Supporters on both sides of the argument over war in Iraq struggled to stifle their collective temper last night as economics Prof. Tom Weisskopf and Rackham student Justin Shubow debated in a crowded lecture hall in the Chemistry Building.
Weisskopf took the negative position and opposed going to war with Iraq, arguing the virtues of containment and deterrence versus the possibility of full-scale invasion with Shubow, who took the opposing stance.
“It’s clear that many more Iraqi children will die should the (U.S.-led) sanctions continue. Containment is a farce for (Saddam) and a tragedy for the people,” Shubow said. “If we wait for Iraq to become an imminent threat, it will already be too late.”
Shubow argued that Saddam’s past unpredictability with regard to inciting international conflict, his provocative abuse of the Iraqi people and the possibility of his dominance over the Middle East – should he possess nuclear weapons – are sufficient grounds for a U.S. invasion in Iraq.
In response to Shubow’s statements, Weisskopf declared that containment was a viable option for dealing with Saddam and that the economic and human costs of war with Iraq demanded that the U.S. seek alternatives to war.
“The costs in lives and resources is likely to be much higher than anticipated, and higher than the American people are willing to accept,” Weisskopf said.
He added that the consequences of war could hinder the U.S. effort against terrorism, jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and undermine the United States’ position as a moral and political leader in the international community.
“Even if he does acquire nuclear weapons, it is doubtful that he could use them effectively. What is needed now is not war, but vigilant containment, and if that doesn’t work, vigilant deterrence,” Weisskopf said.
One aspect of the conflict that was critically debated, especially during the question and answer session, involved the importance of oil in international relations.
“Of course oil is important, but is it the only issue? I say no. If we really just wanted cheap oil, we could just lift the sanctions,” Shubow said.
Weisskopf was generally in agreement with Shubow that oil was not the main concern in considering a war, but also argued that launching an invasion in Iraq would likely hurt the world economy as Saddam could burn his own oil fields in response to U.S. action.
Students and other audience members reacted strongly to the arguments, and the end of the debate quickly turned into an open forum for strong wills to vent frustration about opposing viewpoints.
“Justin laid out the rational grounds for war as well as anyone could,” Engineering senior Anthony Stark said. “I think people like Weisskopf fail to appreciate the expected disutility of allowing Iraq to acquire nuclear weapons.”