On a day when the University remembered the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, four faculty panels discussed how America and the world should move forward.
Hundreds of people went to hear discussions about geopolitics, religion, the arts, and law and human rights.
A packed Battell Chapel played host to the geopolitics talk, which featured speeches by history professor John Gaddis, history professor Donald Kagan, and Ernesto Zedillo, the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
Much of the debate centered on the issue of international cooperation. Although Gaddis said America is the best hope for many of the world’s inhabitants, he also criticized the failure of the United States to work with other countries.
“We’ve indulged in a petulant unilateralism that better befits a sullen teenager than a world leader,” Gaddis said.
And Kagan joked that, although he might not expect tact from President George W. Bush — “a guy from Midland, Texas” as Kagan described him — he would urge Bush to be tactful if that would improve relations with Europe.
Kagan also argued in favor of increasing U.S. military strength and removing Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq.
“Until his reign is removed, there can be no security for us and no peace in the world,” Kagan said. “I am not at all sure that the correct lessons have been learned.”
Zedillo, a former president of Mexico, emphasized multilateralism. He said that no one expects U.S. politicians to be altruistic and ignore the interests of America, but that international discussion is necessary.
“To fight terrorism, you need international cooperation,” Zedillo said.
The speeches by the three professors preceded a long and spirited discussion in response to questions posed by audience members. Amanda Eckerson ’06, one of those audience members, said she enjoyed the discussion.
“They had three completely different perspectives,” Eckerson said. “I like Zedillo — I like his idealism, his approach to being aware that we are in a world of other people. And that was supposed to be the lesson of Sept. 11.”
Later in the day, hundreds of people filled the Law School auditorium to hear law professors Alan Schwartz, Paul Kahn, Harold Koh and Ruth Wedgwood discuss the intersection between law and human rights.
Each of the panelists focused on somewhat different aspects of human rights in the United States, but all seemed to conclude that some curtailment of rights is probably inevitable in light of the Sept. 11 attacks and the fear of more terrorism.
Kahn presented the bleakest outlook for the future.
“The limits of the imagination of evil are only the limits of technology. In short, something terrible will happen,” he said. “It’s a wonder any of us can sleep at night.”
Kahn added that there is a need for a responsible media as well as for courts and law, since “the courts are not going to save us from ourselves.”
A common theme in the discussion was the question of how best to preserve human rights.
Koh said that the American people had done a remarkable job recovering from the attacks, as had the state and local governments, but added that he was disappointed with Congress and the executive branch for overstepping their bounds in terms of civil liberties.
But while acknowledging that the American government has not acted perfectly to protect human rights, Wedgwood said that “one doesn’t need to assume that the taproot of liberty has been dug up.”
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