Panel discusses U.S.’s role in world |

Panel discusses U.S.’s role in world

Eben Harrell
Special to The Aspen Times

A high-profile panel convened last night at The Aspen Institute for a discussion titled “America and the World.”

The panel consisted of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, former Foreign Minister of Canada Lloyd Axworthy, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Amre Moussa, Dr. Joseph Nye of Harvard University, and Queen Noor of Jordan.

The discussion, moderated by Institute President Walter Isaacson, began with the question “Is America safer after its war with Iraq?”

Albright answered a distinctive “no,” arguing that along with destabilizing the region and possibly dispersing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, America has set a dangerous precedent of unilateralism in international affairs.

“America seems to be allergic to treaties at the moment,” she said. “We are settling now for ad hoc coalitions that are weakening the U.N.”

This set the tone of the discussion, with the panel considering both America’s role and the role of international institutions in confronting threats like terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and humanitarian crises.

Cook pointed out that the United Nations, which is based largely on the principle of state sovereignty, must now find a way to act effectively in cases of conflict within states, a phenomenon which is becoming increasingly common.

The panel agreed that America needs multilateral cooperation in international affairs and that the United Nations can be crucial for this purpose. They then moved to a deliberation over the difficulties facing the U.N. Security Council, particularly the “veto problem,” which emerged most prominently when France and Russia threatened to veto a resolution supporting war in Iraq.

Nye suggested a Kosovo-like solution, where NATO’s intervention, though unable to get U.N. support because of a Russian veto threat, was largely viewed as legitimate because it had international support, including a de facto majority in the Security Council.

Nye’s suggestion was given a personal touch when Albright remembered a meeting with Cook in Heathrow Airport, when it became clear that NATO would have to act in Kosovo without a Security Council resolution.

Stephen Breyer, associate justice of the Supreme Court, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and Sergey Brin, the founder of, all asked questions of the panel.

By the end of the discussion it seemed clear that both the panel and the audience were in agreement with Nye’s statement that “the great paradox of American power is that we can’t do it alone.”

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