Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Parsing the Difference Between Soldiers and Politics

Since the beginning of the current military action in Iraq, there has been a divisive split between people who support the war and the people who don't. The reasons for this bifurcation span the gamut from partisan posturing to differences of opinion regarding policy within political subdivisions. Much of this posturing came to bear in the 2004 elections when you saw a fracturing between members of each party about the utility of the Iraq conflict and the representative strength of our government in the arena of international policy and politics. Though not sufficient to change the law, it appears that there is at least a new growth of animosity towards the President's policy regarding Iraq. There are the extremes of the argument, with Cindy Sheehan on one side, and The White House on the other. In the middle are those of us who support the troops, and appreciate their efforts, but do not support the President's policy or reasons for being involved in the Iraq conflict.

I have heard from many people that my perspective is just a form of fence sitting, that I need to pick a side, and be more clear with my perspective. This timely post aims to clear the air about my perspective on this position, and why, though it appears logically inconsistent, it does comport with its underlying ideology.

Ideologically, I don't support war as a general premise unless it is absolutely necessary. In this era, absolute necessity involves situations were our nation is attacked without provocation by another, or involvement is absolutely necessary considering the significant and dangerous effects a foreign war would have on the stability of our democracy. Historical examples are World War I and II. This could be called a form of pacificism with an exception for situations of necessity.

Many people see the inconsistency of supporting the soldiers and endorsing and ideology of pacificism fairly clearly, however, the two perspectives are not mutually exclusive. Any person who enlists in the American military provides a service to their country. American Soldiers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. They serve and, when necessary, fight for the protection of the principles that insure our freedom as citizens and insure our way of life. Our military, the men and women that make up the armed forces, should be supported because they stand for the line of defense between our way of life and any force that seeks to impose its will on American libertarianism. That service deserves the support of every person legally a citizen of this country by birth or naturalization. The military as a whole, should not be criticized for their duty. (However, this should not exempt individuals or officers from criticism when they act in a manner inconsistent with their duty or ethical obligations, like torturing or killing prisoners and civilians) Regardless, their duty is to defend freedom, and for that they deserve support.

We have to remember, though, as a matter of structure, it is the President and Congress that direct the Military into action. This is the fundamental separation that alleviates the inconsistency of this particular ideology. I support the soldiers for what they do and what they protect, but I do not support their reasons for being in Iraq because they are there at the behest of ill-conceived Presidential or Congressional policy. On the whole, the conflict in Iraq fits both. The President used threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to lure the Congress into giving him the authority to carry out military operations in Iraq. The WMD debacle has already been disclosed as a farce, especially since we have yet to discover any of those so-called weapons. As far as terrorism as a motive, it appears that entering into the conflict has created more anti-American sentiment with countries like Iran and Afghanistan who are known to produce and train terrorists. If anything, military action in Iraq has increased our chances of being a target for terrorism. On this basis, military action in Iraq was ill-conceived, especially since the President lacks any formal exit strategy, and seems to have no concept of a beneficial direction to go in order to end the conflict. What is worse is the President's perspective that public opinion on the matter is inconsequential to policy on the Iraq conflict. Its absurd that an elected official, charged with upholding the Constitution and running the country as an agent of the people would explicitly disregard the will of his constituents. This kind of brazen rebuff to the will of the democracy demonstrates this President's authoritative tendencies and a disregard for the role he plays in the American political process.

On this basis, it is possible to support the soldiers, what they do, and what the military stands for but not support the policy that sends them into action. To the troops who may read this, as a citizen, I thank you for your service to this country. To the President, do your job to benefit the people and cease your continuing violation of the oath of your office. Your actions denigrate the rights of the citizenry, and erode the principles that make this country great.

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