War Speeches Commence

Nomaan Merchant

By Nomaan MerchantThe Daily Northwestern

In the face of conflicts throughout the world, America must engage in foreign diplomacy and work extensively with the United Nations, said a State Department official who spoke Monday night at Northwestern.

Eric Rubin, the executive assistant to the under secretary for political affairs, spoke to about 25 students in University Hall about his experiences working overseas and what he believes is the future of global affairs.

He was the first to present in a four-part lecture series on the Iraq War that will continue through February.

“We’re entering a new era that’s going to be messier and in many ways scarier than what came before,” Rubin said. “Fundamentally, what we’re facing is a loss of predictability.”

Globalization has made the previous rules of engagement in foreign relations obsolete, he said. Unlike during the Cold War, America’s current enemies cannot be expected to act rationally.

“We’ve lost the predictability of knowing that our adversaries have the same basic goals that we have,” Rubin said.

At times, Rubin strayed slightly from the party line while he answered wide-ranging questions from students.

One student asked Rubin what he would do about Iraq if he were president. Rubin laughed and told the student he would “sleep on it,” but he acknowledged the impact the war has had on America’s position in the world.

“It’s a challenging time to be an American diplomat,” he said. “There’s no question that Iraq has taken a toll.”

The backlash from Iraq has hurt public approval of the United States throughout the world, Rubin said.

In Turkey, support for the U.S. is as low as three percent, he said.

This makes working with the United Nations to solve global issues more necessary than before, Rubin said.

“The most important message that we’re trying to get out right now is that we want to work within the international system,” he said.

He stressed that the United States’ popularity in different regions has been declining since the Clinton administration, but some of the current backlash “is clearly related to what has happened in the last five years or six years.”

Tighter restrictions on student visas after 9/11 have decreased the number of international students coming to the U.S. and learning about American culture firsthand, Rubin said. Meanwhile, the State Department’s budget cannot support the global outreach programs necessary for the United States, he said.

“In most countries, significant portions of the elite (were) educated in the U.S.,” Rubin said. “That’s changing and the numbers are declining, and the impact that’s going to have will be enormous.”

America can no longer tackle the world’s problems, including drug trafficking, prostitution rings and Internet crime without help from the United Nations, Rubin said.

“What we’ve discovered, including the Bush administration … is that we’re unable to solve these problems, not just alone, but even with ad hoc coalitions,” he said.

Rubin discussed the United States’ efforts to fight crime by working with other countries. In one instance, the UN helped control the illegal production of the drug methamphetamine by requiring producers of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in drugs like Sudafed, to monitor who purchased the drug.

But globalization has created a new set of challenges for governments, Rubin said. Criminals using the Internet to defraud people in the United States cannot be brought to justice if the nation they reside in refuses to extradite them, according to Rubin.

“Holding onto international structures that we have is going to be increasingly important,” Rubin said. “These agencies … are the only places where we can all come together.”

After the event, students said they looked forward to other talks in the lecture series.

“It was a good survey of relevant topics,” said Weinberg senior Ramona Maza. “It really brought home issues that I’m learning about in my international organizations class.”

Reach Nomaan Merchant at [email protected]