Congresswoman Nancy Boyda did not want to talk about presidential politics during her speech, but she did speak about a major issue facing Americans in the election: the overstretching of the military. Boyda, a candidate for the second congressional district of Kansas, spoke to a crowd gathered for a lunch discussion at noon last Wednesday at the International House.
Boyda, a freshman representative and current member of the Armed Services Committee, first told the audience how she became interested in running for the House of Representatives. She said that the attitude toward the Iraq war in 2003 bothered her, including the rhetoric about exporting democracy and Americans being greeted as liberators. She thought something just didn’t make sense, she was worried about invading another sovereign country. She went to a protest and spoke out.
“I was doing this because I felt like we needed to stick with the job in front of us,” said Boyda, referring to the conflicts before the war in Iraq. “Iraq would be biting off more than we could chew.”
She continued her speech after her election to Congress and as she learned more about limited nature of military personnel and resources. She lamented the “corner we’ve backed ourselves into.”
Boyda mentioned the surge and discussed how that factored into her current military policy ideas. “By the grace of God, the surge has done wonderful things in Iraq,” said Boyda.
She gave credit to both the surge and the Iraqi forces working with the Americans. However, she felt that it had put even more pressure on an already strained military. According to the information presented by Boyda, if another terrorist attack were to happen, her military source said they would not be interested in a draft, but they would halt troop rotation and keep men and women in the field as long as it took.
“My number one priority is not the safety and security in Iraq,” said Boyda. “My number one priority is the safety and security of the United States.”
Boyda discussed Pakistan and the possibility of al-Qaida being within Pakistan’s borders. She said that if there were actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden were in Pakistan, that it would be “irresponsible and reckless to not go in there.”
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Boyda in regard to al-Qaida.
Boyda said the United States should put its resources in Afghanistan, but that the surge would not work the same as in Iraq. Boyda said to increase the combination of Afghan and United States troops in Afghanistan from 62,000 to 125,000 and to establish a government that uses both the multiple tribal structure and elements of a functional government.
During the question and answer session, Boyda discussed the danger of Iran going nuclear and the competition and outsourcing of military duties to civilian contractors.
“Outsourcing has its place,” said Boyda. “The generals on the ground are best to make that decision.”
Finally, Boyda addressed the cultural issue surrounding Middle Eastern policies and attitudes. She said American cultural norms would not be dictated to other countries, but that some ideals about justice would be imparted.
“Listening to other cultures is how we keep Americans safe,” said Boyda.
Will Chuber, an Army captain and ROTC instructor at the University of Kansas, said Boyda seemed well informed and seemed to have concern for the military’s best interests.
“She seems very non-partisan,” said Chuber. “Hopefully she can help work out the best solution.”
John Steel, history major and eleven-year veteran, also attended the speech and related his experiences to what Boyda talked about.
“When I was deployed overseas, there was contractors doing everything,” said Steel. “They even cleaned our bathroom. What we were left with was the mission we were sent there to do. On paper, that seems like a good idea.”
Steel suggested that while he was not familiar with the corporate side of the issue, it seemed like a “$200 hammer” situation, referring to the inflation of prices for the military. Boyda supported an amendment to a bill which would change the way A-76’s, the competition of military and civilian groups for military contracts, would be handled. President George Bush vetoed it. This did not surprise Steel.
“Of course it got vetoed, [President Bush’s] VP is Mr. Halliburton,” said Steel. “It just stands to reason.”