Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Support Our Troops

“Support Our Troops” has become a popular mantra in the United States since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, politicians have sometimes used that mantra as a political weapon and people mindlessly repeat it at other times. “Support Our Troops” does not denote unflagging agreement with current U.S. foreign policies nor should the mantra stifle political debate.

Instead, “Support Our Troops,” if truly genuine, will encompass at a minimum:
Sending U.S. military personnel into harm’s way only as a last resort. Last resort is one of five Just War Theory criteria for determining whether fighting a particular is just; Christians, western philosophers, and legal scholars turn to the Just War Theory to determine the morality of a war. The other criteria are just cause, right intent, right authority, reasonable chance of success, and proportionality. Warfighting unless an absolute last resort and morally justifiable inherently entails loss of life and is immoral. A nation should expeditiously end a war initiated in the belief that the conflict satisfied the Just War Theory criteria if it subsequently becomes obvious the war fails to meet that standard. Persevering in an unjust war with the attendant deaths and injuries on both sides is immoral. Political debates about wars and military actions honors troops who defend the representative democracy based on the United States Constitution.
Paying a living wage to the troops. Significant numbers of married junior enlisted personnel with children in the U.S. supplement their military pay with food stamps and other forms of public assistance. Sending someone into harm’s way in defense of our freedom and security yet refusing to pay that person a living wage is immoral. Except in a time of extreme national emergency, a nation that cannot afford to pay its troops adequately has mismanaged its finances or has too large a defense establishment.
Caring for troops who return home. The needs of the physically wounded are often glaringly apparent. Many personnel will survive wounds in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the high quality of medical care the military provides. However, significant numbers of those individuals will live the remainder of their life physically handicapped from that wound(s). The nation is morally obligated to ensure that these individuals have lifelong adequate medical care and any financial aid warranted. Similarly, the nation has an identical moral obligation to care for those who return with less visible but equally real mental health problems. Sadly, a higher percentage of personnel are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than from previous wars.
Celebrating our troops as heroes. Celebrating military personnel is not simply a matter of medals, parades, and verbal affirmations, although all of those are important. Military personnel do not decide when and where the United States will go to war. That responsibility belongs to our elected leaders. No matter how strongly a citizen may disagree with the decision to fight a particular war, directing that dissent at military personnel is unnecessarily hurtful, does nothing to change the policy, and is wrong.
Praying for the troops. One should pray for all involved and effected by the fighting, those on both sides. God is no respecter of persons and equally loves all people. War, even when an absolute last resort and moral necessity, is a tragedy in God's sight.
Doing one’s share in the warfighting effort. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars exemplify wars in which a relative handful of citizens bear the burden of a war supposedly fought for the benefit of all. Deciding whether to serve in the military based on civilian job opportunities is wrong. Everyone has an obligation to serve the nation. Those too old, physically unqualified, or who have already served have an obligation to fund the war financially through their taxes and to support the troops. Wars that lack sufficient popular support to engage a nation’s populace broadly probably lack moral justification. For example, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 certainly did not satisfy the traditional Just War Theory just cause criterion, which presumes Iraq had invaded another country. Instead, the invasion was a preventive strike, a type of war Just War Theory scholars almost universally condemn as immoral.

“Support Our Troops” is a powerful slogan – if one understands what it really means!


Ted said...

We don't support our troops. It is only a phrase that makes us happy. If we really supported our troops, evey church in the US would have a protest every day so our congressmen would understand that this war is wrong.
It is like telling our kids to buckle up before running into a brick wall at maximum speed. With no draft the students in college don't care about the war.
Why haven't those people who flew their flags after 9/11, protesting the deaths of over 4,000 of our innocent soliers.
Many years ago, the 1970s, there was an initiative to give the lower ranks more percentage pay increases than the senior ranks. The senior ranks put the issue down by saying everyone would be paid the same increase by percentage. Look at the numbers to see how fair this is in today's world. A good retirement planner will tell you it is not the percentage but the duration the money has to work for you that will help you retire.
I felt sorry for airmen who would spend all night working on my airplane only to go to a second job after we were airborne. If we were delayed, he had to stay until we were either airborne or cancelled. Of course I have many stories of enlisted issues that the senior levels did not care to be concerned with as long as airplanes got in the air. To think that this airman might be exhausted when he worked on my airplane made me wonder how we got any aircraft flying.
Where were the chaplins when these activities were happening. I never saw one on the flightline or in any work area. But that is the Air Force and not military wide, I hope.
A friend coming back from Afghanistan said his commander kept his troops working 18 hour days and volunteered them to do extra duties during the time so he would look good and might be promoted. He was actually giving article 15s for the troops going to sleep on duty as it had been over three months without a break or days off. Where was the senior leadership?
He had numerous stories of bad leadership and lack of supporting out troops. So to support our troops we need to get out of harms way unless our National Security is really at stake.

George Clifford said...

Ted, You’re right about the need to support our troops, by people in and out of the military. The quality of military leadership varies enormously. I’ve seen what you describe. I’ve also seen the opposite. Thankfully, my anecdotal assessment is that good leadership far exceeds the bad. The same is true for chaplains. Outside the military, the last administration really attempted to warp what support for the troops connoted, redefining it in terms of support for administration policies. Hopefully, clearer heads will prevail and support for troops will again connote both support for the personnel and support for morally sound policies.