LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Observations of a temporary expatriate

Barry Lawson

I am studying here in Vienna, Austria, on one of the newly Lawrence-affiliated IES programs. Over the last month, being an American and living in this city far from home has been a complicated experience, to say the least. The way of life here is wonderful, but the beauty of this city and the joy of being here have occasionally been tarnished by the sickening events which have occurred since the morning of Sept. 11. I was deeply affected by the attack—immobilized, really, for a few days, and wished I were home, where I could get better news coverage and mourn with everyone else. There have been silver linings, though, such as the four-foot thick collection of candles and flowers I witnessed in front of our embassy in Prague.

As I sit in a Viennese internet cafe, the government of my country is bombing an already impoverished and disadvantaged land. All I have to say is this: the Bush administration had better know what it is doing and exactly what it expects to achieve from every bomb it drops. I frequently hear from the hawks of our society the argument that we cannot sit on our hands and invite further terrorist attacks by such inaction. This argument may hold some water, but people should think pragmatically as well. Arguably, air strikes meant to correct the current situation are just as likely to disrupt further a delicate region and inspire continued disdain for the USA among various peoples for generations to come.

U.S. foreign policy has, in the past century, frequently fiddled with various parts of the world in serving immediate exigencies, without enough foresight toward long term consequences. To paraphrase Samtayana: May our country understand its past dealings so as not to be condemned to their repetition.

—Barry Lawson