Lecture questions government’s politics

Richard Falk, an internationally noted scholar on human rights, told a USF audience Monday night that the current U.S. administration is guiding the country in the wrong direction and that changes need to be made in order to bring about true globalization.

Falk is a professor of international law at Princeton University and a visiting distinguished professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Falk started the lecture with a short discussion about the leadership in the White House. He said the administration gave false reasons to go to war and manipulated evidence in order to invade Iraq. He also asked why there has been so much silence about these events when there was such an outrage over President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal.

“What is this silence telling us about the state of democracy in this country?” Falk said.

Falk said the United States needs to recover the political wisdom of earlier leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. He said Jefferson had urged the need of coupling democracy with the vigilance of its citizenry. Falk said that Americans need to have leaders who will be straightforward and who will work toward real globalization.

“How can we be in a political democracy which doesn’t expect from its leaders honesty and fidelity?” Falk asked those in the crowd.

Falk said the United States is the world’s first global state, and that because of this, it is not only responsible to its own citizens but to those around the world.

“The United States still conceives of itself as acting on its own behalf and unilaterally. It is an outmoded notion that we don’t affect everyone in the world,” Falk said.

Falk also discussed the idea of the United States claiming that it has an idea of a single sustainable model for governing its people and that model is the only way to become a legitimate political system.

Falk said the Iraqi war was a war of choice and different than the war in Afghanistan, which was a war of defense.

“Iraq was a war of choice, but the war in Afghanistan was related to 9/11. It was the location of the main al-Qaeda presence, so it qualified as a role of necessity and was accepted by the rest of the world,” he said.

Although the Afghanistan war was one of necessity, Falk said he doesn’t know if the situation called for a response of war. He said maybe there needed to be a response of changing security and law enforcement.

“It was a diversion of resources and energy that probably aggravated the situation instead of solving it,” Falk said.

Another topic that Falk talked about was the ever-expanding military might of the United States. He said the U.S. military’s dominance shows others the futility of trying to compete. In one example, Falk said that the United States told China that seeking military expansion in order to attain political freedom doesn’t work, but at the same time the United States has engaged in the biggest expansion of military control over the world and space, he said.

“We try to fight other countries who are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, and at the same time we claim the right for ourselves, not only to use and possess, but to use them in the future for battlefield advantages,” Falk said.

Falk discussed what he called the Hiroshima temptation. This occurs when there is no danger of retaliation if nuclear weapons are used, which causes restraints to use them to be weakened greatly.

Falk said that globalization started at the end of the Cold War. At that time, globalization was an issue of expanding economies and security issues and conflicts of states were worries of the past. But today, security issues and human rights issues are central to globalization, Falk said.

“Now, democracy is synonymous with reducing dangers of terror,” he said.

No matter where the world is headed, globalization is here to stay, he said. The people just have to decide what kind of security system will be used to maintain globalization.

“Globalization is an inevitable byproduct of technological innovation. Borders have been erased, and space and time have been changed,” Falk said.

In 2001, Falk served on a three-person Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestine Territories that was appointed by the United Nations. He previously served on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo. He serves as chairman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Board of Directors and as an honorary vice president of the American Society of International Law. He has also had numerous articles published and has authored and co-authored several books including his latest, The Great Terror War, which considers the American response to Sept. 11.

This lecture is part of Globalization Speakers series and was sponsored by the Globalization Research Center, the Department of Government and International Affairs and the Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society.