Talking down Bush, Iraq war

PSU professors gathered in a panel discussion Wednesday todiscuss the possibilities of if and how the United States canwithdraw from Iraq. Criticism of the Bush administration wasprovided, followed by a discussion of practical plans for acomplete hand-over of power to an Iraqi government.

The panel consisted of professors from the political sciencedepartment, Middle East studies, international studies, history,and the school of government.

John Damis, a political science professor, was the firstpresenter and started his presentation by asking, “Why is the panelmade up of middle aged white males?” With some laughter anduneasiness in the room, Damis continued with his statement.

“There is a wrong way out: to cut and run as soon as possible,”Damis said. The results from that administrative decision will be”chaos, disorder, and bad news,” according to Damis. Going point bypoint through President Bush’s five-point plan for withdrawal,Damis criticized each point made by Bush. “The notion that we aregoing to transfer power on June 30 – this is not a reality,” Damissaid.

Damis concluded his statement by posing several questions. Willthe U.S. have the staying power to ensure that Iraq will beself-sustaining? Can Bush improve the situation in Iraq to save hisjob?

Mel Gurtov, a political science professor, contrasted the Iraqsituation with the Vietnam War. “For Johnson and Nixon, it was seenas too difficult to get out … the bottom line is: the way out isto get out,” Gurtov said.

Gurtov provided practical and visionary ideas for the U.S.withdrawal. He suggested that the people responsible forpolicy-making should resign and those who spoke up against policyshould be rewarded. Gurtov also suggested a program of reparationsand rebuilding for the civilian loss of life and property. Whileadmitting that resignation, rewards and reparations were unlikely,Gurtov did suggest that the International Atomic Commission shouldbe brought back to Iraq with continuous training of Iraqi policeand military.

On the issue of Iraqi sovereignty, Gurtov thought it highlyunlikely the U.S. would concede even limited sovereignty. “In fact,the U.S. is not going to give over full sovereignty” because of oilrevenue, Gurtov said.

Ron Tammen, director of PSU’s school of government, gave astrategic analysis of the Iraq conflict. “It makes no differencehow or when we get out,” Tammen said. Touching on diplomaticrelations, Tammen pointed to the rise of China as a super power asthe reason for rebuilding diplomatic relationships with Europe,Russia, and India. Tammen expressed doubt as to whether thoserelationships could be rebuilt.

“Don’t look at Iraq just in terms of short term negatives, lookat long term strategies.”

Friedrich Schuler, a history and international studiesprofessor, had no answer on how the U.S. would withdraw fromIraq.

“Withdraw … how would I know, I am just a historian … thereis a failure of political elites on both sides,” Schuler said.Schuler recommended “sensitive and critical engagement in Iraq …stepping up with more force and intelligence.”

David Horowitz, history professor, gave a summation of the Iraqconflict and posed questions concerning the conduct of the U.S. inIraq in the near future.

“Will the new Iraq economy be under a U.S. general? Will theU.S. control the economy? Will the interim government be bound bycurrent agreements between the U.S. and the governing council? Willthe U.S. respect the decisions of the new government?” Horowitzasked.

Jon Mandaville, a Middle East studies and history professor,started his statement by saying that “it is unconceivable that thecurrent administration will give up power.” Mandaville explainedthat the U.S. maintains military and budgetary power in Iraq.”Everything is blocked by security,” Mandaville said. “There are180,000 soldiers in Iraq, we are short by 100,000.”

Mandaville pointed out that the U.S. is stuck. “We could getsupport from France and Germany if they had business and militarysay, but the U.S. won’t allow it,” Mandaville said. The only wayMandaville sees change in Iraq happening is through a change inU.S. administration, “and maybe not even then.”