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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Rep. French Hill is shown in this file photo. ( Democrat-Gazette file photo / Staton Breidenthal)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The United States can't continue to be the "one-man show" it was in the aftermath of World War II, U.S. Rep. French Hill told students, faculty members and administrators at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville on Monday.

For 70 years, the United States has borne an outsize responsibility on the world stage, the Republican from Little Rock told about 100 people who gathered in Old Main's Giffels Auditorium.

"Seven decades after the ashes in Dresden and Hiroshima cooled, the loss of 55 million people fresh in policymakers' nightmares, the United States and her World War II allies stood up the postwar system that we continue to utilize today," Hill said. "The United States alone rested atop the postwar smoldering pile of broken lives, countries, economies and villages. At the end of the war, America accounted for more than 50% of global industrial production."

In July 1944, 730 delegates from 44 allied nations convened in Bretton Woods, N.H.

"Drawing on the lessons of World War I, the Great Depression and the current conflict, financial leaders would hammer out a global economic reconstruction plan that included trade, the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," Hill said.

Since then, the world has changed, he said.

"Economically, since Bretton Woods, the United States has served as the nexus for all countries to lift themselves toward a higher standard of living. ... From our 50% share of world industrial output at the end of World War II to today's 18% demonstrates magnificently the breadth of living standards whereby billions have been lifted out of poverty -- economic advances are being shared with the world over," Hill said.

But more work needs to be done, said Hill.

"Despite this great nearly century, we still have theft, corruption and economic basket cases across the globe principally due to greedy, autocratic leaders that have turned their backs on their people," he said. "From Venezuela to Syria to Iran, one sees the failures of socialism, communism and plain old autocratic theft.

"We rededicate ourselves to leadership," Hill said. "We no longer have to foot the entire bill, but world leaders still look to the 'one-man show' to set the example, rally the cause and help encourage others to support with talent and treasure."

Hill said U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat and onetime president of the university, would be "amazed by today's global living standards."

"He would be proud of the long success of postwar institutions, particularly of his own contribution in education exchange," said Hill, referring to the Fulbright program of international academic exchanges.

"But he would remain concerned about the human race and its possible suicide," said Hill.

He was referring to a Fulbright quote in the May 10, 1958, issue of The New Yorker magazine: "The exchange program is the thing that reconciles me to all the difficulties of political life," Fulbright said. "It's the only activity that gives me some hope that the human race won't commit suicide, though I still wouldn't count on it."

Hill said America's postwar example included free expression at home and strong, vocal support of free expression abroad, particularly in the form of advocacy for religious tolerance and freedom. It also included the rule of law, human rights, and education for women and members of minority groups, Hill said.

"These are fundamental tenets of our foreign policy," he said. "They are not missed. They are not lost in the contemporary sea sludge of social media malcontents, propagandists and 'brave' digital warriors on the Web."

Hill said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was formed in 1949, helped keep peace in Europe.

"Over the seven decades, with America as an idea and incubator, the nations of the globe raised living standards, expanded education, reduced poverty and encouraged religious tolerance," Hill said. "These ideals were complemented by an extremely well-focused and realistic diplomatic and military strategy to counter the serious Soviet threat. ... Lasting peace in Europe was preserved all these years not through scholarships, but through a strong, well-trained tactical and strategic partnership developed in conjunction with our military alliances in Europe via NATO and in Asia with our postwar key ally and partner, Japan."

But refocusing NATO is critical, said Hill.

"This is why President Trump's focus on the strength and long-term diverse financial support of NATO is right on point," said Hill. "NATO countries agreed at their 2014 meeting to spend not less than 2% of GDP on defense, of which at least 20% should be invested in major equipment. At that time, only three countries met this objective. That's not right."

When a reporter asked Hill afterward whether the changes currently underway include making Russia an ally of the United States, he said that under Vladimir Putin's leadership, Russia is an authoritarian regime.

"That doesn't mean that there aren't things we can do together," Hill said. "And this has been, I think, poisoned by the political environment that we've been in somewhat. We're not going to be able to solve the humanitarian crisis in Syria or challenge Ukraine, eastern Ukraine, without working with Russia on what that solution might look like. So that doesn't make them an ally per se.

"It means that there's a nation that has a significant military presence, energy presence, nuclear weapon presence, and they have to be communicated with and worked with where there are areas that we have in common, as they did in the war on terror -- or police action. So I wouldn't describe Russia as an ally. I would describe Russia as an independent country with which we've got to have good conversations, good diplomatic relations and try to help find solutions that would be mutually beneficial to both countries."

When asked about potential Russian meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections, Hill said Russia has always engaged in "significant disinformation and election interference" -- before the digital age and since.

"I don't doubt that they will continue with that behavior, which is why we have to appropriate the money to have the most secure elections that we can and use all the arrows in our quiver to counter that behavior," he said.

Hill said all campaign advertising should be disclosed, including ads on social media, so people will know who paid for those ads.

He said election tampering will require constant vigilance now and in the future.

Metro on 11/26/2019

Print Headline: Hill talks of U.S.' role since World War II

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