Clinton adviser tells UF about 'Superpower Myth'


Nancy Soderberg, left, and Dennis Jett, center, offer advice to University of Florida student Sipra Bihani, right, after Soderberg's speech Wednesday night at the Reitz Union. Bihani, 19, is a political science major and was asking the former ambassador to President Clinton for career advice. Soderberg told Bihani to seek internships and to get out to Washington, D.C.

ALLISON DURHAM/Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Nancy E. Soderberg, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and senior foreign policy adviser under President Bill Clinton, argued that America needs to be the great persuader and not the great enforcer in fighting the war on terrorism, stating that current policy makers have been blindsided by the "Superpower Myth."
She spoke to an audience of more than 100 UF students, staff and faculty in the Grand Ballroom at the Reitz Union Wednesday in a speech titled "The Superpower Myth - The Use and Misuse of America's Might."
The "Superpower Myth" speech was Soderberg's third speech delivered on campus Wednesday. Each speech was an hour long and touched on diverse and current topics meant to enhance the global perspective of UF students, staff and faculty. The first two speeches were titled "Preventing Conflict in Africa" and "Can the U.N. be reformed?"
"These are important issues, and the reason we bring in speakers," said Dennis Jett, dean of the International Center and director of the Transnational and Global Studies Center. He said some of the issues Soderberg discussed might be things that most students don't get to hear in class but will read about in the newspapers.
Soderberg's final speech, which shares the same title as her recent book, argued that the United States "cannot go it alone" in the war on terrorism.
"We are less secure today than we should be because we've been blinded by the 'Superpower Myth,' " she said.
The main aspect discussed in Soderberg's "Superpower Myth" speech is the falsity that the United States can bend the world to its will and single-handily spread democracy and prevent terrorism simply because we're the lone superpower on the planet
"Failure is inevitable if we go it alone," she said, referring to the global war on terrorism.
She furthered her point by mentioning that reality is slowly sinking in on many of the U.S. policymakers, noting that much of the rhetoric such as the "axis of evil" has died down.
"We've confused great power with absolute power," she said mentioning our need to work with other countries in order to break up international terrorism cells. "We need to (work with and help) other countries, not because it's the nice thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do. We need to abandon the Superpower Myth."
After making her political points, Soderberg gave advice directly to the UF students in the audience, suggesting that they take full advantage of the resources and contacts they have at the university. Soderberg herself was nudged into politics by a "pushy professor" named Madeleine Albright who would later go on to be secretary of state under Clinton.
Soderberg was a senor foreign policy adviser to Clinton throughout his term in office. She was a third ranking official at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1996. She went on to attain the rank of ambassador to the United Nations through 2001 and represented the United States at the Security Council. She is now a vice president at the International Crisis Group.
The International Center at UF frequently brings speakers, and the speeches free and open to the public. Their next speaker is Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian novelist, playwright, journalist and literary critic. He's scheduled to visit the campus on March 30.

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