Forum debates U.S. role

Discussion is part of a national network.
Friday, November 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Attack countries that threaten the United States. Encourage dialogue and democracy. Promote free trade. These issues and more were addressed Thursday night during a public forum held at the Columbia Public Library.

The deliberation is part of the National Issues Forums, a nonpartisan network of meetings held nationally and locally to address issues of public policy. Nine Columbia residents led by two moderators expressed their views on four proposed approaches to America’s role in the world: international order through military action, democratic dialogue, promoting free trade and preserving the planet’s future.

“None of these four approaches are ideal,” said Sandra Hodge, moderator and state public policy expert with the UM System Outreach and Extension. “All have trade-offs and consequences.”

The pros and cons of these policies were deliberated in a two-hour discussion. The participants remained anonymous, which is the forums’ standard policy.

Participants talked about reasons for supporting war and a unilateral military approach. They also looked at the economic and human consequences of such an approach. Issues related to democracy were also discussed, such as assisting other political regimes and imposing democracies in other countries to protect U.S. citizens.

Moderators encouraged participants to consider what groups were not represented in the deliberation and try to speak for them.

Hodge said it is important that people in the community talk about issues that are important to them. By sharing beliefs, attitudes and listening to others, people can build public knowledge and think of solutions they can pursue together, she added.

This is the first open public forum of its kind held in Columbia, Hodge said. A similar forum on terrorism was held in April, but the forum was taped and participants were invited.

For more information on the National Issues Forums visit

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