As the Bush administration tries to galvanize an ambivalent American public and convince the international community that war with Iraq may be necessary, Yale professors said they are contemplating America’s potential moves.
In the current Iraq imbroglio, motives, justifications and even allies seem difficult to discern. Yet among students and faculty at Yale, caution seems to be the pervasive attitude and more information the common demand.
“I think we should be very cautious,” Yale Divinity School ethics professor Margaret Farley said. “So far, sufficient evidence has not been put forward to justify a pre-emptive strike. If there is evidence, Americans have a right to know it.”
On Monday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said America has nearly exhausted its diplomatic channels of communication with Iraq and Bush said Iraq is “running out of time.” With such ominous statements from government officials, Yale political science professor Keith Darden said he thinks the United States will go to war in the near future.
“I don’t think we’re going to wait long,” Darden said. “The U.S. has already decided to go to war.”
Darden said the United States will probably make a decision soon after the U.N. weapons inspectors’ report is released on Monday, though the report itself gives no definitive answer as to what the United States will do.
History professor John Gaddis said the Bush administration’s motivations are less clear than people might assume.
“There’s a lot of psychological warfare going on,” Gaddis said. “The tough talk is intended to produce a capitulation — nobody outside the administration could say what the exact plans are. They’re just building their case.”
Furthermore, Iraq’s failure to comply with the original ceasefire agreement constitutes a material breach, whose recourse is military action. President Bill Clinton attacked Iraq in 1998 when it refused to let weapons inspectors into the country, but American efforts subsided afterward.
“People think, probably correctly, that [Clinton] could not take the nation into war when he was facing impeachment, and thereafter the U.S. simply didn’t take any leading position,” diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill said. “Nothing was done.”
Hill said the current situation mirrors the 1998 standoff with Iraq.
“We’re just doing again this year what we were doing in 1998 but then we didn’t have all of this hankering and shrieking from Europeans and others,” Hill said. “I guess because the media liked President Clinton better than President Bush.”
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Yale professors said the purpose of the U.N. inspections is not to enforce the weapons ban, but to assure that Saddam has disarmed. U.N. resolutions, nevertheless, do not call for a regime change, but America remains insistent on deposing Saddam. Hill said America, like all nations, must use the United Nations to serve its own foreign policy goals.
“Everybody uses the U.N. as a vehicle for their own interests,” he said. “The difference is that the U.S. is working for an international interest and looking to support the U.N. because the Iraqi issue is one that belongs totally to the U.N.”
Not only has the conflict embroiled the international community in intense debate, it has also called into question and put to the test the efficacy and relevance of the United Nations. In his September speech to the United Nations, Bush told the General Assembly that it must enforce its resolutions in order to avoid the same fate as the League of Nations.
Darden said the United Nations stands in a precarious situation, divided between its duty to evaluate objectively the Iraqi weapons program and its fear of losing U.S. support, which would make the organization irrelevant.
Yale professors said the U.N. weapons report and Bush’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will be a turning point in the 11-year-old conflict.
“The U.S. will definitely make a decision shortly thereafter,” Darden said.