Though we’ve already somewhat slyly commented on President Obama’s recent withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, we’ve decided that the event deserves a more thorough discussion. The U.S. has maintained a presence in Iraq since 2003, a.k.a. when most current undergrads were still in elementary and middle school. This war has dominated America’s foreign attention for most of our lives, and memory of the war is sure to have a lasting impact on our futures. For that reason, we’d like to offer Columbians the chance to talk about it in a more focused way. Here, we present to you the responses from four different campus political organizations. We hope that they serve as a launching point for your discussions in the comments.
Columbia University Military Veterans:
“The troop withdrawal from Iraq is a topic of immediate political interest, the merits of which will undoubtedly be subject of debate. However, geopolitical and strategic implications aside, our greatest challenges lie in managing the welfare of veterans and their families. Though they represent a sliver of the American population, they have shouldered the burden of our nation’s wars. To many Americans the troop withdrawal brings closure, but to many veterans the struggle to readjust to American society continues.”
“The Iraq War was a disaster for our country and the world, and the Columbia Democrats applaud President Obama for putting an end to one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history. We recognize that this withdrawal will not be without consequences, but prolonging the occupation will not ameliorate the situation enough to justify the lives and treasure that will need to be spent. President Obama’s decision is in the best interests of the American people he was elected to represent and is symbolic of a new chapter in our foreign policy.
The decision to end the Iraq War refocuses America’s attention where it should have been in the first place: on nation-building at home rather than abroad. For the cost of the Iraq war, which reached $1 trillion in 2008 and was estimated by Columbia’s own Joseph Stiglitz to total between $3 and $5 trillion, we could have given every high school student in America a free college education. We could have established a real national healthcare system. We could have provided universal early education for every child in America – ten times over. The Columbia Democrats hope that the end of this costly and pointless war will represent the beginning of a real commitment to improving quality of life at home.”
“We pray that Iraq remains safe in the wake of our troops’ withdrawal, and that both their citizens and ours remain secure.”
Columbia Political Union:
“We’re non-partisan, and thus our organization as a whole does not take a stand on political issues one way or another (though our group is certainly composed of politically opinionated people!). However, we do not believe that it is inappropriately partisan to say that President Obama’s decision is a pivotal point in our country’s history and for its future. We encourage Columbia students to become engaged with this issue – to read about it, to argue about it, to debate over it — and we will try to aid them in doing that, because we believe that’s part of our organization’s purpose. And because we know that Columbians, as was shown in last year’s ROTC debate, have a unique relation to this issue (both because of our population and our history), and should consider becoming informed about and engaged with this issue as part of their purpose, too.“