Head to Head

Is the US a force for good in the world?

Mehdi Hasan goes head to head with Thomas Friedman on the morality of America’s global role.

The US appears to have taken a back seat role in international relations. Is the US in decline? Or is it just taking stock as it accommodates to the new emerging world order?

On balance, the US is a force for good ... it was the leading engine that protected democracy and advanced democracy in World War I, World War II and the Cold War, created a world, I think, where more people could enjoy freedom .... I think we have provided an order for the expansion of democracy, freedom and also prosperity.

by Thomas Friedman

In this episode of Head to Head at the Oxford Union, Mehdi Hasan challenges one of the world’s most influential columnists and authors, Thomas L Friedman.

Advisor to presidents and kings, Tom Friedman of the New York Times has won the Pulitzer Prize not once or twice, but three times.

He is the best-selling author, among many others, of The World is Flat and he argues in his latest book, That Used to Be US, that the US must rebuild itself to remain a global power.

Critics say American self-interest has trumped democracy and human rights time and again, and that Obama’s America is no different. So is the US foreign policy counter-productive? Or is America a force for good in the world?

The US  “is not an NGO”, admits Friedman, explaining that America “is a country like any country with its interests, it pursues them, and sometimes pursues them very narrowly.”

Friedman also talks about the powerful influence of the Israeli lobby and his  experience in Yemen.

“America is in a slow decline”, he tells Mehdi Hasan and goes on to describe his “unique formula of success” that will place America once again ahead of the Brazils, the Chinas and the Japans.

Joining this discussion are: Seumas Milne, an associate editor and columnist at The Guardian, as well as author of the The Enemy Within, Beyond the Casino Economy, and The Revenge of History; Davis Lewin, the political director at the Henry Jackson Society, and the former Middle East director at the Next Century Foundation; and Dr Miriyam Aouragh, a lecturer of Cyber Politics in the Middle East, an associate member of the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford who is currently conducting research on the political implications of the Internet for the Arab revolutions. She is also the author of Palestine Online: Transnationalism, the Internet and the Construction of Identity.