Even discourse can’t ground in-the-air questions about the United States’ international presence.
Debaters discussed whether the U.S. should maintain sole global superpower status at the 30th annual Fordham Debate on Thursday.
Tom Farer, director of the Center for China-United States Cooperation, argued in favor during the debate, and Nora Bensahel, Deputy Director of Studies and a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, argued as the opponent.
Farer argued a superpower country is framed by what countries are considered friends and enemies.
“I am really equating the effort to sustain sole superpower status as really an effort to be the uni-power,” Farer said.
Farer claimed some of the drawbacks of a one-sided power are dysfunctional tendencies to intervene and limitations on civil rights and liberties. For the first time, the main interests of the major powers coincide, he said. However, U.S. exceptionalism is incompatible with this international collaboration.
Bensahel maintained that superpower does not mean complete domination and dictation nor does it bracket the U.S. as a global police force. Rather, her definition encompasses superpower as the ability to project power throughout multiple regions at one time.
“This global order does not only benefit the United States. It directly benefits many other states in the international system as well,” Bensahel said.
Bensahel said in her rebuttal that having a strong military is not the only way to keep power. When the U.S. is faced with a non-traditional attack, diplomatic initiatives and economic sanctions can prove to be effective solutions.
Both Bensahel and Farer continually discussed Iran, the Sept. 11 attacks, NATO and the Cold War throughout the debate.
Professors Wayne McCormack and Amos Guiora began organizing the debate last winter, and both found the civil discourse a success.
“I think there was an invaluable teaching moment in terms of the manner in which discourse can be conducted with enormous respect,” Guiora said. “That’s something that’s sorely lacking in political debates today in the United States.”
There were 120 attendees at the debate, and 40 people watched the live screening online. Sarah Wagner, a junior in political science who attended the debate, said the discussion wasn’t over when the debate stopped.
“I think it was a good preliminary step to opening up the sort of discussion,” she said.
Wagner was disappointed the debate didn’t have a final resolution.
“They obviously didn’t resolve anything,” Wagner said. “I can see why it’s important for the United States to still have a really strong global presence, but it also doesn’t need to be the world police, the sole presence globally.”