Cohen Encourages Public Service

Defensive Coordinator
Damien A. Williamson

Former U.S. Defense Secretary WILLIAM H. COHEN speaks to a packed crowd at the ARCO Forum last night.

In the aftermath of last year’s terror attacks, it is now more important than ever for responsible people to enter public service, former secretary of defense William S. Cohen told students at the Kennedy School of Government’s ARCO Forum yesterday.

Cohen’s talk, entitled “Public Service in the Aftermath of 9/11,” drew an audience of over 100 and touched on America’s role in the world and a possible U.S. attack on Iraq.

Kennedy School Dean Joseph S. Nye introduced “renaissance man” Cohen to the forum as a “great novelist and poet,” urging members of the audience to read Cohen’s three novels and two volumes of poetry.

Lauding the “remarkable contribution” of the Kennedy School to public well-being, Cohen noted that 63 percent of the school’s graduates entered public service last year.

“As long as there are deep grievances in the world, we have a potential war that is a great threat to us,” he said.


Cohen, who was the only Republican chosen to be a part of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, said America has helped spread stability in the world by having its military “forward-deployed”— on the alert around the world to prevent situations that threaten peace.

“Thanks to American forces, Singapore has a great sense of stability and security, probably only second to Israel,” he said.

With a growing American military budget, Cohen said, it is important to question America’s role in the world.

“We have healthy appetites for security and stability in a democracy, and our governments need to respond to that,” Cohen said.

He kept his remarks to 20 minutes, spending most of the time answering questions.

When asked whether an attack on Iraq would earn the U.S. more enemies around the world, Cohen said that while Saddam Hussein had terrorized his own people, he was not yet known for exporting terror.

“We have to continue to reinforce the notion in countries around the world that we’re all in this together against weapons of mass destruction,” Cohen said. “The more countries that see Saddam is a dictator with weapons of mass destruction, the better.”

He said it is important to foster change in the Middle East and that the people of the region need to “embrace modernity.”

Staff writer Ravi P. Agrawal can be reached at