Former Senator Gary Hart DIV ’61 LAW ’64 encouraged Americans Saturday to educate themselves about foreign affairs as a means of influencing government decisions, offering stiff criticism of the foreign policies of both Bush administrations.
Speaking to approximately 200 people at the Yale Law School, Hart, a potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, discussed how the United States ended up at war with Iraq and President George W. Bush’s obsession with eliminating Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
“During the Cold War, we felt it was better to have the devil you know than the devil you don’t know, so at that time, we did not try to remove him,” Hart said. “Their rhetoric that ‘He’s a terrible man and we have to get rid of him’ didn’t seem to affect us before ’91.”
Hart also discussed the failure of many American allies to support U.S. involvement in Iraq, explaining that many nations did not see the justification of reconciling a war on terrorism, which they supported, with hunting down Hussein.
Hart covered four questions, which he said the Bush administration has failed to answer — what other countries are providing troops, how long troops will be in Iraq, how much the war will cost, and how many casualties there will be.
“First, who’s going with the U.S.? Not this coalition composed of countries that have no armies,” Hart said. “And how many casualties will there be? Because no one told the public anything, they assumed it would be another Gulf War.”
Hart warned against an expansion of the war into surrounding Arab countries accused of aiding Iraq.
“Think for 10 seconds about the U.S. going to war with three Arab countries in that region at the same time,” Hart said. “It’s the worst national and foreign policy situation I can think of.”
Hart also warned of future terrorist attacks on American soil, which he said could be triggered by the current war in Iraq.
In addition, Hart discussed the role of the United Nations and criticized how the United States has curtailed the U.N.’s power. He proposed a strengthened international peace-keeping body, distinguishing between peace-makers and peace-keepers.
“People trained and equipped to keep the peace are not also trained to make the peace,” Hart said. “Where people are clashing, the judgment is made to make the peace. Once they’ve made the peace, the peace keepers and diplomats come in from behind. Until we do this, it’s all going to be ad-hoc.”
Hart finished with a call to the American people to educate themselves and to get involved with the war as a means of affecting change.
“This is too important to be left to the experts. In the 21st century, there are no experts. But 50 percent Americans should not believe, up until last week, that Saddam was behind Sept. 11th,” Hart said. “It’s up to the American public to educate themselves. They cannot run the world if they insist on being stupid.”
Though he is a prospective presidential candidate, Hart stressed that he was at Yale to discuss the war with Iraq, not to campaign, despite offering sign-ups for those interested in helping with his campaign.
“I am not here to campaign, contrary to what you may have heard. The forum for this issue should run up through the next election,” Hart said. “Regardless of who’s in it, if I am or not, this should be a huge debate in this country.”
Molly Diaz ’05 said she was impressed with Hart’s earnest arguments.
“His perspective from outside of politics was interesting because he’s not currently involved in politics anymore,” Diaz said. “I felt he was genuinely interested in having a conversation about the issues.”