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Issue of the Week: Should global leaders listen to protesters?

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Illustration by Arnulfo Bermudez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday February 19, 2003

Over the weekend, anti-war protests overtook cities across the world, demonstrating opposition to a future war on Iraq. Although this is not the first time people have taken to the streets in an effort to halt the war, it was this weekend that prompted a response from President Bush. Yesterday, Bush noted "democracy is a beautiful thing, and people are allowed to express their opinions," but letting protesters influence war decisions would be "like saying I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group." Should President Bush be listening a little more carefully?


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Erik Flesch

They are against war; what are they for?

By righteously claiming that Saddam Hussein is evil and a threat who must be disarmed by force on our own, if necessary the United States is demonstrating it holds as its ideal the values that represent the culmination of Western civilization.

In contrast, protesters around the world have demonstrated their standard contempt for the premises of Western civilization. These premises are: Man is natural and survives by grasping reality with his own mind (reason), man's life and happiness are the ultimate values (individualism), and man must have the political right to think and create free from the initiation of force (capitalism).

Unfortunately, these truths are not self-evident our heroes devoted their lives to identifying and fighting for them, while most nations on earth still explicitly reject them as heretical or anti-social. Meanwhile, vicious Middle Eastern dictators as well as the region's theological majority find themselves united with the West's protesters in their anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-capitalism anti-Western-civilization rhetoric.

The Constitution properly established a republic founded on liberty, not democracy. Now, more than ever, is an example of when the United States must openly revalidate the moral certainty behind its convictions. It must defend us not only from foreign terrorists, but our very neighbors who are dying to sacrifice capitalism and the rights of the world's smallest minority the individual on the altar of majority rule.

Erik Flesch is a geosciences junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Kendrick Wilson

Implications of current decisions will affect the future; U.S. risks loss of global support

France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and even South Africa are all entitled to decide for themselves whether to support or oppose U.S. foreign policy relating to Iraq. Indeed, the United Kingdom has decided to support the U.S., while France has been the most vocal opponent of war with Iraq.

There is little question that the world community will not be able to stop the U.S. from attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, but the implications of the decisions that are made now could run far into the future. The U.S. will have little to stand on when asking other countries to show restraint and go through the framework of international organizations. For example, should the Indonesians decide to invade Malaysia simply because Malaysia could hurt them in the future, the U.S. could not tell them "no" while keeping a straight face.

The loss of the support of the world community should be of more concern to the administration than it apparently is. The countries that oppose war with Iraq may not be entirely altruistic themselves, but their positions on this important issue should not be taken lightly.

Kendrick Wilson is a political science sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Steve Campbell

Who's right, the public or the president?

As millions of people around the world protested the potential war in Iraq this past weekend, I doubt President Bush was sitting in his thinking chair, contemplating calling the whole thing off. Instead, as the U.N. continues to do their best League of Nations imitation, I would venture to say that he was developing a plan that would accelerate the invasion process.

While demonstrators have the right to voice their opinion, those opinions should never and (under the Bush administration) will never dictate foreign policy. What intelligence does the common citizen have that our government has yet to get its hands on?

Just because people don't want to see war, that doesn't make war unnecessary.

The public didn't want the U.S. to get involved in WWII. So, did that make the war unnecessary? On the other hand, many would say the opposition to the Vietnam War was well founded. Sometimes the demonstrators get it right, sometimes they don't.

So, are we to believe that this is the best measuring stick to determine when war is and is not necessary? Why don't we just flip a coin and let everybody go home for the day?

Steve Campbell is a senior majoring in Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Caitlin Hall

Bush, Blair don't have to listen in republics

It is self-evident that a state should reflect the will of its people; otherwise it is authoritarian. The problem is in determining exactly what the relationship between the government and the governed should be.

Our nation is not a democratic utopia; it is a republic. We exert sway over the course of the country through our votes, by electing the people we believe to be morally sound guides whether this trust is misplaced is another matter. Voting is the only means of political self-expression afforded to the citizens of a republic.

So, do our leaders have to listen to us? Not at all. Should they? Maybe, but not because they are realistically accountable to us. George Bush and, perhaps more importantly, Tony Blair, give every indication that they comprehend the moral nature of their leadership. So the fact that the largest protest in London's history was staged last weekend to protest the war on moral grounds should raise plenty of red flags.

Bush and Blair are right that they were chosen to lead their countries as an act of good faith in their decision-making abilities. They have the right to exercise that power. But when a leader's decisions serve to do nothing but undermine that hopeful faith, what good are they?

Caitlin Hall is a philosophy and biochemistry sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu


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Bill Wetzel

U.S., President Bush should investigate causes of protests; human lives are at stake

With millions around the world holding protests regarding a potential war with Iraq, it would be wise for the United States in general, and the Bush administration in particular, to explore the reasons why the idea of Gulf War Part Two is so unpopular.

When nearly every country in the world is convinced Bush's proposed plan of action is wrong, it should warrant all of our attention.

The prevailing theory around the world is that our administration wants to annex a smooth victory over Iraq to its post-Sept. 11th trophy case, then skulk over to their oil wells in our greedy, miserly, imperialistic fashion. Yet another theory perceives Bush as a spoiled sissy who opens his mouth about regime change, bombs from afar and then recants when the time comes to rebuild a country while leaving another nation to fill the void and do the dirty work.

In yesterday's New York Times, Bush has acknowledged that vigorous worldwide opposition against a war will not affect what he thinks is right for history. So yes, worldwide protests and their motives should matter when human lives are at stake.

But since the leader of the free world does not care, it seems that regardless of size and frequency, protests will not matter.

Bill Wetzel is a creative writing and political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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Phil Leckman

Protesters' message clear to rest of world

In one sense at least, critics of this weekend's global protests may be right they may well not change anything. Incredibly, it appears that even an unprecedented show of resolve and solidarity of this magnitude will fail to sway President Bush from a war he so clearly has his heart set on.

With the comments he made yesterday, the president showed exactly why so many millions are unwilling to commit to war on his terms his insulting, dismissive remarks reveal a dangerous ignorance of global politics, diplomacy, and the fundamentals of a democratic government. Bush is trying to run the free world as if he were its un-elected CEO and let's not forget how the president's business ventures in the past have turned out.

Even if he disdains the world's will, however, Bush may yet learn the costs of dismissing the will of the international community. While protests were large all over the world, crowds in the capitals of the three most prominent members of Bush's "coalition of the willing," Italy, Spain, and London, each topped one million.

The message is clear: the global coalition of the unwilling is enormous and growing, sending a message that world leaders even our own short-sighted president ignore only at their peril.

Phil Leckman is an anthropology graduate student. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu


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