Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Support the Troops

I am so sick of hearing people say, "I'm against the war, but I support the troops."

Newsflash, folks: You can't have it both ways.

A couple of weeks ago, Oprah hosted Frank Rich, New York Times columnist and author of a recent book "The Greatest Story Ever Sold." After an hour of administration-bashing by host, guest and audience alike, Oprah ended her broadcast by saying that despite the feelings expressed about the war, she "supports the troops."

Modern anti-war lobbyists and protestors are terrified they'll be identified with the Vietnam-era images of Jane Fonda. As a result, they've adopted the troop-support mantra as an integral part of public anti-war rhetoric. What they (apparently) don't realize is that the vast majority of uniformed servicemembers can see through this self-serving ruse, palpably dampening morale.

Real displays of support for U.S. servicemembers look far different from this desperate plea. People who truly support the troops proudly display U.S. flags, they may even sport a magnetic yellow ribbon on their cars, they donate their time and resources to organizations like the USO and charities that support military members and their families. Myriad ways exist to show love and support to the uniformed services -- public degradation (a la John Kerry and Code Pink) doesn't make the list.

My problem is with people who ruthlessly attack the mission, but caveat their protestations by gushing about their support for the American servicemember who they inevitably refer to collectively as "soldiers." Oh, and I can't forget the maniacal glee of these naysayers when they find a "soldier," recently deployed to Iraq and freshly separated from active duty, who's willing to publically affirm their views. All the while, young men and women still serving dutifully overseas are subjected to these false sentiments.

Quick reminder for those Iraq-obsessed Americans: We still have young men and women deploying to Afghanistan (and other hotspots around the world), putting their lives in harm's way as well. The very idea that you seem to have forgotten them is no service to those you claim to "support."

Imagine if someone said to Oprah, "I think your show is unconscionable, but I support you as a journalist." What do you think her reaction would be? Gratitude? I doubt it. She puts her heart and soul into her show. She uses her broadcasting reach and personal notariety as a platform to influence millions of Americans, and would take great offense to such a statement.

Our soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines, on the other hand, put something else into their work: Every single day, they put their lives on the line for their mission...a mission that many Americans speak out vehemently against.

In short, I'm not saying you have to be pro-war, but don't expect our brothers and sisters in arms to come home all gratitude and hugs after you say, "I hate your leadership, I hate your mandate, and your time away from home has been a total waste...but I support you."


  1. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant commentary! And as icing on the cake, you used the word, "myriad" correctly. ;)

  2. I could not agree with you more. It is an insult to those who proudly serve to hear that everything they are doing is wrong yet they as an individual is supported. It is also an insult to the service members friends and family.

    Very well put!

  3. I believe it is possible to be (highly) critical of high-level strategy decisions made at senior levels, such as whether an attempt to remake Iraq benefits U.S. security, without casting ANY disparagement on the members of the armed forces, and to hold complete respect for their courage, dedication, and willingness to serve in defense of our freedoms. Are many in the anti-war crowd Vietnam era throwbacks who have no respect for the military? Sure, and they are especially numereous amoung the very earliest anti-war protesters who took glee in any early setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. However there are those, (like myself,) who wholeheartedly support fighting for our nation's values of freedom and equality against fundamentalist religious idiots who want the whole world to live in the 7th century, yet believe the current Adminstration has made many costly errors in one facet of that struggle, namely, how to transform the Middle East into a region that shares our values. Those errors, and the stubborn lack of an attempt to be flexible in dealing with them, is why I am very critical of the Bush administration now. I hope that you believe I can hold those positions while still saying "I support the troops."

    BTW, I'm a bit worried that given your personal involvement and knowledge I may be "bringing a knife to a gun-fight" in starting to debate here, but if you want to discuss further, I'll see if I can hold my own ;)

  4. I tried several ways of responding to this, and they all resulted in too much. So you’ll see a couple of deleted posts… Instead, I’ve tried to start over and itemize my thoughts to make them more coherent.

    1. For my own credibility in this discussion, I feel it’s important you understand I'm not advocating that people be pro-war; in fact, you may notice that I haven't expressed any clear personal position on the war myself. (And I won’t.) But I am trying to bring some awareness to people about the impact of their words. I believe there’s a fine line between appropriately expressing disagreement with a course of action and going destructively overboard. For the most part, I believe American anti-war rhetoric has crossed that line.

    2. The easiest way to put this discussion into context is to define what I mean by “support.” I don't doubt for a moment that many Americans who disagree with the war also have what they would consider “great affinity” for men and women in uniform. However, how they feel vs. what they do makes all the difference. Nearly everyone, no matter what his or her political leaning, wants to be perceived as supportive of the troops. Even private citizens who have no political aspirations want to be seen as supportive, because, well frankly, it makes them feel better about themselves. But I would argue that support involves action, not just sentiment. Simply “not casting disparagement” and “holding complete respect,” while appreciated, is not the equivalent of showing support. The act that separates real supporters from peddlers of idle rhetoric doesn’t have to be huge, but for me, it does have to be tangible.

    3. The debate about the invasion, in anything other than the academic sense must end. It’s over, we did it. It matters not why or whether we should have. These discussions have no positive and all negative impact. They serve to validate only those who express them and hurt only those who have been charged with executing the existing strategy. It’s time to start offering solutions.

    4. Rather than offering something substantive, the major content of debate occurring in the public sphere about the war in Iraq is little more than opinionated ranting (my perception, anyway). While many people refer, as you have, to the administration’s “errors, and the stubborn lack of an attempt to be flexible in dealing with them,” I hear few of those people offer legitimate, viable strategies to correct the situation. Why? …Because these hindsight sharpshooters have no political, diplomatic or military background with which to contribute. Foreign policy, then, seems to be no different than football – everybody’s an armchair quarterback.

    5. While there are exceptions, most often people’s opinions seem to be shaped exclusively by things people have seen in the broadcast media. Such stances are often propagated by people who consider themselves "informed" although they analyze little more about the issues than what is "delivered" to their living rooms. I also take issue with the lack of historical balance people use when evaluating news. To me, the media consumer bears the burden to “consume news responsibility” equal to the burden on the news media to “report news responsibility.” More on the media another time – sufficeth it to say, I’ve worked extensively with journalists and consider one or two real pros to be among my good friends.

    I'm simply calling for people -- especially those with great reach and influence -- to take responsibility for their publicly expressed opinions. If you’re going to own your words, you must understand their impact.
    Simply saying, "I support the troops," is not a band-aid for the damage done by relentless criticism of the war effort.

    With complete respect for your position,


  5. I don't believe supporting the troops and not the war are necessarily inconsistent, but I agree that they can be made to be inconsistent.

    Support to our troops, by means of constant contact with them and their families, and ensuring they have all that they need (personally and professionally) can be done regardless of one's belief of the wisdom of the mission in Iraq.

    As an example, I can write my congressional representatives, and petition for funding and legislative guidance, at the same time that I petition the executive branch for a particular plan in Iraq.

    To me, the mutual exclusive issues involves sending my complaint about Iraq to the troops in the field, and my letter of support to my congressman.

    One can pray for the day that the USA prevails, and at the same time believe that a wiser course will bring that day sooner.

    While it is a sign of Doublethink to, "hold two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accept both of them", I find the difficulty is in agreeing about what is contradictory, and what only appears to be contradictory.

    It's a good debate, in the right arena.

  6. Oh, boy. Let me stick my neck out here, too.

    I define my own cultural heritage as "military brat." With a father who was career Air Force and is still involved with the military as a civil servant, I know that there is some disparity between the story I see on TV and the reality of what is happening. And for the most part, I put my trust in my elected officials-- whether I voted for them or not-- to do what is in the best interest of American citizens as a whole. However, I have never felt such disilllusionment in my government as I have over the past three years. While, yes, we need to find real solutions and not spend time quibbling over whether it was right or wrong to go into Iraq in the first place, we do need an investigation into where the breakdown occurred so we don't have the same errors the next time we enter into a foreign war (or even just so we can try and fix some of the problems now). Was our intelligence bad? Did someone make up information so we could launch into a war with Iraq? Did we send enough troops in the first place? Why weren't they given the body armor they needed? We need to answer these questions so we don't make the same mistakes next time.

    Tieing into the post on voting, those people who didn't vote last week aren't supporting the troops in any way. The government is run (supposedly) by the people of this nation, and change doesn't happen unless American citizens make their thoughts known. Standing outside a college or government building with a sign takes little effort; writing letters to our representatives in Congress and voting takes more initiative and is what will make a difference in the end.

    Our soldiers are doing the job they were trained for I don't bear them any ill will for what they have to do day in and out to accomplish the mission they have been given; however, if their commanders have screwed up, they need to be held accountable.

    Without making a hokey analogy, I see it much like football. The players can be the best there are and doing all they can, but if the coaches are calling the wrong plays, then something has to change. And if you show up at the wrong stadium, maybe someone should point that out.

  7. Again, I don't necessarily disagree with much of what either of you guys have said. But it seems you think I'm saying people shouldn't speak out against the war. If that's your perception, than you've missed my point.

    What Greg calls "doublethink," I call cognitive dissonance. And believe me, military members experience it when we evaluate the war as well.

    But the point of my post remains this: There are those who do not take actions to show that they support the troops, but they say they support the troops on the heels of every single complaint, in an effort to cast themselves in a better light. You can evaluate for yourself whether or not this is to make them feel better about themselves, or whether it is to impress their listeners.

    Nevertheless, one simply cannot expect military members to perceive that as genuine or supportive.

  8. Argh, I hate it when I have typos in my post. LOL. I meant "then" instead of "than." I wish this darn site would let you edit comments after you've already posted without forcing you to delete them first! Grrr.

    (Unless there's something I'm missing...anybody know any secrets I don't?)

    This discussion has been fun, btw.

  9. I don't disagree a bit that the "I support the troops" statement has become more of a tagline than an activity.

    Your point wasn't lost.

    ...and yea, it is nice to discuss the pressing issues of our time with good folks. No MacLaughlin group shouting matches and such...

  10. So I had started coming up a lengthy reply to one of the "deleted" comments. Due to the inability to save a draft on here, I just had it in a text file, and had planned to come back here when I finished and post it. Kinda pulled the rug out from under me when I see that you deleted it ;)

    Anywho, it's for the best, 'cause Dawn's football analogy just nailed it IMO. To carry the analogy, I believe that a coach who calls the same plays that constantly lose yards should be replaced. I think that is a good thing to advocate for. Just because I am not qualified to take over for him doesn't make my call for a new coach invalid.

    I would like to state that I have participated in several tangible activities to support troops in Iraq, and also that when I have been in arguments about the war in general, I don't feel I need to state "but I support the troops," as I don't believe that is relevant to policy discussions. Sadly many do feel it is necessary thanks to the horrifically shameful acts of the anti-Vietnam protestors in the 70s.

  11. Hmm, you're saying I deleted one of your posts? Or made your post outdated by deleting and altering mine? If I did accidentally delete something of yours, I didn't mean to. (I'm sorry...?) I deleted several of my own in an effort to repost in a more concise way.

    Back to the issue at sounds like we're more or less in agreement. Keep in mind, though, you don't need to advocate to replace the prez...constitutional mandate will take care of that in less than two years. ;)

  12. hehe, no you didn't delete one of mine, I checked in here at a point where you had left a comment that you later deleted. Since I didn't check back for a couple days, the reply I had been working on offline was no longer relevant ;)


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