Thursday, February 01, 2007

You can't win a bad war

I linked to Slacktivist a while back in a post where he pointed out the obvious: it isn't possible to win a war that is not in your interests. To put it more simply, well, read the title of this post.

I can't help but think of this when I read stuff like this:
First up was 21 year old junior enlisted man Tyler Johnson, whom Engel said was frustrated about war skepticism and thinks that critics "should come over and see what it's like firsthand before criticizing."

"You may support or say we support the troops, but, so you're not supporting what they do, what they're here sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don't make sense to me," Johnson said.

Next up was Staff Sergeant Manuel Sahagun, who is on his second tour in Iraq. He complained that "one thing I don't like is when people back home say they support the troops, but they don't support the war. If they're going to support us, support us all the way."
These are soldiers in Iraq, and they've got a right to their grievances. But let's be frank: they're just wrong, on two levels. One, there's no evidence a close-up look at Iraq would be at all edifying. If I were embedded with the US Army, saw them paint a school, and went home, would that change the facts that the suicide bombers still rule Baghdad? No, no it wouldn't.

Secondly, and this is where the title comes in, these soldiers cannot win this war. It's possible they never could. So, the civilian criticism is not only right, but is going to save their lives if it's acted on fast enough.

These quotes come from William Arkin, who points out the obvious and is being savaged for it:
Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many "baby killer" epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.

So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?
It's funny that such a mild rebuke (to my ears) should be getting Arkin raked over the coals. It seems that some people are so in love with the rhetoric of war that it causes them to lose their senses, and make profoundly undemocratic -- anti-republican, if you will -- arguments. To say that we can't criticize a war because it would risk hurting the soldiers' feelings is insane. Soldiers serve the public. We owe much to them -- most importantly, not to waste their lives on shitty unwinnable wars -- but at the end of the day, we call the shots.

The idea that those damn civilians should be pushed out of the way and the Army should be allowed to get its war on has an old pedigree, and not a particularly gentle one.

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