Government Professors Discuss Post-War Iraq

Hamilton Professors of Government Alan Cafruny and Carlos Yordan, with Cornell University Government Professor Jeremy Rabkin, participated in a panel discussion on the future of Iraq on November 10 in the Chapel. Each began by summarizing his perspective on the origins and implications of the Iraq war, as well as the prospects for the democratization of the nation.

The discussion began with Professor Cafruny, who said that whatever reasons may have been given by the Bush administration prior to the war (such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or links to terrorism), the only justification that continues to hold up is that of democratizing Iraq for humanitarian reasons. The problem with this though, Cafruny said, is that there was poor preparation by the U.S. for democratization before beginning the invasion. While steps have been taken to ensure Iraq subordination, thus far there has been little done to create genuine democracy. He also mentioned the importance of oil in the Bush administration's motivation, continuing the central role oil has played in U.S. policy toward the Middle East since 1919. Cafruny discussed the impact of the war on U.S. international relations, saying that the United States' ability to wage unilateral war demonstrated Europe's weakness in international affairs, and signified a new era in U.S.-European relations. However, he said that the Bush administration needs to find alternatives to unilateral occupation for democratization to work, which may require some concessions to European allies.

Professor Yordan spoke next, contrasting the Clinton administration's policy of engagement towards rogue nations with the Bush administration's policy of preemption. Yordan then pointed out that since the end of major combat in Iraq, United States activity in the nation has been more reactive than proactive. This, he said, was a problem for the democratization of Iraq, and stems not from the policy itself, but from a lack of resources. Yordan said he worries that the Bush administration may be trying to democratize Iraq "on the cheap," which he felt would not be successful.

Professor Jeremy Rabkin of Cornell University offered a contrasting view to Cafruny and Yordan. Defending the Bush administration's actions, he said that the difficulty in assessing situations such as this one is that it is impossible to know what the outcome of a different course of action would have been. Rabkin asked the audience if they could really say that they didn't think the world was better off now that Saddam Hussein had been removed from power. After September 11th, Rabkin said, the U.S. had to respond to and preempt terrorism in order to demonstrate its power. He went on to say that the United States was justified in its unilateral actions because our foreign policy shouldn't be held "hostage" by the opinions of "bystander" countries. Rabkin rejected the idea that the U.S. needed to create more legitimacy for the war and resulting occupation by getting the approval of European countries such as France and Germany who had nothing to offer in the way of assistance anyway.

A question and answer session followed. The panel discussion was co-sponsored by the Government department and the Hamilton College Republicans.

Story written by Caroline O'Shea '07.

Professor Carlos Yordan

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