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Does anyone know the status of the Williams College Debate Union? In the past, it has put on some great events, but I haven’t noticed any activity for some time. Here are two debates that the WCDU should sponsor:

1) This House would remove all US troops from Iraq before 2009.

2) This House would abolish the Williams College Women’s Center.

The second is probably the more fun and timely of the two. But the first would be useful as well since there is such a narrow range of views on the Iraq War presented by non-students on the Williams campus.

Since I doubt that the WCDU would be able to find a faculty member who both honestly disagrees with 1) and was willing to publicly argue against it, I would be eager to step into the breach. The most fun opponent would probably be Professor Shanti Sigham despite (because!) she refuses to reply to my e-mails.

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#1 Comment By Joe On February 26, 2007 @ 9:28 am

I used to be involved with WCDU, and my understanding is that the group now focuses on smaller, more frequent debates. Best way to track down the current leadership would be to find the regular debate team’s website (if it is still up) – there is traditionally a lot of overlap.

#2 Comment By frank uible On February 26, 2007 @ 9:39 am

David: Do you stay up nights thinking of these things?

#3 Comment By hwc On February 26, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

But the first would be useful as well since there is such a narrow range of views on the Iraq War presented by non-students on the Williams campus.


I doubt this is true. I am finding the national discussion of Iraq (and the broader contexts of middle east politics and Constitutional issue) to be quite varied and nuanced in the think tanks, Polical Science journals, and mainstream media. This nuanced discussion is certainly carrying over to the relevant Senate committees. The discussion is taking place against the backdrop of a very interesting polical climate, starting with a seachange in the 2006 election and leading up to the 2008 presidential race. I would be very surprised if the Williams Political Science professors aren’t active participants in the multifaceted discussion.

As a reader, news watcher, or a student, the key to unlocking the broad discussion taking place is to move beyond the simplistic “I’m fer it” or “I’m ag’in it” level. For example, Brookings Institute published a thought-provoking 140 page look at the recent history of civil wars and potential lessons for containing the all-out civil war in Iraq. From the summary:

From this history, the authors propose a set of policy options that the United States could employ to try to contain the spillover effects of a full-scale Iraqi civil war. The “baker’s dozen” of policy options for the United States are:

Don’t try to pick winners;

Avoid active support for partition (for now);

Don’t dump the problem on the United Nations;

Pull back from Iraqi population centers;

Provide support to Iraq’s neighbors;

Bolster regional stability;

Dissuade foreign intervention;

Lay down “red lines” to Iran;

Establish a Contact Group;

Prepare for oil supply disruptions;

Manage the Kurds;

Strike at terrorist facilities;

Consider establishing safe havens or “catch basins” along Iraq’s borders.

Link to the paper can be found here.

Conversely, the rationale for the recently announced long-term escalation of American military in Iraq can be found in papers and articles at the neocon American Enterprise Institute think tank. Simimlarly, you can find the rationale for the planned airstrikes against Iran there.

The most thought-provoking discussions surround the regional implications of the Shia/Sunni divide which is producing some strange bedfellows (like Saudi Arabia and Israel) in the region.

#4 Comment By PTC On February 26, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

David- Man. I wonder if you could tell us what shaped your opinion of the way such groups during your time as a student? It seems like you had a bad run in, or perhaps experienced or saw a lot of negative things come from advocacy groups while you were at Williams.

“Williams is full of conservatives who think they are liberal. Good little capatalists who are taught one must first do bad, in order to do good.”- From a conversation yesterday with a Williams college graduate on town gown relations and current building projects.

#5 Comment By PTC On February 26, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

I think people are looking for an exit from Iraq. I think the majority of Americans (over 50%) agree with William Odom and think this thing is counter productive and we should start to leave now. I doubt support for any kind of “baker’s dozen” initiative will hold much beyond the next election cycle… after the surge.
As far as a debate with a house vote at Williams, well, the demographic is from a MA liberal arts college. You may find a few people to hit your talking points in the interest of intellectual exercise, but that is about it. Besides, the reality that we are surging now would overcome any relevance of that debate.

#6 Comment By hwc On February 26, 2007 @ 2:26 pm


The Brookings Institute report starts with the premise that Iraq has disintegrated into full civil war and the United States has made the decision to get out. It looks at how US foreign policy might deal with the five or ten years it could take for the Iraqis to become exhausted with killing each other (a necessary precursor to a civil war end-game). The underlying analysis is the same, whether we recognize the state of civil war today or in January 2009.

As I say, the discussion is far more nuanced and interesting than “fer it” or “a’gin it” and I am quite certain that Williams political scientists, arabists, economists, and their students are discussing the issues from a myriad of perspectives. I think (or at least hope) David sells the campus short.

#7 Comment By PTC On February 26, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

hwc- Ah, ok.
Still, after the surge we are going to be in a different place with this thing politically, with our capabilities, and the reality on the ground. We are going to keep this policy until GWB is out of office, who knows what Iraq will look like by then? What the dynamics will be here at home? What our capability will be to sustain a power projection. Where we will be facing other threats in the region, or around the globe, for that matter. For these reasons, it is a rather futile debate. We are surging,and staying the course for at least another year or more.