On Supporting Our Troops

Using Unity to Divide: Some commentators I respect--and some I don't--scold "the left" (a pigeonhole term, like "the religious right" that should cue the intelligent that something stupid is about to be said) for saying on one hand that they "support our troops" and on the other hand "disagree with our policy in Iraq." At the extremes, this criticism may have some validity. For example, the statement that one supports the troops is not believable from someone who clearly hates the U.S., thinks it engages in criminal activity as a matter of course, and talks as if Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are paragons of virtue and sincerity when compared to President Bush. On the other hand, to insist on a unity between support of U.S. troops and agreement with U.S. political is absurd on several fronts. First, many of these same critics disagreed with the Clinton administrations intervention in the Balkans during the 1990s while simultaneously insisting that they supported our troops and just didn't want to put them "in harm's way" or some similar cliche. Second, people who disagree with or who are uncomfortable with U.S. policy in Iraq are known to go to some trouble to entertain U.S. troops in Iraq (Al Franken, for example) or to correspond and send care packages to a deployed soldier (my wife, for example), which I would suggest shows genuine support, respect, and caring for troops. Third, and perhaps most important, the insistence on consistency between support of troops and support of U.S. policy flies in the face of the American tradition of a separation between the military personnel and civilian policy-makers. Is the soldier who strongly disagrees with his or her Commander-in-Chief policy but who follows his orders anyway guilty of not supporting the troops (including himself or herself?). The idea is absurd. This is an important tradition, one that is in large part responsible for the fact that there has never been a military coup in this country as has been common in South America. In fact, it can be said the the military in this country deserve our respect, at least in part, precisely because they are willing to follow orders even when they don't agree with them. This is an essential part of the moral virtue of the American military. In every conflict, there is an attempt to insist on the unity between military action and policy. If you support the policy, you might insist that anyone who doesn't agree with you is unpatriotic and can't possibly support the troops (as is common today). If you don't support the policy, you might insist that the troops themselves are immoral for being involved (as was common during the Vietnam era). Both are wrong and outside of a cherished American tradition. Finally, my sense is that today, pride in the U.S. military personnel--because of their effectiveness, their professionalism, their discipline, their courage, and their civility during difficult duty (with some exceptions)--is rather intense, even among most of those who don't agree with current policy in Iraq. This was not the case during the Vietnam era, and there is almost no comparison in that respect. Wile E.



On Giving the Devil His (or Her) Due

Mindless Partisanship: Years ago, I had a problem with the drinking of someone close to me. In my immaturity, I rejected everything this person did. Later, with a bit of recovery of my own, I learned to distinguish the behavior I didn't like from other behavior that was quite admirable. Political partisans, the worst of them anyway, don't seem to be able to do this. In the '90s, some partisan Republicans and Conservatives took such a bitter dislike to Bill Clinton, they couldn't give him credit for his obvious talents, his accomplishments, or for doing things they might otherwise have agreed with. Today, on the other side, partisan Democrats and progressives have such a bitter dislike of George Bush that they can't acknowledge his personal assets, accomplishments, or positions that they might otherwise agree with. In truth, while policy differences between the President and Democrats are significant, the personal animosity seems not only uncalled for but in some cases a rather blatant expression of religious anti-Christian bigotry. Partisan Republicans complain about Democratic "hatred" of the President--and seem to have no appreciation for the way they treated President Clinton--or, for that matter, for the way they talk today about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. It seems to me that a good exercise in maturity--and intellectual honesty--is to practice giving credit to a political adversary for his or her attributes, accomplishments, and positions that you might agree with. Wile E.



Bush, Bush, and Clinton

Hail to the Chiefs: Kudos to President George W. Bush for appointing former presidents, George H. Bush and William J. Clinton, to work together to raise money for the relief and reconstruction of areas damaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami. The decision was a good one for several reasons. First, it said W (and, by extension, the U.S.) was serious about Tsunami relief and reconstruction; second, it tapped the talents of two former U.S. presidents who have something left to give; third, it was a brilliant bi-partisan move that elevated the status of all three individuals involved as well as the presidency itself. It was an absolutely graceful move. Even better, the elder Bush and Clinton seem to be playing well together, enjoying each other's company and using their mutual synergy to great effect. Wile E.



Laughingstock Capital: Move Over California!

Nuts on the Left; Crazies on the Right: We sent the following to the Colorado Springs Gazette: "Thanks to Ward Churchhill and his supporters on the left and the El Paso County (Colorado) Commissioners and their supporters on the right, Colorado is beginning to replace California as the political laughingstock of the country. Just because people like Ward Churchhill have a first amendment right to trivialize the Holocaust and insult the victims of terror does not mean that UC officials should hire them as professors, give them tenure, promote them to department chairs, and go out of their way to make speaking space available to them. Just because people have a second amendment right to keep and bear arms does not mean El Paso County Commissioners should go out of their way to invite citizens to bring their sidearms, longarms, and RPGs into county buildings. Granted that the open carrying of weapons can make people feel more secure under some conditions—as it does in Israel. However, this practice can also make people feel intimidated and afraid. Frankly, if I saw a non-uniformed citizen carrying a firearm of any kind into the Assessor’s office, my first assumption would be that this person has an agenda and no more common sense than (Commissioners) Sally Clark, Dennis Hisey, or Douglas Bruce—and believe me, that’s pretty terrifying." --Wile E.


One Bad Indian; Many Bad Chiefs

The Trouble With Churchhill: Talk show hosts and other commentators are taking the wrong approach re. Ward Churchhill. It doesn't matter that he trivializes the Holocaust and insults the victims of 9/11 terrorism. He has tenure and has a first-amendment right to speak, within rather broad limits. The horse is out of the barn in that respect. But who hired him? Who gave him tenure? Who promoted him to department chair? Who is going out of their way to give him speaking venues? The tenure process and first-amendment rights do not need to change. But university officials--chancellors, presidents, deans, and other professors--and and should be held to account for the care and nurturing of the unqualified, the idiotic, and the evil. --Wile E.

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