30 September, 2005

Support the Troops?

[I've rewritten/amplified this just slightly, though I think the message is the same]

Holly Aho, Valour-IT's webmistress and a great blogger, has written one of the best dissections I've seen of what it means to "support the troops." She points out that support is an action, not a feeling. As she says, there are few people actually opposed to the troops and wishing them ill. However, it's hard to say that the rest of the U.S. population is actually supporting the troops. "Support" is a verb--an action.

Holly discusses the intense disagreements between the various types of people who say that they support the troops. Then she writes:

I think the obvious has yet to be stated. When you support our troops you are aiding their mission. How so? Well, a letter to a soldier that boosts his morale will enable him to better perform his job (ie. accomplish his mission). [snip]

Something else - trying to do what you think is best for someone is not the same as supporting that person. Trying to bring the troops home now (if that's what you believe to be right), is doing what you think is best for them. Now perhaps there are those soldiers who might agree with you on what is best, but not all of them, and not most of them. So in effect you are putting what you believe to be best above what they believe. Kind of like forcing someone to get married who chooses to remain single, or forcing them to be a doctor when they'd rather be a lawyer because you think you know the best choices for them, regardless of what they want (or pushing a minority position on a majority public? Can we say democracy?).

So what am I saying? That you must be for the war in Iraq? [...] No. What I am saying is this - if you are supporting our troops with actions such as letter writing, carepackages or whatever, you have to realize you are aiding the mission you oppose.
Holly goes on (read it all) to theorize that there are three types of people who say they support the troops: 1) Cheerleaders--those who wish them the best, but do not demonstrate active "support" for the troops, 2) Those who try to do what they think is best for everyone ("bring them home!"), and 3) Those for whom support is a verb--those who are actively building the troops' morale and providing for their needs before/during/after deployment (this can encompass far more than just letters and packages). I'll add one more 4) The extreme leftists who appear to want them to lose, and whose actions (such as picketing Walter Reed) actively reduce troop morale. This last category attempts to use "We support the troops," as a shield against criticism.

This reminded me of a conversation at Villainous Company in response to a post about what it would mean if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq too soon. A commenter wrote:

I try to put myself in their shoes. If I were in the military, would I want to be used as a mercenary, or in a just cause that actually made my country safer?

Yes, our soldiers should all be proud of the honorable work they do. They are all loyal to whatever cause they are told to support, as our armed forces need to be. It is the people who sent them there, to do their personal bidding, that are committing an unforgivable crime.

My reply was (in part): "It is not honorable to simply support a cause because you are told to support it. Ah, yes... let us laud the honor of the mindless automotons that simply do the evil leadership's bidding. And you call that supporting the troops?!"

Another commenter replied, "Yep. Not very supportive, is it? More like the kind of support you give an abuse victim. Which might work with someone who's actually suffered abuse, but with military personnel, it probably pisses them off." I'll add that the reason it "pisses them off" probably has a lot to do with honor, a word that gets thrown around a lot, but with little understanding of what it actually means. Because as near as I can figure, there's no honor in being used as a tool for evil.

I share all of this because it seems to be excellent food for thought the next time we say we "support the troops."

Btw, if you are looking for a non-politcal way to support the troops, consider donating to Valour-IT. Valour-IT provides voice-activated laptops to warfighters who suffer hand and arm wounds. It's a great way to support the troops after they return from the battlefield.

UPDATE II: Holly cross-posted at Mudville Gazette, sparking a throught-provoking comment thread.