By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

On supporting the troops

There’s a bumper sticker I’ve seen that says, “Support the Troops. Bring Them Home.” I disagree. Even though I opposed the war, I still harbor some hope that Iraq can be more or less stabilized in the next year or two. Chaos will serve no one’s interests except the forces of radical anti-Western Islamism. And the rise of Gen. David Petraeus is cause for at least some optimism.

But do I understand the sentiment behind that bumper sticker? Absolutely. This isn’t hard. The war has been an utter disaster. If you think there’s no hope, well, what better way to support the troops than to make sure no more of them are killed or injured in a futile cause?

So why doesn’t Jeff Jacoby understand that?

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  1. Steve

    Isn’t it futile to wonder what goes on in Jacoby’s head?Better to ask why those who support the war refuse to support the troops. What, I wonder, is Jacoby’s reaction to the Washington Post story on the shameful conditions our wounded soldiers encounter at Walter Reed hospital.This is just the latest example of how this administration refuses to support the troops in the field – no armor for their humvees, no helment liners to prevent brain injuries, no body armor, and most of all, no clear understanding of the region we’re fighting in.This administration and its supporters have articulated no obtainable objectives and no clear strategy in Iraq, yet keep our troops there in the midst of a brutal civil war. And they have the gall to claim that their opponents don’t support the troops?It would be comical if it were not so destructive.

  2. O-FISH-L

    Dan, did you even read Jacoby’s piece?Jacoby not only understands, “Support the troops, bring them home now” he clearly points out that “bring them home now” is a position the Dems are afraid to advocate.Re-read this section: “If they (top House Democrats) had the courage of their convictions, they would forthrightly defund the war, bring the troops home, and brave the political consequences. Instead they plan a more agonizing and drawn-out defeat — slowly choking off the war by denying reinforcements, eventually leaving no alternative but retreat.”The Dems don’t dare call to bring the troops home now for fear of being asssociated with SURRENDER. Instead they claim to support the troops while publicly arguing to cut off support for them. Jacoby very successfully points out that the Dems can’t have it both ways.If there were a bumper-sticker that truly represented the position of the Democrat leadership it would read: “Support the troops, cut-off suport for them.”

  3. Citizen Charles Foster Kane

    The Bush administration supports the war, but doesn’t support the troops. That should be made abundantly clear and that should be the issue for the 2008 election. Republicans have done so little in the way of ensuring that the people they call heroes receive proper treatment and credit after their tours of duty that it is almost criminal neglect. So yes Jeff, one can support the troops by ensuring they have the equipment they need and the medical care they deserve when they get home while believing that this war has been a bungled fiasco for no apparent strategic purpose.It is all fine and noble to claim, as Jacoby does, that “If an American serviceman dies in the course of a war that toppled a monstrous dictatorship, opened the door to decent Arab governance, and has become the central front in the struggle against radical Islam, his death is not in vain. It is the sacrifice of an American hero, the last full measure of devotion given in the cause of freedom.” but the fact remains that this should not have been the United States’ war and Jacoby is simply inventing an ex post facto justification for calling soldiers heroes. Our freedom is not and has not been threatened. The United States didn’t need to go to Iraq and topple a monstrous dictatorship and it certainly wasn’t in our strategic interest to do so.So yes, cutting off support for the troops in Iraq will mean that they will have to come home. That money that is being used to keep them in Iraq would be far better spend improving the lives of those who have already served and have returned home to the cold shoulder from the government.I’ve yet to hear a supporter of the war offer a coherent argument about how the situation in Iraq is going to improve or what “victory” would look like and the steps necessary to achieve that “victory”. The idea that an additional 20,000 troops will do the trick is bunkum–add another 0 onto that number and then we might be getting somewhere but then we’d have to have a draft wouldn’t we?That’s the Bush administration: too gutless to do what it takes to actually do the job right in Iraq. Since the Bush administration can’t formulate a plan for victory, the United States should leave.

  4. Neil

    “Support the troops” is a mere rhetorical device for lazy partisans like Jacoby to use, to appear to be talking about something while avoiding the substantive issues like oh say, what to actually do in Iraq. Or defining “victory”. Majority Shiites in charge? That’s the case now, nominally. Democracy! Mission accomplished then, let’s go home! Sunni? Can’t do that again. Some harmonious blend? Is that a job for an occupying military force? Partition? Imagine the religious cleansing while the population rearranges itself into newly-drawn regions. Well-armed Sunnis get no oil, Turks will attack an independent Kurdish state. The various factions are more interested in killing each other at the moment until this sorts itself out, than in killing us, though they’re happy enough to do so as long as we’re there. What can the US military do about sectarian anarchy? We remain deluded about our level of influence.Jacoby is more comfortable complaining about liberals than talking about Iraq. He ticks off his stale checklist of various liberal sins–the left’s “anti military disdain”, Michael Moore, an Ivy League professor. It’s obvious he hasn’t kept up with events there. It’s a civil war now Jeff. He’s just recycling 2003 rhetoric about the fight between “liberty” and “defeat”. He still thinks the enemy is some undifferentiated “radical Islam”. At least he has given up on the “terrorist” conceit–doesn’t mention the word once. That’s progress of a sort.I’d prefer immediate withdrawal, but gradual withdrawal will do and of course has a valid rationale beyond political expediency by cowardly Dems. The case can be made that a gradual withdrawal will save lives. Or rather, will cost fewer lives. Even Iraqi lives. Remember them? There are more lives at stake than those of our troops. The direction is right at least–the difference is a matter of degree. The war as originally defined is already lost, and ultimately thousands will die no matter the speed of our departure. As others have said above, to keep troops in harm’s way indefinitely, to no clear purpose, is not support. People who join the military place their faith in the wisdom of our civilian leaders to deploy them judiciously. Responsibility for lives wasted rests with the architects of this folly, not with those who wish to end our involvement and get the troops out, whether immediately or gradually.

  5. Anonymous

    One question I would have is, does the Glob actually pay Jacoby for his idiotic bloviations? The reason I ask is that Jacoby’s idiotic bloviations are also syndicated and published online the web site for all to see–for free. I would actually wonder if Jacoby actually pays the Glob to publish his column, to give him some semblance of credibility for his syndication efforts–and for the advertising revenue garnered from reason I ask is, if the Glob is firing reporters right and left, why would they continue to pay for columns from Jacoby, when, if they jettisoned him, they might be able to afford to retain a couple of reporters?–raj

  6. Anonymous

    As others have said above, to keep troops in harm’s way indefinitely, to no clear purpose, is not support. Precisely. It was because Ronald Reagan committed US Marines to the civil war in Lebanon in 1982, with no clear mission and to no clear purpose that 241 of them died in the bombing of the Beirut barracks.–raj

  7. BosPhotog

    How about that lovely bumbersticker that I have seen in Southie for the past few years. It is on the rear of a 2003ish Crown Vic sedan.The bumpersticker has a peace sign and then read:Footprint of the American Chicken. Did this jerk forget about the hundreds of thousands, millions infact, soldiers in this country who have fought for that symbol.

  8. man who thinks Jacoby's hot air is enough to heat Morriseey blvd today

    Well, for what it’s worth, I neither support the war, nor the troops.Standing armies seem to do little besides let megalomaniacal leaders get their countries into situations they shouldn’t be in. This has not always been true throughout history, but it sure feels like it’s been true since about 1965 or so.

  9. Anonymous

    Thanks, Fish. Other than you, opinions here run the gamut from “A” to “B”…

  10. Anonymous

    Jeff Jacoby is a master of the false dichotomy. I don’t know anyone who’s better at it than he is. If he could think, he’d be dangerous.The comparison of the war in Iraq to the Super Bowl or investing in the stock market was brilliant. It left me speechless. Then I guess the surge must be like Han Solo, remember, when he rescued Luke Skywalker from the evil Darth Vader.

  11. Jim

    bosphotog: must be an old-timer. That line, possibly even the bumpersticker, date from the Vietnam War – Hunter Thompson mentioned it, I think, in an early ’70s piece. Could just be a hipster-doofus parody … though the Crown Vic does argue against that.

  12. Tim F-W

    Jacoby is right about one thing.Democrats are unlikely to defund the war. But his fundamental premisethat supporting the troops means all-in fealty to the war effort is laughable. Unless Jacoby has been writing columns and giving speeches in which he implores eligible Americans to sign up, his digs at loudmouth liberals who are lviing it high while soldiers get killed lack a certain credibility.

  13. Anonymous

    Democrats are unlikely to defund the war. Of course Democrats are not going to even try to defund the war. Bush has 140K (some odd) hostages, also known as American service people over there, and the Democrats know that, even if they tried turned off the spigot, he would leave them there. And blame the Democrats after they are knocked off one by one thousand.A sane Commander in Chief wouldn’t do that. But we don’t have one.–raj

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