To the SDS: stop wasting your breath

The Students for a Democratic Society have an important voice; I wish they wouldn’t advocate an irresponsible exit strategy from the Middle East.

I initially thought, âÄúWhat could these radical loons possibly be thinking?âÄù Last Thursday , as I walked toward the VeteranâÄôs Transition Center in Westbrook Hall, my ears became instinctually offended by a distant and mostly inaudible rumbling coming from the mall. I couldnâÄôt quite make out the slogans being chanted, but I knew I didnâÄôt like it. My curiosity forced further inspection, and at the mall I discovered that those pesky radicals from the StudentâÄôs for a Democratic Society (SDS) were hosting yet another anti-war rally. âÄúOK,âÄù I thought, âÄúmaybe a year ago, this demonstration would be justified. Maybe a year ago, I would deem your voice to have validity, and beyond that, I would salute the righteousness of your message. But today, in light of whatâÄôs happening, you seem like a bunch of radical loons, simply desperate to scream about something.âÄù (Sorry SDS. I seem to have no control over my initial reactions.) This reaction is born from two unassailable facts: First, the Iraqi government has agreed to a timetable for withdrawal under the Status of Forces Agreement signed by former President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Maliki, meaning weâÄôre already on our way out, in accordance with the wishes of the democratically-elected Iraqi government. Second, a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan (which the SDS is calling for) would almost certainly result in civil war and could likely return the brutality suffered under the Taliban. âÄúHow could any right-minded person be advocating this type of gross irresponsibility?âÄù I internally inquired. Now, I would be a lackey in thought to simply accept my knee-jerk retort of the SDS. So, as any young intellect should, I sought out someone to rebut my visceral rejection. I spoke with a very lovely young girl, (who seemed a bit too non-confrontational for a war protester) and sought her opinion. We had a short and pleasant conversation; mostly defined by me pressing her to provide sound bites for this column. In haste and under my pressure, she responded with sincerity and (sorry) naiveté: âÄúI just think we should stop killing people and destroying their country,âÄù she said. Of course this heartfelt response is well intentioned; no one wants indiscriminate killing and destruction. But this sentiment is derived from false premises; it assumes that death and destruction is our ambition in Iraq and Afghanistan, or at least a consequence of our ambition. And while the death and destruction of the past cannot be denied, it is completely misrepresentative of the current situation on the ground. To those who advocate for an immediate, unconditional withdrawal from the Middle East know that there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops risking their lives each day who wake up with a single goal in mind: How can I make this country a better place? These troops aim to build, not destroy. They aim to save lives, not to kill. We are building water-treatment plants, schools, roads, bridges and assisting in establishment of the institutions necessary for a prosperous society. Every day, men and women are contributing to these efforts, and 99.9 percent of our good deeds go unpublished. The sentiment expressed above is offensive and unjust toward the U.S. troops who sacrifice everything for the betterment of a society other than their own. These efforts should not be discredited by straw-man, simplistic statements like âÄúWe should just stop killing people and destroying their land.âÄù This is not only an incorrect assessment of our efforts, it is also incredibly unfair to those who wear the uniform. But presenting only this solitary opinion would not be an accurate representation of the SDS. They are an intelligent and conscientious group, as I learned upon further investigation. In conversation with SDS Adviser Tracy Molm , I learned of the sincerity of their advocacy and she dispelled my notion that they are âÄúsimply desperate for something to scream about.âÄù Her arguments, primarily noting the illegality of our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, drip with validity and objective truth. She is clearly a compassionate and well-reasoned individual. While I couldnâÄôt agree with her belief that our invasion of Afghanistan was unjust, when she expressed her outrage about the past mistakes made in Iraq, (Abu Gahrib, civilian casualties, etc.) along with the belief that people of Iraq and Afghanistan deserve sovereignty, I couldnâÄôt help but nod in agreement. But when she suggested that the atonement for our errors is to simply cut and run, I couldnâÄôt disagree more. ThereâÄôs a reason why President Barack Obama is not wantonly drawing up plans for an immediate exit of Iraq and Afghanistan. Beyond being a logistical nightmare for our armed forces, an imprudent exit strategy would not satisfy our obligation to the peoples of the countries we now occupy. While the injustices of the past are clear, our future policy should not be one that causes additional suffering, to which a precipitous withdrawal would almost certainly lead. Essentially, the SDS is using past mistakes and irresponsibility as justification to promote further mistakes and irresponsibility. While Afghanistan becomes increasingly volatile, Iraq is proving more stable and prosperous with each passing day, specifically because the previous administration ignored those who were imprudently waving the white flag of defeat and demanding withdrawal. (Yes, George W. Bush deserves credit for this). President Obama is correctly shifting forces to meet the new challenges in Afghanistan, and I trust our withdrawal from Iraq will be performed with the utterly requisite caution this delicate situation demands. With all the pressing concerns facing our world, the SDS should be screaming. They are an important voice; I only wish they would scream about other things and stop advocating for an irresponsible and dangerous exit strategy. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]