Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Warriors and wusses (and confused columnists)

I have said a number of times that I take no great offense at those who oppose the Iraq war. I know many people who are intelligent, patriotic and have a working moral compass who did not think the Iraq invasion necessary.

Despite my overwhelming support for our troops and my joy at seeing The Butcher of Bagdad fall, I also have wondered, "Is (was) this trip REALLY necessary?"

So I was not especially nonplussed upon reading Joel Stein's "Warriors and wusses" in the Los Angeles Times. It's pithy and brief, but it tries tries to maintain the following: if Klein does not support the war, Klein is not obligated to support the troops, and Klein should not, as a result, be branded a scum-sucking traitor.

"...I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition."


Klein goes on to explain that lending support to the troops can lead to 1) keeping them in Iraq longer, 2) sending them to fight other wars, and 3) giving tacit support to an unjust war.

Two other of Klein's points stand out:

"But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam."


And:

"I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades."


Here's my problem. Klein's first point is valid if your army is the German one cutting a bloody swath across Poland. No reasonable person would say a German is obligated to support such an enterprise out of "patriotic duty." But Saddam really is a bad guy, a butcher, a maniac. It's one thing to say "We could've lived just fine without invading Iraq." It is quite another to suggest that the terrorist armies we encounter there are the moral equivalent of the Polish resistance. And Klein's point really doesn't work any other way.

Klein's second point...

"But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam."

...is ridiculous two times. First, after 9-11 it was (and is) perfectly reasonable for a new recruit to believe that fighting in a foreign land is directly connected to stopping terrorist attacks on the U.S. I realize this allows politicians room to promote less-than-absolutely-neccessary wars, and Klein is entitled to assert that Iraq is just such a war. But the phrase "you pretty much know" consists of four weasel words designed to imply that everyone "knows" what comrade Klein knows. Second, the reference to fighting "ethnic genocide in Kosovo" is laughable coming from an opponent of the Iraq war. Where, pray tell, are Milosovich's Weapons of Wass Destruction? How exactly did the conflict in Kosovo threaten American interests or security? And why is stopping the genocide in Kosovo more praise-worthy than the genocide in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, or for that matter, the Sudan? Could it be that the largely white, educated, victims in the former resonate more with white, educated liberals in this country than do the victims of Hussein? Inquiring non-liberal minds want to know.

Klein's third point -- give returning soldiers everything but a parade -- seems to suggest that Americans are incapable of honoring sacrifice if they did not approve of the war. Therefore (and here's the contorted logic) if Americans honor the soldier they will lapse into approving of a war they otherwise would not/should not support. I think this criticism is better aimed at Klein's anti-war friends. It is they who seem incapable of honoring a soldier's sacrifice while expressing reservations about the war. Why? Because they, like Klein, believe that soldiers are "willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism."

Earlier in his piece Klein makes nice with those who support the war (and the troops):

"And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of."

Really? Even though these war-supporting, troop-honoring folks are tools of "American imperialism?" Klein wants to have it both ways. He affects this laid-back "I'm okay, you're okay" stance with regard to the war, in effect saying, "I just want the right to object to the war and not be obligated bow in the presence of those who fought the war," then he throws in his actual view with the most jargon-laden cliche of the anti-war movement ("tools of American imperialism").

Finally, there is something deliberately obtuse in Klein's insistence that no one who objects to the Iraq war be required to honor the young men and women who fought there, due (one supposes) to the moral culpability of soldiers in an "unjust war." But we ask our soldiers to fight anywhere we (or our commander in chief) sends them, without question. Politicians, journalists, citizens, and even celebrities get to debate the war; soldiers are called to pack up and ship out. A modern volunteer army could not function any other way. Given that Klein obviously regards the carpet bombing of the former Yugoslavia as "the good war," how would he fight genocide in Kosovo if each American soldier got to decide individually whether he/she would fight? If the soldiers are personally, morally culpable for being "tools of American imperialism," then they must have the right to say "no thanks" to military engagements they find unjust. How many soldiers would regard Kosovo as a necessary war under those circumstances?

And if soldiers do not have the right to pick and choose their combat, then how, in Klein's moral universe, are they accountable for any war they fight in, just or unjust? We honor our soldiers because they fight on command, not when their favorite blogger or talk show host thinks it is cool.

Klein has failed to address the glaring moral and logical inconsistencies of his position, instead, relying on a breezy style and an absence of Cindy-Sheehan-like name calling to make him sound reasonable. In the end, both the war hawks and the "wussy pacifists" whom Klein dismisses are more consistent.

UPDATE: Klein was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt on his controversial column. Radio Blogger has the transcript.

2 Comments:

At 10:10 AM, Blogger D.M. said...

Incredible. I cannot convey what utter disdain I feel toward liberals and, most especially, those liberals who are against the war. Never, in all of my life, have I seen such a sorry bunch of pussies utterly convinced of their own moral superiority (by stating there are no real morals) unwilling to fight anything lest they offend some precious minority group.

Klein is exactly this type of liberal: oppossed to the war but okay with anyone who supports it. He is simply refusing to take a stand, unable to hunker down, put his pacifist, sissy dukes up and fight for his right to...um... well... pacifism.

The point is, you need to fall off the log at some point. Choose one side or the other. That is the right or wrong (left) side.

I find hilarious that the more the liberals poo-poo the vast majority of Americans (hated red-staters) the more this silent majority- which had been a slumbering giant- makes a stand on abortion, advanced gay rights, and foreign policy. They think we are the uneducated and red-necks of the country while more and more they pit themselves on the losing side of history. With enemies like that who needs friends? They make the job soooo easy.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Paul Pennyfeather said...

d.m. rose,

I especially like your last paragraph:

"I find hilarious that the more the liberals poo-poo the vast majority of Americans (hated red-staters) the more this silent majority- which had been a slumbering giant- makes a stand on abortion, advanced gay rights, and foreign policy. They think we are the uneducated and red-necks of the country while more and more they pit themselves on the losing side of history. With enemies like that who needs friends? They make the job soooo easy."

It IS mind-boggling to watch the constant stereotyping of conservatives by the left. Case in point: in today's Huffington Post (a liberal weblog), has a post from a right-winger named Greg Gutfeld, in which abortion jokes are offered as a rejoinder to pro-abortion fanatics. Okay, whatever you think of the jokes, or Gutfeld, he is obviously NOT a conservative of the religious variety. His jokes and manner suggest he's a "South Park Conservative" or a libertarian conservative.

So what do some of the rabid HPost commentators do? They label him a "fundamentalist Christian." It hardly matters, but it is interesting. They cannot even conceive that their ideological/political enemy could be other than a "bible-thumping," Darwin-hating, Christian. I see this all the time.

It would never occur to me that all my enemies on the left are closet socialists, vegetarians, or pre-op transexuals. I allow that the enemy camp is composed of many different types of very deluded people. The left, on the other hand, is more bent on clinging to simple stereotypes than a Klansman in the Jim Crow South.

PP

 

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