As U.S. leaders considered whether to attack Iraq, 100 students gathered last night in SSS 114 to hear a panel of Yale faculty members explain where the war on terrorism has been and where it is going.

The discussion, entitled “Democracy and the War on Terror: Effective Policy,” lasted two and half hours and covered a host of topics, ranging from the effectiveness of the current war on terrorism, to what defines terrorism, and to what forms U.S. policy should take in the future.

The panel included professors John Gaddis and Frank Griffel, Diplomat-in-Residence Charles Hill, and Nayan Chanda, the director of publications for the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

Gaddis used his opening remarks to set the current debate in the context of its larger historical significance.

“Sept. 11 has marked a fundamental turning point in American grand strategy the likes of which has only been seen twice before in our nation’s history,” Gaddis said, comparing the terrorist attacks to World War II and the burning of the White House in 1812.

The change in strategy has been marked by a further extension of the American definition of security policy that will lead it to uproot authoritarian regimes which breed “terrorist gangs,” Gaddis said.

The panelists grappled with the pending U.S. policy decision of what should be done with Iraq. Though all the panelists could agree that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous and menacing enemy, they differed on what the proper course and timetable for action should be.

Hill said taking on Iraq was a logical next step in the war on terrorism.

“Iraq is a state that supports terrorism. We know that Iraq is harboring terrorists, has been training terrorists, and has been subsidizing and rewarding terrorists and suicide bombers,” Hill said.

Gaddis picked up on that point, saying there is “indisputable” evidence that Iraqi agents were involved in terror, including an attempt to assassinate President George H.W. Bush.

Griffel expressed his doubts that a direct Iraqi link to terrorists is “that obvious,” noting that Hussein is both very intelligent and very aware that such an affiliation would mark him as a target.

Chanda voiced his concern over the timing of a possible move on Iraq and worried that it might detract from the principle effort against al Qaeda.

“My point is not really [on whether Iraq is] a terror or menace, there is no question,” Chanda said. “But is this the right time to dilute the war on terror?”

The panel attracted a diverse group of students ranging in their level of interest and knowledge of the current policy.

Kate Matlack ’06 said that she had come with her roommate on a whim but was intrigued by the discussion.

“It was really interesting to hear what the intellectual leaders of Yale had to say on these issues, and nice to hear a level of insight that you never get on the news,” Matlack said.

Noam Waldoks ’04 said he was glad that effort had been invested in diversifying the panel.

“There was a good job bringing in different perspectives and different people qualified to answer a wide range of questions. It really added to the discussion as a whole,” Waldoks said.