and journalist David Halberstam delivered the Baird Pulitzer Prize
Lecture at Elon University Jan. 16, telling the audience that U.S.
military action in Iraq could have no foreseeable ending and promises
consequences for an entire generation.
Halberstam said he is concerned about any "war-as-a-first-option
approach" and said he hopes that the threat of war will be sufficient
to effect positive change in the region. He likened a war with Iraq
to smashing one's hand "into the largest hornet's nest in the
world," saying, "We could pay for it for decades....I
am deeply bothered by the potential consequences of war, especially
if it is unilateral. This is new, difficult and uncharted territory
for all of us" and is a situation "without a preferred outcome."
Halberstam, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the
Vietnam War as a New York Times reporter, said President Bush's
focus on Iraq may be deflecting attention from the more important
war on terrorism and weakening the support of our allies in that
"I believe the preeminent struggle today is with the terrorists
and al-Qaeda," he said. "The last thing we want is American kids,
black and white, mostly Christian, doing occupation duty in an Islamic
While Halberstam said he doesn't underestimate the threat posed
by Saddam Hussein, he said he believes U.S. leaders have not taken
the time to consider the consequences of going to war against Iraq.
He said the U.S. will not be able to control those consequences,
and said the scenario can be considered to be quite similar to the
way events unfolded in Vietnam.
"Events are in the saddle and ride mankind," Halberstam said, quoting
Emerson. "The unexpected almost always happens."
Halberstam said the U.S. has been isolationist and ignored its
responsibilities around the globe since the fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989. "If we don't see the rest of the world, it will see us,"
he said. "If we don't find the rest of the world, it will find
Halberstam said he is optimistic the U.S. can emerge from the trials
brought about by the sluggish economy and the terror attacks of
September 2001 because it is a strong nation. He said he expects
there will be more major terror attacks, but the nation will continue
to steadfastly maintain its democratic principles. "It's easy to
underestimate the strength and resiliency of America," he said.
Halberstam's lecture to a packed house in McCrary Theatre concluded
his visit to campus. Earlier in the day, he was the special guest
at a luncheon with journalism and international studies majors.
He took questions from students during a question-and-answer session
led by School of Communications professor and Fletcher Chair David
Copeland in Whitley Auditorium. He also answered questions at a
press conference in the School of Communications broadcast studio.
Halberstam's last 13 books have made The New York Times bestseller
list, including "The Best and the Brightest," "The Powers That Be"
and "The Reckoning." He has also written extensively on sports,
with several sports books and a bi-weekly ESPN.com column to his
His latest bestseller, "Firehouse," tells the story of Ladder
Company 36 in Manhattan, which lost 12 of its 13 firefighters in
the attacks on the World Trade Center. He said he lived only a few
blocks away from the station, and he was inspired by the stories
he found there.
The Baird Pulitzer Prize Lecture Series, which brings some of the
nation's most accomplished writers and journalists to campus, is
endowed by James Baird and his wife, Jane, of Burlington, N.C. The
Pulitzer is the nationŐs most prestigious award in journalism and
the liberal arts.