A strange and unexpected thing happened to me last week: I became, reluctantly, opposed to the war with Iraq.

Counting myself in the “I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-A-Hawk club” (a name coined by lefty New York times columnist Bill Keller), over the past few months I’ve had the luxury of watching others, including Keller, my friend Jamie Kirchick, and more recently the editors at The New Yorker, make the strong liberal case for confronting Saddam Hussein. As New Yorker writer David Remnick summed it up, “History will not easily excuse us if, by deciding not to decide, we defer a reckoning with an aggressive totalitarian leader who intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction but also to use them.”

The questions that the peaceniks simply don’t answer have been pretty damning. Who, if not the United States, is going to prevent this genocidal dictator from developing weapons of mass destruction? Why did the United Nations twiddle its thumbs for nearly four years after inspections ceased — and send in inspectors two weeks after President Bush threatened unilateral action? Wouldn’t the threat alone of massive chemical or nuclear strikes against Israel or Turkey force NATO to stop protecting Kurds in northern Iraq — and let Saddam Hussein again massacre them by the thousands?

None of these questions have changed in the past few weeks. What has happened? The Bush administration has convinced me that it will accept no course of action other than war. War with Iraq may be a necessary evil; fine. But war should be the last resort, not the first. If other options exist, our president owes it to the U.S. military and the Iraqi people (not to mention his taxpaying constituents) to explore them fully.

At the very least, President Bush should be explaining to us why weapons inspections aren’t working, or why two months of inspections (which turned up very little evidence) are better than six months, or why he isn’t trying to pressure Saddam Hussein into exile. Perhaps even more important, he should be explaining to us in detail his “Marshall Plan” for the construction of an Iraqi democracy (or at least government). He simply has not done this. And Saudi Arabia (which suggested the exile plan) should not be the only country coming up with other solutions!

Back on October 21, President Bush told NATO that if Saddam Hussein “were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations — that in itself will signal the regime has changed.” Call me naive, but at the time I believed he meant it. Yet last week, head U.N. inspector Hans Blix, who has surprised many by criticizing loudly Iraq’s lack of compliance, insisted that the inspections are indeed making progress and that inspections simply need more time before they can work. Meanwhile, Colin Powell snarls at the Security Council that the damning evidence “isn’t brain surgery” and President Bush intonates that a decision will come in “weeks, not months.” Before I’ll support that decision, I need to know why it’s the only option left.

Brad Lipton is a sophomore in Branford College.