TROOPS COMING HOME

Troops coming home

TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ

Last Friday, President Obama announced that the rest of our 39,000 troops in Iraq will be home by the holidays.

“Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq—tens of thousands of them—will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq—with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,” said the statement on the White House website.

“But this moment represents more than an accomplishment for the President. It marks a monumental change of focus for our military and a fundamental shift in the way that our nation will engage in the world,” the statement continued.

What might be the impact of the withdrawal in Iraq, and on EMU, in the opinion of EMU faculty and staff?

Mansoor Moaddel, EMU Professor of Sociology, has done extensive surveys of Iraqi opinion, testified before Congress, and advised U.S. officials, according to his resume. Asked what he thought the general impact of the troop withdrawal would be on Iraq, he said:

“It is hard to tell. One thing may be clear, the withdrawal of the U.S. troops may take the attention span of politicians and political activists away from the reality of foreign presence and shift toward focusing on more concrete issues facing Iraqis: political corruption, poverty, technical issues, the needs to rebuild the country, etc. It may even provide a better context for building relationship between the U.S. and Iraq based on equality and mutual benefits. The majority of Iraqi politicians and political activists are pragmatists. They prefer having close relationships with technologically and economically advanced superpower like the U.S. than with the Islamic regime in Tehran.”

In response to a question about the impact of the presence, and then the withdrawal of, U.S. troops on Iraqi opinion about the U.S., he said:

“Unfortunately, the United States is not popular among Iraqi Arabs (it has been popular among Iraqi Kurds, however). The US troop’s withdrawal will not make this attitude worse. It may even result in Iraqi rethinking that the presence of Americans was not all bad.”

Professor Moaddel also speculated that the State of Michigan would be wise to “plan to see how the Iraqis living in Michigan can play a role in forging cultural, economic, and educational ties with Iraqis, particularly with the Kurdish section of Iraq, which is politically much more stable than the rest of the country.”
A survey by EMU’s Veteran Services department at http://www.emich.edu/veterans/emustats.html shows that 501 of 536 respondents were from Michigan and the rest from 16 other states. Eighty were dependents of veterans, 186 were from the Army, 107 from the Marines, 86 from the Navy, 73 from the Air Force,  and 4 from the Coast Guard.

EMU was named, in August, 2010, one of the country’s top “military friendly” schools by GI Jobs magazine for 2011, according to a University Press Release. “The magazine’s list recognizes the 15 percent of schools that best serve veterans nationwide,” the release continued.

At the time, Bernice Lindke, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at EMU said, “We are profoundly grateful to the men and women who serve our country, and want to provide them with as helpful and welcoming an environment as possible.”The University welcomes veterans as new or returning students, and has a website with extensive information for those prospective students, http://www.emich.edu/veterans/index.html, to help them obtain all the benefits they have earned through their service.

EMU also has an active veterans student organization, http://emu.collegiatelink.net/organization/student-veterans-of-america-at-emu.

Colonel Michael C. Wise, Professor of Military Science, sees no impact by the troop withdrawal on the EMU ROTC program. “We train leaders for today’s Army; we do not train for specific war situations. We might use the history of our involvement in Iraq for teaching purposes. We might discuss ‘what will come next’ in class. The last person who wants to go to war is a soldier. That’s a cliché because it is true.”

Colonel Wise said that EMU’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corp program has about 100 cadets; most but not all of whom will become officers in the Army. Over the last ten years, any officer deployed would have gone to either Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. Therefore, perhaps half the EMU ROTC graduates who became officers could have gone to Iraq.

Colonel Wise was in Baghdad to support strategic communications in  2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has also served in Germany, Bosnia and the U.S. At EMU, he teaches military ethics, military law, and management.

 EASTERN ECHO, Thursday October 27, 2011 p. 3

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