The Persian Gulf War--the Student Front : At Chicago, the Debate Is Muffled

<i> Andrew J. Nussbaum is a third-year law student at the University of Chicago</i>

I support the U.S. and allied military action in the Persian Gulf. Once the Jan. 15 deadline had passed without any indication from Iraq of its willingness to withdraw from Kuwait, the decision to fight seemed inevitable. The sooner the war started, the better.

At the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, I was a summer law intern at the State Department. I realized then that the ultimate weapon in diplomacy must be force. The United States cannot police the world, but this argument ignores the fact that this confrontation is multilateral and that the effects of Iraq’s invasion extend well beyond its borders. In this case, the Administration’s goals seem fairly clear--deny an invader the fruits of his aggression, restore some stability to a strategic region and create an atmosphere in which regional problems might be addressed.

Although our diplomatic strategy made the war decision “logical,” I’m not sure that it made sense last August. Then, the United States promoted a highly principled view of international law and international ideals--rules and theories that have rarely, if ever, led to a satisfactory, peaceful resolution of an international crisis. Compromise and negotiation might have been more feasible then, though Hussein’s moves have generally defied Western prediction.

Hussein may have received mixed signals or even veiled signals of support from the United States before he invaded. Diplomatic niceties cannot excuse forceful annexation of Kuwait, or atrocities against Kuwaitis or foreigners in Iraq, whose “hospitality” even Leona Helmsley doubted.


But such signals may explain Hussein’s indignation at the swift, broad condemnation that followed his invasion. Still, even “Arab solutions” produced no results in August--casting doubt on whether any diplomatic course would have produced another result on Jan. 15.

Walking around campus, I have seen occasional anti-war posters, a brief walkout by students from classes, even a lone protester suggesting that we “impeach George Adolf Hitler Bush.” But the campus debate on the war is muffled, perhaps to some degree by the winter chill.

Many students also seem awed by the reality of the war--the real-time news coverage that allows a viewer on the South Side of Chicago to watch a correspondent in Tel Aviv or Dhahran don a gas mask and point out the window at incoming missiles. This coverage--the nightly air raids and ambulances broadcast to living rooms and dorm common rooms--may well prove more effective at promoting anti-war sentiment than all the slogans combined.

“Prime-time war” does not change my view of the war, or the propriety of our role in it, but it does make the choice seem vividly desperate.