University News

Senior fellow critiques American policy

Freeman talk explores military overfunding, healthcare inefficiency as economic shortcomings

Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2016

Chas Freeman Jr., a long-time bureaucrat serving as a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, presented his opinions on the fall of American superiority on the international stage in his talk, “The Crumbling of the Pax Americana,” Thursday night in the Salomon Center.

A prevailing idea throughout the talk was Freeman’s belief that such weaknesses stemmed out of institutionalized sociopolitical ideas, such as inefficiency in the healthcare system, overfunding of the military, lack of education and poor technological advances.

Freeman had a thorough career in the public field, and his former roles include Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense and primary translator during President Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, said Edward Steinfeld, director of Watson, in his introduction to the talk.

Citing a variety of statistics and quoting international politicians, as well as drawing from his personal experience, Freeman led the audience of about 150 through the complex variables that he believes led to America’s stagnation. Chief among them was what he called “fiscal anorexia” — the defunding of the public sector with exception to the armed forces.

Freeman argued that American priorities in the armed forces led to major destabilization in areas of the world, from the current refugee crisis in Europe to the prevalence of terror groups in the Middle East and beyond. “Terrorists are over here because we are over there,” he said.

Aaron Mayer ’18 said he found Freeman’s material “very pointed, very easy to grasp, but not that easy to digest.” Mayer was impressed with Freeman’s controversial stance on the topic, especially considering Freeman’s lifelong career.

“Pax Americana,” Latin for “American Peace,” serves as an overarching term describing a U.S.-instated model of international stability, he said. Freeman covered what he believes to be the rise and fall of  this U.S. influence in the global sphere. “From the end of the Cold War in 1989, the (United States) has ironically become less geopolitically dominant, less faithful to its core values as a republic and less looked-up-to internationally,” he said.

Freeman stated that the United States has not had a major victory leading to peace since 1945, and American involvement in foreign areas has done more harm than good. Yet foreign policy continues to be overly eager to satisfy the American obsession with “the shock and awe of war,” he added.

The talk was “accurate, kind of depressing but overall dope,” said Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19. “I kind of wish he focused more on what America had going for it, but the first step to solving any problem is recognizing that we have one,” he added.

The lecture ended on a positive note as Freeman argued that America has fixed its past weaknesses and is capable of fixing itself and its policies in the future. Mentioning its geographical location and its natural resources ripe for processing, Freeman briefly focused on the U.S. and its internal issues that he believes deserve attention, such as the income gap and technological progress. But Freeman warns that with countries like China developing unprecedented wealth and power, military prowess and competition will not solve issues.

Though his lecture drew large applause, Freeman received some criticism, especially during the question-and-answer session afterwards. Greg Gerritt, a Providence community member, said that Freeman’s emphasis on the “deregulation game (in order to return America’s strength) played on the ecological and environmental aspects would be harmful for public health, the community and the environment.”

Freeman will speak next Thursday, continuing the three-part Chong Wook Lee and Vartan Gregorian Distinguished Lecture Series. Run by Watson, the series serves to “have discussions in problems of global concern, especially those involving the United States and Asia,” Steinfeld said.

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  1. “… the current refugee crisis in Europe to the prevalence of terror groups in the Middle East and beyond. “Terrorists are over here because we are over there,” he said.”
    So using your logic the reason Muslim jihadists destroyed Sudan was because of our policies.

    The reason Muslim jihadists have killed thousands of Buddhists in southern Thailand is because of, hmmm…the Buddhist’s imperialism.

    The reason there is civil unrest in NW China (unrest by Muslims) is because of Chinese policies.

    The reason Muslim jihadists have killed thousands and thousands of Christian men, women and children in Nigeria is because of???

    The reason Sunnis and Shi’ites and Kurds have killed over one million of one another during the past two decades is because of???

    The reason Muslim jihadists have killed seventy million Hindus during the Muslim multi-century jihad against southern Asia is because of???

    The reason America’s first international war was with the Muslim pirates – those pirates who were capturing our merchant ships and enslaving the crew and stealing the cargo was because of???

    Let.s see now…what is the common denominator in all the above examples? That’s right it’s always America’s fault! How silly it is that anyone would think it might be due to the core edicts of Islam.

    • He clearly states “areas of the world”. So i guess the rest of your diatribe was to deflect from our Israel First policy in that part of the world.

    • Not all of life is about logic. Sometimes it is just the civil and polite thing to consider — simply consider — that maybe I did something wrong to cause these bad things to happen. It sounds like the lecture was trying to express maybe a little bit of pathos and contrition.

      “less faithful to its core values” –> One of these values is justice and fairness; part of the process of justice and fairness is to consider and give some pause and engage in some humble self-examination… even if not pleasant.

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