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Anne-Marie Slaughter puts foreign affairs in perspective

Published On: Oct 25 2012 12:23:33 AM EDT

Imagine the international firestorm if China invaded India.

Fifty years ago that fact hardly registered a blip as the United States was embroiled in 13-day, high-stakes showdown with the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles in Cuba. Resting in the balance was the planet itself. And after the United States emerged victorious, Nikita Khrushchev never seemed as menacing.

On Wednesday night Anne-Marie Slaughter, a woman of fierce intellect and formidable international diplomatic credentials, placed the world’s current landscape into perspective during a provocative lecture on the campus of Lafayette College.


Current Princeton University professor, recent director of policy planning for the United States Department of State, former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, former Harvard University professor, and noted opinion-piece writer on international affairs, Slaughter has recently acquired her 15 minutes for something else - an article she penned for Atlantic Monthly entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

“There has been a fundamental rebalancing of the world landscape on two fronts,” she said to a crowd assembled at Colton Chapel. “One that has changed the relative power of countries.”

In October 1962 the U.S. and the Soviets were the globe’s undisputed “relative powers.” Today only the United States remains as military goliath, Slaughter noted, and a new cadre of mid-level powers have emerged to replace the Soviets.

“And that shift had enabled a shift from states to people,” Slaughter noted.

To illustrate her point, she noted a phenomenon that occurs every October in New York.

“On the East Side the United Nations General Assembly meets at the U.N.” she noted. Many of those same diplomats trek to the West Side of town later that day to attend the Clinton Global Initiative.

“It features not only heads of state, but CEOs and leaders in the business community, academics and religious leaders who make pledges to improve things such as water quality and health services” to trouble spots across the planet.

“A coalition of actors are needed” to address the salient diplomatic issues of the day, she added. Part of that fight is the availability of technology. “Now we fight for the right to connect,” she noted. “The United States is at the forefront of internet freedom.”

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook now allow citizens of non-democratic nations such as Iran and China to engage in discourse.


However the traditional diplomatic agenda remains prevalent today much as it did 50 years ago.

“There is no question those concerns are still with us,” she noted.

But they now vie for a diplomats’ time with solving other problems, such as carbon emissions, improving the health of all people across the planet and security measures for women.

And Slaughter also handicapped Monday night’s third and final presidential debate on foreign policy, noting that President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, concur on most traditional international affairs issues, but differ greatly on their “lego world” views.