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The Place of the U.S. in the World Community 02-03 Forum

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the Ritter talk
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-10-24 13:52:28
Link to this Comment: 3337

The very large turnout at Ritter's talk last night was a clear indication of the need for more conversation around ongoing issues of American foreign policy. And Ritter made an eloquent point which I think we should all take seriously (more seriously perhaps than many of us have to this point): it is OUR foreign policy, being developed/implemented in the name of all Americans. The upshot of course is that we should all be expressing (perhaps more actively than many of us have to this point) our varying perspectives on what we are/are not comfortable having as an American foreign policy.

For my part, I very much share Ritter's expressed concern about movements toward a unilateralist, potentially imperialist, foreign policy (and admire Ritter's ability and willingness to vigorously express those concerns). While 11 September clearly indicated a need to recognize the necessity for the US to engage more fully with the rest of the world, it is my strong feeling that neither our own national security nor that of the world community is well served by adopting a posture in which the US perceives itself, and causes/allows other to perceive us, as an imposer of order on the world community. Very much to the contrary, we need instead to be more actively and genuinely sharing perspectives, throughout the world community, in a continuing effort to find new ways of thinking and acting that will create national and world communities better able to satisfy the needs and aspirations of all humans.

Name: Katherine
Date: 2002-10-27 01:51:15
Link to this Comment: 3362

One of Ritter's comments that especially struck me was his emphasis on "accountability." He spoke about accountability of the American government, of course, but more directly, about the accountability that EACH ONE OF US must claim. In my opinion, this begins with active inquiry into the motions of our world and the actions of our government. We cannot sit back and expect the nightly news to give us a reliable story. The completeness of information from such sources is laughable. (We also cannot, for that matter, unequivocally accept what Scott Ritter says--although I admit that he made several valuable points). It is our responsibility to question and to SEEK KNOWLEDGE ACTIVELY; and it is downright dangerous--even irresponsible--not to do so. The chilling uncertainty then arises: where is it that we can find the truth? What sources can we trust?

There is nothing we can read or hear that can give us absolutes. The emergence of trust must come from the vital exchange of ideas and voices, from a wide variety of places and experiences; an exchange that must be dynamic and breathing. And in that breathing, that voice, there is an incredible amount of potential. (In chaos there are hints of order; a cool wind converses with rustling trees and tempers the oppressive heat;)

I'd like to add here a sidenote on the idea of "voice" (and I realize that my comments are becoming rather long--I hope you can excuse this!); I believe that "voice" is an aspect of human culture that we have actually become less familiar with as the modern age marches forward. An ironic idea, considering the hyper-accessibility of voice in so many formats. Radio, TV, portable CD players--we are literally over-filled with voices competing for entrance into our own conceptualization of the world around us. And yet, with the facilitated transfer and storage of information, we are actually becoming detached from that very information that we seek, not bothering to absorb it into ourselves -- we assume the ability for access of virtually anything and everything at the touch of a button. We are not really LISTENING.

Of course, I am not complaining about the ability to hear Bob Dylan and Tchaikovsky from the comfort of my home--indeed, I am grateful for this gift of modern culture and technology. Yet still, I cannot forget the fact that 2800 years ago Homer composed his stories in meter, partly so that the traveling bards could MEMORIZE THOUSANDS of lines, and share them with the people along the roads and in the marketplaces--

So, what am I saying?
I am setting a personal goal for more accountability, more questions, more discussion, more intention.
I will seek out foreign newspapers as well as American ones. I will strive to respect the voices around me, and to give life to those that are silent. I will also respect my own voice as I do yours.
I hope to meet others on the same road.

On "just" war, in general and now ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-11 21:00:02
Link to this Comment: 4547

Thoughts triggered by an article in the Guardian Unlimited this past Sunday (excerpts below):

Vietnam provided the impetus for my first thinking about war; I saw no good reason for it in that particular case and, pragmatist that I was (and am), I avoided participating in it. It wasn't however until the previous Bush's attack on Iraq that, for whatever reason, I had the inclination to reflect seriously on my feelings about war in general. And discovered, to my surprise, that I had fairly strong and coherent feelings about it. Those, in turn, played an important role in my reactions to 11 September and to events since.

The bottom line, then and now, is that I don't think there is any such thing as a "just" or "moral" war. That is not to say that I would never engage in or support war. I would, if I reached the point of extreme emotion where I could no longer conceive of any set of behaviors short of violence that would prevent my own destruction, and the destruction of institutions which I hold dear. And that is precisely my point: one cannot reach a "rational" or "moral" decision to resort to violence, either in one's personal life or in the world of international affairs. One strikes out at another, or a people or a nation, if and only if one is prepared to admit a total failure of the thoughtful mind to offer alternatives to the problem at hand. One may agree to go to war, but ONLY by first admitting intellectual and moral bankruptcy, an utter inability to conceive of alternative and preferable paths to the resolution of human conflicts.

The before-the-fact justifications and after-the-fact explanations of historians notwithstanding, I suspect this fundamental characteristic of war has been true throughout human history. What makes it particularly relevant now, however, is that we have (inevitably) much more exprience with war and its sequelae than humans have had in the past. We KNOW that war begats war; we KNOW the devastation that war wreaks on participants and non-combatants alike; we KNOW that war itself, irrespective of its immediate outcome, generates disruptions and hostilities that ramify in unpredictable ways far into the future. In short, as humans we have more reason than ever before to avoid the critical step of declaring intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

From this perspective, the issue for me, for Americans, for the United States, and for other nations of the world and the peoples of those nations, is not whether Iraq harbors weapons of mass destruction, nor whether it is hiding them, nor whether they may lead to new terrorist attacks. The issue is how great the danger actually is to oneself and to what one holds dear, and, more importantly, whether one perceives it to be so great that one is prepared to acknowledge intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The issue is not whether one is going to engage in a "just" or "moral" war; it is whether one is so frightened as to be prepared to engage in a fundamentally irrational and immoral activity because one cannot think of nothing more promising to do.

I'm not. There are, as was evident in the outpouring following September 11, 2001, a host of more creative and thoughtful ways to respond to the fears it created and the real problems in brought to worldwide attention (see, for example, 11 September 2001: Thoughts and Forum), ways yet to be fully explored and probably, as well, ways still to be conceived. And I take comfort from the fact that there are many countries, and people in this country and elsewhere, who share my sense that we are far from yet having exhausted all conceivable thoughtful courses of action. Let's insist on that principle, and act on it. Whatever efforts are made to justify war, or to scare people into it, let's keep in mind that one goes to war only when one is willing to admit one has lost the ability to conceive of alternatives preferable to its inevitable horror and devastation. We're nowhere near there, and hopefully needn't ever be if we keep the principle clearly in mind.


Excerpts from Mary Riddell, "With Bible and bombs", The Guardian, February 9, 2003

Prophets are everywhere . First there was Isaiah, paraphrased by President
Bush in his eulogy to the seven dead astronauts. 'Lift your eyes and look to
the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one
by one, and calls them each by name.'

Then came Colin Powell, ... and a rhetoric blending
Blackpool beach clairvoyancy and Old Testament gloom.

And still the case for peace is stronger than the argument for war. The
imperative of smashing Saddam before he goes for us ignores three caveats.
There is no sign he plans to do so. Pre-emption encourages the bellicose,
from Washington to Pyongyang, to arm up and strike first. And we have been
here before.

But the tide runs fast the other way ...

War, if it cannot be stopped, will be the ultimate in modern retribution, an
initiation into the virtual way of death. It may become, or lead to, the
first nuclear conflict of the century. It will also echo back through 2,500
years of bloodshed justified by the sway of good over evil. Bush should have
studied Old Testament prophecy further.

The President's anointed guardian of astronauts' souls also foretold the
destruction of the land Saddam now rules. Even at a time when the vengeance
of the righteous went unquestioned, the prophet recoiled from the
'grievousness' of war. 'Babylon is fallen; is fallen, and all the graven
images of her gods broken unto the ground' - Isaiah, chapter XXI, verse
nine. Here we go again.

Mary Riddell (

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-13 16:11:45
Link to this Comment: 4582

Some excerpts from a speech by Senator Robert Byrd on the floor of the US Senate yesterday:

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day,as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, nodiscussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.

And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.


We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.

To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked
military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of ourcountry". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

This is no time to be sleepwalking. Everyone needs to speak up, to share what they see, to contribute to the evolution of a national policy which, whatever role we play or fail to play in it, will be carried out in our names.

each voice is important
Name: Amy Campbe
Date: 2003-02-13 17:17:36
Link to this Comment: 4584

Margaret Mead said it best

"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.... "

sunday morning
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-16 09:39:31
Link to this Comment: 4617

I was encouraged by the evidence yesterday that it is in fact more than a "small group" who are able and inclined to "speak up, to share what they say, to contribute to the evolution..." not only of US national policy but of human/world policy.

What also occurred to me is that it would be helpful if we (all of us, both those supporting events like those yesterday and those not supporting them) could evolve beyond the point of thinking of such events as "protests" or "anti-something" demonstrations. They are neither; they are instead desirable and much needed components of the process by which humans share stories "to create a story of which we are all a part and with which we can all be comfortable".

Let's keep at that task, here, in the United States, and around the world. Its what being human is all about.

Teach-in at BMC
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-18 14:15:34
Link to this Comment: 4654




For further information contact David Karen or Jane Caplan

On Evolution of Mankind
Name: Pat R.
Date: 2005-02-28 21:14:54
Link to this Comment: 13313

The fact that mankind has yet been unable to reconcile the differences and distinctions between gender, race, intellect, attitudes, or economics suggests that man is yet as primitive as he or she has always been. One need only to return to a period of pre-monarchial England, or survey the wars from the Viking period to ascertain the plane which identifies our current state of mind, where force works better to attain anything than not. Hence, we continue to indulge the negligence that creates force, whether in families, or at work, and justify the same by manufacturing elaborate methods and processes of disquising the objective. Rather than working to live, we continue to live to work in hopes of achieving the notoriety that distinguishes us from another individual, another group, or another culture. Using religion, its diversity of tradition, or any excuse that works, to mask the acceptance of our lives as purposeful in that manner rather than using our collective acquired wealth to take up the great philosophical questions of how to achieve harmony and peace is evidence of our carelessness, and perhaps our barbarism. Continuing to indulge the violence we cultivate for profit, we each dig with our own little spoons the evil that humans ignorant of their capacity and potential will create, and participate in the nexus of original sin that we are reminded so often is ours to bear as humans. Cannibalistic tendencies govern us with little desire to alter the convenience and comfort of the status quo provided the narrow world into which we have confined ourselves seems to work reasonably well. We ignore the problems that we know need fixing since to do otherwise would remind us of the guilt and anxiety that arises as a result of our rationalized selves. Feeling comfortable with our loves, our families and the creation of our solid net worths, to ease our own individual suffering while ignoring that of others works best to encourage our capitalistic nature that idolizes self interest to the exclusion of others. Occasionally, women will undertake, and allow men to place upon them, the burdens of alleviating such suffering because of their nurturing nature, but dominate the discussion of problems to be found without commitment to alter them. Since women hold neither the leadership positions to do anything about it, generally, or the high profile positions that allow them to be heard, shouldering the crosses for the blatant crippling of the universe by less sensitive souls is much like running upon the wheels of hamsters, or mice, the perfect circle of activity, but no real progress or evolution. Since that is the case for most of humanity, it makes little sense to keep score to see who is doing better. In fact, reality suggests we are all doing poorly, and rewards are gained by all, or not at all, except to fuel the illusion of progress.

The insistency of time
Name: andy
Date: 2005-03-07 00:00:37
Link to this Comment: 13435

Time eventually enshrouds all in its mystery.Hmmm.
Let it be known that the very nature of humanity is sown with the fabric of hate and destruction just like it is sown also with love and peace.Circumstances can lead to war and indeed war or the imminent threat of it is the human manisfestation of a negotiated peace.It is ingrained in our "upbringing since we were children".War leads to a deeper understanding of the nature of man and a negotiated order exists.Under this criteria "peace" cannot exist and therefore is unknowable.Who are we kidding??Can the reader stop and tell me of a moment when he/she felt such "peace".Nowadays, even the young know no peace.There can be no peace till the element that sows hate is isolated and removed.It is sown by the idea of the "self".As long as i exist, then you can have no idea of me and i non of you.The idea of the self is the oldest and single most misleading "truth" in the world today.I do not suggest a denial of the self but critic the accepted belief of this phenomenon today.As long as the self is taught to be within me there can be no universally accepted explanation of reality.But by the time "they know all i know and will ever know and i likewise for them" then we shall fight no more.We shall fear no more and we shall be at peace.Ironically,the world is not like this and we humans do not know this way,so,as long as what i know earns me right over others,...war is inevitable.knowledge is power and power must be contested in a blind and repetitively endless game of ying and yang.Only a redefinition of the self can halt this process.The sudden awakening and awareness of universal fallibility within all individuals will shock the self into a higher state of collective consciousness never before known.This way we will all know that they know and they will know what we know and peace will reign.
Until then....we are compelled to fight for ourselves(whatever this means).

on being international in the US (part 1 !!)
Name: Arshiya Ur
Date: 2005-04-26 22:59:58
Link to this Comment: 14884

Iíve wondered about which forum to post this on Ė first I tried the USís role in World Community but changed my mind so here it isÖ

Iíve been thinking a lot about my experience as an international student at Bryn Mawr. Before I came I told myself to be really blasť about this big change I was going to just chill Ė it would work itself out. My first semester, I did whatever I could to run away from all the Indians on campus Ė I told myself I had adapted completely, I was now American in Philadelphia and Indian in Calcutta. No big deal. I had a good sense of humor and was going to laugh off anything strange that people who were curious about me were going to say. I must say that it has worked so far. Iíve never really been that angry or isolated from the rest of the Bryn Mawr community, but there are some things that I just donít get. Most of the time, itís humor thatís the problem! People just donít seem to get my jokes. And jokes that everyoneís laughing at, I never find funny. As someone who relies on getting through life by laughing at it, this has been somewhat of a problem! And itís gotten me thinking about my perceptions of Americans and their perceptions about me.

Lately, with the whole SGA/Plenary drama I started questioning whether there was something that I should be aware of, as ďcoloredĒ or as a ďminorityĒ. I thought maybe there was something that all the other colored people were feeling/seeing and I was just telling myself that I had adapted. I thought a lot about the perception of my own country by people outside it. I thought about the stereotypes, talked about it in class as a case study, discussed it's socioecology and what not. I wonder how many people here have wondered about the way that the US is perceived by outsiders. I'm sure that itís a lot of you but still let me uncover some of my confusion about my feelings about the US.

First I think that I'm faced with two (generally) kinds of people. Those that know nothing at all about the world outside this country and those that know a little, think they care and wish to romanticize. I don't really care about the people that don't know anything. But this is for those people who think they know...

I donít want you to romanticize about my country, because I donít. My country even, doesnít need your romance. But my country does need you. Like all of our countries do. We need each other not only for "peace" and "joy" and "world caring" but to make sure that our borders are not infiltrated, our economies are growing and my acid rain isn't being dropped on your forests. And thatís that. This doesnít mean that we canít be interested in each other. I still want to talk about myself, where I am from, what fruits I like most but Iím tired of the filler questions. Letís get on with it.

Iím also tired of the feeling I have sometimes. The feeling that makes me use/manipulate my country as a tool to get out of stuff. Iím tired of writing papers about ďIndianĒ things simply because thatís what my professor probably knows least about and therefore canít help but grade me well. Iím tired of describing India in my creative writing classes even though I know that my class canít seem to get enough of it. Iím tired of the professor scribbling, ďelaborate on the cultural aspectĒ when my story is actually about two little kids and their trip to the sweet shop.

Can we ever reach a state where Iím Indian, youíre American but we relate to each other just as people?

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