Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wright's Op-Ed in the Globe

James Wright, the president of the college, wrote an op-ed in today's Boston Globe about veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the way they are being treated when they return home. President Wright feels that soldiers are less visible than they were in previous conflicts:
I fear, in the midst of the debate over troop levels, exit strategies, and assessment of the war's progress, we have lost sight of the men and women who are fighting this war. To be sure, there is deference to them, but too often they are seen as abstractions, as numbers and not individuals, as heroes or helpless pawns. Those who gave their lives are remembered for but a moment, except in their hometowns. Those who have been seriously injured seldom even have the moment.
President Wright then calls for "a new GI Bill" to significantly enhance education and rehabilitation programs.

I completely agree with the president. Compared with the Vietnam War, and certainly wars of previous generations, this war has had zero impact on college campuses. Around Dartmouth, you would never know that we had troops fighting overseas. For the Ivy League twenty-year-old, this has been a completely anonymous war, and the same is certainly true for the average New Yorker. In the past, war affected a much wider range of people, which served as a deterrent against going to war. People were afraid of the draft, people had to converse, people were afraid of relatives and friends dying. But nothing about my life has changed because of Iraq or Afghanistan. Similarly, I had been disheartened by the lack of anger about the war at Dartmouth. College students drove the consciousness of the nation during Vietnam, but have been largely silent during the Iraq war, which is similarly unjust and misguided.

The answer, of course, is a draft. I certainly do not want a draft, because I do not want to be forced to go to war, but I think without question that a draft is necessary during a time of war. It is only fair that the costs of war should be shared by everyone. The concept of a "volunteer army" is a misnomer. Many of the soldiers fighting today joined the reserves during peace time because they figured they would never see a full-scale war again. Many others only signed up because they had no better options. Imagine if the army was truly volunteer, if anybody could drop out any time if they wanted to. Only that would be a true volunteer army. The absence of a draft has made war politically less costly, and that is a horrible thing. The result, as Wright described, is that this war feels distant and abstract.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A draft will never happen because the Pentagon now believes that soldiers need to be in the services for a minimum of three years in order to get adequate training.

One of the reasons that American casualties in recent wars have been so much lower than in Viet Nam, Korea and especially WWII, is that our troops are much better trained.