Debate Questions America as an Empire
On April 22 at 7 p.m., the Irvine Conservative Student Union, Center for Democracy and Young America’s Foundation, hosted a debate at the Crystal Cove Auditorium.
Entitled ‘Has America Become an Empire? The Implications for World Peace,’ the debate was free to all who were interested in attending.
Opening the evening’s event was Ryan Mykita, a fourth-year economics major, co-chair of the ICSU and publisher of the Irvine Review, who welcomed attendees.
Attention was then directed to William Schonfeld, the evening’s moderator.
A professor of political science and former dean of the school of Social Sciences at UCI, Schonfeld began by addressing the importance of having such an event on campus.
‘A university should be a forum for civil debate and discussion,’ Schonfeld said before introducing Mark Petracca and Dinesh D’Souza, the evening’s speakers, who have debated twice before on a range of political issues including affirmative action.
Petracca, a professor of political science at UCI, has been published in a number of scholarly journals. His research centers on how political power is enabled, constrained and distributed in advanced industrial societies.
Formerly a senior domestic policy analyst at the White House, Dinesh D’Souza is a senior fellow from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a prominent conservative author.
Following Schonfeld’s introduction, each of the speakers were allotted 15 minutes for an opening argument with Petracca designated to start.
Petracca opened with a statement once made by former President George Washington.
‘The United States must observe good faith with nations,’ Petracca said before presenting his two arguments.
The first of these arguments was that the United States is not an empire but is under the false impression that it is, thus having negative implications on world peace.
‘The United States is operating under the delusion that is an empire under the Bush administration, which is dangerous,’ Petracca said.
The second argument stated the United States is an empire and this too poses a threat to the United State’s international relations.
Petracca continued by claiming that the U.S economy could not support an empire.
‘American people will not support the cost of being an empire,’ Petracca said.
D’Souza began his opening statement by criticizing Professor Petracca for failing to mention the September 11th attacks and their relevance to the issue of empire.
‘It’s peculiar to have a discussion about empire and foreign policy without mention of Sept. 11,’ D’Souza said.
He continued by arguing that the United States may indeed be an empire, though not in the traditional sense of the term.
‘If America is a traditional empire, why doesn’t it own the regions it has invaded or temporarily ruled?’ D’Souza said. ‘We fought a peculiar war in Afghanistan. We gave rations to enemy civilians while fighting.’
Following their opening arguments, both speakers were allowed an eight-minute rebuttal which was followed by a second five-minute closing rebuttal.
Beginning his rebuttal Petracca, claimed the Sept. 11 attacks only turned attention against those of Muslim faith.
‘Many Muslims do not like the United States because we have stationed troops in the Holy Land,’ said Petracca criticizing the U.S for using force to promote liberty.
Finishing his counterargument, Petracca corrected D’Souza’s point about U.S occupation of sovereign states.
‘The United States was in Cuba and the Philippines for a long time. We still have 750 military bases around the world,’ Petracca said.
In his final rebuttal of the evening D’Souza claimed the United States used force to promote liberty within its own borders.
‘We achieved liberty through the Revolutionary war and we achieved liberty for African Americans by force through the Civil War,’ D’Souza said.
Referring to his argument about the United States as an amiable empire D’Souza reflected upon the current war in Iraq.
‘Iraqis are better off because of America’s invasion regardless of its intentions or motivation,’ D’Souza said.
Despite the gravity of the issues being argued, both speakers remained civil and even found time to interject with humor, lightening the mood of the discussion.
‘I enjoyed the humor and the fact that they kept it civil,’ said Wayne Lam, a second-year electrical engineering major.
By the end of the night, many students were appreciative of the speakers’ knowledge on the topic.
‘I thought both speakers were well informed and expressed their views excellently,’ said Swaicha Chanduri a second-year political science major.
Others, however, were not as impressed.
‘I didn’t think that the topic was really relevant to current world events,’ said Vanessa Taw, a second-year psychology major.