The Dartmouth Observer

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Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Stam vs. Edsforth

Lately, I feel like I've been ignoring my duties to the observer, so some thoughts about last night's event in Dartmouth Hall.

First, allow me to say that my recollection of Edsforth's "argument" is one thick with inflammatory rhetoric and a conspiracy theory centered on the desire of shrewd men in the U.S. government (the major members of the Cabinet?), who are pursuing this war with Iraq purely over Oil. Iraq, he claims, poses no direct or indirect threat to the United States and so this cannot be a morally justified war. After our conquest of Iraq, our VP's former oil company will go in and start to steal the oil from the Iraqi people. He goes on to argue that this sort of war is precisely what our Constitution wished to avoid by giving the War power to Congress, comparing this war against Iraq with the wars of 19th century monarchs and despots.

Stam's argument bewildered the audience which seemed to be expecting something more infammatory they could attack. His position was relatively simple. Current U.S. policy in the middle east is no longer sustainable. September 11th is a symptom of this policy failure. We must either move forward, or move back. The mess in the middle east is largely a result of the United State's short-term policies during the Cold War. Since its our fault, its our mess to clean up. Over the past 10 years, the United States has tried Deterrence, Appeasement/Engagement and nothing has worked. Therefore, since Saddam is at least partially a monster of our making, it is our morally justified duty to depose him by force since nothing else has worked.

What was striking to me was that these two scholars' arguments were largely grounded in their respective fields of study, and so it seemed that rather than a true debate of point-counterpoint, they were offering two different paradigms within which they argued their perspectives.

I asked Prof. Edsforth a question which I will try to reconstruct: "Professor Edsforth, how would you respond to an argument that I have read which argues that after the War Powers act was passed it is unlikely that Congress will declare war again because the Act allows Presidents to pursue wars on their own (on a limited basis) and face the full blame if anything goes wrong. (ie, Congress can avoid the blame) And, that a declaration of war would potentially start a domino effect of alliance commitments similar to WWI? (US and Nato, Iraq and the Arab League)"

Edsforth, essentially, reiterated himself and I don't feel he answered my question: "Congress passed the War Powers act to prohibit Presidents from pursuing war on their own." My question deals with the current dynamic, regardless of the intent of the War Powers Act, whereby Congress doesn't have to give a President a Declaration of War and so can pass the buck if things go badly, and that if a Declaration were given, wouldn't it instigate a contractual alliance Great-Power War and therefore provide a disincentive for any such Declaration.

Finally, although it was popular, Edsforth's argument does not provide the weight of analysis of Stam's. Someone should put Stam on CNN so that people can hear this point of view more often, one devoid of rhetoric from either Doves or Hawks and merely a well-thought out analysis of policy.