Who’d have thought what downtown Indianapolis workers want for lunchtime diversion is a wonky policy debate? The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filled this unnoticed desire with “First Tuesdays,” free noontime discussions held the first Tuesday of every month at Indiana Repertory Theatre. Hot topics have included gay marriage, teaching creationism in public schools and spying by the U.S. government on its citizens.

The final discussion before the series goes into summer hiatus will be at the IRT June 6: “The U.S. in Iraq: Stay the Course or Get Out Now?” Featured will be Rick Wilson, deputy chief of staff for Congressperson Dan Burton, and Dr. Mary Ann Fadae, lecturer on Islam at the Christian Theological Seminary.

Expect sharply contrasting positions. Wilson will explain why America’s reasons for going into Iraq remain compelling. With sound strategy and what he calls “sufficient violence and disciplined ferocity,” the U.S. will prevail. By contrast, premature withdrawal will cripple vital American national interests, damaging our credibility as a great power and lending support to our country’s enemies.

Fadae may disagree with every paragraph Rich Wilson utters. She will argue that Iraq has shattered America’s moral standing in the Muslim world. Abruptly pulling U.S. forces from Iraq could make the chaos even more chaotic, so Fadae doesn’t advocate “get out now.” But occupying Iraq, she believes, prevents America from confronting the Middle East’s main problem: Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians in disregard of international law.

On its face, this debate might seem familiar and predictable. In this corner: hard-headed, decorated Gulf War veteran, staffer for one of the most conservative members of Congress. In that corner: soft-hearted, Bush-whacking academic, Muslim convert. If you watch cable news or listen to talk radio, you’ll recognize the stereotypes.

But we don’t have to be satisfied with a clash of clichés, not if we seek solutions to the Iraqi crisis. Come to the “First Tuesday” discussion armed with tough questions. Don’t just try to confront and confound the side with which you disagree. Bring questions that must be answered if the U.S. is to bring peace and security to the Middle East without endangering our moral underpinnings.

How should we deal with despots like Saddam Hussein, who brutalize their people and invade their neighbors? How should we work with our friends and confront our foes over weapons of mass destruction? Where should the struggle against Islamic extremism be fought, and how?

For another perspective, attend Greggory Keele’s June 9 talk at the Sagamore Institute: “Iraq Outside the Wire.” A captain in the Army Reserve, Keele spent a one-year tour in An Numanyiah, Iraq. Listeners of Greg Garrison’s radio show loved Keele’s regular phone interviews from the field. Thoughtful and articulate, Keele fiercely criticizes the way the U.S. wages the war. “Wars are won by controlling strategic ground and isolating the enemy into indefensible positions. This is exactly what we are not doing in Iraq.”

Back home in Indiana, Keele has honed his critiques as part of GeoPol (www.geo-pol.com), a “virtual think tank” of absolute stone-cold global politics junkies. When the young professionals in GeoPol get together at Bleecker Street in Broad Ripple, their arguments rage raucously till morning’s early hours. Imagine an exhilarating international relations graduate seminar, fueled by endless martinis, conducted in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. With his talk at the Sagamore Institute, Keele shares his GeoPol analyses with the public. It should be a great show.

Keele, Wilson and Fadae agree: We’re in the mess we’re in because Americans’ ignorance of Iraqi history, Middle East geopolitics and global Islam made us willing to accept goofy policies and simplistic solutions. Informing ourselves means protecting ourselves. The ACLU-Indiana’s noontime quickie “First Tuesdays,” GeoPol’s weekly “drink tank,” expert briefings at Sagamore … all make up the diverse network of entertaining opportunities to learn about the crisis, and perhaps to think of solutions.

John Clark works on international issues with many organizations around Indiana.

More Info WHAT: Mary Ann Fadae and Rick Wilson debate “U.S. in Iraq: Stay the Course, or Get Out Now?”

WHEN: Tuesday, June 6, 12-1 p.m.

WHERE: Indiana Repertory Theatre, 140 W. Washington St.

INFO: www.aclu-in.org

WHAT: Greggory Keele speaks about “Iraq Outside the Wire”

WHEN: Friday, June 9, 2-3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Sagamore Institute, 340 W. Michigan St.

INFO: John Clark at john@sipr.org


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