I’m sure you all must have heard about newspaper columnist Joel Stein’s I don’t support the troops column in the Los Angeles Times. I don’t have much to add to what’s already been written. I think intelligent people can differ on the subject. As Dean agreed, at least he’s being honest.
More revealing, I think, is the transcript of an interview of Mr. Stein by Hugh Hewitt. You would have thought that Mr. Stein would have been smart enough to stay out of a tank with a live shark. To my mind what the interview suggests is a young man who’s distressed about what he sees going on around him in the world but who hasn’t thought through the implications of his beliefs too thoroughly.
That’s not unusual in young men. What is unusual is for a young man to be given so tall a podium from which to trumpet his callowness.
UPDATE: I tell a lie: I do have something to add. First, I was taught that the essence of military virtue was not the sword—attacking and killing your enemies—but the shield—defending those who were unable to defend themselves. Read the milbloggers in Iraq and Afghanistan, read Bill Whittle’s essays, read Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s famous essay on Sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We—our troops—are not in Iraq and Afghanistan to kill brown people (the canard I’ve heard too often) but to protect brown people. That’s the only conclusion you can draw if you read what the guys over there actually have to say.
Second, think about Maimonides’s Ladder of giving. The lowest level of charity is when someone you know asks for a hand, you give it. Above that when you give to someone you know before being asked. Above that when the giver does not know the recipient but the recipient knows who the giver is (and, consequently, feels a sense of obligation or dependency). Above that when the recipient is known to the giver but the recipient is unaware of the source of the charity. Above this when the giver does not know the recipient and the recipient does not know the giver (giving in secret). The highest level of giving above which there is no higher is when the giver gives to make the recipient independent. A business partnership is higher than a loan; a loan is higher than a gift.
Isn’t that what we’re trying to do in Iraq? We’re not just giving a handout. We’ve given the people there their freedom and, what’s more, we’re trying to make them our partners in securing that freedom. Dump the geopolitical concerns—those are just maybes. It may be impossible or mistaken or foolish or incompetent but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to say that it is not virtuous.
Finally, there’s the Christian wisdom: Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends.. Or, as G. K. Chesterton put it The soldier does not kill because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him..