National / News / November 2, 2011

Knox reacts to troop withdrawal

Recently, President Barack Obama communicated the decision to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Although this issue has not yet generated large-scale discussion in the classroom setting, Knox students and faculty exhibit polarized views on the subject.

Common ground established between liberal and conservative perspectives manifests itself in widespread agreement with the notion that American troops should not have been positioned in Iraq from the beginning.

Even though some members of the Knox community, such as Professor of Economics Roy Andersen, initially supported the surge of troops, Andersen said, “It might have worked somewhat, but we were being triangulated between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Iraqi troops were not getting their act together. American troops remaining in Iraq has no reasonable end gain on the side of the U.S.”

Reconciliation between liberal and conservative views on the issue often stops at the opinion that American troops should not have been stationed in Iraq in the first place.

“I welcomed President Obama’s decision. Some Republican candidates for the next election will try to play Obama as a quitter or traitor, but the general public will be in favor of his decision. Circumstances have changed,” Andersen said.

Senior Chelsea Coventry presents a different position. In reference to removing American troops from Iraq, she said, “They have been saying it was going to happen for a long time, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think international relations are already strained. People are quick to say that we are able to get out of this mess, but there are other ways to do this.”

Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett shares some of Coventry’s mixed feelings about Obama’s renewed decision to remove American troops from Iraq. Although Hulett believes that it is a good idea to phase troops out of Iraq, she said, “The conservative view on this issue is more mixed. The pullout of troops is ultimately necessary, but it should have been managed differently.”

Obama’s military decision lends itself to a great deal of debate on the extent to which international relations will be impacted by U.S. troop removal from Iraq. According to Hulett, Obama’s decision will hurt the U.S. in the long run.

“Taking U.S. troops out of Iraq at this time would have negative consequences for U.S. troops with respect to Iran. It opens up greater instability in Iraq, which is sucked into the Iranian sphere. Any attempt by Iraq to preserve separate interests from Iran would be compromised without some help from the U.S.,” she said.

Proponents of Obama’s decision, such as junior Donald Tchopya, suggest that removing the American troops would promote peace on a global scale. According to Tchopya, “Obama’s decision will improve international relations around the world because many other countries were opposed to bringing U.S. troops to Iraq from the start. Peace is always good.”

Hulett said, “Many American voices, along with some other voices, will call for a pullout of American troops from Afghanistan as well.” Whether this hypothetical situation would be a product of spreading peaceful attitudes or general lack of desire to promote political intervention in the world is up for debate.

Looking toward the future in the direction of the Presidential Election of 2012, the Knox community reveals widespread curiosity about whether or not Obama’s decision will gain him political popularity.

Even if the majority of Americans express disapproval of Obama’s military decision, some Knox students believe that other issues will reflect a higher degree of priority with respect to the election.

Sophomore Alex Alemu said, “Many Americans are more worried about our economic crisis than Obama’s decision.” Alemu added that other accomplishments of the Obama Administration will lead Americans to favor Obama in the upcoming presidential election, such as “the assassination of Osama bin Laden.”

While examining the differences between present-day Barack Obama Administration and George W. Bush Administration, Andersen said, “The Obama Administration is more cooperative in decision-making. The Bush Administration had a distorted view of U.S. power and a distorted view of a need for cooperation. Bush did not see a need for cooperation between the U.S. and its allies. He also got us into this war on false pretenses.”

Whether or not Americans have changed their positions relative to the need for a rapid removal of U.S. troops from Iraq between 2008 and the present, Obama’s decision is sure to have a major impact not only on his campaign, but on international relations as well.

According to Hulett, this issue will probably experience “the normal life of a popular news story. Most people want troops home. Something will replace the issue’s [presence] in the news soon. Syria is a hot topic [in addition to] Iran’s nuclear program and problems concerning Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Elise Hyser

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