TO GO TO WAR
and Role Play
By Lara Maupin, a social studies teacher at Thomas Jefferson
High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia
This lesson may be used to discuss with your students President Bush's
decision to go to war with Iraq soon after that decision has been made.
It should take 20 - 30 minutes, although you may choose to extend your
discussion or have students write responses to the quotes given below.
is most appropriate for use in a government or history class but may be
used in any social studies class. Government teachers may wish to emphasize
the political process leading up to the war and the implications for George
Bush as president while History teachers may wish to focus on the relevant
No special materials are required although if students have not been keeping
up with the current events surrounding the issue of war with Iraq, you
may wish to provide them with background materials, such as current copies
of newspapers or news magazines or copies of recent NewsHour stories.
to National Standards
1. Introduction--Begin by explaining that the decision to go to war with
Iraq has been made and the war has begun. Allow students to respond or
ask questions. Explain that you will now examine that decision as well
as its precedents and implications.
students into small groups. Give each group an index card with one of
the following topics written on it.
Tell students they have about 5 minutes to brainstorm all they know about
the questions on their cards so that they can report back to their classmates.
-- PRECEDENTS: Why have nations (especially the U.S.) waged war in the
past? How is war generally justified?
Why does President Bush believe force is necessary in Iraq at this time?
What does the president say about his motivations and goals? What other
possible motivations do others ascribe to him?
What is the current diplomatic situation in the United Nations? What does
this mean for the future and relevance of the U.N? What support does the
U.S. have for military action?
What role are others playing in the decision to go to war? The American
people? Congress? Our allies? Saddam Hussein? Who has voiced opposition
to the war and how have they done so?
What are the risks of going to war with Iraq? The possible costs?
3. Ask each
group to report to the class. Allow other students to respond to what
each group has said. Then answer the following discussion
1. How does
this war differ from wars of the past? How would it be similar?
2. How does a leader determine that diplomacy has failed and it is time
to commit troops?
3. Do you think the benefits of war could outweigh the costs? Why/why
Ask students to select one of the following quotes
and respond thoughtfully and analytically in writing. This activity may
be done in class or for homework. Responses should demonstrate students'
understanding of the quote as well as reveal their thoughts and concerns
regarding the possibility of war. You may also wish to use the quotes
to spark further discussion or review vocabulary terms.
former war correspondent, and New York Times columnist Chris Hedges
in a 12/26/02 interview by Terence Smith:
"[War] gives us a sense of purpose, it ennobles us as a people,
it allows us to jettison individual consciousness for a goal, a noble
goal, and it . . . it allows us to suspend questioning, to stop questioning
for the great enterprise in front of us. And unfortunately, that's why
war at its inception is often met with such exhilaration."
Bush in his 3/6/03 prime time press conference:
"I hope we don't have to go to war. But if we go to war we will
disarm Iraq. And if we go to war there will be regime change. And replacing
the cancer inside Iraq will be a government that represents the rights
of all the people, a government which represents the voices of the Shia
and the Sunni and the Kurds."
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in a 3/9/03 Washington Post article:
"I think history will record that a remarkably strong president
happened to be in office at a juncture where weapons of mass destruction
and terrorism rewrote all the rules of engagement in international relations,"
Gingrich said. "It will record that the president moved beyond
old institutions and developed a new set of alliances."
Security Adviser to President Carter Zbigniew Brzezinski in 3/7/03 NewsHour
"If there was an imminent threat, I would say yes, go to war on
the 17th, go to war tomorrow even. We don't face an imminent threat.
The president repeatedly has said it's a grave and gathering threat.
And how we deal with it is absolutely critical to the kind of leadership
we'll be able to exercise over the next decade, to the kind of precedents
we set for dealing with North Korea, and other problems of proliferation
of terrorism. We don't want to be dealing with these problems alone,
because we will not be able to deal with them effectively on our own."
Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin in his 3/7/03 response to U.N.
weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the U.N. Security Council:
"To those who believe that war would be the quickest way of disarming
Iraq, I can reply that it will drive wedges and create wounds that will
be long in healing. And how many victims will it cause? How many families
of State Colin Powell in his 3/7/03 response to U.N. weapons inspector
Hans Blix's report to the U.N. Security Council:
"Nobody wants war, but it is clear that the limited progress we
have seen, the process changes we have seen, the slight substantive
changes we have seen come from the presence of a large military force,
nations who are willing to put their young men and women in harm's way
in order to rid the world of these dangerous weapons. It doesn't come
simply from resolutions; it doesn't come simply from inspectors; it
comes from the will of this council, the unified political will of this
council and the willingness to use force if it comes to that to make
sure that we achieve the disarmament of Iraq."
Standards for Civics and Government
4: What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and
to world affairs?
The ends and means of United States foreign policy: Evaluate, take, and
defend positions on foreign policy issues in light of American national
interests, values, and principles.
Council for the Social Studies Global Connections IX:
conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation and
interdependence among groups, societies and nations.
the relationships and tensions between national sovereignty and global
interests, in matters such as territory, economic development, nuclear
and other weapons, use of natural resources, and human rights concerns.
or formulate policy statements demonstrating an understanding of concerns,
standards, issues and conflicts related to universal human rights;
MCREL Thinking and Reasoning Standards
1-Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
Standard 2-Understands and applies basic principles of logic and reasoning
Standard 6-Applies decision-making techniques
Skills, Working with Others Standards
1-Contributes to the overall effort of the group
Standard 4 -Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Standard 5 - Demonstrates leadership skills
6, Level 10 Relates personal response or interpretation of the text with
that seemingly intended by the author.
Author Lara Maupin teaches social studies at
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria,
Virginia. She is on leave during the 2002-2003 school year. She has a
Master's Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from George Washington
University and a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from
Mount Holyoke College.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute
to this site, contact Leah Clapman at email@example.com.