Campus & Community

The many sides of the Iraq problem:

6 min read

Harvard voices, forums examine many aspects of potential Iraq conflict

From a discussion on reinstituting the military draft at the Kennedy School of Government to public polls on smallpox safety at the School of Public Health, Harvard is taking the nation’s pulse on the looming war in Iraq.

From the in-depth study of Iraqi documents at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies to a semester-long seminar series on U.S. foreign policy at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard is plumbing the depths of the problem.

From the Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes’ Sojourners Magazine article on Christian conscience in time of war to the Harvard Crimson editorial urging the U.S. government to wait on Iraq, Harvard’s community is speaking out in thought-provoking ways.

In short, in a time of national soul-searching with the nation on the brink of war, Harvard is doing the important work of examining the crisis’ core issues from many points of view.

“With an issue as important as war, it is critical that the Harvard community air as many points of view and offer as many venues for expression as possible,” said Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers. “Information and debate are the lifeblood of the university and can result in important additions to the broader discussion about U.S. policy toward Iraq. In the coming months, we need to listen, think, and speak our minds, all the while welcoming differing views from students, faculty, staff, and visitors to our campus.”

Harvard’s academic breadth provides the opportunity for the University’s scholars, students, faculty, and staff to examine the Iraqi conflict by both speaking and listening to a broad range of views. A stream of authorities, policy-makers, and people from the front lines have visited the University in recent months, sharing their experiences and views.

Those visits will continue in the coming months as the conflict develops, providing a variety of forums for members of the Harvard community to both learn and express their views on the issue. This month alone, perspective will be offered by the British ambassador to the United Nations, a discussion will be held about the smallpox threat, and views will be offered on war coverage by the media.

Leading voices at the Kennedy School

As a center for the study of government policy and an educator of students and mid-career officials from countries around the world, the Kennedy School of Government has provided a prominent forum for voices on the Iraq conflict.

In recent months, the School has hosted a discussion about reinstituting the draft, co-sponsored a forum on the morality of war with Harvard Divinity School, and welcomed The Economist’s editor-in-chief to Harvard to talk about U.S. power and the potential for war in Iraq.

While The Economists’ editor, Bill Emmott, voiced his support for U.S.’s Iraq policy, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy made Harvard one of his stops as he publicly criticized the Bush administration for putting Iraq before the war on al Qaeda and the crisis in North Korea.

Kennedy School Dean Joseph S. Nye Jr. said that the School itself has no position on the Iraq conflict and that members of its community differ on the need for the use of force. Still, Nye said, the School’s mission is to encourage debate of important issues such as this.

“Our institutional commitment is to encourage reasoned public debate and discussion of burning policy issues, and our forums have included all shades of opinion,” Nye said.

Deep thinking about the Middle East

At the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies has long had a focus on the region. Founded in 1954 to foster the study of the Middle East at Harvard, the center has more recently established the Iraq Research and Documentation Project, which aims to establish an online reference of documents and resources on the modern Iraqi government. The project, which includes material available since the 1991 Gulf War, consists of government documents, maps, transcripts of oral history interviews, photographs, and many other types of resources.

In addition to its ongoing work on Iraq, the center has also hosted a series of events on the growing tensions in the region today.

In recent months, the center has hosted discussions focusing on two important players in the Iraq drama: Kuwait and Turkey, both of which may be jumping-off points for U.S. forces. It has also hosted several events on Iraq itself, including a discussion of the nation’s future and two talks on Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that had been brutally repressed until after the Gulf War, when they began to practice self-rule in Iraq’s mountainous northern region.

Expertise at work

The School of Public Health and the Medical School are looking at the crisis from the standpoint of public health and medicine. Last week, School of Public Health Dean Barry Bloom was the first speaker in a new “Faculty Research Speaker Series” organized to help inform School members about ongoing research at the School. Bloom’s topic was bioterrorism, an issue prominent in the public’s mind since the post-Sept. 11 anthrax incidents and which is being highlighted these days by concern about Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons arsenal.

Other programs are also turning their own expertise to the issue. Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation hosted a panel in November on the role of negotiation in the crisis, while in October, the interfaculty Harvard Children’s Initiative hosted a seminar on gender and health in Iraq in an effort to put events into their broader social context.

Here¹s a list of some upcoming events dealing with the situation in Iraq and the broader Middle East crisis across the University:

Tuesday, Feb. 18 ‹ “Has the Bush Administration adequately prepared to defend Americans from Saddam¹s potential small pox attack?” (Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy). Hosted by Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Kalb Seminar room, noon.

Wednesday, Feb. 19 ‹ “Perspectives from the UN Security Council on the Current Crisis.” (Center for European Studies) Sir Jeremy Quentin Greenstock, British ambassador to the United Nations, and Gunter Pleuger, permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations. Lower level conference room, CES, 2:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 19 ‹ “The American Emergency.” (Cambridge Forum) Ronnie Dugger, political columnist, founding editor of the Texas Observer, and co-founder of the Alliance for Democracy. First Parish, 3 Church St., 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 20 ‹ “Islam and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” (WCFIA/CMES) Moshe Ma Oz, Hebrew University, Israel; visiting professor, Brandeis University. Room M-11 (mezzanine), WCFIA, 1033 Mass. Ave., 4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 24 ‹ “War in Iraq? A European perspective.” (CES) Bernard Kouchner, founder of “Médecins sans frontières” and former head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, will be speaking with Professor Stanley Hoffmann commenting upon Kouchner¹s presentation. Center for European Studies¹ Lower Level Conference Room, 4:15 to 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25 ‹ “Covering Bush¹s War(s).” (Shorenstein Center) Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor and special projects writer at Newsweek Magazine. Sponsored by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Kalb Seminar Room, Taubman 275, noon.