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February 14, 2006

Joel Stein, redux.

I know, old news. But it's been nagging at me. Not that Stein is a self-admitted dilettante vaporlock of a columnist. Heck, I am.

Distilled, Stein basically says (Cliff's Notes version)

"We can't support the troops if we don't support the war, and in fact, doing so is, like, an undefensible position. I wish them well as individuals, because I'm a cool guy and all that, but they're doing immoral icky things and probably ought to quit doing them, and until they do, pooh on them, because they're like, y'know doing what they're told and I think they should just quit, but, like give 'em hospitals and stuff because well, they're getting hurt and all. And don't spit on them, even if they are immoral weenies, well, except for the ones who joined up to defend the country and were, like tricked into the war and all aren't weenies - except, like, y'know, for those guys who get to stay in Germany for reasons I don't, y'know, like really get and all."

That's about the sophistication of his position. And clarity. This from a product of name-brand higher education and privilege, who gets to make a decent living spouting this subtly nuanced pabulum. Mebbe I should write liberal, it seems to pay well for not much work...

The rest is in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry.

No, I think what bugged me most about Stein's little self-absorbed, college-sophomore (sorry to insult you guys) level analysis is his complete misunderstanding of how the military is supposed to behave in a society where the civilian leaders of the government reign supreme over the military arm of that government. REGARDLESS of who is in power.

Military personnel generally don't get to pick their wars. In fact, one of the irksome things to politicians and bureaucrats (just ask Madeline Albright) is that they really are generally reluctant to go out and do their thing, always finding reasons for "maybe we oughta wait, or not do this right now," except when someone is already bombing them - then we can get a little exercised.

Stein lives in the cloud-cuckoo-land where the military, like Athena, springs fully formed from the forehead of Zeus when *Stein* wants a Military Option. And just doesn't exist otherwise. In other word, when a Liberal/Progressive is in power - we have a Military - and heaven help them if they bitch about what they get told to go do.

But when someone Not Of Stein's Liking is in power, well, then, in a perfect world, there isn't a military, they're all in cryo-storage (and only Stein or his Designated Person has the key), or, more ominously (though he doesn't really seem to get this, either, which is the really depressing reality of his wasted education) they simply refuse to do what they're told. And if they won't, then he doesn't support them.

Think that one through, Joel. Do you really want guys like me deciding that I should (and thus get to) decide when and where I'll do what my civilian bosses order me to do? Is that *really* a slide you want to give me a push to start sliding down?

I didn't think so.

So -unless you're a true pacifist, Joel - it's entirely possible, and logical, to support the troops, while opposing what they're doing on political and moral grounds, and fight those battles in the political arena. Because some day your side of the political equation may find a need for some troops. And they're going to be the same troops you don't support now.

Fortunately, as President Clinton discovered, we troops may, in vague general communal sense, not like you or your politics (and there were Clinton partisans serving, really), but, when ordered, we'll do what you ask, as well as we can. Because we *do* understand why we're subordinate to the civilians leading the government. Even if a dilettante like yourself does not.

Which, Joel - is why your puerile blathering on the subject is so sophomoric in the greek sense of the term... wise fool.