The audience members at the 15th annual George Herbert Walker, Jr. Lecture in International Studies Thursday varied as much as their ultimate opinions concerning the speaker, U.S. Ambassador Richard Haass.
About 200 people — including Yale undergraduate and graduate students, professors from Yale and other universities, visiting fellows, and New Haven community members — crowded into Luce Hall to hear Haass speak about characteristics of sovereignty and acceptable limitations on it.
Haass recently worked as the principal advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, served as U.S. coordinator for policy on the future of Afghanistan, and headed the United States’ efforts in support of the Northern Ireland peace process, for which he received the U.S. State Department’s Distinguished Honor. He also worked for the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush, has written nine books on American foreign policy, and is working on another.
Haass defined sovereign states by four characteristics: supreme authority, the ability to regulate anything that enters or exits the state, the freedom to chart its own policy course, and the respect afforded to an individual entity.
Haass said sovereignty is not limited to states.
“You don’t have to be a state to matter or sovereign to play the game,” Haass said. “There are more capable non-state actors [now] than at any other time in the past century.”
Globalization has allowed the large-scale, rapid flow of goods, services and technology across international borders with little visibility, Haass said. He said sovereign governments need to set up regulatory agencies and standardize rules of trade to deal with the challenge of globalization.
Sovereign states have a contract with other states and the international community at large. There are three areas of government limitation, which seem to be gaining universal acceptance, he said. A government ought not to be allowed to massacre its own people, become an agent of terrorism, or make or proliferate nuclear and biological weapons. Haass said the last area is the most controversial. When states cross those boundaries, Haass said, infringements on their sovereignty are acceptable.
He said it is important to strike a balance between too much and too little sovereignty.
Discussing the United States’ current policies and the war in Iraq, Haass made the distinction between “wars of choice” and “wars of necessity.” He called the war in Iraq one of choice.
In a question-and-answer round following Haass’ talk, some students said they were dissatisfied with Haass’ analysis. Ilan Zechory ’06 said he thought Haass’ speech was too general.
“There was little content,” Zechory said. “[He talked about] the general banalities of globalization without discussing the actual motivating forces behind policy.”
Others also said Haass’ use of broad terms troubled them. English professor Mokhtar Ghambou said he thought Haass used a “poor analysis of concepts” and should have considered a non-Western view.
“Most of the terms he used were taken for granted, such as terrorism,” Ghambou said. “Who decides what terrorism is?”
But Mark Bussow GRD ’04 said he enjoyed the speech.
“I completely loved it. I thought he took all the big challenges out there and encapsulated them into a framework,” Bussow said. “I’m really looking forward to his book.”
When asked about the varying reactions to his speech, Haass said he thought it was important to stimulate thinking.
“I’m hard pressed to think of something more closely related to the future of our world than these questions of sovereignty,” Haass said.
Past George Herbert Walker, Jr. lecturers have included Strobe Talbott and Madeleine Albright.