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Like many Georgetown students this week, I attended the 41st annual North American Invitational Model UN; despite being a mouthful, I found the conference a great opportunity to mix with kids much younger than me and perhaps a little more na├»ve, perhaps a bit more jaded. Chairing NATO was an enjoyable enterprise, but on the last day I was startled by one of the high schooler’s comments, apparently, Mr. Norway thought it inappropriate to speak out against the surge, apparently it was un-American to provoke thoughtful discussion. While I myself acknowledged that our alternatives are limited and grim; we can pull-out unilaterally (much as we went in) and destabilize the Middle East, we can entrench ourselves in our very own quagmire, or we could devlove power to the Iraqis (which worked oh so well in Vietnam); the only way to solve this problem is for the best and the brightest (including little high school model uners) to intelligently discuss, criticize, and question current policy.

The fact that a 17 year old could be so despondent, so dejected, so jaded and unthinking, and so unwilling to live out the virtues of free expression indicates a growing lack of faith and instrumentation in our own democracy. Unfortunately, this new age of partisan polarity and animosity produces too many outlooks such as this. You are either with us or with the terrorists. Democracy is premised on nuance, there are varying shades of grey on issues like abortion, welfare, and of course, Iraq. Am I providing aid and comfort to the terrorists by arguing against a failed policy in Iraq? I surely think not. Is Jack Murtha a hedonistic America hater because he wants to prevent the surge, the countless unnecessary deaths, the pain and torment of one more flag draped coffin? No, he is fighting for what he believes in. Am I exercising my rights as an American citizen to convincingly articulate the errors and falsities in our policy? I think so.

So, herein lies the rub. Since Bush spoke before Congress three days after 9/11 (September 14, 2001) the war on terror or Islamo-fascism as Tony Snow has taken to calling it, has been an us vs. them battle (think Heart of Darkness, if you will). Is this an existential fight? Yes, it certainly is; concurrent with Huntington’s somewhat bellicose thesis, we may be seeing the opening salvo of the Clash of Civilizations. Nevertheless, it cannot and should not be so simple as you are either with ‘us’ or with them. This is a fight for the very essence of our democracy. If we extol the virtues of democracy in Iraq and yet subvert its basic premise by calling everyone in opposition un-American we seem to compromise our own moral and ideological standing, we also let the terrorists win (the want us to shudder in fear, they want to end our way of life as we know it, they want to do away with democracy and institute a new age caliphate--they've succeeded to certain degrees in all of these aspects).

I may not agree with Bush’s policy, I find it incomplete, idiotic, and useless, but I do support our troops. One of my friends from high school has been to Anbar twice, 20 and traumatized, he will never be the same, even assuming he comes back in one piece. But, we need to have a thoughtful discussion about these resolutions before filibustering non-binding resolutions of protest, before head-longedly launching into another Vietnam and losing another generation to the genocidal rampages of war. Iraq and the larger War on Terror are moral issues and speech and writing are our best methods of protest; no one should be silenced.

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