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November 21, 2006

Support and the Soul

Jules Crittenden's provocative column, "Quitting a Worthy Fight Would Be a Great Mistake," has created some interesting discussion on his blog. The issue of "supporting" the troops but not the war came up in the context of the reception Vietnam veterans received upon their return home.

When the U.S. military went into Afghanistan, I had a powerful personal reaction to thoughts of what was being done on my behalf. It was a reaction of overwhelming sorrow and humblest gratitude. At a level that was as yet inarticulate, I understood I was inextricably linked to what happened on the battlefield and that the aftermath of those events created in me and every other U.S. citizen a response born of moral obligation and a debt that would never be repaid. And so from that day I knew at a deeper level than ever that support for our military and its goals was my obligation now that the fighting had started.

But yesterday at Crittenden's blog, a commenter finally gave me words for what I knew in my heart five years ago. He articulated exactly why it's not only incorrect to say one can support the troops without supporting their goals, it's morally reprehensible.

I had first written in comments (in part):

...[Vietnam veteran] soldiers who came home and were told their service was either dishonorable or useless (due to us giving up) had a harder time coping with the psychological and physical aftermath of that service. Humans can bear an amazing amount of suffering if they believe it is a result of [in service of] something noble or admirable, but being told they suffer for nothing good can literally make it harder to cope.

The response from commenter NAMedic:

As a combat medic and Vietnam Veteran who is 100% disabled due to PTSD, I can confirm the general point you make. It was not until five or six years of therapy, peeling away all the layers of horror from the war, that the final root of my problems was revealed. The worst trauma was in coming home, by far, and by far it was the hardest to see, and the most painful to admit. [snip]

A nation cannot ask normal human beings to engage in warfare unless that nation, top to bottom, validates what they have to do in such extremities. Normal human beings cannot remain psychologically whole, believing that their behavior was immoral - and all warfare is internally recognized by any soldier as profoundly immoral unless it is validated by a "higher power" outside the individual soldier.

Yes, it is our obligation to fight a wrong policy with every ounce of our strength before it is implemented, particularly when it involves issues of life and death. But war is a very special case, for so many lives hang in the physical and psychological balance. Once a war has begun, there can be only one course of action. To do otherwise than embrace the soldier for what he does for you is a kind of pernicious evil that takes the selfishness of one's natural desire to avoid the ugliness of this world to a new low [quote continued from above]:

This is also why the whole pose of "support the troops but oppose the war" is so insane and naive, if not deliberately and hypocritically self-serving. The "support" that counts, the only support that counts, is moral validation. If you oppose the war, you are withholding that very validation. You are destroying the soldier’s soul.

Yes, this is a democracy and you have every right to think your soldiers are on a fool's errand. But once it's been started, shut the hell up! Let them do what they must to win so that the duration is shorter and the suffering is less.

With the military power we possess, we have the capacity to win any conflict (it simply matters how much damage we want to inflict), so you cannot argue that a war we are engaged in is fundamentally unwinnable. It simply comes down to whether or not you want to pay the cost. If you don't, or you think that the prosecution of that war is a bad thing, then fine. But the only other option to winning is losing. So face up to it and admit that you want our soldiers to lose, you want them to believe they are doing immoral things for no moral reason, you want their death and suffering to be in vain, and that you are (in the words of someone who has "been there, done that") "destroying the soldier's soul."

Don't you dare stand there and clothe yourself in the rightousness of being "anti-war!" For your actions are not only prolonging the conflict and increasing physical suffering (on both sides), but they are robbing your fellow citizens of the healing they require for what they have done in your defense. And no, short of taking up citizenship in another country, you cannot repudiate their gift to you. It is always there, staring you in the face whether you pick it up or not. And frankly it's a defining moment for your philosophy and and relationship to humanity: are you going to pick it up and embrace the giver in sorrow and gratitude? Or are you going to try to simultaneously kick aside his gift as stupid at best and try to tell him that walking the darkness with the demons was wasted on you as you assure him you "support" him?

This is why what Code Pink did in the beginning months of their protest at Walter Reed ("Maimed for a Lie," etc.) was so evil. This is why military support volunteers do what they do. This is why a wounded senior NCO at WR once said to a friend of mine: If it wasn't for y'all [the volunteers here], half these boys would be suicidal.

War is not something that happens to others on a distant shore. It happens to all of us, and all of us have an impact on how it plays out and what happens to those most directly involved. What's your impact?

If you haven't yet, please read NAMedic's entire comment at Crittenden's; he has important things to say.

[A cross-post from Fuzzilicious Thinking, with the Armorer's permission]

[Say, rather, at the Armorer's urging... -the Armorer]

Comments on Support and the Soul
ponsdorf briefed on November 21, 2006 11:35 AM

Disabled 'Nam vet here. Worked over 30 jobs in the 20 years between '69 and '91 when the VA granted my disability.

NAMedic is quite correct. As noted, every vet is different. I've helped many with claims, their wars were different, but problems coming home was a common thread.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Trias briefed on November 21, 2006 11:49 AM

It'd be easiest for me to nod my head to this post and certainly i agree with most of it and actually it's a fairly good and definitely worthwhile post. However, I'm going to stir the pot a bit by taking a contrarian role.

1) There's a comment here about think what you like but don't say or do anything. That's not democracy. That's communism. In fact it's the opposite of what these soldiers are fighting for.

2) Would people faking support be that much better?

3) I do not think the War on Terrorism is winable. Fightable yes, morally justified yes and something we should definitely do but not winable. Not by the US, not by anyone. In a sense it's not really loosable either. It will go on and on and on and on over many nations and many years. It's easy to black and white things into good guys win and bad guys loose then let's go home for dinner but life just isn't that simple.

4) If a soldier puts his moral position into the control of politicians one isn't surprised to find a lot of problems.

5) People in the US supported the war and the soldiers in the beginning and now it seems the majority is lost. How fickle it seems to me. Better to be an unwashed hippy whose postion has at least been stable than to, as Murdoch says, 'flip flop' all over the place. Were the reasons for the war and expectations of the costs not realised? Were clear and well understood arguments made with reasonable expectations of how things might go? Does the US really have resolve? It sounds far too much like the military and GOP have loads of resolve but the people do not.

Putting all that aside regardless of particular wars won or lost I have recently learnt through places like this that the soldier is still morally justified. The stout hearted has put a real cost in and serves the people of his nation. That service taken in good faith is still morally well grounded in that he acts in good faith on behalf of the people defending them and attacking their threats.

Even if a war becomes a complete disaster and an awful mistake in action and in morals the morality of the soldier is still defensible because they are working in a round about way for you.

I get the feeling i'm not being clear. Oh well. Let me put it another way. I'm too young to know Vietnam much but I've read about homecoming and my heart said to me never again. We the people whom they did fight on behalf of struck those poor men a terrible and unjustified blow.

Or perhaps to put it yet another way to twist the twisted slogan back to reality...

"Maimed for You"

ry briefed on November 21, 2006 12:55 PM

Not touching this with an 11' pole. You're on your own Trias, but I do suggest you buy a hard cup and a jock.

Masked Menace© briefed on November 21, 2006 04:20 PM

I'll be gentle Trias

1) You seem to have not made the distinction between what you have the right to do and what is right to do. They are not at all the same thing.

The comment isn't think what you like, just keep it to yourselves. It's think what you like and shout it from the top of your lungs all you want before the decision is made. While the decision is being made please voice your viewpoints, only then can good decisions be made.

But once that decision has been made, it's time to man up and see the job done. You fought valiantly and lost. The honorable course is to admit it and move on, not whine and complain about it afterwards.

A democracy is one that says that whining and complaining afterwards is legal. It doesn't say a damn thing about it being honorable.

2) Yes. And if it is too painful to say something nice, then take granma's advice and just don't say anything at all.

3) That depends on your definition of win. If it is to mean that no one, no where will ever attack civilians to attempt to affect political aims then you are correct.

If it is to mean that such tactics have been marginalized such that they are no where close to being effective then yes. For an example, look at the KKK in the US. While they might still occasionally assault blacks they are largely impotent and a non-player. They are uniformly considered oxygen thieves and most people even in their own communities are eager to see them punished for their crimes.

Reducing terrorist groups to the status of the KKK is attainable. But it does take time.

4) It's not his moral position that he puts in the hands of politicians. Sometimes morality requires you to do some unpleasant things. Morality dictates that I protect my wife from predators. If that means shooting the thug who broke into my home, then I will shoot him. It doesn't mean that I liked it. It doesn't even mean that it's neutral. It's a nasty, nasty occurance. Shooting a man, even when morally justified, will never be the same as shooting a milk jug. Don't pretend that it is by saying, "If you think you were right, you should be able to weather the criticism."

5) I won't argue too much there. It seems to me the message of the last election was that we, as a country, are the paper tiger OBL claimed we were.

But I can't say I'm surprised. Iraqi and Afgani dignitaries who visit the US are often afraid to go back home after watching the American news and finding that there country has gone to hell in a handbasked since they left. That is, until they are told that this weeks reporting isn't any different than last month's reporting or last year's reporting.

When those who are intimatly involved in their own country and are hopeful about it's future come to the US and despair because of the reporting, what then should the American citizen who's been hearing this same reporting for years do but despair.

FbL briefed on November 21, 2006 04:32 PM

Well said, MM. I may quibble on a few points later when I have the time, but you pretty much naied it. I'm very gratified to see what I was trying to say came through to you. Thanks for the backup. :)

FbL briefed on November 21, 2006 05:04 PM

And Trias, I think the last part of your comment (after #5) did come through. And although it may not be expressed exactly as you'd prefer, I think it's a beautiful sentiment.

SangerM briefed on November 23, 2006 03:22 PM

I'm not really sure how to approach this, so I'll do it head on (and more completely on my website when I get some time).

Simply put, I disagree more strongly with NAMedic and with the notion that such disagreement with him and the so-called war is "morally reprehensible" than I have ever disagreed with anything in my adult life. It is hard to express rationally how angry this has made me, especially when it is tied to Uncle Jimbo's comment at Blackfive that we should bring back the draft! How horribly wrong can we all possibly go...? Are we going to make Americans kill other people against their will again? Are we going to allow people who never served in any service to vote to elect people who will vote to send other people's children to die even if they don't volunteer!

God FORBID, now and forever!!!

I HATE jingoism. I especially hate jingoism wrapped in the cloak of pity-me disability earned by others and claimed to have been earned in my defense, though I did not ask it, I did not want it, and I would not have accepted it on my own. I did not send NAMedic to war. I did not make him accept the assignment, and although I didn't serve in that war, it was a peripheral part of my life from as far back as I can remember until it finally ended in 1975! In fact, I almost went to Vietnam in April 1975, when the 25th ID was put on alert the week I arrived in Hawaii. The week Saigon fell.

Even so, I have NEVER believed a military draft is legal, or morally defensible, and in 1971, I decided and told my war veteran father that I would leave the United States or go to jail rather than allow myself to be drafted, no matter where the U.S. might send me. Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was my role model in that regard--though he took real heat for his stand. I joined the Army in 1973 at age 17, 6 months after the draft ended. I served 14 years, but overall, except for about 6 years, I've worked for DoD from 1973 until now. The difference--the single important difference--was that I served of my own free will. It was MY choice to make, not any other person's choice to make for me, not any single damned person on the planet--not my fathers or uncles, all of whom fought in WWII, not my neighbors, some of whom had never fought in any wars, and certainly not some elected official or local draft board member who was rich enough to send his kid to college so he wouldn't have to go fight a war that was WRONG.

I revile the draft, and I have since I was old enough to understand that crime which societies commit against their youth. Universal conscription for national service, wherein one can make a choice between military, social, or some other kind of service, and for ALL people, no matter the ability or the gender--that is a worthy thing for a nation to mandate. A military-only draft that only takes the healthiest, least able to avoid it young men is a crime and it always has been, ESPECIALLY in this country, _especially_ in the United States of America! For my part, I say never again! Not as long as I can do anything about it! NEVER!

Gorge Washington was facing the dissolution of his Army at the end of 1775, but he trusted in God, and God delivered him a letter from the English King whose response to U.S. complaints renewed the spirit of those who had begun to lose hope (can read about it in "1776," by McCullough). This country was founded by people who volunteered to fight, and since that day, it should never have been legal to draft a single person against his or her will to fight for this country. If the country is not worth fighting for, if the government and the majority cannot convince other Americans that going to war is worthy, then they need to fight the war themselves or not fight the war, no matter the consequences. This country belongs to every citizen, not just to those who can impose their will on others, and to me there is not a single iota of difference--not one--between false imprisonment and a military draft that forces a person to fight in a war he or she does not believe in or agree with. We may have a representative democracy, but the people we elect represent all of us, not just the people who voted for them, and my rights are as important and inviolable as any other Americans. If I choose not fight, then it is my right to make that choice and to live with the consequences, whatever they may be.

So, what does all that have to do with Supporting the War if you Support that Troops. Well, NAMedic wrote this: "Yes, this is a democracy and you have every right to think your soldiers are on a fool's errand. But once it's been started, shut the hell up! Let them do what they must to win so that the duration is shorter and the suffering is less."

This is so blatantly and arrantly stupidly wrong, I can barely contain myself! The man's total lack of understanding about what this country stands for and was founded on just astonishes me. And the arrogance of it infuriates me. I should shut up if my government starts a war I do not believe it so that Americans don't suffer in the war? Keeping quiet is going to end the war more quickly and reduce the suffering?

Yeah, like it did Vietnam? The U.S. fought in Vietnam for 15 years, and the French for years before that. And many of the older men I knew when I was growing up felt the Vietnam war was wrong too, and they were fairly vocal about it, too, and some of them were pillars of the community. And I dare anyone to have told THEM to shut up, considering they were all--every last one of them--WWII and Korean War vets! What arrogance!! My father-in-law (a Navy Corpsman in WWII (Okinawa), Korea (Chosan), and in the Antarctic for 2 years) left the Navy rather than go back to Southeast Asia, and he told me he always felt the Vietnam war was wrong. I would have dared anyone to tell HIM to shut up!

But what really angers me is that some people will actually think this passes for reasoned, valid universal opinion just because NAMedic got hurt in Vietnam (he's been there, done that). In fact, I knew lots of people who went there, and not one, not a single damn one of them (drunk, high, or sober) ever said to me, "yeah, I thought we were doing the right thing, and our government really had a plan and all" No, some people may have felt that way, but all of the people I ever knew said they went to Vietnam because they were told to go, that they did what they were told to do, and that they were either glad to be home or not, depending on how much they actually liked killing, drugs, money, cheap girls, or trips to Bangkok. I actually did know a couple of fellows who liked it in Vietnam, or so they professed when sober, but I've never known a man who was drunk or high who did. Ever. And I've sat with LOTs of drunk or high Vietnam vets.

And so, yes, _I_ DARE to stand here and claim I am anti-war, yet I want all of our military people to come home safe and whole. I am NOT for war just because my government starts one. I do agree we need to fight wars, and I agree we must defend ourselves aggressively and completely. I also happen to agree with the U.S. being in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but I have the RIGHT to be against a war if I disagree with it. And I will never, EVER just shut up just because some guy who got blown up in a war demands I do, just because he happens to think I owe him and all military people something.

I agree that soldiers are doing an important job for me now, as I did for others when I was in the service, but until the day I die, I will never believe the Vietnam war was just or universally worthy of support. And I will never agree to a military draft. If a war is just or worthy, Americans will fight it, as they have proven for centuries, but no one person or group should _ever_ have the right to force another man to fight a war he does not believe in, and no one in this country--no matter what his condition, history, or past accomplishments--has any right to tell another American to shut up and keep his opinions to himself. Especially opinions about war!

How anyone who actually fought for the United States in a war could get it all so totally wrong, I just can't even begin to understand!

SangerM briefed on November 23, 2006 04:19 PM

And in response to Masked Menace:

I distinguish between what I have a right to do and what is right to do, and you're right, they are not at all the same thing.

But after WWII, we hanged or incarcerated or ruined the lives of a lot of people who said they were just following orders. We still do when we can find and identify them.

And while I'll save you the energy of telling me what the Nazis did is NOT the same as what our military is doing--I assure you I really do know that--I will counter with this:

We Americans are taught to stand up for what we believe in. We are taught and told from our youth to never give in, never surrender, never turn a blind eye to what we consider wrong, if we feel strongly enough about something, and are willing to accept the consequences of our actions. We are told fight back, no matter the odds; we are told to never run from a bully, and to never ever just shut up because a whole lot of other people have told us to. Or because an institution tells us to. And especially not because our government tells us to.

On some post somewhere I just read recently about a Navy Lieutenant whose career was destroyed because he fought against a widely approved, officially sanctioned case of U.S. Navy institutional racism. He is still trying to clear his name, even though the Navy quickly removed the policy he argued against, and the lawyers later said the Navy was wrong. He was a hero to me.

Similarly, just because a whole bunch of people decide that a war is right doesn't make it so. I happen to agree the current war is just and worthy, but the next one might not be, and I will not ever shut up about it if I think so, just because a whole lot of Americans approve (or are unwilling to actually complain because they don't want to seem unpatriotic or uncaring). Convenient, isn't it, to be able to call someone anti-American because he or she disagrees with a war?

Me, I've just come to accept that people on the right in this country are often just as full of crap and illogic as people on the left, but they get to take the moral high ground because they are _for_ our troops instead of against the war. Sure makes the morality of it all easier to ignore doesn't it? No real decision required, no need to accept responsibility for what our government does. We're all just following orders.... After a decision to go to war has been made, we no longer have to think or care about the rightness or wrongness of it, we just have to be there to help the wounded pick up the pieces of their lives. Stoic acceptance, honorable support. Good little doggies.

What crap.

I say it is every American's right and obligation to disagree loudly with every policy and program and action of the government all the time, from sunup till sundown, for as long as it's an issue. In fact, We don't insist on consensus in the U.S. (thank God), but we sure do a pretty good job of coming to one, as was proven in Bush's 2004 reelection. I have faith in Americans--all of us together--to do the right thing most of the time. But that doesn't happen when one side muzzles the other....

In fact, I think the recent election was frankly a repudiation of the notion that people should just shut up; that a lot of Americans, including me, are getting tired of being told we're un-American or anti-military if we say we are not happy with the government or the way the war is being run. We don't all demand to blow the whistle or run the train, but we damn sure have the right to tell others how we think they ought to do it.

The more I hear that I should just shut up (for whatever reason you wanna give me), the more it pisses me off, and the more I find myself giving thought to voting for a Democratic candidate in the next Presidential election. That would upset me greatly, but not nearly as much as I am right now after reading what NAMedic and you have to say about when and how it's ok for me to have an opinion!


Masked Menace briefed on November 24, 2006 09:53 AM

OK sanger, I'm confused.

I tell people who disagree with the war after we have already committed troops (whom they genuinly want to support) to shut up and this is very bad

You tell people who disagree with the statement that you can "support the troops but not the war" to shut up and this is very good?

And yes, if the body politic had shut up about Vietnam we could have ended that war in much less time, with far fewer causulties.

Hell, the military was fighting with one hand tied behind it's back and were still winning. Politics lost the Vietnam war, not the military.

For what it's worth. I do agree with you on the draft. A nation whose citizens will not voluntarily defend itself, is not a nation that deserves to exist.

FbL briefed on November 24, 2006 02:12 PM


I don't have the emotional and mental energy to do more than skim your comments, but I have a great deal of respect for your intellect, experience, and opinions.

I'll say that "shut the hell up" was a throw-away line born more of emotion than logic, and probably shouldn't have been included. The more rational line of thought that inspired it is that those who want to speak out against a war need to do it with full awareness of the consequences of their words and actions on both individuals and the nation. I have deep respect for true philosophical pacifists who oppose violence in all forms, but I wrote this with much-less-venerable types in mind. And I despise the latter for their self-centered and self-referenced worldview that is driven more by a desire to avoid ugly truths of human experience than to truly make the world a better place. And beyond that, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

And the above is probably meandering and full of logical holes, but as I said in reference to reading your thoughtful comments, it's the best I can do today.

Masked Menace briefed on November 24, 2006 04:07 PM

Additionally, I guess as far as the Nazi analogy goes, I wouldn't be saying (assuming they'd let me live afterwords) "I don't support Germany's plans of Jew annihilation, but I support the troops who are carrying it out."

John of Argghhh! briefed on November 24, 2006 07:05 PM

Heh. Go away for two days...

Cutting through all the other stuff, I have a question.

Sanger - d'you think we'd have been successful in WWII without the draft? I know I'm putting words in your mouth and posing a hypothetical - but I'm curious your thoughts there.

Then there's the Civil War. That would have ended, in my view, with a slaveholding CSA absent the draft.

Yes, it's an unknowable, and I'll excuse you if you feel like that's a rhetorical trap and choose not to debate it - but I am basically asking you obliquely - better to lose wars like that than to occasion a draft?

Essentially, a nation that hasn't sufficient people to volunteer, deserve what they get, period?

Or did you mean something else, rather less stark?

SangerM briefed on November 24, 2006 10:44 PM

Hmmmm... Ok, Backwards. Draft First.

Actually, John, I meant what I said about the draft, as I wrote it. no qualifications at all. And yes Sir, I do understand about the Civil War and WWII. And no, I don't think of your questions as a rhetorical trap. They are the most important questions there are, really. To wit, is there ever a time (or was there ever a time) that the ends justified our society stripping liberty from one narrowly defined category of citizen so that other citizens (and supposedly, the Nation) would be better off. That is the most fundamental question of all, really.

My answer is simple but it was not easy to arrive at. I believe (and the more I think about it, the more convinced of this I become) that a military draft (as used in the past, and as could be used tomorrow) is not only morally indefensible, but absolutely a violation of the Constitution, which states only that "the Congress shall have power to...raise and support provide and maintain a provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions...." and "to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers." Nowhere in that document or in any other founding document or amendment does it say that the Congress shall have the right to enslave male citizens for the purpose of making those men fight wars on its behalf.

Now let me add, please don't assume I'm avoiding hard questions or quibbling here. It is just too hard to cover every facet of this discussion in something short enough to fit the comments section of a blog. I have given a lot of thought to this, yet still I cannot but conclude that a healthy-male-only military draft is no different than enslavement of black people, keeping women from voting, or putting people in prison for their political views. And no, I do not see any of that as a stretch of logic. Yes, I do feel that a universal service requirement would be acceptable (one that covers everyone, all genders, all capabilities), but that's a different issue, and it would take another few thousand words to explain.

The problem is that the military draft is used whenever the government needs people, not only when the survival of the nation is at stake. As far as I know, the following is true (though I would have to dig up sources to prove it): The U.S. drafted people for the War of 1812, the Civil War (both sides), WWI, WWII (even into the Marines), the Korean War, the Vietnam war, and between the last two, just to keep the program active.

Now consider the following: During the Civil War people were allowed to pay other people to take their draft slots, which is one reason so many poor Irishmen ended up in the Army. And if both the North and South were drafting people, then was it right for either side to do so or only the winning side? And consider too the number of people who avoided the Vietnam-era draft by way of exemptions and deferments for college, which essentially guaranteed that the less intelligent, less educated, less wealthy, but healthy young men automatically got drafted while for everyone else it was a crapshoot or a matter of choice.

No, as far as I am concerned, a military draft has no place in America, for any reason, under any circumstances, no matter the cause. If people won't fight for what they believe in or what's right, and others cannot convince them to, then the country doesn't deserve to survive. And I don't care what country we are talking about.

The government of the United States exists at the will of the people, not the other way around. It does not ever have the right to take a citizen's liberty just because it needs manpower. In fact, I understand and agree that Lincoln (one of my heroes) felt he had no choice but to do everything in his power to keep the Union whole; however, he should still not have used a draft, which gave a great lie to his "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

And yes, as hard as it is to say, I absolutely believe that if our nation hasn't sufficient people to volunteer to fight a war, then we get what we deserve--be it bad or good. In this country, individuals can choose to surrender their liberty, but neither the government nor a majority of people have the right to just take it.

And in the end, it comes to this. I have EVERY faith that Americans will do what's right, when they are asked to, when they are given reasons to, and when they are shown the truth and the way. I also have faith that if the government cannot convince the American People that a cause it just, then most likely it isn't. I know that's simple minded, but in fact, I have great faith in my country and my people. It's government I do not trust. Of course, neither did the founders, did they?


SangerM briefed on November 24, 2006 11:24 PM

MM, I can see why you're confused. I don't recall (and can't find on rereading) that I ever said or insinuated that "people who disagree with the statement that you can 'support the troops but not the war' should shut up."

Personally, I don't care if people agree or don't about supporting the war or the troops. That's a matter of debate, more semantics than substance, and we've been down that road before...

What I do care about is when people tell me I have to keep what I think to myself (you wrote that) or that I can only voice my opinions before [some vague somebody] makes a decision, and that once a "decision has been made, it's time to man up and see the job done" and that the so-called "honorable course is to admit it and move on, not whine and complain about it afterwards."

Nothing could be more wrong in the context of a citizen's right to protest a war.

And as for this: "yes, if the body politic had shut up about Vietnam we could have ended that war in much less time, with far fewer casualties." I could hardly disagree more. Yes, I've read that the North Vietnamese fought on after '67 because they knew we would quit, but I have also read that it had jack to do with the United States specifically, and everything to do with the fact that the North Vietnamese were determined to rid their land of foreign invaders. We did not care about South Vietnam as much as we did about containing Communism, and we more or less destroyed a country rather than let the people who lived there fight a civil war on their own. Clearly, the south was unable to muster the people to fight, so we just took over where the colonialist French left off. The North, on the other hand, didn't have trouble finding fighters, did it?

You might want to check out McNamara's comments in the documentary "The Fog of War." Also check out some history. We supported Ho Chi Minh in his fight against the Japanese even though he had gone to school with Mao at Chaing Kai Shek's Wampoa Military Academy and was already marginally communist by the start of WWII. And he and his followers continued the WWII fight all the way until 1975, when they finally won. From everything I've read, it would not have mattered if we had fought on for another 15 years, and if the whole U.S. was behind the war, we would have had to kill almost all of the North Vietnamese to win the war. To be honest, if one takes a harsh pragmatic realist view, the U.S. might have been better off in the long run if it had supported the North instead of the South. I know, I know, lots more to that, but think about it dispassionately: How much worse could it have been for us and for the South Vietnamese?


SangerM briefed on November 25, 2006 12:07 AM

And finally, FbL:

I understand what you mean, about "'shut the hell up' being a throw-away line born more of emotion than logic,' but that is _exactly_ the problem. People say that kind of thing all the time--and they generally mean it. It's not logical, it is not reasonable, and it is wrong, but they mean it nonetheless. This is because either they are incapable of counter arguing (for any of a dozen reasons) or they are just tired of listening to other people's complaints. I understand the emotion behind it, but frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a rat's butt.

That said, I will tell you that you were not in my thoughts as I wrote the other posts. I meant what I wrote and I still do, but lets not conflate the issues. Unlike you, I absolutely do not "have deep respect for true philosophical pacifists who oppose violence in all forms." I think true pacifists live only because others are willing to take up their slack. To me, true pacifism is a hypocritical philosophical construct that has no place in the world, past or present. No true pacifist (in the Quaker, Amish, or Gandhi sense) could survive if someone were not willing to defend him. And no true pacifist nation exists because pacifists can only survive when they hide among non-pacifists.

As for the less-venerable types and all the rest, it still comes to this, for me at least: I do not believe it is detrimental to our democracy to be against a war, and I do not believe that people should have to keep their opinions about a war to themselves or be branded un-American or anti-soldier. What I do believe is that there are lots of people out there (and I don't mean you) who would rather I just declare myself anti-troop (if I disagree with the war), than that I should try to find a way to support the soldiers at the same time I work to end the war.

More to the point, just because soldiers are fighting and dying does not mean they are doing so for a good cause. I believe they are today, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but I will never believe the names on the black wall in D.C are anything other than a testament to governmental arrogance and a betrayed trust in that government by some of its citizens. Johnson, Kennedy, Nixon, Hoover, and all the rest of them were indeed great men who cared deeply about this nation, but some of them forgot the most fundamental fact of all: that they served at the will of the people, not the other way around. And if the people hadn't been willing to protest the war (and I am not talking about the liars like Kerry), it might have gone on for another 15 years.

And no, your stuff wasn't full of logical holes, and no concern necessary. Take a break, I just have not enouugh to do, apparently...


FbL briefed on November 25, 2006 12:42 AM

No true pacifist (in the Quaker, Amish, or Gandhi sense) could survive if someone were not willing to defend him. And no true pacifist nation exists because pacifists can only survive when they hide among non-pacifists.

True pacifism is rooted in religion, and those religious traditions include an aspect that says, "If I follow the pacifism I believe my god calls me to, he will protect and defend me if it is his will that I survive a dangerous/violent situation." My own religious tradition has a strong streak of that, a sense of leaving one's life in God's hands; Christian history/mythology includes many stories of people going into dangerous situations unarmed and walking out in one piece, stories that Christian pacifism reveres. And so that is where my respect for that comes from, though I don't quite believe God calls us to be true pacifists. A true pacifist like that I've described would stand in front of the vilest of villainous and say, "I serve a Greater Power than you can ever imagine. Do with me what you will." Now that is neither hypocritical nor lacking in courage, and THAT I respect.

As to the rest, the quote you reference in the middle of your first comment (the one including the "shut up" phrase) was NOT written by NAMedic. It was written by me. So, while you didn't think you had me in mind when you wrote, you did. And your statements are thus directed very clearly to me. I understand the intellectual and personal passion with which you wrote them, but I do not think you gleaned a meaning that I intended. That's why I said, the "shut up" phrase was probaby ill-advised and I should've made my argument with better intellectual vigor than I did.

I'm exhausted tonight, but I will try to reply to you in detail tomorrow.

SangerM briefed on November 25, 2006 03:50 AM

Oops... I see what you are talking about. I read the whole thing through and assumed (yes I know) it was all part of the quote, not just the dark brown stuff... So, ok, yeah I was thinking and talking about your comments as well as thinking about his, which changes some things, at least in terms my thoughts about him.


Masked Menace briefed on November 27, 2006 10:55 AM

Well Sanger, it's like this.

If you're out at a bar with your brother and he gets in a fight he has no business being involved in, what do you do?

Stand on the sidelines and watch.
Yell at him about how foolish he was getting involved.
Stand beside him and fight.

Me, I stand beside him and fight. When the fight is over and we're back home, THEN I'll kick his ass myself for getting me involved in his stupidity.