Last night I attended a debate at King’s Books, a used book store in Tacoma, with the question posed being “Should the United States stay indefinitely?”

Steve Niva

Professor Steve Niva from the Evergreen State College, who argued convincingly that a swift pull-out (six to twelve months) followed by a rapid diplomatic and political process would lead to the greatest number of human lives saved.

Sid Olufs

Professor Sid Olufs from Pacific Lutheran University, who argued that a slow pull-out over the course of “two-to-ten years” (as General Petraeus has suggested) would lead to the greatest number of lives saved.

Oluf’s argument

Sid Olufs designed a mathematical model that estimated the cost of an Iraqi life, the cost of an American life, and by using regression analysis he tried to show us where in his model the “optimal” time to leave Iraq would be. Right now, he said, Americans are acting like 1 American life is equal to 130 Iraqi lives, based on the number of deaths on each side. So the need to pull-out of Iraq should be sooner, rather than later.

Niva’s argument

On the other hand, Niva criticized the war propaganda we are facing right now about the need to stay in Iraq. Niva argued concisely that these war hawks have provided us with disastrous outcomes if we pull out, and no analysis of who will attack from where and why they will do it. All of these craaazy scenarios are things anybody could blurt out as a warning. But are they really founded?

He dissected the rhetoric and the spectacle of war-making, which I found more convincing. “Turkey will attack Northern Iraq,” they say. “But they would not unless we provided the PKK with weapons,” he replied. “Iran would attack across the borders,” they say. “But would they have a reason to if American forces were not on the other side?” he replied. Deconstruction, in other words, was his sharpest tool.

So, who won?

Prof. Olufs came across as embarrassed, I thought, because Niva was a competent opponent. Niva was so competent, in fact, that Olufs actually converted to the other side in the middle of the debate.

By way of explanation, Olufs argued that since the US is not pulling out of Iraq now, based on what his model projections suggested, he said, once the value of each nation’s lives are equaled, this idiotic “model” provided the argument for an immediate troop pull-out.