28 July, 2005

That Old "Support" Question

The question of whether one can "Support the Troops" without supporting their mission has been discussed in the Milblogs and elsewhere to the point that it's not much more than an argument about semantics. That's not a debate I want to have here. But I read something today that helped to clarify an aspect of the issue I had vaguely thought about but never been able to articulate.

First of all, I firmly believe that there are good-hearted, intelligent people in our country that either don't understand or don't support what our military is attempting to accomplish in Iraq, but at the same time wish the military men and women involved safety and success...much in the same manner we might wish success on someone embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage; we may not "get" why they're doing it or might even think they're a bit misguided. But we hope they're right and we want them to find what they're looking for.

Most of us, when embarking on a significant undertaking, want those around us to understand why we do it and to agree that it's worth doing. But those that appreciate/value us and want the best for us don't always understand and agree with our philosophies and activities. So we acccept what they can give us in the way of support and welcome the spirit in which it was given, even it it falls short of what we would hope for. They support us as individuals they care about, even when they don't agree with our ultimate actions/goals.

But someone who not only cares enough to wish us the best, but believes we are doing the right thing in pursuing a particular activity or goal is an entirely different matter. That is factor of support far greater. A level of support like that can pull us through the dark times as we pursue that goal, sustain us when our faith in our ourselves wavers, and help us find emotional or physical reserves required to reach our goal.

THAT is the difference between "I support the troops, but not the war," and "I support the troops. Period, end of sentence." They are both "support," but they are not the same thing.

And what made this so crystal clear to me today?

SGT B left a comment on LT Currie's post that I linked below. If you haven't followed that link... LT Currie's battalion is in the thick of the fight while having to cope with scandal, investigations of possible wrong-doing, a significant amount of new leadership mid-deployment, and concerns over rules of engagement and potential prosecution that are causing some soldiers to hesitate when given orders to shoot in the heat of battle. These issues are having a terrible effect on morale. If ever soldiers needed "support," LT Currie and his fellow soldiers do now. Sgt. B spoke to him Marine-to-Marine, brother-to-brother (LT Currie started his military career as a Marine). He knew from experience what the LT needed to hear to steel him for the dark days he's confronting, what would be the most supportive thing to write. And what did he write? His closing words:

...Don't let the dark times cloud over the fact that you are doing great deeds. Anchor yourself to the fact that you are accomplishing great things. Hold fast to the knowlege that we support you, your unit, and your mission. It will take time, but good progress is being made...

[I added the emphasis]

Would telling LT Currie, "I know you're going through some dark times, but I support you and I'm praying for you and I'm trying to get the leadership to bring you all home" have the same impact?

Not a chance.