Echoing sentiment across the country, history and political science professors expressed concern, caution and conflicting opinions about American military efforts in Iraq.
Professors said they feared the precedent the U.S. pre-emptive attack could create and said that maintaining stability in the region after the war is as important as the success of the military campaign. But some professors said a successful military campaign will show the wisdom of current American policy.
Prospects for the future of Iraq, professors said, look grim, especially in light of the resistance American and British troops have encountered en route to Baghdad.
“A great deal depends on what happens this week,” history professor John Gaddis said. “If Iraqi resistance crumbles and Allied forces are cheered as they enter Basra and Baghdad — and especially if we find evidence of chemical or biological weapons along the way — then Bush will look like a genius. If those things don’t happen, he won’t.”
“This is the biggest military gamble since D-Day,” Gaddis added.
Political science professor Keith Darden said the pre-emptive attack on Iraq “creates a de-stabilizing precedent” that could be followed by other nations.
But diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill said he thinks disarming Saddam Hussein by force was necessary.
“It’s been coming for 12 years,” Hill said.
Darden said he hopes the United States will cede power to an Iraqi civilian administration as soon as possible.
“The longer we occupy [Iraq], the more we’re going to be blamed for problems, the more vulnerable we will be to terrorist attacks and the more likely it is that we will overplay our hand,” Darden said.
Some professors said the United Nations, though perhaps still influential in economic and social spheres, will not have a leading role in the creation of a new Iraqi government.
“I think [the new government] will be an American military protectorate,” Darden said. “They may bring in the U.N. for reconstruction, but not for governance. I think they’re going to keep the U.N. out of it.”
As the U.S. Army heads north through southern cities, professors said their attention is focused on Baghdad.
“The war is going pretty much as planned,” political science professor Paul Bracken said. “We’re heading for an ultimate showdown in Baghdad, where the biggest dangers lie.”
Hill said he does not think the U.S. will encounter significant obstacles to its invasion of the Iraqi capital.
“The war is over,” Hill said. “We will see a lot of activity, but the end of Saddam’s regime came sometime [last] Thursday night.”