Monday, August 23, 2004



During my second year in law school I worked in a small personal injury law firm in Salt Lake. One day I got into an extended debate with one of the attorneys and another clerk about whether we should go to war in Iraq (at that point there had been a troop build-up, but Saddam was still in power).

These two people (I'll call them Jane and Adam) were adamantly opposed to any military action in Iraq and said they would continue to oppose any such action once hostilities began. I said that I could respect their opposition to military action, but that once hostilities began they should shut up and support the troops.

Jane and Adam were aghast. How could I say such a thing? Hadn't I heard of the first amendment? Dissent is patriotic! How could I advocate censorship during wartime?

My response was that politics should end at the water's edge, that dissent after hostilities began only emboldened those fighting our troops and put our troops in greater danger, and that it is inconsistent to claim to "support our troops" in one breath and demonize the work they are doing in the next.

Fast forward to today, where I came across an NY Times op-ed written by Major Glen Butler, a major in the U.S. Marine Corps (via Instapundit, which doesn't require a login). Major Butler has a number of good points. First:

When critics of the war say their advocacy is on behalf of those of us risking our lives here, it's a type of false patriotism. I believe that when Americans say they "support our troops," it should include supporting our mission, not just sending us care packages. They don't have to believe in the cause as I do; but they should not denigrate it. That only aids the enemy in defeating us strategically.

Michael Moore recently asked Bill O'Reilly if he would sacrifice his son for Falluja. A clever rhetorical device, but it's the wrong question: this war is about Des Moines, not Falluja. . . .

No, I would not sacrifice myself, my parents would not sacrifice me, and President Bush would not sacrifice a single marine or soldier simply for Falluja. Rather, that symbolic city is but one step toward a free and democratic Iraq, which is one step closer to a more safe and secure America.

Yep. You can't claim to at once support the troops but oppose the work they are doing.

Second, Major Butler states: "We marines are proudly apolitical, yet stereotypically right-wing conservative. I'm both. And I'd be here with my fellow devildogs, fighting just as hard, whether John Kerry or George W. Bush or Ralph Nader were our commander-in-chief, until we're told to go home." Methinks the anti-war folks could honestly make such a claim. I suspect much of the opposition to the war in Iraq is anti-Bush hatred dressed up as excessively self-conscious "patriotic dissent."

Third, Major Butler prognosticates a bit:

Now we are on the verge of victory or defeat in Iraq. Success depends not only on battlefield superiority, but also on the trust and confidence of the American people. I've read some articles recently that call for cutting back our military presence in Iraq and moving our troops to the peripheries of most cities. Such advice is well-intentioned but wrong - it would soon lead to a total withdrawal. Our goal needs to be a safe Iraq, free of militias and terrorists; if we simply pull back and run, then the region will pose an even greater threat than it did before the invasion. I also fear if we do not win this battle here and now, my 7-year-old son might find himself here in 10 or 11 years, fighting the same enemies and their sons.