Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Supporting Our Troops

"Support the troops" has become the rallying cry of almost every commentator of contemporary politics. For some, "support the troops" provides cover for anti-American ideals such as the squelching of dissent and calling for the death of those who voice disagreement with our president. For others, "support the troops" means calling for the immediate and total withdrawal of American soldiers from harm's way in Iraq. Still others think it means that all soldiers deserve to be lauded as heroes, regardless of their circumstances or deeds.

Some commentators have suggested that the time for questioning the decision to start the war, or criticims of the inept conduct of the war, or discussion of withdrawal, is only after the troops are home. In effect, these people would postpone examination of these important issues until they are irrelevant. While I respect their willingness to follow leadership, I refuse to allow current events to run their course without hoping to influence them.

I don't want to cause any of the troops to suffer from lower morale, but I certainly am not going to be quiet about my opinions on the wrong-headed nature of their mission. I sincerely believe they are there because the White House was captured by a weak man controlled by ambitious men with a poorly-thought-out, arrogant and optimistic conception that if we could somehow attack Iraq and install a functioning democracy, we would have a friendly source of oil and a domino with which to topple the various anti-western democratic governments in the Middle East. I believe that the White House intentionally sought to use the nation's warlike mood following 9-11 to lead us into a war it had hoped for long before taking office.

I believe that the White House hyped evidence that supported a decision to invade Iraq, and downplayed conflicting evidence. I believe they chose to focus on WMDs because they knew that, in a post 9-11 America, fear would sell a war. I believe that they knew the evidence supporting WMDs was weak, but they pushed it and engaged in group-think to convince themselves and others that the threat of a mushroom cloud justified an invasion. I believe that they intentionally understaffed the war, in the hopes that they really could pull off a cheap war and get greeted in the streets with rose petals. I believe that their mistaken optimism and inept handling of the immediate post-invasion aftermath resulted in a war that has become a quagmire, and will inspire more terrorism long into future generations.

Now, with all that said, what do I think about our troops? Well, I have a more balanced view than many. I don't believe they are all volunteer heroes. Some most certainly are, but some joined up because it was a way to win the respect of a hometown that never treated them with the respect they sought, or because it seemed like a decent career option, or because they thought they might get to kill a fire monster on a bridge.

I remember when I was growing up and contemplating college. My family could not afford to pay for college, and I looked into ROTC opportunities. I ruled out that option when I read the solemn pledge I would be required to take:
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
In a nutshell, to become a soldier, you must pledge to follow orders, no matter how much you disagree with them, so long as they are proper under regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a teenager who grew up when Nixon was in the White House, I was unwilling to surrender my conscience. I can see why that pledge is a necessary part of running an orderly military, but it didn't make any sense for a young man who was questioning everything up to and including God to make a pledge that I would kill people based upon the say-so of God-knows-whom.

I don't believe the troops are all above reproach. We know some of them have done awful things over there. On the other hand, I'm confident that I could do the same things in certain circumstances. In short, we have a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings out there with guns in their hands, surrounded by people they don't understand and who may want to kill them. In that environment, mistakes are bound to happen, and the anti-Westerners are going to exploit them for full propaganda purposes.

I respect our troops, and I think the job they are being called upon to do is insanely difficult. I don't think they are flawless heroes, but I think they are, as a whole, a remarkable achievement of discipline and effectiveness. I thank them for their service - directly and eye to eye when I meet them.

But when I read that criticism of our president or of the optional war he has thrown them into amounts to criticism of the troops, or decreases their morale, I don't have any sympathy. They did not choose this mission, and, though I understand their desire to complete it, they are not the mission. If they don't understand that fundamental fact, it's not my fault.

20 Comments:

Anonymous dolphin said...

Great post!

11/30/2005 8:15 AM  
Blogger AM said...

Seconded. Great post!

Our former classmate is home from Iraq, according to the e-mail he sent yesterday.

11/30/2005 6:17 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Excellent. If he's coming back to KC, let's buy him a morale-destroying beer!

11/30/2005 7:38 PM  
Blogger Brian Stayton said...

Could not agree more.

12/01/2005 7:15 AM  
Blogger AM said...

That sounds like a plan to me. I'll let you know if I hear anything...

12/01/2005 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it's me again. No takers on the bet?

As a parent of one of the young men over there, though I understand your post, I cannot agree with it, for one simple reason.

It gets young men killed.

You may well have grounds to bash away on the decision to go to war. Certainly the decision to go, and the conduct of the war once entered, is worthy of legitimate criticism - though it is enlightening to watch Democrats twist in the wind, trying to justify their vote for military action when it was politically expedient, and now saying "yea, but I didn't mean it, and I was misled" when it becomes politically expedient.

But the terrorists in Iraq (I won't call them insurgents, as most are not Iraqi, but imported to kill Americans) are quite aware of the importance of the home front. That is what terrorism is all about, and that is where they hope to win this war - they know full well they cannot defeat the US military in the field. Statements such as yours simply give aid and comfort to them. I know that is not your intent, but it is the result nonetheless.

When the last American soldier comes home, you can have a field day pointing fingers. I may well join you. But as long as our soldiers (and my Marine) are in harms way, keep your carping to yourself, please.

THAT is supporting the troops.

12/02/2005 1:26 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

No, Anonymous, I'm not going to keep my "carping" to myself. And it is not me getting people killed over there - it is a Pentagon using white phosphorus, it is the contractors doing shooting practice on civilians, it is the White House approving torture, and it is the fact they are there in the first place.

I'm grateful for your son's service.

12/02/2005 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, and more importantly, the fair-weather patriots in Congress, can attempt to duck that responsibility if you like, but it exists nonetheless. I know that your carping is your 1st Amendment protected right - that is why my son is there, in part. But because you have the right to do so does not make doing so wise, nor prudent, nor helpful.

Make no mistake about it: young men and women will be killed as a result of this kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. What statements like yours do is tell the terrorists that inflicting casualties in the field (and far more Iraqis, remember, are killed in the bombings than Americans) can win for them on the home front what they cannot win in the field. It encourages them to continue, even to escalate the terror campaign - because it tells them that it's working. They believe that Americans are soft and have no stomach for casualties (remember the concept of a million pinpricks?). Then you go and tell them that they're right.

NO ONE wants U.S. forces to stay in Iraq one moment longer than necessary. But this kind of public talk by American leadership extends the stay of our troops by aiding the enemy; it does not hasten their withdrawal. I'm not concerned about the morale of our forces - they're much stronger than you give them credit. Read Michael Yon's postings from Iraq (http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/).It is the morale of the terrorists that this kind of second-guessing assists.

Bring the boys home, and then you can assign blame to your heart's content. But not until. Not one more soldier or Iraqi child should die in a bombing so you and your ilk can air your self-important conscience.

I don't question your motives (too much). Just your wisdom.

12/02/2005 5:52 PM  
Blogger Brian Stayton said...

I fully respect Anonymous' viewpoint. But I don't agree. Let me give just two reasons:

First, just because this President and a majority of the moronic Congress put our Armed Forces into Iraq doesn't mean the American Public have to be silenced until the same morons change their politically expedient positions. We have to use politics to make their formerly tenable political decisions untenable. Otherwise, we'd still be in Vietnam, fighting the North Vietnamese.

Second, I have always believed that our Forces' mere presence there inspires the insurrection. Get our Americans out of Iraq, and then we eliminate a huge source of friction and terrorist-inspiring cause. To put it another way, we can never win so long as we stay in Iraq, because our mere presence will lead to continued opposition, to infinity, and beyond.

Solution? Get out. If we must leave some force there, to inhibit total anarchy (the corollary to the Pottery Barn Rule), then concentrate our people in bases, with quick reaction forces. I think that's exactly what Murtha proposed. I see no other way to save our people, there or here.

b.

12/04/2005 8:17 AM  
Blogger Brian Stayton said...

"If, as Samuel Johnson said, "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," then "support our troops" is very close by. It is being used to deflect criticism of the war in Iraq, or to rebut those who call for a pullout or question how incompetents seized control of the government in a coup by ideologues. In the lexicon of some, the only way to support our troops is to ensure that more of them die."

From Richard Cohen's "Truth for the Troops" column in the 12/8/5 Washington Post.

12/08/2005 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with that position is that calls to cut and run undercut the troops in the field and gives aid to the enemies of those young men, CERTAINLY ensuring that more of them will die.

I have no objection to reasoned discussion of how best to finish the job in Iraq and remove our forces; again, no one wants them there one moment longer than necessary.

Like you, I thought going in was a mistake, and said so at the time. But we're past that point. Finger-pointing re: the decision to go serves no purpose, and aids the enemy. That decision was made.
We can disect it later, and hold the feet of those responsible to the fire, if you like. I'll join you. But get those young men home first.

12/09/2005 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can support the troops by shutting you left wing treasonist pie hole.

9/09/2006 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Iraqi Veteran said...

Iraqi Veteran of 2005,
All the comments that I have read on this website has their points. Some I agree with and some I don't.
The overall truth is none of you will ever understand the meaning "Support Our Troops" until you have experienced what it means to be an american and what we are actually fighting for. By looking in the eye's of the people of Iraq,face to face, then you might would understand the meaning. I have my views on politics but it really doesn't matter because a soldier volunteerily signs our lives over to a country that we love and will protect, no matter the cost.

10/26/2006 11:38 AM  
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8/18/2007 7:20 PM  
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9/10/2007 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Iraq War veteran of 2005:
I really liked your post. As you were there, you certainly are very qualified to speak on this subject.

Thank you so much for your service to our country!

11/23/2007 9:16 PM  

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