Monday, February 19, 2007

Supporting the solders...

I've been sick for the past week, but I know I'm getting better now, because I'm feeling just a tiny bit of glee.

I despise people who talk about logic without having done some deep thinking on their own, and I love shredding pathetic arguments.
Jeff Jacoby has provided me witha nice target.

Mr. Jacoby claims that one can't support the troops fighting a war without supporting the war itself. Now, a moment's thought should provide proof that this is idiotic. After all, a mother or father of a German soldier during World War II could certainly hope that his or her son came home safely, and be angry if the German government failed to keep its promises to its soldiers. But it was also clearly possible for Germans to recognize the immorality of military conquest.

But let's go a bit deeper than this.

First, nation will tend to need a standing military force; maybe not a large one, but there are situations that can arise too quickly to allow a nation to build an army from scratch. This is doubly true of modern fighting forces that require precision equipment and people trained to use it.

Second, while people can join the military for many reasons, in the end, the job description is the same: when there's a big ugly threat coming towards your home, and anyone with any sense is running away, you'll be the one who runs towards it, to stop it, or die trying. Whether this is exactly what an individual soldier wants, this is what soldiers signs up for, to risk injury or death defending their home.

Third, while members of the military are bound to disobey illegal orders, they are similarly bound to obey lawful ones. Unless an order is clearly unlawful, a soldier can be subject to court martial for disobeying orders. Further, even if a soldier has moral questions about a mission, one of the things soldiers are picked for is a desire to be part of something bigger. Anyone who has been in the military for a while is going to want to deploy to help take care of the rest of the team.

Take it together, and what do you get? The military is a group of people who are necessary, and who must give up some moral autonomy in order to have the chance to defend their home. They don't get to pick their mission; once the mission is picked for them, they have to go out and do their best to get it done. Even if they think the mission might be morally wrong, they're in a position where they must be willing to put aside their doubts, both pragmatically, and out of a sense of duty to each other.

For people like Mr. Jacoby, I'll provide a further translation: you can't blame the soldiers for their mission, so long as they fight honorably and well.

If you want to blame someone for, say, invading Iraq, you don't blame the soldiers, because they didn't get to decide to invade Iraq. Their decision was to join the military and follow orders, not to invade.

No, if someone gets the blame for Iraq, it has to be the people who gave the orders for the military to go to Iraq.

Much though I'd like to say "... and that's the Bush administration," I can't. Because, in the end, we're the ones responsible for this country. If we, the people of the United States, had stood up and shouted "no" loudly enough, Bush wouldn't have invaded. It might have required an act of Congress, but he would have been stopped. Bush and his administration bear much more responsibility than any of us, but in the end, we're the ones who decide what missions the soldiers get sent on.

And that's all the more reason for us to be upset when we feel that the soldiers are being misused. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Iraq; I, as a US citizen, own a small piece of that. Thousands of our military people have been killed or maimed, and I, as a US citizen, own a small piece of that, too.

How can I not support the troops? They're not the ones who bear the blame for what has been happening in Iraq. They bear exactly as much responsibility for having that job to do as any other voter has. Any member of the military who fights honorably and well has my respect, and my gratitude... in spite of what people like Mr. Jacoby might say.

He goes on to suggest that folks like me (who think the war in Iraq was immoral and foolish, and, in addition, horribly mismanaged due to poor leadership) are hoping for "defeat". No, Mr. Jacoby, the problem is, we've already been defeated.

Remember? We were going to sweep in, install a government, and *bam*, we're outta there, ready to tackle the next dangerous dictator. We were going to make an object lesson of Iraq. Anyone (read as: North Korea or Iran) who didn't do what we told them to do was going to be scared to death of American military might, and realize that their days as dictators were numbered.

We've already been defeated. And it's not just a tiny little "whoops, our plan didn't go the way we wanted it." No, we've got close to 150,000 troops locked in place, more ready to deploy, more recovering from deployment, our military readiness is a shambles, we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars, we've watched hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die, and watched many thousands of our own die or be maimed.

What men like Bush and Jacoby want is not to prevent defeat, but to create a face-saving situation where they can issue a dishonest victory proclamation, where they can say "see, we were right, we could accomplish the mission!" and hope we've forgotten that Bush set the goals, and failed to reach them.

No. There's no support here. A true leader, a true supporter of the troops, would have brought them victory, or brought them home. People like Bush and Jacoby have done neither. I don't want to hear them tell another lie about supporting the troops.

Comments:
Those who keep banging the "support the troops" drum are ignoring the words of the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On the eve of the debate over the House resolution, both men told a House panel that, far from damaging troop morale, such debate strengthens our democracy. The way to support the troops, they said, is to make sure the ones who are there have the equipment do do their jobs.

Of course, I didn't notice their testimony getting covered anywhere other than NPR ...
 
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