Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Chair of the International Relations at Boston University Andrew Bacevich weighed the pros and cons of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and cautioned against going to war too quickly at an event in Lohrfink Auditorium on Tuesday.

The event was held at the invitation of School of Foreign Service Dean Carol Lancaster and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Vice President for New Initiatives Aaron David Miller and was the first discussion in a series to be co-sponsored with the Woodrow Wilson Center that will address key foreign policy challenges facing the United States.

Robin Wright, a Wilson Center distinguished scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, moderated the event, which explored how to bring clarity and honesty to discussion of war and intervention.

Wright began by citing Crocker’s and Bacevich’s personal experiences with service in Iraq and by asking them if the war in Iraq was justified.

Crocker, who is also dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, said that the future trajectory of Iraq is unclear.

“I am not sure that we have placed enough emphasis on the strategic framework agreement that might help Iraq deal with its problems,” Crocker said. “There are no short answers. These are complex questions. Is everything ever worth that number of casualties? It’s a hard thing to answer.”

Bacevich, who wrote “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country,” firmly believes that the Iraq war was not worth it.

“We should judge a war by the purpose by which the war was undertaken and whether that purpose is fulfilled,” Bacevich said. “Are we making the region more stable? Are we making the region more democratic? Are we persuading the people who live in that part of the world to hold the United States in warm regard? I think the answer to those questions is obvious: No.”

Bacevich and Crocker also discussed what should be done in Syria. Wright asked them what they would say in a memo to the President.

Crocker said that the United States must proceed with caution. He emphasized containment over intervention, a point with which Bacevich agreed.

“We do not know the ground rules in Syria. It is an enormous human tragedy that we cannot fix militarily, and we would be fools to try.” Crocker said. “When it comes to national interest of the United States, Mr. President, I think you’d rather be considered heartless than mindless.”

The rest of the discussion focused on other complex issues in the region, such as problems in Iran and Israel. Bacevich and Crocker focused on the necessity of careful consideration before policy formation, understanding of adversarial forces and what constitutes American credibility in foreign affairs.

“Wars are evil,” Bacevich noted. “There can, however, be necessary wars.”

As a Syrian citizen, Sebastian Nicholls (SFS ’16) found the discussion of issues in the Middle East relevant and necessary and welcomed the event’s nonpartisan nature.

“[It] provided a very thoughtful discussion of wars, presenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they are, without the glory that politicians attribute and with a clarity that is rarely, if ever, seen in the media,” Nicholls said. “It was a frank discussion, and the conversation allowed essential points to become clear.”

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