As students at more than 30 college campuses across the country spring to action in protest of the possible war against Iraq, a few lonely Yalies stand in the middle of Cross Campus, soliciting signatures from passing students.
At Yale, reaction to the Bush administration’s threat of miltary action against the country has ranged from fervent opposition to wholehearted support.
On Yale’s politically vibrant campus, emotions have reached a fever pitch. But they have not translated into large scale protest as students discuss the possibility of an attack against Iraq.
A war of economics?
Samuel Bernstein ’05 urged the U.S. to take a peaceful multilateral approach to foreign policy as he handed out pamphlets on Cross Campus for the Yale Coalition for Peace.
“This war is a tool of economic interest,” he said. “The Gulf War was fought chiefly for oil reasons, and now [President] George W. Bush has the Sept. 11 incident as an opportunity and excuse to fight to keep more scarce oil.”
Frank Walsh ’04 said he did not believe the government was motivated only by economic interests.
“I agree that oil did play a role in the Gulf War,” Walsh said. “The present war on terrorism is not, however, being waged on economic issues. The reasons, if we do deploy, for U.S. intervention are political in nature — Iraq presents a clear and present danger to American interests both at home and abroad.”
Christopher Potter ’03 said he believes that in focusing on Iraq, President Bush has neglected economic concerns in the U.S.
“I find it appalling that the president spends his time saber-rattling and hammering out foreign policy while neglecting our sagging economy and other domestic problems,” Potter said. “National attention should turn to more pressing matters.”
Moved to action
Alarmed by the situation in Iraq, some students have been moved to action.
Samuel Taylor ’05, who said he was frustrated by campus apathy, has been collecting signatures in the Saybrook dining hall for a petition against the war.
“Many are apathetic and unwilling to put their name on a petition because they are in a hurry, hungry or unwilling to take a stand,” Taylor said. “This is a burning issue, and very shortly, bombs from our country may fall in Iraq. Those bombs are in our names even if we do not consciously decide we support the war.”
But not all students agree with Taylor’s assessment of student involvement in the issue.
“The issues of the day are always a good topic around the dinner table,” Charles Umiker ’03 said. “Iraq is a common topic of discussion.”
Jack Snyder ’03 often partakes in such discussion and said he urges the U.S. to act on the Iraq issue.
“The most helpfaul realization to emerge in the United States from the ashes of 9/11 can be summed up in this sentiment — never again,” Snyder said.
Nicholas Degani ’03 said he also hopes to see quick action, but for a different reason.
“America needs to act fast for the sake of the people of Iraq,” Degani said. “The innumerable human rights abuses under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the anti-democratic form of government, and Iraq’s mocking of the United Nations and its resolutions are largely unforgivable. We cannot, as a civilized nation, turn our backs on those who are crying for freedom,” he said.
Consequences of war
But many Yalies said they feel that the war could also have an adverse effect on U.S. international relations.
“We should strive to solve our problems with other countries, but not by attacking them,” Molissa Farber ’06 said. “Then we wonder why countries in the Middle East hate the United States. They’re not jealous of us; they only know who we are by the foreign policy that we constantly perpetrate against them.”
Snyder, however, emphasized the benefits that U.S. foreign action has provided to other countries.
“Millions of dollars in aid? Like, military security? Let’s not forget that we’re in the Persian Gulf because we were asked to stay by the Saudis,” Snyder said.
Still, other Yalies feel the main issue is the present administration.
“[President Bush has a] kindergarten mentality that we can deal with all the people we don’t like by fighting with them,” Farber said.
But others believe Bush deserves some credit for staffing the executive branch with highly able and effective people.
“Regardless of your reservations [about] President Bush, which I believe are unfounded, the team surrounding him is more than capable of dealing with the MIddle Eastern situation,” Walsh said.
There are plenty of ardent supporters and harsh critics of action against Iraq at Yale. And as the drumbeat for a pre-emptive attack against Iraq rings loud in the world’s ears, Yale seems a house divided.