Jun 25, 2005

Following in W's footsteps.

Young Republicans support Iraq war, but not all are willing to join the fight



Knight Ridder Newspapers


NEW YORK - Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles,

Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."

"As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer," said Lee, who has a cousin deployed in the Middle East.

In an election season overwhelmed by memories of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military's newest war ranks supreme among the worries confronting much of Generation Y'ers. Iraq is their war.

"If there was a need presented, I would go," said Chris Cusmano, a 21-year-old member of the College Republicans organization from Rocky Point, N.Y. But he said he hasn't really considered volunteering.

At age 16, Chase Carpenter has.

"It's always in the back of my mind - to enlist," Carpenter, a self-described moderate Republican visiting Manhattan this week from Santa Monica, Calif., said Wednesday on the convention floor. He said he's torn over whether he'd join the military if he were 18.

Others said they could contribute on the home front.

"I physically probably couldn't do a whole lot" in Iraq, said Tiffanee Hokel, 18, of Webster City, Iowa, who called the war a moral imperative. She knows people posted in Iraq, but she didn't flinch when asked why she wouldn't go.

"I think I could do more here," Hokel said, adding that she's focusing on political action that supports the war and the troops.

"We don't have to be there physically to fight it," she said.

Similarly, 20-year-old Jeff Shafer, a University of Pennsylvania student, said vital work needs to be done in the United States. There are Republican policies to maintain and protect and an economy to sustain, Shafer said.

Then there's Paula Villescaz, a 15-year-old from Carmichael, Calif. who supports Bush and was all ears Wednesday afternoon at the GOP's Youth Convention in Madison Square Garden. She doesn't support the war, but she supports the troops and thinks the United States "needs to stay the course" now that it's immersed.

If Iraq is still a U.S. issue when she's 18, Villescaz added, she'll give serious thought to volunteering.

"I'm in college right now, but who knows?" said Matthew Vail, a 25-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., who works with Students for Bush. He said he might consider enlisting after he finishes his degree at the University of North Carolina, but not until then.

"The bug may get me after college," he said.