Sunday, February 05, 2006

In Support of Joel Stein: I Don't Support the Troops, Either

I realize I'm a little late to this party but, as previously noted, I've been out of town and then got sick soon after returning. Anyway...

Joel Stein has taken quite the beating for this column that bravely begins with the admission, "I don't support our troops." No cow is more sacred in statist circles than the military so it takes real guts to admit this. Stein would have elicited only slightly more outrage had he publicly wondered why the big deal about kiddie porn. The howls of denunciation came swiftly and predictably from all corners but I thank Joel Stein for his courage. Not only do I see nothing objectionable in his comments, I support Stein without hesitation because, well, I don't support the troops, either.

I've never quite understood this country's military worship. The mindset that sanctifies the military sees virtue not in freedom but in unquestioning obedience. It's a mindset that subordinates the individual to the state and in the process celebrates collectivism, bloodshed, and destruction. Innocent human suffering is dismissed as "collateral damage," and peace and liberty are swept aside by nationalism and patriotism.

Much of the support for the troops is encouraged by overheated rhetoric and cryptic logic. We are told the troops deserve support by virtue of their courage, sacrifice, selflessness, etc. But digging a little deeper and asking some tough questions about the real nature of military service yields some troubling answers. There is virtue in sacrificing oneself to a greater cause but ought we not examine the righteousness of the cause itself?

Let's face some facts here. The troops do not protect our freedoms, nor are they repelling an invading foe from our shores. None of us owe our freedoms or safety (such as we have left) to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. None of us is made freer or safer when a life (military or civilian) is sacrificed in Iraq.

Right now the troops act as the enforcement arm of the federal government's foreign policy ambitions -- nothing more. It's easy to be hoodwinked by semantics but remember: the troops do not serve "our nation," they serve the government. They serve at the whim of the state -- that gang of thieves and murderers with delusions of legitimacy.

Serving the state demands that you ignore your moral compass; why celebrate this at all, let alone in the form of the soldier? The worthiness of the cause for which the troops fight is determined entirely by the state and its minions, and considering the way the state manipulates reality to achieve its goals, we have good reason to be skeptical whenever the use of force is advanced. Our "enemies," and especially those who merit military deployment, are constantly shifting depending on the federal government's entangling alliances of the moment. The troops fight whomever the incumbent Commander in Chief orders them to. For these troops, there is no room for individual morality or conscience -- only obedience. Stein eloquently makes the point: "An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying."

And so it goes with the present regime's misadventures in the Middle East. We are sold a bill of goods with vague allusions to "weapons of mass destruction," "bringing the fight to the enemy," "waging a war on terror," "spreading freedom and democracy," "liberating a people from a brutal dictator," etc., ad nauseum. But no matter how the Bushies paint this thing, they can't escape the facts: over 2200 American servicemen killed, and anywhere from 30,000 - 100,000 Iraqis killed (the administration sees no need to "keep track" officially). All of these lives wasted and none of us freer, safer, or more admired because of it, and yet it is considered bad form or unpatriotic to question this pointless crusade. We who speak the truth are marginalized and made to apologize for our beliefs, while prudent public opinion meekly favors supporting the troops and keeping them overseas to "finish the job," which as far as I can tell means more maiming and killing for the glory of the U.S. hegemon.

I know how this must come off. Like I'm some chickenshit hiding behind a keyboard who has no right to exercise the very freedom of expression protected by our brave soldiers. Fine, fair enough. Everyone's entitled to an opinion. I harbor no ill will toward our troops, individually or collectively. G-d knows I don't want them hurt in any way. I just want them to come home, now. So to Joel Stein, and others of like mind, we must not apologize for refusing to exalt death and destruction because it wears a uniform, carries a rank, and boasts popular sanction. I do not support the troops and I am not ashamed to say so.

Others have been speaking up on this issue. For reference, please see the following:

Don't Support the Troops by Brandon J. Snider
There’s a tendency in libertarian circles to think that radical criticism of supposed sacred cows will prove to be disastrous to the future of the movement. I look at it differently. I think the other side should be ashamed of themselves, and we should encourage such shame with our rhetoric. We should not apologize for our views; we should make the statists apologize. We are libertarians, they are totalitarians; is this not correct? When I see libertarians Supporting the Troops! and reserving criticism for policy-makers, I see this view in practice. Yet Supporting the Troops! is a distinctly collectivist idea. Self-sacrifice for the state – is there any principal more anathema to individualism?

I Don't Support the Troops by John DeHope
The troops want to kill people, and I want them to not. They want to overthrow other people’s governments, and I want them to mind their own business. They want to be career soldiers, and I want them to get real jobs. They want a government paycheck, and I want them to work in private industry. Is it any wonder that I don’t support the troops? Do you?

Perpetuating War by Exalting Its Sacrifices II by Sheldon Richman
To sobering effect, Richman juxtaposes a passage from the film "The Americanization of Emily" alongside a recent AP photo of another grieving widow and fatherless toddler.

I realize this opinion will win me few friends or supporters but I welcome all comments here, pro and con...

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