American Empire: Our country examined through films and lectures

A faculty spanning six departments examined the United States from a world perspective in terms of both economy and war to put U.S. foreign policy under a microscope.

This faculty composed the USA Project, which created last week’s Examination of American Empire week, a group of events discussing America’s foreign policy.

“In the past three years, since 9/11, America and the world have conducted conversations about the American Empire, its nature, origin and impact,” Alan Dawley, professor of history and head of the USA Project, said.

“It is good to make the College part of this international conversation.”

“When one country towers like a colossus over the rest, it is (important) for good citizens and scholars to asses whether that is good or not,” Dawley said, expressing his personal feelings for the USA Project’s mission.

The creation, planning and funding of the Examination of American Empire week all came from the USA Project and the Center for the Study of Social Justice, another campus organization founded by Dawley.

While the USA Project staff planned most events, professors from other colleges and other guests also took part.

The spread of the USA Project over various departments of the College contributed to the variety of events. Professors from the history and political science departments held a workshop on United States foreign policy, while the communications department presented a series of documentaries.

Debates over President Bush’s actions in Iraq were particularly important, but the USA Project did not concentrate too heavily on this single event.

There was talk about U.S. actions in Vietnam and Guatemala and the lack of action in Rwanda.

This event was created to examine the whole spectrum of U.S. actions, not simply the most recent ones.

Even in the discussions of the most recent actions, politics did not cause a huge rift between supporters and opponents of recent events, as these were learning experiences for everyone involved.

According to Dawley, some conservatives have called the events illuminating and enlightening. He said he believes that both conservatives and liberals presented their sides well, as Dawley did not hear of any opposition to the program.

He attributed this to the fact that the purpose was learning, not to prove one side right or wrong.

One of the events Dawley said impressed him was “America on Trial,” in which students held a mock trial on United States’ global actions, with both prosecutors and defendants, and “historical witnesses” to various events.

The event was a large success, with a heavily split vote in the jury.

Dawley said he found it to be a profound learning experience for both the students involved and the audience.

While the events covered much from America’s recent history, going as far back as the Spanish-American war, the recent Iraqi conflict was still a centerpiece.

A debate was held on the topic during which both sides presented their views on each issue of the conflict.

“It is a tribute to the institution that it has embraced the tradition of free speech,” Dawley said, “when there are voices in the government, (saying, as Bush did), that you are ‘with us or with the terrorists,’ (the College) has rejected that unacceptable choice and has moved the debate into pro and con about U.S. foreign policy.”