of The New Republic weekly, delivered the keynote address on the topic “Resolved: Liberals can fight the war on terrorism better than Conservatives.”
For the next two hours, 263 Street Hall housed a lively debate focusing on which political faction could handle the current war on terrorism more effectively.
Beinart said it was liberal ideology that supported the moral, military and financial resources to undertake the war.
“Liberals do not support stopping the war in Afghanistan,” Beinart said. “Liberals are culturally more compatible with the rank and file of the armed forces, and they are pro-spending.”
During his speech, Beinart referred to the liberals as being tougher on terror-supporting nations than conservatives. Beinart accused conservatives of appeasing tyrannical governments under the cover of promoting free markets in foreign countries.
“Conservatives are soft on a nation if they cannot remember why [former President Ronald] Reagan disliked it” he said.
He added that liberals could ensure that countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not go to the extreme of suppressing human rights and democracy in the interest of preventing terrorist movements.
During the course of his address, Beinart expressed surprise that President George W. Bush ’68 spoke of nation-building in Afghanistan when this was not part of the Republican ideology.
The keynote address was followed by speeches and questions from students representing various political parties.
Jack Snyder ’03 said Beinart used the interventionist-activist definition of the liberal, not the traditional definitions of liberal and conservative.
In his speech, Snyder said the present government was doing the right thing — petitioning foreign governments to root out terrorism.
Snyder added that ineffectual liberalist remarks like “end the cycle of violence” are in contrast to current American foreign policy. He said the liberalist beliefs reflected a lack of maturity, because terrorists do not want peace.
The last student to speak was Gisele Roget ’04, chief whip of the Liberal Party.
“Mr. Beinart’s definition [of liberalism] precludes views of left-leaning liberals such as myself,” Roget said.
Roget said her kind of liberalism does not believe in pushing the interest of American capitalists at the expense of foreign countries.
“We have before supported undemocratically elected leaders,” she said. “Afghanistan is the ghost of our Cold War sins come to haunt us — the sins of interventionism.”
After an evening of arguments, dissent, questions and comments, Beinart seemed to have changed his views on YPU debates.
“The debates are better than the ones we had when I was here,” he said.