A lot of lives, a lot of treasure
Storm Lakers seem to have mixed feelings as they watch and listen to their nation grow closer to a potential war with Iraq. While many feel the need to support their country, some question the preemptive nature of this incident.
"As an old military man, I'd say go to war, but I don't know with the kind of support we don't have in the world," said Jim Julius of Storm Lake. "I have to ask myself why don't we have the support of everyone else.
"If this guy steps out of line, we'll be Johnny's on the line," Julius added, but he noted that could be too late. "If it's a matter of time before he does step out of line, he'll hurt a lot of people, too."
Last week, both houses of Congress passed a resolution authorizing Bush to commit U.S. troops to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq give up weapons of mass destruction. It requires Bush to declare to Congress either before or within 48 hours after beginning military action that diplomatic efforts to enforce those resolutions have failed.
Others believe the U.S. should go after Iraq's ruler, Saddam Hussein.
"If (Saddam Hussein) is a bad guy, then we should get rid of him," said Sandy Rodriguez of Storm Lake.
Dave Laudner, president of the BVU Student Senate, said he supports the resolution.
"At this time, I see a need to 'surgically' remove Saddam from power and/or eliminate his weapons of mass destruction," he said. "I am not yet in favor of a full-scale invasion, but rather strategic initiatives to accomplish this objective."
Many college students have grown up with Saddam in power in the middle east and have little else to compare that situation to, he said.
"There has not been an extreme 'buzz' on campus in regards to the resolution, or potential war," he said.
BVU Professor Bill Feis, a scholar on U.S. military history, said the current debate versus preemptive and reactionary military action has some basis to the past.
"You can look at it from a couple of perspectives," he said. "We have engaged in preventative and preemptive sorts of things, but not on the scale we would be undertaking in Iraq."
The threat of force was used throughout the Cold War, while actual military action was used in both Panama and Haiti in the past 15 years.
But those Caribbean countries are not threats to the U.S. And in the past those type of threats were not dealt with before something happened.
"Once attacked, we would have responded," Feis said.
Under international law, there are criteria to determine if preemptive war is acceptable.
"This one does fall in there, it meets some requirements and doesn't meet others. It depends on how you define the threat - there's not a lot of agreement on that," Feis said. "We're attacking more on what we don't know than what we do."
He said the U.S. is under the assumption that Hussein has weapon programs and plans to use them, though the country does not have firm proof that Iraq will use them.
But there is a difference in today's world. "It's a different context, a different world, a different threat," Feis said.
Hussein does have access to the biological and chemical weapon technology from when he was supported by the U.S. in the Iraq-Iran conflict.
"We know he has the capability and we know he has used them," Feis said.
But it is now the world of terror and the need to track down the "nameless, faceless, nationless organization" of al-Qaida, Feis said.
"Widening the war on terrorism means commitment in the long term, which will cost a lot in life and a lot in treasure," he said.
As debate over Iraq continues, Feis said he feels the U.S. has little in way of options.
"It's clear from the get-go the Bush Administration has been talking about regime change," he said.
Also, U.S. citizens are now getting more news about the world stage with the availability of 24-hour news stations and the Internet.
"Typically in our recent wars, there was not a whole-hearted explanation of when America was going to start acting or how we might do something," Feis said. "We have more access to the information that does get out and that gets out in a hurry and to lots of people."
But it's important not to believe everything the "talking heads" have to say. The president and administration are media savvy, knowing what information to release and what to keep wrapped up.
The same goes with Iraq.
"They're watching, they have a learning curve," Feis said. "They've figured out what we did in the Gulf War, they know how we move assets into an area."
Surprise is important with a preemptive war, and that is difficult here.
"To make it effective, it has to be a surprise and it has to be fast," Feis said.
But as the situation develops, Feis said there are other questions that will need to be answered - will Iraq let loose all of its chemical and biological weapons if invaded, or will generals and soldiers in the Iraqi army refuse to follow orders in order not to be charged with war crimes.
"There's a lot of politics going on in Iraq. If (Iraqi) people see we might unseat him (Saddam), soldiers and generals in his army might think twice about doing things," Feis said.
One thing Americans should not think is that any war will be easy.
"It's dangerous to think that. We cannot plan for a short campaign. Anyone who thinks war is quick and short always gets surprised," Feis said.