Ambassador to address U.S. foreign policy, nuclear disarmament

February 06, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Ambassador Richard Butler AC, distinguished scholar for international peace and security at Penn State's School of International Affairs, will offer a free public lecture series beginning Thursday, March 5.

Butler is one of the world's leading experts with respect to nuclear arms control and disarmament. As executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission to Disarm Iraq (UNSCOM), he was U.N.'s chief arms inspector of Iraq between 1997 and 1999. He also has served as Australian ambassador to the United Nations; chairman of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons; Australian ambassador for disarmament, Geneva; Australian ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia; governor of Tasmania; and Australian deputy representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Paris. In 2003, Butler was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honor.

Butler's three public lectures will include: "Renewing U.S. Foreign Policy," on Thursday, March 5; "The Elimination of Nuclear Weapons," on Thursday, April 2; and "Reform of the U.N. Security Council," Thursday, April 16. All lectures will be held in the Greg Sutliff Auditorium of the Lewis Katz Building, located off of Park Avenue and Bigler Road in University Park. Attendees are invited to a reception following each event.

Renewing U.S. Foreign Policy: Thursday, March 5, 4 p.m.

Throughout his election campaign and since assuming the presidency, President Barack Obama has advocated substantial change to the U.S. role in global affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken of the need for the United States to be "smart" in its diplomacy and exercise of power. In his opening lecture, Butler will address these concerns and outline a fundamental approach to reviving U.S. foreign policy.

"It is beyond doubt that U.S. foreign policy requires revision, reformulation and renewal," said Butler. "This will be achieved only if there is clarity about the nature of U.S. interests and principles. Smart power, hard power, soft power - all are potentially in play. But, there is a need, first, for all involved in U.S. foreign policy to share a conception of its foundations, of its goals, opportunities and limits; a conception that goes beyond slogans such as 'axis of evil' or a belief in a crusading global mission."

Butler will outline what that conception might be and what policy objectives should be pursued.

The Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: Thursday, April 2, 4 p.m.

In his second lecture, Butler will discuss the safe elimination of nuclear weapons, an effort he believes should be revived after a decade of inaction. He will analyze the threat of nuclear arms and propose viable solutions to eradicating the problem.

"Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the terrifying hallmark of which was the nuclear arms race and the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, almost 30,000 nuclear weapons continue to exist," said Butler. "Their existence poses the greatest threat to the human race and the planetary environment."

In this presentation, he will argue that nuclear weapons have no utility and that any security issues they are purported to solve would only be made worse by their use.

"There is no serious problem on which military action may be needed which cannot be solved through the use of conventional weapons," said Butler. "Most disturbing is that possession of nuclear weapons is proliferating, which enlarges the possibility that they may be acquired by non-State groups."

Reform of the UN Security Council: Thursday, April 16, 4 p.m.

In his final lecture, Butler will examine the U.N. Security Council, established in the U.N. Charter as the central instrument for collective action on "the maintenance of international peace and security." He will discuss the urgent need for a new U.N. Security Council fit for the contemporary world and offer specific proposals for its reform.

Butler served more than five years on the U.N. committee to reform the Security Council, and for two years, took part in meetings of the Council, including crucial private meetings.

"(The U.N. Security Council's) track record has been mixed, at best, but more important, it is now widely recognized to be an almost hopelessly anachronistic body. It is showing its age and origins in the post-World War II, pre-decolonization periods," said Butler.

He will discuss why the council's existing membership and decision-making methodology must be changed if essential efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons are to be accepted.

"The maintenance of peace and security needs new definitions, new management," Butler said.

In addition to his role with UNSCOM, Butler's other U.N. posts have included serving as vice chair of the World Summit on Social Development (the "Copenhagen Consensus" process), president of the Economic and Social Council and chair of the Working Group that created UNAIDS.

  • Ambassador Richard Butler AC, distinguished scholar for international peace and security at Penn State's School of International Affairs

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated July 22, 2015