Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Former Sen. George Mitchell discusses peacemaking strategies in DU address

In a free public address at DU on Oct. 10, former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, spoke of the unique challenges to peace in the 21st century and how America could play a role in addressing those challenges.

Speaking before an audience of 800 in Gates Concert Hall, Mitchell listed five major threats to peace: proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons; the increase in the number of terrorist groups and their decentralization; the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism; the increase in competition for energy resources; and widespread hostility toward the U.S.

Mitchell led peace negotiations in Northern Ireland that resulted in a 1998 accord, ending decades of conflict. His lecture was part of DU’s Bridges to the Future speaker’s series, which this year is focused on “The Pursuit of Peace.”

To mitigate hostility directed at the U.S., Mitchell said, our government must return to its founding ideologies. He warned that the current administration’s “profound errors” in foreign policy have dampened the United States’ effectiveness in brokering peace.

Mitchell called for the U.S. to regain international respect by rebuilding relationships with historic allies and reinvigorating economies abroad.

Mitchell said he hopes former Secretary of State James Baker’s bipartisan task force for an Iraq exit strategy will change the direction of President Bush’s current policy on the war, which Mitchell called a catalyst for increased terrorist activity.

“‘Stay the course’ is not a policy,” Mitchell said. “It is just a slogan.”

Mitchell admitted there is no perfect way to withdraw troops from Iraq, but suggested giving Iraqi leadership a beginning date for withdrawal of American troops. Otherwise, he said, the Iraqi leadership has no incentive to take responsibility.

The most critical step toward peace in the Middle East, Mitchell said, is resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict — a conflict he considers the greatest source of political instability in that region. “I am convinced there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be resolved,” he said.

DU created the Bridges to the Future program in 2002 to stimulate community dialogue in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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