Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Support the troops” a no-win proposition

Over at Washington Monthly, there’s a package of stories from recent war veterans on how Democratic presidential candidates might get their vote.

There’s also an in-depth analysis by Spencer Ackerman as to why those candidates shouldn’t be looking to the troops to guide their decisions, ultimately.

Spencer Ackerman's article is more important than any of the soldiers' stories in the package. He explains why “support the troops” short of “bring ’em home” is a no-win, for one thing:

Democrats have made the decision — rightly, I think — that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, “I don’t want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission.”

Ackerman indicates from enlisteds through noncoms into the corps of officers, a clear majority of boots on the ground still feel this way.

He touches on some of the reasons, which I’ll go into more.

First, too many soldiers have, to put it bluntly, some degree of ADDICTION to fighting after multiple tours in Iraq. (Note Ackerman quoting a soldier about having a “hard-on” about the possibility of killing alleged terrorists.

And yes, I do believe it’s a psychological addiction. In many cases, there’s at least the beginnings of post-traumatic stress disorder behind the development.

Plus, as Ackerman also notes, and as I agree, the “boots on the ground” have a narrow, sector-localized understanding of what is “successful.” Throw in the bar of “success” continually being lowered, and to take the addiction metaphor further, Democrats risk becoming “enablers.”

The idea of “support the troops” in any way short of supporting getting them home ASAP, because “the troops” still want to fight, is a losing proposition.

Democrats, already labeled as “out of touch with the military,” may be uncomfortable with what would appear to be a patronizing position, that “the troops don’t always know best.” But, that’s the bottom line. The key, though, as Ackerman notes, is to support the troops psychologically when they get back to America. Beyond adequate funding of Veterans Administration psychological treatment, this includes stressing that they never failed in their mission, but that the mission itself was a failure of design.

Cross-posted at SocraticGadfly.