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Etzioni Puts Security Before Elections
UCLA Professor Michael Intriligator (left) introduced Etzioni. (Photo by Elsie Walton)

Etzioni Puts Security Before Elections

The professor and public intellectual Amitai Etzioni practices the Socratic method at UCLA, arguing for a foreign policy that proceeds from the human right to be free from harm.

Christine Larson Email ChristineLarson

We don't deliver.

Handheld cameras turned out in force, along with about 20 people, for an April 25, 2007, talk by the public intellectual and international relations specialist Amitai Etzioni, who teaches at George Washington University. Etzioni was introduced by former Burkle Center Director Michael Intriligator, a UCLA professor of economics, political science and public policy. The Burkle Center sponsored the event.

Having spent the past three years writing Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy (Yale, 2007), Etzioni visited campus to discuss the book's message—a call for a revision of U.S. priorities in foreign policy.

Etzioni asked as many questions as he answered, and audience members returned his deference and respect in their questions. He sat on a table in front of the speaker's podium, announcing a preference for dialogue.

"First of all," he said, "people want security." They want to leave their homes in the morning without the fear of being kidnapped or shot on their way to work. In societies where such fears are confronted on a daily basis, the desire for basic security takes precedence over whether or not a state holds democratic elections.

Etzioni's "security first" prototype holds that the basic human right not to be "killed, maimed, or tortured" should be at the forefront of foreign policy.

Referring to ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, Etzioni noted, "We don't deliver."

He noted that successful democratization is possible; however, it is a process that needs to be slowly introduced if it is to succeed. A society first has to be convinced of the benefits of democratic institutions. "You cannot democratize countries on demand," he said.

"I am tired of criticizing Bush," Etzioni stated. He said he prefers to pose a series of questions, beginning with, "What do we do next?"

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