As the wars in the Middle East have lingered on through eight years, students and faculty alike have been impacted directly or indirectly by the war. The idea of war in the Middle East seems to be stale, forgotten and unimportant.
Yet not too long ago eight American soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). IED’s are a major concern of the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, as they cannot easily be detected and defended against. For this very reason, a new deployment of 3,000 troops was approved by the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Still, a violent war continues to rage on the other side of the world. Troops and civilians are still dying and mass amounts of money are still being spent, though the signs at home point the other direction. The campus of Michigan State University shows few signs of the lasting war; bumper stickers on cars reading “Support our Troops” are becoming more infrequent and there are no chalk drawings across the sidewalks proclaiming approval of U.S. business overseas. Even the ultimate sign of love for one’s country, the American flag, is hardly ever seen taped to a dorm room window or hanging from the side of a house. The patriotism of students and faculty is not in question here, but the general consensus of the war is, and waivers with each passing day.
Headlines in newspapers still report the status of places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but they don’t lay claim to the American advance over the miles of sand or keep a daily tally of the troops that were wounded or killed in action. The papers deliver news of bombings or a large weapon cache stumbled upon, but the days of a glorified GI Joe are over and the average individual residing stateside is moving on, leaving behind them a Vietnam-like wake.
The behavior of suppressing one’s expression of approval for the war, whether it be a student or any other American is typical, according to Barry Stein, is a professor of Political Science at Michigan State and holds a doctorate.
“Eight years into a war, you’re not going to have people showing support”.
Part of the course reading for Stein’s War and Revolution class is the New York Times, enabling students to stay up to date on global news. Stressing global events is important to a student’s education. These are the issues that students will inherit firsthand once they make the transition into the workforce, and being properly acquainted with them is only the first step to diagnosing and treating them. Still, action among students is a little more rare than some would think.
For there to be a student movement at MSU, Stein points out that there would have to be some significant opposition in the Middle East, something would have to entice support in order to rekindle the emotions felt at the beginning of the war. Dr. Stein also agrees that there was much more support at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan than there is currently and it continues to fade.
When news of a war goes stagnant for long periods of time, it’s hard to keep it at the front of your mind, to see it as real, to embrace it and appreciate the sacrifices made for it. That is, unless you have direct ties to the war. By this account, support for a war is thus relative to the time that has elapsed since its beginning. Either way there will always be strong pro-war supporters and anti-war supporters whether it started yesterday or like the U.S., is nearly a decade into it. The long span of time that this war has endured takes its toll on students in other ways as well.
Many people would agree that the sooner the war in the Middle East ends, the better it will be for America as a whole, especially its economy. That being said, the impacts of the war are prying into the wallets and pocketbooks of students already piled knee high in loans and other debt.
This problem may hit home harder for some more than others, with Michigan being one of the states most affected by the economic crisis in the country. It’s no surprise that concerns surrounding the U.S. military budget overseas sits at the top of the list for students paying for college as the U.S. government funds a war. The deficit created by this budget detracts from the government funding allocated to public universities. As a result, less university funding means more money being shelled out per student, which does not help their financial situations. Though this is an impending fear for many, students can take solace in the fact that they aren’t alone. This is a problem being dealt with across the state, the country, and world.
The hope for a quick solution may be a far cry from reality. However, Stein says we better settle in for the long haul.
“There’s still a lot of debate going on around Afghanistan, so I don’t see an end in sight”.
This may be a discouraging statement to some people hoping for the hasty return of American troops and the end of major U.S. presence in the Middle East. Maybe the absence of a visible student support network calls for a voice in the crowd to renew the spark of an old cause. Maybe it’s a sign that the efforts of the U.S. are feudal and simply circle each other continuously. Or it could quite possibly show that many a person have been lulled to sleep by the constant and monotonous stream of data coming at us from different angles and different news media. Most students seem to have a decent grasp of the world around them both locally and of foreign nature. Putting this knowledge into action, whether it’s right or wrong, is still an issue that many believe it deserves more attention than it’s getting.