Two of Brown's world-leaders-in-residence, former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, seemed to offer a hopeful view of current geopolitical affairs at a forum Thursday morning at the Watson Institute for International Studies.
Lagos, a professor-at-large at Watson, pointed to the fall of the Berlin Wall as the beginning of a new era in which cooperation between nations forms a cornerstone of foreign policy.
Gusenbauer, a visiting professor of international studies, said for his part that "the 21st century begins now" — as opposed to nine years ago — because only now do nations have a uniform progressive international agenda and a willingness to fully address matters such as global warming, human rights and nuclear proliferation.
Indeed, if there was one thing in common between the two speakers, as one questioner pointed out, both had very hopeful views of the near future. The lectures, jointly titled "The Obama Age and Progressive New Policy for a Post-Crisis World," gave both speakers a chance to expound their ideas about the meaning of an "Obama Age."
Lagos praised Obama for being the first American president to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council, saying the decision communicates the message, "I believe in the UN," something he said had gone unsaid during President George W. Bush's administration. Generally complimentary of the president, he called Obama's June speech in Cairo a "wonderful" address that "embraced" the Muslim world.
Gusenbauer focused less on Obama and more on the world community as a whole, which he said was finally addressing "the most ardent political and the most ardent social and economic issues."
One of those issues, he said, is nuclear nonproliferation, a subject about which he seemed hopeful — especially with regard to Iran, where he said an "out of touch" President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was making his "last expressions."
But Gusenbauer also warned of the danger of thinking that the economic crisis was over. He warned that governments might be deterred from continuing much-needed stimulus packages by the prospect of assuming huge amounts of debt.
Lagos emphasized the need for dialogue in international relations. He said Obama does not want to police the world and noted that engaging in discourse and sharing the burden to fight common problems are essential. He said the United States would expect international cooperation on a number of issues, and gave the example of the Kosovo conflict as a time when European nations could have helped the United States.
Laura Kammel '12, who attended the panel discussion, said the two leaders' talks seemed focused on "keeping people going on the right path as we start to head out of crisis."
"Optimism in the days of economic recession is a rarity in any case," she said. "I don't think anyone would take Lagos and Gusenbauer's words without their personal grain of salt."