Monday, June 12, 2006


Is it possible to support the troops if you don’t approve of what they’re doing?

This is the question posed by Jack at News Snippet ‘Blog on English Professor’s site (in the comments).

I would submit that this is a deceptive question in that under its surface, it can go quite deep.

The easy answer is yes, it is possible to support the troops even if you don’t approve of what they’re doing. But that then asks the question of “how?”

You can’t really explain it away and pooh-pooh the idea by saying that the troops are merely following orders. After all, we loathe and hate the Nazis, the majority of whom were “just following orders.” And we’re in a lesser position to support them because unlike most of the Nazis, American soldiers volunteer for service. They are not conscripted.

So it can’t be a facially “they’re doing their job” issue, can it? I mean, given the climate today, where nearly everyone who is in has either enlisted or reenlisted (or renewed their commission) during the GWOT or the war in Iraq, it’s hard to say they’re just doing their job.

But perhaps this war isn’t their job. After all, the military is part of the Department of Defense. Usually, a Defensive posture doesn’t involve invading another country. Maybe, just maybe, the current war is tangential to the primary job of the military, which is to provide for our nation’s defense. Perhaps those who reenlisted in the military did so out of a sense of obligation, a sense of not abandoning his or her comrades in arms? Maybe it’s the knowledge that these people stay in, or join initially, to support a military service that is spread thin fighting two wars in foreign nations where security has a much different meaning than here. Perhaps they stay on because they know that there is little help coming. Perhaps they feel as stuck in their situation as many office workers feel locked-in to their jobs. The troops in the field have almost no control over what they do or where they go – indeed, they must “just follow orders,” or spend time in jail and face a lifetime of inability to find more than minimum wage employ…

Perhaps it’s possible to save the ire one feels not for the dog who runs around the track, but to spend it on the kennel owner who sends it out to run, to earn the owner’s keep. The dog could run away, but at what cost to itself?

I think that it’s possible to support the troops even if you don’t agree with their mission, just as I think it’s possible to send them off to war even if you dislike them. I don’t see it as any different than still loving your child who dropped out of college. You might not like that he did it, but he’s still your son, and you want the best for him out of his situation.

What do you think?


Hannelie said...

I agree eventhough we all don't like to hear about war and soldiers we can at least remember that those men are human too and need most support from the public and try to understand,none of those men are out there because they want to be killing machines but chose tha job because they want to protect and serve.

Bellejar said...

I had a good friend who was a Vietnam vet who had a really hard time coming after Vietnam working in special forces finding out how much the American people did not support their mission. He was really messed up from it. That being said I think whether or not one could support the troops without supporting their mission might turn more on their perception than my own. Just a thought.

Weary Hag said...

As always, interesting topic, Steve.

I was thinking while reading this about the horrible reception our soldiers got when they returned from Vietnam. I think the American public today will be much more guarded, reserved, and conscious of the long term negative effects resentment can have on our men in the military. At least, I can only hope so.

What happened toward the end of Vietnam was an utter disgrace and can never be fully compensated for.

I loved what you said in your last line to the effect that we can still love the child even if he/she acts in a way that we don't fully approve. I'm with you wholeheartedly on that.

(and thanks tons for the well wishes and thoughtful comments during my recent ordeal ... muchly appreciated!)