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Scholars call for foreign policy changes

Three Lehigh University professors in the international relations department have signed an open letter to the electorate from the Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, a non-partisan group of experts in the field of national security and international politics that is calling for an urgent change of course in American foreign and national security policy.

Raj Menon, the Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International Relations, Janice Bially Mattern, assistant professor of international relations, and Chaim D. Kaufmann, associate professor of international relations, have joined with more than 650 foreign affairs specialists from more than 150 colleges and universities in 40 states in articulating their displeasure with current administration policies and urgently calling for an open debate on what they view as a more sensible and productive foreign policy.

The experts, which include many of the nation’s most prominent experts on world politics, include former staff members at the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council, as well as six of the last seven presidents of the American Political Science Association.

“We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists,” the letter reads. “One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy—an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.”

The scholars are also critical of the administration’s justifications for the war in Iraq, its lack of concern for what they contend are more pressing security threats, and its policy errors in conducting the war.

“Ignoring pre-war planning by the State Department and other U.S. government agencies, (the Bush administration) created a needless security vacuum by disbanding the Iraqi Army, and embarked on a poorly planned and ineffective reconstruction effort which, to date, has managed to spend only a fraction of the money earmarked for it.”

The results, the scholars agree, “have been overwhelmingly negative for the U.S.,” and have diverted both attention and resources from greater challenges posed by North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.

Kaufmann, who published an article on how the Bush administration sold the public, policymakers and opinion shapers on an inflated version of an Iraqi threat in a recent issue of International Security journal, was one of 33 national security scholars to sign onto a letter against the war in September 2002.

“Before the start of the Iraq war, Bush administration officials had in their possession information that should have been sufficient for them to know that the view of the Iraqi threat that they presented to the American public was greatly exaggerated or, on some points, wholly false,” Kaufmann says. “Independent experts had access to much of the same information, but could not overcome the authority advantage of the White House in public debate.”

The full text of the letter and all of the signatures are available on the organization’s Web site.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Wednesday, October 20, 2004

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