Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Panel Debates America’s Role in Future of Iraq, Middle East

Opinions differ broadly across the globe over the best course of action for the future of Iraq, and Georgetown proved to be no exception at a panel debate on Nov. 25 that examined the role the United States should play in the future of Iraq.

“Iraq lives in a tough neighborhood,” Raymond Tanter, a fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy and a national security advisor under the Reagan administration, said.

Tanter said that he felt the Bush administration had rightly focused on “rogue regime change,” and that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power would prompt democratic reform in the neighboring nations and increase stability in the Middle East.

“We are seeing the spread of instability throughout the region, not the spread of democracy,” Phyllis Bennis, a scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and an editor for the magazine Middle East Report, countered.

Bennis said that the U.S.-led war in Iraq, conducted without U.N. consent, violated international law and was waged for reasons other than the stated coalition objectives.

Richard Garfield, a professor of international nursing at Columbia University, concurred.

“The justifications [for the war] had more to do with national interests more than international well-being,” he said.

Bennis said she felt that the United States ignored the reality of war when they went into Iraq. She described a growing discontent among Iraqis over the U.S. policy in their country.

“We’re dealing with a false notion of Iraqi sovereignty,” she said. “This is what empires do; [they] dominate other countries for their own interests.”

But Joshua Muravchik (GRD ’84), from the American Enterprise Institute, defended American actions abroad.

“The U.S. is the most non-imperial nation in history,” Muravchik said. “The U.S. is by far the most powerful nation militarily . yet we have no empire.”

Muravchik said that the Bush administration had always planned for the war in Iraq to be a “crucial first step” to furthering democracy in the Middle East and reducing the threat of terrorism.

“Rogue states fan the flame of terror,” Tanter added.

According to Muravchik, no Middle Eastern nation except for Israel has a democratically-elected leader.

The United States must “bring the curative bomb of democracy to that region,” he said.

The panel also discussed the situation on the ground in Iraq.

“The U.S. wants to make a success in Iraq,” Garfield said. He said that the United States should be more open with both the American and the Iraqi people about their approach in Iraq. Current U.S. practices there, he said, inadequately address health concerns.

According to Garfield, coalition teams lacked the international public health experience to successfully implement necessary health and health education reforms. He said that he hoped the United States would commit itself to improvement in these areas during the post-war occupation.

“Occupations don’t come cheap, and having engaged in it we have to carry it through,” he said.

“The current situation [in Iraq] is of course a mess,” Muravchik said. “But it’s not surprisingly a mess.”

Muravchik discussed the occupations of Germany and Japan following World War II, stating that in both instances, unpreparedness in the beginning was overcome by ultimate success.

Following the discussion, those who attended the event questioned the panelists and stated their views.

Jonathan Aires (SFS ’06) said that he found Bennis’ comments questioning the necessity of waging war to prevent terrorism “deliberately ambiguous.”

Bogdan Tereshchenko (SFS ’05) said that he felt Muravchik had misrepresented the left in his responses to Bennis.

“We will not stand silent here while you continue mischaracterizing the opposite side,” he said.

Daniel Brumberg, the event’s moderator and a professor of government at Georgetown said that although he felt the debate could have focused more on the situation on the ground. Bromberg also added that the war in Iraq had raised broad philosophical questions.

“The future is far from determined there,” he said.

Maryam Iman (SFS ’06), a representative of Amnesty International and a coordinator of the event, opened the debate by highlighting the diversity of the sponsoring groups. She described the debate as a “learning experience” for all involved.

The event was co-sponsored by a wide range of student organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine, Georgetown Israel Alliance, Students for Middle East Peace, College Democrats, College Republicans, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Peace Action and the Lecture Fund.

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