Time To End the Military Exchange Program

Julia Olfe, Staff Writer

In the aftermath of a recent shooting at Pensacola Naval Base in Florida by a Saudi Arabian student, over 800 Saudi military trainees at various schools in the United States were suspended for a month. Following background checks, 21 were expelled and sent back to their home country. This scenario prompts the question of whether or not the United States should continue its international military training program. A multitude of factors indicates that the program should be halted, at least temporarily.

To start, the very aims of foreign training courses are ill-suited for the nations’ current state. According to National Public Radio, Top military officials view the programs as a way to boost relationships with foreign militaries and to increase the sharing of intelligence.”

 However, the US government’s recent actions, such as the unprecedented missile strike which killed Iranian General Quasem Soleimani, have done nothing but hurt the nation’s relationships with many Middle Eastern countries. Even the expulsion of the 21 students could be a cause of heightened anxiety between the United States and Saudi Arabia. “Having these individuals be expelled, having it make the news, is not something the Saudi regime wants,” said Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Professor Daniel Byman, in an interview with NPR

In addition, “the sharing of intelligence” is highly unlikely in the strained atmosphere that the US is maintaining with the Middle East. Many Americans believe they will soon be at war with countries in that region, best demonstrated by floods of posts concerning ‘World War 3’ on social media. Americans are unlikely to approve the sharing of information with countries that they believe may be a threat to their nations’ safety in the near future.

When asked what she thought of the foreign training courses, Freshman Arianna Roberts said, “I think it’s a good idea. It makes people more culturally aware, and it exposes them to students from other parts of the world.” This is insufficient reasoning to continue the program. Cultural awareness comes second to security and international relations; both of which are concerning issues.

It is unsafe and unreasonable for the US government to continue its foreign military student exchange program. Any justification to perpetuate it is shaky, especially as tensions rise in the Middle East.