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Just Moderates


By Nikki Usher

There was a walkout yesterday at12:30, and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Throngs of peaceniks were rallying outside. Disgruntled Republicans sat in class. Those of us in the middle had to choose a side.

The fact that I had to suffer over this decision—to sit or to walk—illustrates how extremists on both sides of the Iraq debate have polarized our campus. Counter-protests by Republican hawks respond to neo-hippy anti-war protests. Flame wars have erupted on house lists—in one case, two roommates faced off, one sending out pro-war propaganda, the other peace pamphlets.

For us moderates on campus, it’s not enough to dislike the idea of war; if you have reservations against people killing each other under any circumstance, then you’ve got to come out as a peace activist, supporting the effort to rally against what is seen as a preemptive strike. And if you think that the only way Saddam Hussein will take U.S. threats seriously is through violence, then the smaller, yet no less rabid, pro-war faction on this campus will recruit you.

There is a moderate response to war—one that deserves to be acknowledged rather than co-opted by this campus’ organized extremes. There are those like myself who dislike the prospect of war, but believe that war is the only way to deal with a murderous dictator who has continually trampled on U.N. resolutions and has the potential to unleash unimaginable terror with weapons of mass-destruction.

There are plenty of things about the present conflict that bother people like me. The widespread international dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush and his methods bothers me. In the Persian Gulf War troops from 30 different countries participated; today, Tony Blair can barely keep his own party behind the war.

The fantasy of American might sweeping into the Middle East and installing democratic regimes bothers me. President Ronald Reagan’s promises along the same lines led to brutal, U.S.-backed dictatorships in Central America. Moderates hesitate to believe that the U.S. can impose its ideology on the Middle East and usher in a new age of democracy in the region.

But the thing that bothers me the most is the problem of just cause. I gawk at the idea of tomahawk missiles exploding all over Iraq. But, unlike some of my other concerns, I have resolved this one. Saddam is a clear threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world. He has continually ignored U.N. resolutions and shown little interest in honorably participating in the society of nations. And even though he likely does not harbor al-Qaeda terrorists, the possibility of Iraqi aid to any terrorist group is too bone-chilling to ignore.

I wasn’t able to make up my mind yesterday, and I still can’t seem to choose a side. I have reservations about war, but I hesitantly support it. And this viewpoint deserves the same respect the fringe gets. I do not want to hear from my pro-peace friends that I’m a hypocritical boor, and I don’t want to hear from war supporters that I’m not being patriotic enough. Just because us moderates aren’t holding up banners reading “We support the war, kind of” does not make our opinions irrelevant. Instead of extremists aiming to convert us, maybe they should just listen.

—Nikki B. Usher is a former senior editor.

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