Loyal Subversive

Personal musings on Iraq, Civil-Military Relations, Military History, and whatever else strikes my fancy

Location: Florida

I'm a mobilized Marine Corps Reservist, with nearly 20 years combined active and reserve service. I went to a New England boarding school and attended an Ivy League college, and since I joined the Marine Corps I've associated with a better class of person. I spent 6 months in Iraq working as a civilian contractor. I'm an ABD (all but dissertation) in military history.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Support our Troops...Bring them Home

Let me open by saying that there are a number of people who are sincerely opposed to the war in Iraq and who also sincerely care about the men and women in uniform (see my friend Mark G.'s blog http://21stdistrictohio.blogspot.com/ for an example of someone in this category).
Having said that, I'm thinking of making up a bumper sticker that says:

"I'm supporting your opposition to the war
by serving in uniform
because I don't think you're smart enough to make your own decisions either."
After all, everyone in uniform volunteered, and the vast majority of us believe in what we're doing. The kind of support we want is the tools to do the job and the recognition that this will be a long job. No one in uniform expects this to be over any time soon, but most also think that cutting and running will only make things worse.
I find most of the anti-war discussion of the troops to be incredibly condescending - especially the allegations that the men and women in our military are "forced" to serve because they are too disadvantaged to do anything else. This smacks of the old, ugly stereotype of the Vietnam Veteran as an underpriviliged person trapped into serving and then severely damaged by that service. That stereotype has been repeatedly debunked (see Burkett, Stolen Valor and Spector, After Tet) but will not die, and I'm not happy about seeing another generation of veterans tarred with the same brush.
In my experience, the vast majority of service men and women, both active and reserve forces, see the war in Iraq as necessary and an important step in enhancing our nation's long-term security. Most are not that interested in the whole WMD/terrorist link issue. They're more focused on the fact that Saddam was a brutal dictator who was stealing from his own people to support a stunningly opulent lifestyle (you have to see the palaces to believe it - and they are all over. And kids starved because that's where the oil for food money went.
The web and the papers are full of stories about deserters going to Canada and veterans against the war, but these are news because they are a real "man bites dog" story - these individuals are stunningly unrepresentative. Last figures on deserters and AWOLS I saw were pretty low - much lower, for example, than World War II. The vast majority of servicemen and women are willing to go to Iraq, but few of them callt reporters to ensure their views are on the evening news. Same for veterans - a saw an article a short time ago listing membership for the main anti-war veterans groups (sorry, can't recall the reference - think it was NYT but maybe not). Anyway, what struck me was how small these groups were - less than 300 all told, assuming there were no "double members" who were in more than one group. In my town, there are more people attending weekly Boy Scout meetings.
Bottom line - it's easy for a vocal minority to capture the attention of the press. Those individuals are fully entitled to their opinion, and I don't think that veterans who are opposing the war have "betrayed" anyone or anything. But I DO resent any implication that they speak for me, or for most men and women in uniform, or in fact anyone other than themselves.
And I also resent the implication which I see (perhaps mistakenly) in a lot of the anti-war rhetoric that my fellow servicemembers and I are unfortunate victims who need to be rescued from our service.
On a lighter note, if your really want to do something that a lot of reservists (including me) would really appreciate, write your elected representative and urge him or her to lower the retirement age for reservists to 55. If you're really gung-ho, ask them to look into making it easier for reservists to return to full-time active duty.


Blogger J. said...

I look forward to your blogs, interested in the Somalia stuff due to being a former member of the 10th Mountain and not ever seeing much of them written about their trip to Somalia.

Just as a short comment (almost time to go home), don't forget that there is a category of anti-Iraq war policy types (such as myself) that don't condescend to service members but just think there were some really bad judgement calls made and poor implementation of military strategy. Yeah support the troops, but either give them the tools to do the job and define the strategy goals or don't go. etc etc.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...


Great post, I agree with most of what you said. However, I would argue that a fair proportion of those who serve in the enlisted ranks come from "economically disadvantaged" areas. When I was in the Navy I served with a number of people who were recruiters all across the country. One was in an upscale area where he was relieved after a year and a half for not making his quota. He said that the kids in those areas had no incentive to join the military, simple patriotism will not do. Another served in Detroit or Baltimore (I am not sure which), he consistently made his quota and would have signed up even more kids if the military had less strict screening (which I don't advocate by the way). They signed up not because they couldn't do anything else, but because they felt the military afforded them an opportunity to get out of their neighborhood they would not have otherwise had. No, they weren't forced, but "three hots, a cot, clothes and a paycheck" look good to someone who has to scrounge everyday. As a military historian and veteran, I feel that soldiers and sailors are victims, on a trip to Arlington to visit the grave of a good friend who was wounded in the Battle of OP4 (Umm Hajl) and died in 2001 from his wounds, all I could think of was the waste of it all. None of these men (and women) would become fathers, mothers, scientists etc. and it is unfortunate that they had to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

I would also like to say that if people want to do something for the troops in Iraq, "care packages" are a good way to say thank you. We had a drive here at Ohio University and the group gathered a lot of money and other items to help make life just a bit more comfortable. Nothing says you care like sending salsa for bland food, homebaked goods, and other necessities. Keep up the good blog Scotty.

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