With the human and financial costs of the Iraq war continuing to rise, the public should remain aware of this conflict. Activists that highlight the situation in Iraq should not be generalized as unpatriotic or anti-military, but rather as genuinely desirous of further discussion and debate on this real and contentious issue.

Very often, though, military personnel – especially recruiters – find themselves the focus of demonstrations that unreasonably connect them with policies that neither they nor their superiors make. Although dialogue regarding these decisions should occur, these protests can very easily be miscontrued as demonstrations against the military.

A fundamental aspect of our military is that it is subject to civilian command. Regardless of the moral fortitude of its personnel, a military that becomes a force unto itself and makes its own decisions – rejecting any outside control from a democratically-elected government – bodes poorly for a nation’s integrity. As a result, where the military chain of command ends, the policy-making side – the civilian side – begins. Ultimately, the Department of Defense, which is a civilian organization that is led by the democratically-elected President and Congress, makes the decisions against which protesters demonstrate. Therefore, even though it’s not as dramatic as staging a die-in in front of military recruiters, voting is the most meaningful form of activism – the best way to solve problems does not involve military personnel.

This nation’s soldiers, sailors Marines and airmen are owed a debt of honor – for the sacrifices they make, they deserve well-educated officers to lead them, provide them with medical care, guide them spiritually and represent them in a court of law. Many of these officers are educated at colleges and universities across the country, not just from military academies. Giving space to recruiters or military personnel will not necessarily make a learned institution part of a military-industrial cabal or endorse any policies that civilian decision-makers make for the military. For example, giving space to College Democrats or College Republicans does not mean that the university administration sanctions either party’s policy positions, especially when they might be against university policies.

Making recruiters feel uncomfortable on a college campus may be simply a symbolic gesture, only superficially hurting the flow of college graduates to various commissioning programs that provide our military with leaders. However, the antipathy shown in protests – that our fine servicemen and servicewomen should be associated with decisions for which neither they nor their superiors are responsible – marginalizes the appreciation they deserve.

Scott can be reached at tscott@campustimes.org.

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