Duke Hosts Major Conference on Iraq

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Scott Silliman and Dr. Hussein Hassouna
Conference organizer Scott Silliman, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, shares the lectern with His Excellency Dr. Hussein Hassouna, ambassador of the League of Arab States

With military victory in Iraq virtually assured and post-conflict reconstruction underway, Duke Law School’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS) recently hosted a major conference exploring some of the central legal and policy issues stemming from the hostilities and efforts to rebuild the country.

The conference, held at the nearby Washington-Duke Inn and entitled “Confronting Iraq: Legal and Policy Considerations,” featured a wide range of prominent academics, national commentators and policy makers, including His Excellency Dr. Hussein Hassouna, the Ambassador of the League of Arab States to the United States; C. Dean McGrath Jr., Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President Cheney; Terence Taylor, President and Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies; J. Scott Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Dunlap, the senior attorney for Air Combat Command. Several Duke Law professors also were among the panelists.

“We had more than 200 people attending this conference, with a large contingent of undergraduate and graduate students who actively participated throughout both days,” said Scott Silliman, executive director of LENS and a Duke professor of the practice of law. “That was especially gratifying to us as we always seek to have our university students involved in our conferences to the greatest extent possible.”

discussion panel
Marina Ottaway, a senior associate with the Democracy and Rule of Law Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, answers a question during a panel on rebuilding Iraq. She is pictured with, from left, Joost Pauwelyn, associate professor of law at Duke and an expert in international law; and J. Scott Carpenter, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor

Silliman, who organized the conference, said each of the five panels during the two-day gathering was designed to highlight differing views on such contentious issues as whether weapons inspections still were viable when dealing with a country bent on hiding its weapons of mass destruction; whether a policy link exists between the conflict in Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict and overall stability in the region; whether the United States’ reliance on preemptive self-defense as a legal justification for invading Iraq comported with international law; whether it was possible or even advisable to establish a new democratic regime in Iraq; and whether war crimes trials against the Iraqi military and governmental leadership should be undertaken, and by whom.

Although many of the conference speakers referred to the “Arab view” with regard to these issues, Silliman was particularly pleased that Ambassador Hassouna was able to serve as the keynote luncheon speaker on the first day to authoritatively speak for his constituency. “Whether you agreed with him or not, you had to concede that he spoke with the imprimatur of the League of Arab States,” said Silliman.

Lt. Col. James Feeney
Lt. Col. James Feeney of the U.S. Marine Corps takes notes in a croweded conference room during a panel session

“There was quite an impassioned debate among the panelists on the preemptive self-defense issue,” Silliman added. “It also precipitated a lively question-and-answer period which followed, with some members of the audience expressing concern about the possible long-term consequences of this newly articulated doctrine. Some suggested it is problematic because it could be used by any country against any other country, while others believed it is absolutely necessary in a world in which rogue states and terrorist groups might gain access to weapons of mass destruction.”

In addition to LENS, the conference was co-sponsored by the Law School’s Program in Public Law; the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy; the Kenan Institute for Ethics; the Global Capital Markets Center; the Center for European Studies; and the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.