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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lee Hamilton talks about American influence in world

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clarissa Peterson, right, professor of history, introduces Lee Hamilton before his Ubben Lecture Series speech on the role America plays in global affairs. Hamilton graduated from DePauw University in 1952 and served on the Indiana House of Representatives for over 30 years.
GREENCASTLE -- Former U.S. Representative and DePauw University alum Lee Hamilton visited his alma mater Tuesday night to talk about America's role in the future of domestic and world affairs. His speech, part of the Ubben Lecture Series, addressed the world today and a question often asked with the increase of power in China -- is the United States in decline?

The answer for Hamilton is no.

"I'm not running for anything so you can think what you want," Hamilton joked. "The problem is globalization is not global. There are winners and losers."

Hamilton addressed what he believes are the central realities of the world today: American power and leadership, the alignment and fluidity of the great powers, globalization and world turmoil. Each of these issues can be traced to a number of different world issues, including the energy crisis, terrorism and others.

"There are other types of insecurity all around us," Hamilton said.

America cannot impose its will on other nations, Hamilton said. What the U.S. can do is lead by example as well as become a leader instead of an imposer. America has the most resources and is one of the greatest problem solvers in the world, but it cannot solve problems alone. It must work with other countries to get these problems solved, Hamilton said.

"Our ability to accomplish things is unparalleled but limited," he said. "We cannot solve any one of these by ourselves, not one of them."

The increasing globalization of the world has led to an increased dependence on other nations. Hamilton mentioned that what the United States-Japan or United States-Russia relationship of the past was, the relation to China is now.

"No matter what problem you talk about today, part of the solution is in the relationship between the United States and China," Hamilton said.

To solve some of these problems, the United States has to be patient, pragmatic and open to discussion, Hamilton said. Though he said many people do not like to hear these things, patience and openness led to the U.S. outlasting the former Soviet Union and ending the Cold War with no major disasters or casualties, and Hamilton said he believes patience will win out again.

"I don't believe we can solve all the problems in the world with diplomacy," Hamilton said. "I do believe we can solve some problems by talking to people.

"I think not talking is a near guarantee that problems will fester," he added.

But the best offense can be a good defense, and though the military must remain strong for the U.S. to accomplish many of its goals, it cannot be as highly funded or as prominent as it once was. Also, the U.S. must not take advantage of its military to interfere in needless conflicts, Hamilton said.

"It's very easy to get caught up in the Libyas and Iraqs," Hamilton said.

But Hamilton said he believes it is America's job to lead these global movements. Even though many around the world criticize American leadership, Hamilton said it is because of American leadership that many things have been accomplished, and if the U.S. does not pay attention to an issue the rest of the world often will not either.

"I don't see a plethora of leadership in the world," Hamilton said. "Good outcomes in the world are possible, but they are not inevitable."

If America can do these things and escape its current spending practices, alleviating its own debt in the process, America can continue to be a leader and the most powerful nation in the world. However, it is hard to say that America is in decline now. Simply because other nations, such as China and India, are getting stronger, does not mean America is getting weaker, Hamilton said. But he said he believes the United States is beginning to realize its limitations.

"It's far too early to conclude...America is in decline," he said. "It cuts to the very heart of what kind of country we are and the country we want to be."

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