U students consider military service in war on terrorism

Maggie Hessel-Mial

With President George W. Bush promising last week a long war against terrorism, students across the country are considering whether they would travel thousands of miles away to fight if called to serve.

For Americans at or near college age, the prospect of military service brings to light a question: Who is prepared to enlist or be drafted into a war unlike any other the United States has fought?

“I never really thought about joining the military before this happened,” said University junior Dustin Braun. “But all the TV coverage helped me to understand how this whole thing started. Having seen the attacks up close makes me want to serve.”

Braun said he plans to enlist in officer’s training when he graduates if the war is still being fought.

“I think that the action they are taking is warranted. When a country comes over here and basically declares war on us, we can’t just let it go unnoticed,” he said.

Although some have criticized Operation Infinite Justice for a perceived absence of clear military objective, Braun said he is unwavering in his support.

“I feel they are being clear enough. They have taken their time and they know who they’re dealing with and what they’re going to do,” he said. “I think its better that they don’t make their objective and plan clear because it might defeat the whole purpose.”

University sophomore Hannah Beintema said she was affected by the attacks.

“My cousin works as a teacher in New York and some of the students in her class had parents in the World Trade Center,” she said. “I take it real personal that someone could, potentially, have tried to kill my cousin. This was really a rude awakening for me as to how evil the world is now.”

Serving in the military had occurred to Beintema before the attacks, she said, but she feels more prepared now.

“Even though I couldn’t really see myself fighting … I would go if I had to. People take their freedom for granted, but its something you have to fight for,” she said.

While few relish the thought of a foreign war, many said the cause is justified.

“It’s not going to be fun,” said Aron Embaye, a freshman Naval reservist. “We have to take care of this now, while we have international support.”

Embaye recently completed a four-year tour of duty in Bahrain before enrolling at the University in the fall. He could be among the thousands of reserves called to active duty.

“It has been pretty difficult to keep up in school when I have to think about being ready to leave at any time. But that’s my job,” Embaye said.

Despite his readiness to serve, Embaye expressed some reservations about the mission.

“We don’t know who we’re going to fight,” Embaye said. “We’re going to be in Pakistan, which is a country pretty similar to Afghanistan. The people really don’t want us there, which increases the chance of even more terrorism.”

Embaye’s reservations, however, are tempered by the reality of the terrorist attacks.

“After the attack on the USS Cole, we were ready to go to war right then. Now we want to just go and bomb their whole [area],” he said.

University senior Joe Selinski said the misguided nature of Infinite Justice would keep him from
enlisting.

“In general I don’t agree with U.S. foreign policy, and I wouldn’t fight the war they’re talking about,” Selinski said. “But the idea is not strictly whether to fight or flee, rather to make sure you act wherever you are. I would definitely stay here and resist.”

Selinski said media agitation was a reason for widespread support of military action.

“They keep saying that this is an ‘attack on America’, when real analysis would show that it’s not just about religious fanaticism, but it’s also a response to a system of globalization in which people feel like they aren’t being fairly represented.

“It’s being set up as good versus evil, but you can’t really understand the problem like that,” he said.

The prospect of an extended war does not discourage graduate student Simon Shannon.

“I don’t know about just going and dropping bombs on people, but I would want to go in for a land war,” Shannon said.

He said he supports U.S. military action but hopes for a clearer military objective.

“You don’t want to go over there and do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons,” he said. “My sister is in the reserves and I really wouldn’t like to see her go.”

Despite his concerns, Shannon is clear about his decision. “I would have to go if I was called. It’s my duty.”

For senior Mimi Getachew, the question of military service is a no-brainer.

“I would not fight. No way. Nothing is worth losing even one human life,” she said.

Getachew said U.S. foreign policy bears a large share of responsibility for the attacks.

“Entire countries have been wiped out by American foreign policy. Poor countries don’t have all the money and weapons to fight a regular war, so that makes some people want to resort to terrorism,” she said.

Getachew said foreign policy has had a profound affect on her life as well. “I lost three uncles and my baby cousin was murdered by Eritreans who had American support,” she said. “America provided Eritrea with weapons to kill Ethiopians and escalated the conflict to a much larger scale. This is just payback. I’m surprised more people don’t try and attack America.”

 

Abdel Shakur welcomes comments at [email protected]