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Columbia Spectator Staff

To the Editor: Following the USenate's first ROTC town hall, several issues warrant careful scrutiny. Even if one truly despises the military and regards it solely as a vehicle of destruction, oppression, and suffering, the country will always need an organization devoted to national defense. As unconventional warfare becomes more common, even the military's staunchest critics should want liberally-educated, culturally-sensitive officers among those advising elected officials about security policy and, just as importantly, performing ground-level diplomacy like meeting with tribal elders in Afghanistan to implement counterinsurgency measures. Atrocities and civilian casualties are an inevitable, albeit unfortunate, reality of armed conflict for all (not just the United States) parties involved. The only way to eliminate atrocity is to avoid any situation with the potential for social/cultural tension or vulnerability. It is not the policy of the United States Armed Forces to commit atrocities. Liberally educated military leaders may help policy makers better formulate approaches to conflict resolution, to include those that aren't contingent upon force. But the military does much more. As an Air Force Pararescueman, I've been exposed to the military's extensive training and unparalleled capabilities; I've seen firsthand lives saved and humanitarian assistance provided in remote, austere environments. I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to respond to natural disasters in the United States in areas accessible only by helicopter as well as to provide critical care to Afghan civilians whose medical conditions were unrelated to hostile action from any group. My colleagues in Florida were among the first health care and technical rescue providers to reach Haiti following the earthquake. Blanket accusations of criminal behavior and atrocity directed against the military only serve to suppress intelligent discussion, and are far below the level of discourse expected from an institution of Columbia's caliber. I concede that integrating ROTC onto Columbia's campus while maintaining the university's academic and social identity is no simple endeavor. However, partisanship and emotional leanings should not interfere with legitimate debate. Doug Kechijian Teacher's College '11 Applied Physiology '14 SSgt, U.S. Air Force February 12, 2011