Saddam Hussein's defeat in Kuwait provided the lesson plan for history classes monitoring a modern-day war.
And 17-year-old Emily Mitchell, of Broadneck High, says she and her classmates are more informed because of the blow-by-blow news accounts that prompted heated discussions in her International Studies class.
But Mitchell and about 600 other students got a rare chance Friday to quiz U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, one of the lawmakers who supported the war instead of prolonging economic sanctions against Iraq.
"I, for one, believed the president should have been given the power to go to war," he said to a round of applause from students. "I never thought that sanctions would work. He would starve hispeople before he pulled out.
"He studied America. He saw the protests to Vietnam, and he didn't think the American people had it in them to go to war. The U.S. is the only superpower that could have donethat. I think our military did an excellent job," McMillen said.
Students said the session with the tall, white-haired congressman provided a different look at the national crisis that has touched many of them -- and their relatives and friends who served in the Gulf war -- personally.
"It was important that he came," Emily said. "Mr. McMillen didn't talk above us, he talked with us. We'll be able to vote next year. The world is changing and we have to understand it on aninternational level."
McMillen's talk on the role of Congress during war, at the request of the school's International Affairs Club, came during a half-day conference Friday morning in the school's auditorium. The audience included a history class from Chesapeake High.
"Our founding fathers did not want to give the president the power to declare war," McMillen said. "That's been a big tension in our government. Our Constitution has a lot of holes. Congress has the power to declare war, but the president is the commander-in-chief."
Aftera 45-minute presentation, in which he said the United States must develop a national energy plan to limit dependency on oil, McMillen gotto hear what was on the minds of the students lined behind two microphones.
The questions ranged from whether is was appropriate to spend so much on war when students couldn't afford college to whether the end of the war would alleviate the recession.
One student's comment defending Germany's lack of participation in the war spurred a debate.
"Germany has its own problems with reunification, it's understandable why they didn't participate," one student said to McMillen.
And another yelled from across the auditorium, "Is that why theysold them (Iraqis) chemicals?"
McMillen criticized Germany and Japan for not doing more in the war, but said if the United States can collect on the $50 billion in pledges from allied nations,U.S. war costs will be manageable.
But he reminded students that even after the war, there is still work to be done.
"The other side is how we rebuild Kuwait and Iraq," he said. "I think the rebuilding should largely come from the Arab world."
Since the war began, InternationalStudies teacher Virginia Crespo has made it her business to make sure students are up on world events. For the last several months, CableNews Network became an integral part of the class discussion. And the second annual foreign affairs conference provided a lively history discussion.
The three-hour session also featured Lt. Commander Donald Inbody, professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Dr. Pritam T. Merani, professor of International Studies at Towson State University.
"The speakers gave kids a good overview,"said Crespo, who headsthe International Affairs Club. "Since the waris over, they provided expert opinions on what may come next."
McMillen described the military success as a way to reshape history andpossibly U.S. opinion about war.
"I think history will write thatthe U.S. shed the Vietnam complex," he said. "Americans felt they had a good reason to go to war, and did. I think history will record that we stepped out of the Vietnam vestiges, where soldiers were not supported."