Troops coming home

Last Friday, President Obama announced the rest of the 39,000 American 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 statement on the White House website said. “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.

“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.”

Mansoor Moaddel, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University, has done extensive surveys of Iraqi opinion, testified before Congress and advised U.S. officials.

When 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 troops withdrawal will not make this attitude worse. It may even result in Iraqi rethinking that the presence of Americans was not all bad.”

Moaddel also speculated 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.”

Colonel Michael C. Wise, professor of military science, said he sees no impact by the troop withdrawal on the EMU ROTC program.

Wise said EMU’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corp program has about 100 cadets, most but not all of who will become officers in the Army. Over the last 10 years, any officer deployed would have gone to Iraq, Afghanistan or both. Therefore, perhaps half the EMU ROTC graduates who became officers could have gone to Iraq.

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.

“We train leaders for today’s Army,” he said. “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.”

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