Free to Choose


THE COMMERCIAL begins with a long-distance camera shot of a lonely student in a library. He appears to be studying, but closer inspection reveals another aspect of life troubles this youth, who now stares off into space. The camera picks up a list he has written, titled. "What to do--summer '86."

* Internship at a major metropolitan daily

* construction work


* travel

* political stuff


"I don't want to do any of this junk," he mutters. "There must be something where I can do all of this stuff at once..." His voice trails off and he quickly writes a new option, "desert war in Libya." He scribbles, "PSYCHE" across his notepad and returns to studying and life with renewed vigor.

Recent events in the Middle East may force that choice upon American citizens of draft age and such a summer job will then be more than fiction. But even if the nation decides to wage war, the decision to fight must remain as personal as the choice of a summer job. An individual's position concerning a certain war's justness or morality must outweigh his committment to a collective national decision to fight. Because a soldier carries out the killing and destruction of the national decision to go to war, if he is not convinced a war is justified it would be immoral for him to fight, even if a jail term is the result.

If drafted to fight a war against Libya, I would. This doesn't mean I think the nation should go to war with this outlaw state, it shouldn't. Nor do I think my decision is making some Pentagon bureaucrat sleep easy tonight.

But it is a choice, to go or not, which everyone of draft age must face and answer whenever the United States nears the posibility of war. I feel a war with Libya might be necessary and justified. I would support the war policy of my government by serving in the conflict.

This personal level of choice by those who acually fight is a recent progression in our democracy, left perhaps by the Vietnam war, although some would argue it existed long before that conflict. The personal level of war should not be taken for granted and then forgotten: it must be an integral part of our democracy which is based on natural rights. Because war entails such grave actions, failing to consider the reasons for it and responding only to national directives is inhuman. If an individual doesn't ponder his reasons to go to war he loses something of his self.

SOME ACTIVISTS have conducted a drive to collect the signatures of students who pledge not to fight a war against Nicaragua. This drive has had the beneficial effect of drawing attention to the problems of U.S. foreign policy in that region. America should not go to war in that region because other options still exist besides the ultimate step of war. But more important, it is the U.S. which appears to be attempting to provoke war. Because options to war still exist and because the United States is the aggressor, fighting in that region could not be justified. If the nation goes to war there, I would not fight.

Why is the act of provocation so important to the decision whether to fight? War is such a break from even the coldest of cold war diplomacies. Indeed it is so immoral to begin with, that the deed which precipitates a conflict becomes by far the most significant event. Some have blamed the United States for discriminatory economic practices against the Japanese during the 1930's and have said this policy led to W.W. II. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor was such a leap from hardball diplomacy it made the personal decision to fight, let alone the national one, simple.

Libya has made the leap to war. It terrorizes our citizens, supporting murderers and highjackers. It shoots at our planes when they fly in international air space. It has threatened to foment terrorism on our own soil. If the United States decides war is necessary, I would serve.

It appears the U.S. will not go to war and I am glad. We still have some peaceful options left such as the economic sanctions President Reagan recently imposed. But as he cut all economic ties with that nation, diplomatic responses to Libya's aggression may no longer exist. War may come later, after some other airport atrocity, or perhaps Colonel Khadafy will change his ways. The latter seems unlikely. But it is Libya which has made the leap to war, and this is the pivotal fact in my personal decision to fight when the nation deems war is the only option left to check Libyan aggression against our citizens.

Clearly, a nation as a whole considers many different factors before going to war, and everyone should take part in that process as well. Some oppose war in general. I do not. It is a last resort. But the personal level of war cannot be ignored and should not be lost to nationalism and patriotic jingoism. I make my decision now before the commercial I envision becomes photos of Khadafy ranting and terrorists murdering shown to the sounds of "America the Beautiful."