The war on Iraq that began last week is something we at the News, like everyone else, have struggled with in theory for months. Now that the war is a reality, on television 24 hours a day, our focus must change from the ethics of intervention to the consequences of battle. As undergraduates and human beings, we unanimously support the soldiers, many of whom are our age, fighting in the Middle East. After heated deliberations and split votes, we also support the war they are fighting.
Those who have argued against this war have persuasive concerns, not only about the motives for engaging Iraq but also about the Bush administration’s diplomacy prior to the invasion and its ability to reconstruct the country after it. What is happening in Baghdad now will have serious — some say dire — long-term implications for America’s relationship with the world. Those opposed to it say Operation Iraqi Freedom goes against worldwide public opinion, which the week’s protests seem to evidence. They point to unpersuasive and half-hearted cases presented to the United Nations as a cause of widespread popular opposition. Even the name itself, some argue, misrepresents President Bush’s already ambiguous justifications for war.
In addition, there are still countless unanswered questions: how much all of this is costing, in lives and in dollars; whether we can make a democracy in the middle of the Arab world; what the war means for our position in international politics; whether Saddam Hussein actually has the weapons of mass destruction our government believes he has developed, hidden and lied about for a dozen years. Some of us who argue in favor of the war say we must go into Iraq only because President Bush’s cowboy diplomacy has left us no other choice.
Perhaps the Iraqi dictator does not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons yet; the prospect of him having them and the awareness that he is working toward developing them is enough, for many, to warrant the ongoing pre-emptive strike. We recognize this is a strong precedent; many of us think it is a worthwhile one. Perhaps our ability to build democratic governments in Arab countries is debatable and yet unproven — the brutality of Hussein’s regime, many argue, is worth the risk.
Most terrifying of all, perhaps this war will cost us dearly — in lives, in international favor, in the domestic social services trillions of dollars could buy. In the last day, in particular, we have seen how gruesome shock and awe can be. But the possibility of peace in the Middle East, of a model democracy for the states around Iraq, of a reduced threat of terrorism and reduced access of rogue states and organizations to weapons of mass destruction, make those losses far from vain. The long-term prospects of security and stability are why many of us ultimately support the war.
We as students have been cautioned to be analytical, articulate and above all civil when we discuss the war on Iraq today, our first day back from a tumultuous spring break. But we must also encourage ourselves to be opinionated, precise and above all critical. The long discussion of whether we should go to war must be replaced with an ongoing debate over the value of what we are doing, now that war is here.