Public Affairs Society Hosts Hamilton Scholar

By Drew Luther

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On Wednesday March 24, in the Wortmann Ballroom, the Public Affairs Society hosted Dr. Michael Federici for a lecture titled “Alexander Hamilton on U.S. Foreign Policy”.

He is a Professor of Political Science at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, and he has published five books. The Public Affairs Society sponsored the lecture as a part of its Local State Federal Lecture Series.

Dr. Federici opened his lecture by defining some terms, including realism and idealism. He defined realism as applying power effectively, and idealism as using power for fulfilling personal desires.

He said that too often, idealism is portrayed as realism and leaders justify unnecessary actions as self-defense or preemptive actions. Dr. Federici gave the example of the war in Iraq as unnecessary action. The likelihood of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was low and Saddam Hussein acted as a stabilizing influence on the region.

In addition, after the war was started, the US should have pulled out as soon as they completed their objective instead of staying for over a decade. Dr. Federici said that it was idealism that led to the current instability of the Middle East.

He explained that the American impulse to see problems and attempt to fix them haven’t worked. Looking at historical experience, he didn’t find any events where American involvement abroad improved the situation.

Instead of idealism portrayed as realism, Dr. Federici suggested that actual realism is the way to make decisions. Rather than seeing it necessary to get involved in international conflicts that don’t concern the interests of the United States, it would be better to get involved only if absolutely necessary.

He considered this modest republicanism, and said that modest republicanism is what Hamilton would strive for in modern times.Alexander_Hamilton,_by_Trumbull

According to Dr. Federici, Hamilton and George Washington were modest republicans because they supported the republic and its continued growth, but were not expansionists or imperialists. Their goals were to strengthen the economy, build up the military to defend against attackers, and to avoid getting entangled with any foreign powers, since the United States was too small and weak to survive any conflict.

Although the situation of the United States is very different from the early republic, Dr. Federici said that the political philosophies of the modest republicans only need slight alteration from its original state. While it would be impossible to avoid foreign entanglements completely, there are many situations the United States has gotten involved in that it didn’t have to.

After the lecture, Dr. Federici answered questions from the audience, ranging from Vietnam to the 2016 presidential election.