Ask any student or faculty member on campus about the war in Iraq, and chances are the opinions will vary, depending on the perspective.
Those different perspectives were the purpose of the Alpha Chi Honor Society bringing together a multi-disciplinary panel of Western professors on Thursday to discuss the war, the region and the future.
â€œIt is the responsibility and the privilege of the university to give students and the community breadth and depth of understanding multi-disciplinary points of view,â€ said Elizabeth Sawin, professor of English and director of the Honors Program.
The five panelists who addressed about 70 students, faculty and community members were history professor Dan Trifan, economics professor Reza Hamzaee, assistant professor of political science Dan Cox, associate professor of sociology Ali Kamali and professor of philosophy Phil Mullins.
Trifan started the discussion by clarifying the current U.S. role in Iraq.
â€œOne must differentiate between military invasion and occupancy,â€ Trifan said. â€œIt has changed to occupation.â€
Despite varying disciplines, one message was consistent among the panelists: there is no easy way out for the U.S.
â€œWill our getting out cause a bloodbath?â€ Mullins said. â€œIt might. Will our staying in cause a bloodbath. Yes.â€
Cox said he does not see the U.S. getting out of Iraq, but rather an expansion involving Iran.
â€œI see Iraq and our involvement in the Middle East differently probably than just about anyone,â€ Cox said. â€œI see what we are doing right now â€“ I see it expanding over time. I think itâ€™s unfortunate, but I think itâ€™s almost certain we are going to expand into Iran.â€ He said he believes that expansion includes the bombing of Iran. â€œHopefully, Iâ€™m completely wrong.â€
Kamali, who was born in Iran but has lived in the U.S. for decades, said he holds out optimism that bombing Iran will not happen.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t take an intelligent person to see that the current policies of the current administration are inoperative and not working; however, think about who is taking advantage of the situation,â€ Kamali said. â€œThere is no denying or lack of information that Dick Cheney, President Bush and a couple others actually own and are running oil companies in the U.S. and elsewhere.â€
Mullins, agreed that oil has always been in mind with U.S. policy.
â€œIâ€™m not sure that our policy ever had any very good, sensible rootsâ€¦arrogance in recent times,â€ Mullins said. â€œBut it does seem to me that now weâ€™re in a real pickle.â€
Hamazaee, who was also born in Iran but has been in the U.S. for over 32 years, spoke about the economic cost of war in terms of missed opportunities: poverty, education, social security, health care and the shrinking size of the middle-class.
â€œThese are all opportunities we are losing because we are putting so much into war,â€ Hamazaee said. He said that the industries of defense and oil are booming while others suffer.
Any discussion about Iraq and the Middle East will inevitably include religion, and this panel was no exception.
â€œMy general view is that American policy as a whole has not done a good job of taking into account religious dynamics,â€ Mullins said.
And Kamali pointed out an important factor in the regionâ€™s stability that is largely dismissed by the U.S. Administration as renegades or thugs.
â€œOne of the unspoken factors in international politics is non-governmental key players who make major decisions,â€ Kamali said. â€œWe have to take them seriously.â€
Following the panel discussion, audience members asked questions, and the subject of Israel came up.
Student Government Association Vice-President Luke Herrington, who is a history/government double-major junior, was present at the panel discussion. He weighed in with his opinion on the relationship the U.S. has with Israel.
â€œAs an ally of Israel, we will do what we need to,â€ he said. â€œIsrael feels threatened, surrounded by a sea of anger.â€
Yet, with so many countries in the region with nuclear weapons, including Israel, Iranians also feel threatened, Hamazaee and Kamali said.
Many people stayed after the discussion had concluded to talk more about the complicated subject of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Sawin said that perhaps there should be more panel discussions in the future.
â€œI think you have to go after if with an interdisciplinary approach,â€ said senior Kasi Norris, a government major. â€œThere is not only one view.â€