To the irritation of some, the great pleasure of many and the indifference of most, my columns have been appearing in The Badger Herald for some time now. Since I began writing for this periodical, I've covered subjects ranging from Borat to birth control to the splendor of springtime (a topic I was very tempted to revisit this week). Recently, however, as I sat considering which things I might next like to publicly whine about, I was struck by a shocking realization. From the time when I submitted my first column for publication over two years ago, not once have I written specifically about the issue that is arguably the most important of our time — the war in Iraq.
Certainly — as it would be impossible to avoid given the sheer frequency with which I've written — I have indirectly opined on Iraq and have taken the occasional jab at the Bush administration's war policy. Upon becoming conscious that I had failed to expressly address the world's most pressing concern, I began to wonder where my priorities lay.
It wasn't long before I realized exactly why U.S. policy in Iraq had not yet comprised the substance of my insignificant weekly rant: Since its inception — a topic about which I wrote volumes for my high school newspaper — I have been entirely uncertain as to where I stand regarding future options for the war in Iraq.
What's more, after even further consideration I realized that, in my uncertainty, I am similar to nearly all of my compatriots.
Although I was vehemently opposed to the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq, today all I can do is wonder what ought to be done about the sinking quagmire that is America's involvement in Iraqi affairs. Regardless of varying rhetoric, this seems to be the mindset of almost every American, be they a politician, diplomat, pundit, military official or plain old citizen.
Sure, many people support one idea or another, but how specific is the idea and how wholehearted the support?
One camp advocates an immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. forces from the war-torn country. These people — many originally of an anti-invasion background — often claim the moral high ground. Still, many in this group appear to hold reservations about the very proposal whose implementation they are insisting upon. Among their concerns is the questionable morality of simply abandoning a mess of our own creation.
A second school of thought argues for the gradually implemented removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. People of this political persuasion, however, find themselves at a loss for words when asked to explain how removing troops slowly can be accomplished without the same negative ramifications of doing so immediately.
Yet another group — apparently believing we've done all of the right things so far, but simply haven't done them to a full enough extent — advocates a continuation of our present policy (whatever that is), but with drastically increased U.S. troop levels. These people seem to waver the least in the faith with which they back their idea, but one almost hopes, given the ridiculousness of said idea, that they privately harbor deep reservations.
Although each of the aforementioned groups has — almost instinctively — adopted a stance that would seem to correspond with its respective political beliefs, neither seems to be putting forth a proposal with the confidence that normally accompanies proposals of such great importance.
So this is the status of public discourse on Iraq: Although we have ideas, we can hardly give full support to even our own proposals. In this climate, it would seem unimaginable that a solution to the conflict will ever be reached.
Perhaps it is time for people to realize that we are all equally clueless and begin to actually look for solutions.
If we can't at least do that, how can we expect anything other than more of the same to come from this awful mess we've made?
Rob Rossmeissl ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.