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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Something to think about...

I have been trying to avoid a lot of heavy lifting lately, what with presenting important research this week, coming up with exams, grading homeworks, etc.

However, I came across this while reading tonight and felt moved by it. Given that we have handed over sovereignty to Iraq and we are probably on the back stretch in terms of our immediate commitments over there, I have been thinking a bit more about what some of the politicians that did not support the war, or rather supported the idea of the war by voting for it but did not support the idea that Pres. Bush would ACTUALLY DO WHAT HE SAYS. Many of these politicians, including Al Gore, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, Frank Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and a bunch more, have said some nasty things about the way the Bush administration and the military decided on military action and how they went about it.

I thought Tommy Franks was a genius for using the strategy of racing to Baghdad in order to avoid a possible chemical attack. However, Franks was second-guessed and the entire strategy was criticized because supply chains were extended, etc. Lots of arm-chair generals were on the 24 hour news channels and even more generals were on the House and Senate floors.

One might expect that this is all new, that the increased number of media outlets has led to an increase in the opportunities for people to blast the administration for being moronic, stupid, or downright complicit in trying to lose the war. First time, right? Wrong.

From an interesting book I am reading titled "Civil War Soldiers" by Reid Mitchell (pp. 66 and 67):
One source of discontent was the soldiers' feeling that the people did not understand how difficult their job was. Both sides went to war expecting quick victory; both sides were quickly, but not thoroughly, disillusioned. Soldiers who were themselves reluctant to admit that the war would not end with the next big battle were likely to be sensitive to accusations that victory could easily be achieved with different strategy, different commanders, and different armies. Even though all soldiers reserved the right to grumble about the mistakes of their superior officers, most resented it when home folks judged the operations of the army in the field unfavorably. In part, of course, such judgements were felt to reflect no only on the commanders but on the men as well. Furthermore, the soldier felt that civilian judgements were made in ignorance. The folks at home had no concept of the difficulties experienced by the soldiers in the field. A Pennsylvania lieutenant wrote home testily, when civilians were complaining that McClellan allowed Lee to escape after Antietam, that if men there "think the Rebble army can be Bagged let them come & bag them...Baggin an army is easy to talk about." The men who remained at home had forfeited their right to criticize those who had marched away to war.

Before thinking about this, reread the quote.

It is important in the current conflict as it was in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam conflict. Perhaps most especially in the Vietnam war, the soldiers in country that experienced the negative feelings from second-guessing at home should remember what that was like. Regardless of the political persuasion, both sides of the aisle should KNOW that when they disparage the war effort they disparage the soldiers. If Ted Kennedy doesn't know that he will influence the U.S. soldier, not to mention anti-American sentiment abroad, when he waves pictures of Abu Grhaib (which are ridiculously minor compared to a) beheading people on video or b) shooting them in the head on video) then he is more of an idiot than even I thought. If he knows what he is doing, then it is even worse.

The same goes for the others that obviously wish to criticize from the sidelines, without any clue of what is going on. Debate over whether we should be in Iraq or not does not have to become a criticism of those that went, but it invariably does.

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