Conference key note addresses US

US national security will be the subject of the key note address at the Stuarts International Funds Conference 14 January at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston, University will deliver the inaugural William Walker Memorial Lecture, titled ‘The limits of power – US imperialism and its effect on international affairs’.

It will be the first in a series of lectures sponsored by Stuarts, in memory of the firm’s founder and industry pioneer, William Walker.

‘I’m planning to speak about the current crisis of US national security policy,’ Mr. Bacevich said. ‘Briefly, the United States has committed itself to a policy of open-ended war, which it cannot afford and for purposes that it cannot define. Never since World War II has the United States found itself so bereft of strategy.’

Mr. Bacevich is a well know commentator in US media on the war on terror.

He is a graduate of the US Military Academy and received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University.

The retired US Army Colonel, who himself served in the Vietnam War, is an outspoken critic of the US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his book ‘The limits of power: The end of American exceptionalism’, he ascribes the loss of pragmatic realism in US foreign policy in parts to the concept of American exceptionalism.

‘American exceptionalism is the tendency of Americans to believe that we are a providentially chosen people with a unique mission assigned by God to bring history to its preordained conclusion,’ Mr. Bacevich explained. ‘We are not the only people to suffer from such an affliction, but in our case it’s pretty severe.’

He argues that Americans misread the outcome of the Cold War by believing that the collapse of the Soviet Union was in some way the result of a superior US model, whereas it is more realistic to assume that the Soviet empire collapsed from within due to its inherent weaknesses.

‘Soon thereafter, Americans misread the outcome of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. We convinced ourselves that US military forces were invincible, disregarding thousands of years of military history that warned against such hubris,’ Mr. Bacevich said.

Instead of fighting a war on terror the US should emphasize its defences, he said.

‘Violent anti-Western jihadism is a real threat but a limited one. The beginning of wisdom lies in the recognition that the extremists can’t win. What they have on offer won’t sell. People don’t want to return to a pre-modern existence,’ he stated.

‘Ultimately, the threat will implode much as the communist threat did. In the meantime, we need to insulate ourselves from its adverse effects. Bluntly, we need robust defences.’

In addition to American exceptionalism and the lack of a coherent military strategy, Mr. Bacevich links what he calls ‘a crisis of profligacy’ to US foreign policy failures.

Central to his argument is that the transformation of the US from an ’empire of production’ into an ’empire of consumption’, both terms coined by Harvard historian Charles Meyer, has led to a dependency on others to the extent that Americans are no longer masters of their own fate.

The recent financial and economic crisis appears to underline this point.

‘We need to learn to live within our means. The longer we refuse to do so, the more pain we will experience down the road,’ Mr. Bacevich said.

Mr. Bacevich’s lecture on the future prospects of the United States will be of interest to anyone concerned with the direction the global economy is going to take.

The International Funds Conference 2010 is in its third year and will focus on the challenges surrounding global transparency.

Stuarts’ Managing Director Andrew Hersant, commented: ‘The International Funds Conference, sponsored annually by Stuarts, has built a strong name for itself within the financial industry due to the fact that we ensure attendees are provided with first-rate information from internationally acclaimed speakers.’

Opening remarks will be delivered by Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chairman George McCarthy.

The conference is supported by insolvency specialists, Krys & Associates, with an evening reception immediately following the conference sponsored by RBC Wealth Management and Cayman Finance. Cayman Financial Review is the conference media sponsor.