Friday, April 20, 2007

A Harmful Phrase, A Deplorable Tactic

I have come to believe that the phrase "Support our Troops" and its variants are among the most harmful pieces of rhetoric in American politics today.

More specifically, I am referring to the use of this phrase in any manner that trivially implies that another politician or political group is failing to do so.

Many advocates of continuing the war in Iraq have invoked this type of speech in the last few years. I believe it has had tragic effects.

The vast majority of Americans justifiably hold the members of our military in the highest regard. Consequently, it is very dangerous for any politician to appear unsupportive of them. The vaguest appearance of such a mindset can have catastrophic effects on a politician's next election.

For this reason, such accusations - whether they are direct or subtle, true or false - are a potent political weapon. Like every other disingenuous personal attack, unfounded allegations of this type are deplorable. However, in this case, the tactic has much larger and profound implications.

Specifically, these charges squash or divert debate on the most important topic government is trusted to handle - questions of war and peace. It is no wonder that it took almost four years for the President to make a significant strategic shift in Iraq.

My thoughts on this matter were sparked by a recent exchange between Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, apparently now believes that the war in Iraq is unwinnable. Therefore, he advocates the withdrawal of our forces. If one honestly believes the war is lost, this is a respectable position.

As someone who believes that the war is not yet lost, I would like an opposing policy maker to publicly counter this assertion with facts and an intelligent argument that refutes Reid's conclusion.

In a word, I want debate.

Instead we receive the following rhetoric:

"I can't begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their
lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that
the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is

Thank you, Senator Mitch McConnell, for reminding us of what we see in the news every single day: our troops are risking their lives. That is probably the only fact about this war that every single American knows.

Now let me remind you, Senator Mitch McConnell, that they are not just risking their lives, they are losing their lives - and it is your obligation to tell us why you believe that is necessary.

Intellectual honesty obliges me to admit that troops' morale may be damaged to some extent by Reid's remarks. This is extremely unfortunate and it can have real consequences on the ground. But I ask Senator McConnell, and every other politician that has ever made a similar comment, how long they would put the troops' morale above their very lives?

McConnell's criticism of Reid implies that he would rather allow a war he believed unjust or futile to continue rather than to publicly speak out against it and harm the mindset of those fighting it.

Of course, I am being sarcastic to illustrate the nonsensical nature of the argument. I would expect McConnell and most other politicians to scream at the top of their lungs if they believed Americans were dying in a futile action. It is the only honorable thing to do given such a belief.

Similarly, I would expect vigorous advocacy from a leader that believes in the necessity of a war strongly enough to sacrifice the lives of young Americans.

But instead of advocacy, instead of a counter argument, we get political statements implying that an opponent is being inconsiderate and ultimately harmful to our troops.

McConnell and his peers would better serve the physical and emotional well-being of the troops - not to mention their own moral and professional obligations - with a direct counter argument to Reid's statements.

Supporting the troops means honoring their risk and sacrifice with a worthy cause. It means giving them adequate training and equipment. It means asking only what is absolutely necessary for the vital interests of the nation. When troops are in harm's way, it also means removing them when these conditions are not met.

The only thing the McConnell's in government "support" with their current line of rhetoric is their own political ambitions. This issue is too important and far too complex to waste time on political trivialities. A responsible and worthy leader would recognize that and act differently.


Unknown said...

Shrug. Add it to the list, after "the Democrats hate America," "the Democrats hate freedom," "the Democrats have no patriotism," and "the Democrats want the terrorists to win."

Unknown said...

Speaking of Republicans who are terrible, terrible people, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), speaking at a subcommittee hearing, takes a strong stand against individual human freedoms and wishes death upon the families of the audience.