Thursday, April 13, 2006

Supporting the Troops but Not the War?

This is the mantra of the anti-war folks - "Support our troops! Bring them home!" To me, this smacks of condescension - who the hell are they to speak for the volunteers in uniform? (Another recycled Vietnam slogan that makes no sense in the post-draft era.)

But here's the trouble. If you think the war is wrong, what to make of the troops who support the war? Do you support them?

I think this question is impossible to honestly answer "yes, we support them too" to. In an all volunteer force, the men and women in uniform are more responsible than ever for their choices and conduct, and that includes whether or not to re-enlist, or even whether it is better to go to jail than lend support to a war one thinks is wrong.

A British soldier did just that - he refused to go because he felt it was illegal and immoral, and he's backing up his principles by sacrificing 9 months of his life in jail. He didn't run away. He stood firm, used the system, and is accepting the consequences. It's not wrong to demand that people pay for their moral choices. I respect very much that he's willing to pay for his (provided his British stiff upper lip stays that way). If this war really WAS illegal and immoral, I don't think I could support those in uniform who happily went.

That's as opposed to this weasel deserter who I'm ashamed to say I went to high school with. Nothing says "I'm a coward" like joining the army for its "Socialist ideals," deserting your unit, running away to Canada, living in luxury with anti-war hippies, making a name for yourself on the protest circuit, and then whining that the world is picking on you.

So can you support soldiers who support and are participating in a war you think is immoral? Or is it all just politics?


Cato said...

All well and good: But what about people who are being kept in Iraq or in the armed forces longer than they're supposed to be? I don't know much about the details, but I've heard that there's lots of Guardsmen whose contracts only call for a certain amount of service who are having their tours extended. Or something like that.

I wholeheartedly believe that people should be allowed to make choices, including contracting their life over to the military. But there seem to be a lot of people surprised by how long they have to be in Iraq, especially when they thought what they were really signing on for was protecting the homeland.

So that's my beef. I support the troops but don't support the war. I don't see a contradiction there. And I think there's a lot of people in America who feel the same way.

Orrin Johnson said...

But do you support the people volunteering to go back? I understand the "they were fooled" argument, or when people are stop-lossed. (Although as much as it sucks, that's NOT an unknown risk of signing up for the military.)

And I'm not talking about people who think the policy was bad. I did a lot of "enforcement" of the UN sanctions against Iraq, and knew at the time that the policy was at best ineffective and at worst was actually helping Saddam. But it was legal, and so my policy opinion was not relevant.

If you are in uniform and you think the war is immoral, you should be expected to pay the price of breaking your contract, which includes carrying out legal policies you don't agree with.

Cato said...


I support all of our soldiers, whether they're for or against the war, as long as they are acting within the law. There's lots of reasons for joining the armed services, but bottom line, putting your life on the line for your country is admirable. I don't feel the need to approve of an individual soldier's opinion to support that soldier.

SirWhoopass said...

I must disagree. I think a person can support the troops, even if that person noes not support the war.

If that is not possible, then it implies that the troops have control over their participation in any given operation. And that they can, and should, exercise some right to avoid duty they disagree with.

Yes, an individual has the ability to refuse duty and go to prison, but that is a crude "all or nothing" tool. What if a solider agreed with operations in Afghanistan but not Iraq?

For someone to say they support the troops, but not the war, is a recognition that the troops do not have that kind of control over their lives. They cannot pick and choose operations based on their politics. They are supporting the troops who doing their job, carrying out the orders of the elected officials, and keep the US safe.

Unlike some Vietnam era protesters, they (correctly) do not assume that all the troops share the political views of the administration. Instead, they support the troops regardless of the administration.

To get into whether an anti-war person can support troops who are in favor of the war opens a whole bunch of absurd scenarios. It makes support for the troops' sacrifice biased towards individual political issues. Can someone who is pro-choice support the troops who are pro-life? Can a flat-tax person support the troops who like progressive income taxes?

Orrin Johnson said...

Fair enough. But my question is more narrow:

Can a person who does not support the war because they think it's illegal and immoral support troops who DO agree with the war?

I support troops carrying out what I think are dumb policies. I've carried out policies I've disagreed with. And I certainly understand that the military is not an at will employer. But if the argument is not that the war is simply bad policy, but is in fact illegal and immoral, then I don't understand how that can be reconciled with supporting those troops who continue to choose to be there. At the very least, those who volunteer to go back to Iraq should be in the same category in these people's minds as the President. I just wish they'd be honest about it.

Cato said...

I can support those troops qua troops, even if I don't support their political views. Plenty of people think the war is ok. And I don't really have a problem with those people. I just disagree with them and will vote against their policies or candidates as the need arises. I'm pro-choice, but I'm not going to refuse to help someone in need because they're pro-life. And I'm anti-war. But I'm not going to refuse to help soldiers get their just desserts (disability pay, etc) just because they happen to be pro-war. That isn't what my support or lack of support is about.