Margaret Karns

Margaret Karns


* Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of Dayton in Ohio
* Assigns anti-capitalism and anti-American literature for her students to read
* Believes that America should subordinate its foreign policy decisions to the dictates of the United Nations

Margaret P. Karns is a Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She is currently a Visiting Professor in the PhD Program on Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the founding director of the university’s Center for International Programs and former director of its International Studies Program. From 1995 to 1996, Karns was a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing in China. In addition, Professor Karns has served as Vice President of the International Studies Association and President of the Dayton Council on World Affairs. At present, she sits on the editorial boards of the International Studies Quarterly and Global Governance.

Having earned her PhD from the University of Michigan, Karns specializes, according to her university website, in “international politics and organizations, with a particular emphasis on U.S. foreign policy and multilateral institutions.” She has co-authored with Professor Karen Mingst of the University of Kentucky two books: The United States and Multilateral Institutions: Patterns of Instrumentality and Influence (1990), and The United Nations in the Post-Cold War Era (1995). In 2002, her chapter “The United States as ‘Deadbeat’? U.S. Policy and the UN Financial Crisis” was published in the book Multilateralism & U.S. Foreign Policy: Ambivalent Engagement. Karns has also published numerous articles on the United Nations, peacekeeping, and international politics.

At the University of Dayton, Professor Karns teaches five political science classes: “Globalization and its Backlash,” “Diplomacy and Peacekeeping,” “International Politics,” “American Foreign Policy,” and “International Law and Organization.”

In “Globalization and its Backlash,” Karns sets two of the course objectives as, “To probe the nature of and reasons for the backlash against globalization” and “To explore collectively, in small groups, and/or individually particular aspects of globalization and its backlash, namely the issue of job loss.” Karns requires her students to read the book Global Backlash: Citizen Initiatives for a Just World Economy, which Green party activist and Global Exchange Founding Director Medea Benjamin has called a “must-read for academics, activists, and anyone concerned about the future of our planet.” Benjamin writes, “From Subcomandante Marcos to religious activists, from environmentalists intent on saving virgin forests to students organizing against sweatshops, Global Backlash gives richness and texture to our growing movement.” From its objectives to its reading list, this class is clearly marked by an anti-capitalist slant.

For “American Foreign Policy,” the syllabus reads: “…we shall explore several ‘great debates’ over the nature of U.S. national interests, the current debate over the U.S. as an imperialist, ‘rogue’ power, and the implications of the [2004] election for foreign policy.” In preparation for the Iraq War section, the class is required to read only three articles: Louis Fisher’s “Deciding on War Against Iraq: Institutional Failures”; Steven Kull’s “Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War”; and “Empire Builders: Neoconservatives and Their Blueprints for US Power.” These articles are decidedly anti-war in their perspectives, as are these additional recommended readings listed by Karns: James Rubin’s “Stumbling into War”; Larry Diamond’s “What Went Wrong in Iraq”; and Shashi Tharoor’s “Why America Still Needs the United Nations.”

In the “International Politics” class, Karns obliges students to read the work of Harvard professor Stanley Hoffman, an ardent anti-American who has remarked, “The anti-Americanism on the rise throughout the world is not just hostility toward the most powerful nation, or based on the old cliché of the left and the right; nor is it only envy or hatred of our values. It is more often than not, a resentment of [American] double standards and double talk, of crass ignorance and arrogance, of wrong assumptions and dubious policies.”

Outspoken about her political views, Karns believes that the U.S. should subordinate its own foreign policy decisions to the dictates of the United Nations. She says, for example, “The biggest question is whether the Iraq situation justifies war. Under what circumstances should the U.S. proceed? The role of the United Nations is an important one. It’s the barometer of our effort to pay heed to other countries’ concerns about what we do.” Shortly before the start of the Iraq War in 2003, Karns told the University of Dayton News that if the U.S. invaded Iraq without the support of the UN Security Council “the United States would be in violation of the U.N. charter and its legal obligations. . . . If we go to war in the face of violating the U.N. resolution, it . . . makes the U.S. look like it’s trying to bully the other members to go along with this thinking—that it would be better to give us what we want than to proceed without security council support.” “We need a multilateral U.N. peace building seal of approval,” says Karns.

Karns depicts American foreign policy as unnecessarily aggressive. She laments in a 2003 op-ed piece, “The U.S. as a global superpower . . . views itself as ‘exceptional’ and is less willing to accept multilateral constraints of arms control agreements, the UN, environmental regulations or an International Criminal Court.”

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