Wednesday, May 23, 2007

For what do American soldiers die?

If the US were to announce start the long process of withdrawing troops from Iraq today, what would that mean for those who have already died over the last four years during the war with and occupation of that country?

It is interesting to me that one point of agreement among some of the most vocal supporters of continuing the occupation and the most vocal supporters of ending the occupation is the notion that unless the cause is just and the mission is complete, there is no value to the sacrifice made by our soldiers. In fact, last night on Alan Colmes Show (radio) one caller began screaming and had to be cut off for obscene language because he claimed that if we leave Iraq before victory is achieved the thousands of US servicemen and women who have already perished in the conflict will have laid down their lives in vain.

One could ask whether victory in the war hasn't already been achieved - and if so what exactly is the mission objective for the ongoing occupation? That objective, which has always been vague and elusive, is varied and changes often. The US has verified there are no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein's government has been toppled and replaced by a democratically elected government, and Saddam himself has been caught and executed. On the other hand our presence and continued occupation has destabilized the country of Iraq, given fodder for the rhetoric and claims of radical groups like Al Qaeda that the West is engaged in a modern day Crusade (thereby improving their recruiting efforts), and increased the influence and leverage of Iran in the region. What benefit outweighs the cost in human life, both Coalition and Iraqi, of continuing the occupation?

The vacuous slogan "We gotta fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here", aside from being nonsensical, is also atrocious, because even if you think that the people fighting us are all terrorists and that terrorists can only focus on one front at a time, it suggest we should use our military as live targets - as human shields. And if one doesn't truly believe that all those fighting us in Iraq are terrorists, or if one really doesn't believe that terrorists can only focus on one front at a time, then what is really being shielded by refusing to seriously weigh the cost of the conflict versus a clearly defined objective are the political fortunes of those who advocated and continued to support the war and occupation, to keep from having to admit an error, to regret their choices.

What if there is no way to make significant and lasting improvements to the political situation, violence, and socio-economic stability in Iraq through a continued major US military presence? What if America and its allies have done what they can, and continued military investment in Iraq at this point in history is going to produce rapidly diminishing returns? For the sake of argument, what does that mean for those soldiers who have already died carrying out this foreign policy? For those who continue to die?

The value of an American soldier's sacrifice is not in the outcome of the battle in which he or she died, nor in the outcome of the campaign in which the battle was fought, the conflict in which the campaign was executed, or the correctness of the foreign policy which precipitated the campaign. A US soldier has devoted his or her life to defending the principles embodied in the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the Congress and Commander-in-Chief to make sure that such sacrifice is appropriate. There is a difference between saying that a soldier died needlessly and that a soldier dies for nothing. Many people believe that the members of our nation's armed services are dying needlessly, but no one should believe these deaths are pointless.


  1. Frankly I'm always puzzled by the emotionalism around this.

    It was a stupid war. I don't see how that can be denied. Even if you were for the war at the start, it's clear by now that the Bush administration is characterized by a willingness to listen only to the like-minded and to ignore advice from beyond the inner circle. That's always a recipe for blunder.

    For the life of me, I don't see how this fact detracts from the troops. The troops are not the commander in chief. It's like Tennyson's famous nineteenth century poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade," which, as I recall, was based on fact. Some general made a horrendous mistake and sent a bunch of British troops to die when they shouldn't have.

    This kind of thing doesn't detract from the troops one iota, imo. You have to have dicipline and order among troops. They have to be willing to execute lawful orders - that's an integral part of soldiering. If the guys at the top don't know what they're doing, it just isn't the soldiers' fault and in no way reflects on them.

    The Bush team is great, however, at marketing. And they seem to have sold a lot of Americans on the idea that to criticize their terrible misconduct of the war is to cast aspersions on our military.

    There's no connection. I find fault with the administration, not with the soldiers, pure and simple.

  2. Congress has its fault. Congress authorized military force rather than declaring war. Such a declaration would have the criteria for victory.

    Congress must undo that. Here is an idea for a way to do that:

  3. Paul: Frankly I'm always puzzled by the emotionalism around this.

    If by "around this" you mean the death of soldiers and civilians, I am not at all surprised by emotional reactions. If you mean the jingoist sentimentality, well, that's the nature of jingoism, especially when it is propped up by demagogues ;7)

    Paul: It was a stupid war. I don't see how that can be denied.

    Apparently about 65-70% of the American public agrees with you. If you run across one of the 30-35% who do not I am sure they will be happy to deny it in a very passionate way.

    Dar: Congress has its fault. Congress authorized military force rather than declaring war. Such a declaration would have the criteria for victory.

    Congress must undo that.

    Considering the Dems just caved on the Occupation funding measure, they have dropped the ball on the whole correcting what they should never have authorized front. :7(

    Dar: Here is an idea for a way to do that:

    Senators Clinton of New York and Byrd of West Virginia proposed similar legislation that would set 10/11/07 as the expiration date for Congressional authorization to remain in Iraq. While I applaud Representative Paul for going against the majority view in his party, I don't believe that having the Congress pass a resolution saying that the mission in the original authorization to invade Iraq has been accomplished is going to motivate the current President to change his mind or alter his policies.

    I am not against the logic or spirit of such measures in and of themselves, but I don't agree with the idea that it is somehow going to fix the problems that our continued military presence in Iraq are causing.


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