Amid rising concern over the possibility of war with Iraq, three professors and Newsweek senior editor Michael Hirsh discussed the feasibility and consequences of a military campaign Wednesday.
The Yale Center For International and Area Studies, the Middle East Studies Council, and the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization sponsored the talk, titled “Dealing With Iraq: the Beginning of What? Implications for the Future.”
The discussion was the second of two talks aimed at increasing awareness of the issues underlying the possible war with Iraq. The first talk, which focused on the financial costs of the war, was held last month.
Before an audience of about 80 students and faculty members, the 90-minute roundtable discussion featured history professor Abbas Amanat, religious studies professor Frank Griffel, history professor John Gaddis and Hirsh.
Throughout the talk, which consisted of 10-minute speeches by each of the panelists followed by a question and answer session, the four speakers disagreed over interpretations of the need for a war.
The capture of Congress by the Republicans in Tuesday’s election led many of the panelists to believe that war was increasingly likely.
“[The election] was an overwhelming endorsement of Bush personally and will give him the backbone to act out against [Iraq],” Gaddis said.
Hirsh said that he thought the war was inevitable.
“I believe that the United States will be at war with Iraq by January or March of next year,” Hirsh said.
Despite Hirsh’s assurances that a war would break out, he remained firmly against military intervention, citing the Administration’s inability to link Iraq to al-Qaida as a prime reason to hold off on immediate confrontation.
“The war policy is a crock,” Hirsh said. “This is a hugely risky operation for potential gains that probably won’t justify the risk.”
Gaddis emerged as the only speaker willing to consistently defend the Bush administration’s active pursuit military action.
“The administration has achieved a high level of thoughtfulness and clarity in the formulation of its grand strategy [on Iraq],” Gaddis said. “The United States and the rest of the world can no longer tolerate authoritarian systems that will assemble or share weapons of mass destruction.”
Amanat said that a war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would only worsen the political situation in the Middle East, however.
“Obviously there is no great love in Iraq as far as [Hussein] is concerned,” Amanat said. “But if military action is taken, this will only add to existing resentment of the United States [in Iraq].”
Amanat also objected to claims that the Bush administration was acting to help spread democracy to Iraq.
“The United States is trying to superimpose something on Iraq that doesn’t exist,” Amanat said.
During the question and answer session, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, objected to Gaddis’ defense of the Bush administration’s war policies.
“I thought it was a very Yale kind of moment,” Hector Silva ’05 said.
Fuat Savas ’06 said he found the discussion particularly relevant and important.
“If there is an attack the warplanes will lift off from my hometown in Turkey,” Savas said. “I was listening with interest because I was just trying to figure out what will happen [if war breaks out].”
YCIAS Director Gustav Ranis, who served as moderator, said he was disappointed by the lack of undergraduates present at the talk. But he said he was pleased with how the panelists handled the discussion.
“I thought the talk was a good airing of the pros and cons of a war with Iraq,” Ranis said. “You never solve complicated problems like this. We are now confused at a much higher level.”