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War May Be Necessary

In the Mail


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I would like to respond to the piece that appeared in the September 14 issue of The Crimson, "A Soldier's Story." The author discusses his disapproval of the United States' sending a "first-wave force of 250,000 troops" (an interesting statistic without a source) to protect Saudi Arabia from invasion by Iraq.

The basis for this stance is the author's perception of a lack of principles guiding American foreign policy. I believe that Mr. Morgan has forgotten one element essential to any effective foreign policy--flexibility.

Now I am not referring to the kind of flexibility that would allow a President to shift his stance at the most minor diplomatic incident or for his own political gain at election time. When officials at the Department of State sit down and work out American policy towards this country or that, they take notice of the fact that situations can change dramatically in very short periods of time. Policies must adapt to meet changing circumstances.

Few would doubt that the Cold War as it was once waged is over. The Warsaw Pact is crumbling, and the totalitarian governments set up by the Soviets in Eastern Europe have given way to democratic movements. For Americans to be hostile to the Russians solely because we were taught so in our youths would be foolish now. I do not advocate throwing caution to the winds; the Soviets still possess awesome military might, being the only power that could totally annihilate the United States. However, to maintain our former hard-line stances would be impractical.

Another major principle of our foreign policy is the pursuit of peace. World-wide peace can only be achieved when the people of small nations can live without fear of being attacked by stronger neighbors.

For the first time since the Second World War, the United States and the Soviet Union are now working towards a common goal. Other nations around the world--including our NATO allies, the Japanese and Arab nations such as Egypt and Syria--have joined in the effort to stop Saddam Hussein's aggression.

However, America's unity with these other countries in deterring aggression does not necessarily imply that we stand with them on all political issues. We can still call for imporvements in the Soviets' human rights record, and can still demand that Syria stop sponsoring terrorism.

We can take firm positions on other issues and still work with these countries to achieve peace in the Middle East. There is no inherent contradiction. We must treat countries like we treat other people. All of us have both positive and negative traits; however, we should all work together to build a better community.

There are two reasons why the U.S. and other nations have sent soldiers to the Middle East. The first is self-interest. The economies of the West are very much dependent on imported oil from the Middle East. When disruptions in the supply of oil take place, shock waves ripple through the American economy. Economists differ on how much higher oil prices will hurt our country, but our leaders in Washington recognize the threat to our well-being as serious enough to justify the deployment of troops.

With control over the Middle East (through intimidation if not outright conquest), Saddam Hussein would exert a powerful influence over the West, possibly holding our economies hostage as he does our citizens.

Operation Desert Shield has prevented Saddam from invading Saudi Arabia as he has Kuwait. The aim of our presence in the Middle East was not to "liberate...Kuwait from Iraqi occupation," as Mr. Morgan says. This goal we are trying to achieve through United Nations pressure.

The second reason is moral. I do not intend here to defend American involvement in the Third World. I agree with Mr. Morgan; no country has the moral right to impose its will on a sovereign state by military force. How we implement this is through actions behind our words. If it means that we have to send troops to tell dictators that they cannot invade defenseless neighbors with impunity, so be it.

Yes, this could mean war. Expensive? Yes. Bloody? Yes. Pointless? No.

I do not take war lightly. It is horrible. But sometimes it must happen. When I was working in Washington this past summer, a friend of mine asked me a very good question: "If you were told that you had to go fight in the Middle East, what would you do?"

After thinking about it for a minute, I gave the following response: If my government ordered me to go, I would use every legal means to postpone or avoid my draft, including a deferment to finish my education. If I had to go, I would, but I would try to avoid a combat assignment. If I was assigned to combat, I would fight to the best of my ability.

The armed forces are there to protect and serve the American people, with human lives, if necessary. Michael Waldorf '92

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