The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 39.0°F | Partly Cloudy

MIT students divided over use of force

By Brian Rosenberg

MIT students are almost equally divided over whether the United States should use military force against Iraqi forces in Kuwait. More than three-quarters, however, support the continued use of economic sanctions against the occupying Iraqi troops, according to an informal poll conducted by The Tech.

Of those questioned, 76.3 percent said they supported "the use of sanctions instead of military force to expel Iraq from Kuwait." The poll found that 22 percent opposed sanctions, while a relatively small 1.7 percent had no opinion or were unsure of their position.

Only 47.8 percent said they supported "the use of military force to expel Iraq from Kuwait after the United Nations deadline expires." A similar figure, 45.7 percent, did not support the use of force, while 6.5 percent had no opinion or were unsure of their position.

The poll also asked if respondents approved "of the American presence in the Persian Gulf." Curiously, only 136 people, or 58.6 percent of those asked, responded affirmatively to this question, less than the number of people who approved of American-

led sanctions.

The poll was conducted Sunday night, Jan. 13, in Lobdell Court. Two-hundred thirty-two members of the MIT community were polled, including 200 undergraduates, 25 graduate students, six staff members, and one faculty member. The poll was conducted after Congress authorized President George Bush to use force in the gulf.

The poll revealed several distinctions between male and female attitudes on the gulf crisis. Fully 50 percent of the 82 women surveyed did not approve of the presence of US forces in the Persian Gulf. Only 28.7 percent of the 150 men questioned felt the same way.

Of the men questioned, 51.3 percent supported the use of military force, while 40.7 percent were against it. On the other side of the coin, only 41.5 percent of the women were willing to give their support to such military force, while 54.9 percent of the women were against a military move.

A large majority of the men, 73.3 percent, supported economic sanctions.

Students' responses displayed a wide range of intensity and belief. Lars H. Genieser G felt "we should have enough troops there to protect Saudi Arabia, but we should try to contain [the Iraqi troops] and wait, not invade."

On the other hand, Christopher J. Pappacena '93 noted that "Adolf Hitler started out just by moving into the country next to him, also."

The question on support of military action elicited more reaction than the others. Those polled said that they would support military force "not at all," "not yet," "only as a last resort," "not immediately," "never," and "before the UN deadline."

Other reactions included a suggestion to "nuke them." More moderate comments included "nothing else seems to be working" and "since [the troops] are there, they might as well do something."

The poll also brought out a variety of opinions on sanctions. One student supported sanctions, but "not on food." Another said, "It doesn't really matter whether it takes 10 years or 100 years to get back Kuwait using sanctions -- why is everyone in such a rush?"

Samuel M. Kwon '93 said he would support sanctions "if [they] will work by themselves. . . . But I don't think they will work," he added.

Many students expressed concerns beyond the questions posed by the poll. "Kuwait was Iraq's first, before the Europeans arrived on the scene," said Angela S. Hinrichs '94

Others also questioned the justification for the American presence. Christopher D. Reed G said the war posturing is "mostly self-interest. No one else wants the deadline except Bush."

Edgar F. Hilton '94 thought that "it's more like we're going to protect our wallets than to protect our country."

David J. Yaron, a post-doctoral chemistry student, was upset at the focus of the debate, saying, "People should have been debating how to stabilize the region in the long term."

And Albert C. Hong '94 thought the entire conflict was "none of our business."