Debate Held on U.S. Foreign Policy

In more recent times, the topic of the United States’ involvement in international affairs has generated many different viewpoints and heated debates. Students, faculty and community members gathered at the Crystal Cove Auditorium to listen to further discussions on American foreign policy in a debate between Yaron Brook, executive director of The Ayn Rand Institute, and William Schonfeld, a professor of political science on Jan. 21.
Presented by The Ayn Rand Society at UC Irvine, the debate titled, ‘America’s Foreign Policy: Unilateralism vs. Multilateralism (Should We Have Listened to France?),’ was moderated by Jenny Tran, Model United Nations co-president. Ayn Rand Society president Bach Ho, a fourth-year information and computer science major, started off with a brief introduction and set the terms of the debate. Each speaker was given a certain amount of time to speak, a series of rebuttals and a closing statement.
Brook argued that the United States should not send troops to other countries as self-sacrifice but only to countries that threaten the United States’ self-interest. He disagreed to the war in Iraq saying that Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States and terrorist nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia should be targeted instead. He also said that the United Nations was useless because the United States should not be siding with other nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran that he considered ‘evil.’
‘America should pursue its own self-interest in its foreign policy,’ Brook said. ‘It is the only standard by which we should determine our foreign policy and our actions in the world is for what is good for the citizens of the United States. And if our own self-defense requires going to war with other countries that the French reject to and the Germans reject to, we need to pursue what is in our own self-interest and disregard their concerns.’
On the other hand, Schonfeld argued that multilateralism should always be used unless the United States is directly threatened, in which case unilateralism can be instituted as a means of defense. Using the war in Iraq as the most recent example, Schonfeld said that when the United Nations, especially France, disagreed with the war in Iraq, the U.S. government ‘decided that was not critical.’ He presented numerous statistics of public opinion polls collected from Western Europe about their positive feelings of the United States. Comparing numbers from 2002 and 2003, the percentage of positive opinions plummeted drastically, arguing that the countries that opposed the United States in United Nation councils only opposed the war in the interest of the United States and not for the sake of disagreeing.
‘Multilateralism is always preferable to unilateralism, but that doesn’t mean that if the nation’s basic interests are threatened it might not act in a unilateral fashion,’ Schonfeld said. ‘And with seeing the passage of time, the interest of the United States would have been better if we had followed a United Nations basic route before getting militarily engaged. Secondly, it would have better served that if the war was over, we have turned over the control of Iraq to the United Nations.’
Although the two debaters disagreed among many topics, both speakers came to an agreement that the war in Iraq was wrong.
However, their reasons differed. Brook opposed the war in Iraq because he believed that the war was not in the self-interest of the United States and that other nations such as Iran posed a larger threat to the United States. Schonfeld did not support the war because he believed it was not the best option for solving the problem and that the United States should have allowed the United Nations to have a bigger role in the whole process.
After the debate ended, there was a Q