As the war in Iraq gathers speed, a panel of experts gathered in Rackham Auditorium last night to analyze the international implications of the war.
History Prof. Juan Cole, an expert in Middle Eastern and South Asian history, discussed the pattern of events in the Middle East from the colonial era to more recent events. He said people in the Middle East view the attack on Iraq as the “imposition of foreign rule” and as an ” attack on the Muslim world.”
Political science Prof. Mark Tessler argued against the widely-held Western notion that the Muslim reaction against the war was due to a clash of civilizations. “This is not a clash of societies,” Tessler said. Rather, “They have a strong dislike of the U.S. foreign policy.”
History Prof. Geoffrey Eley spoke about the “absence of international consensus” with regard to the war in Iraq. He also said the United States has made no visible commitment to “democratize Iraq” or to “liberate the Iraqi people.”
He said that the lack of post-war planning, as compared to World War II – when the United States was committed to bringing about change in Germany and in Japan – made him pessimistic about U.S. plans to rebuild Iraq.
Also on the panel was political science Prof. Meredith Woo-Cumings, who said the United States was “bound by the rhetoric of not negotiating with rogue states.” Referring to the United States’ decision not to negotiate with North Korea, she said that “We might have unleashed a Golem upon the world” resulting in an unstoppable conflict within the Koreas. She insisted that further dialogue with Iraq could have averted the current Iraq crisis.
When asked by a member of the audience whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and if this was a legitimate reason for use of force against Iraq, Cole replied that there was “no evidence that post-1998 Iraq has retained its nuclear weapons program.”
The panel also discussed whether the war would create further instability in the Middle East and lead to a rise in Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world.