Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell optimistic about nation’s global standing

Mitchell talks future of U.S., foreign policy at Coe forum

Published: February 4 2014 | 8:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:11 am in
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Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell doesn't adhere to the thought that the U.S. is in, or is entering a state of decline.

In fact, Mitchell thinks the U.S. will likely experience a period of substantial growth both economically and with its role in the world over the next few years.

"I believe, contrary to much current thought, and even current wisdom, that the U.S. is not in imperative decline, but rather will experience a period of renewed growth and greater influence in world affairs than what has been the case in the past," Mitchell said.

But part of that growth, Mitchell said, will have to come along with the United States practicing restraint, and not involving itself in every foreign conflict, despite the fact that it is the world's greatest military power.

"We have to get over the notion that every problem in the world is an American problem that requires an American solution," Mitchell said. "We don't have the capacity, should we have the right to dictate to other countries how they should organize their governments, how they should conduct their affairs."

"We can support those whose values we share, those who aspire to the same kinds of lives our people have, but it's not up to us to settle every problem in the world, it is not up to the U.S. military to intervene everywhere there is a problem," he added.  

Mitchell, who most recently served the Obama Administration as special envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2011, made the comments during Coe College's 11th Contemporary Issues Forum at Sinclair Auditorium Tuesday evening. He is also known for his role in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and chairing commissions on the doping scandal in Major League Baseball and the Olympic bidding processes.

Looking forward, Mitchell said one issue that will grow in importance is that of continued, rapid population growth on a global scale — particularly in the Middle East and Africa — increasing demand for natural resources, water, land, economic growth and political power which will likely put added pressure on the United States at a time when many foreign countries are already struggling to meet the needs of their people.

"As this growth in population occurs, as the turbulence continues, I believe that the U.S. will experience greater growth and greater influence and our growth will be enhanced tremendously by the increasing likelihood of energy dependence in our country," Mitchell said.

Before taking questions, Mitchell told the audience he feels one of the U.S.'s greatest strengths has been it's ability to acknowledge its mistakes and change it's policies when necessary.

"The U.S. is imperfect, its made many mistakes in the past, but the greatness of our society is that we have been willing to look error in the face and we have been willing to acknowledge mistakes and change policies when we are wrong," Mitchell said. "And I believe we can and we will do so in the future. And, for the young people in here, you will live in the best years of American history."

The Contemporary Issues Forum was established by late Coe alum K. Raymond Clark, with the intent of showcasing leaders whose work has influenced the course of world events.

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