Supporting the Troops but not the War?

I recently heard an analogy that caused me to seriously question (not deny but critically evaluate) if I am able to “support the troops but not the war.”  As you may, or may not know, I am not in support of the military actions of America in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Despite that fact, I have always considered myself a strong supporter of the military and the troops that are obeying orders and dutifully serving.

My ethical quandry is related to the morality of these particular conflicts and those “dutifully” serving.  I heard it put this way:

Saying you support the troops but not the war is like saying, during the Civil Rights movement, you support the police who are using the German Shepherds and fire hoses to attack African-Americans but not the policies of discrimination.

What do you think?  Is this consistent logic.  Should I rethink my classic bifurcation of policy and persons?  Is it possible to support the persons carrying out a policy and be morally opposed to the policy itself?

*Note: If I have not been clear, I am seriously trying to evaluate the critique that was leveled against my position.  I am very supportive and thankful of those who serve in the armed forces but am trying to honestly, critically, and realistically evaluate my positions.  No one should read into this post anything other than what is here.  I am not critiquing the military or the troops but merely asking a simple question in regard to my logic.

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6 thoughts on “Supporting the Troops but not the War?”

  1. I’m a simple guy so my feeling is you’re either in or out. A person is being disingenous when they say they support the troops but not the action. In the case of both of these wars and future ones my position is if we’re going to engage in them we should do so without restraint. The best support the “troops” can have is to be free to do the work they’re trained and equipped to do. I’ve spent a lot of time considering the morality of these wars and can say that I support them because they are necessary. Given my choice I would prefer peace and harmony for all mankind but our enemies will not give us that option.

  2. When I hear the comment “I support the troops but not the war” I take it to mean this:
    It is ok to be against the war (and what it stands for), against the politicians that voted for it, and against the conflicts it involves.
    It is not ok to make any military person feel like their career choice is directly linked to the decisions named above. It is not ok to blame any service member when it is possible they joined the military before this whole mess even started and unlike civilian jobs they can’t just up and quit when the boss makes a decision they don’t like.

    Supporting the troops means being outspoken about your political feelings but not transferring this to the people who have no choice but to do what they signed up to do. What is the alternative? Suggesting to a military service member that they dishonor their commitment because they disagree with the authority?

    Just my thoughts. : )

  3. Are Christian wives not commanded in Scripture to submit (as much as they are able) to unbelieving husbands? They are indeed, and therefore we see that obedience to authority is commendable even when the authority figure’s goals, policies, and methods are tainted by the fact that said authority is at enmity with God.

    Also, the analogy of the Civil Rights movement breaks down at a fundamental level, since the police are being asked to commit sin with their own hands. To use another, more crude analogy, consider the subtle but real difference between 1) a husband commanding his wife to withdraw $10 from the bank, which he will use to purchase a Hustler magazine, and 2) a husband commanding his wife to purchase him a Hustler magazine. Situation 2 is like what is happening in the Civil Rights movement analogy; Situation 1, on the other hand, allows you to support the obedience of the one under authority without supporting the actual authority.

    1. Husbands and wives are not an analogous example.

      Certainly the Civil Rights example breaks down at some point (all examples do — as evidenced by your marriage example). #1 and #2 are only distinct if the woman does not know what her husband is going to buy. What if she suspects he will buy a Hustler? What if his past actions have proven his propensity to sin? Why doesn’t he go to the ATM himself? Is this a shared bank account? Who pays with cash anymore? 🙂

      In my example, it is likely that troops do know the results of the actions committed “with their own hands” (at least in some cases).

      I understand your critique but feel that your example (marriage) breaks down just as quickly as the original analogy regarding Civil Rights.

  4. Ah, but I’m not so sure that the wife is implicated even if she DOES suspect that her husband might buy a Hustler with the $10. How can she be sure? Similarly, even if a soldier DOES suspect that his superiors have ungodly motives for giving a particular order, I think the soldier is exonerated unless explicitly told something like, “By obeying this order, you will enable me to achieve my goal of [insert some evil, nefarious scheme here].”

    Also, I agree that in some cases soldiers may know the full effects of what they do, but I think this is rare. The whole point of having a chain-of-command structure in the military is to allow a person to be told only as much as they need to know – and nothing more – to accomplish their particular mission. If it’s not necessary to know how your (amazing pun use ahead) sub-mission (SWISH!) fits into the meta-mission (did I just coin a word?), then one is usually not told all the details. It’s easier to keep secrets that way.

    Basically, I am going to defend the rationality of your “I support the troops but not the war” position. If the commander-in-chief unwisely sends troops to a certain location, but someone shoots at the troops while they are there, I can still root for the guy getting shot at even though I think he shouldn’t be there in the first place.

  5. If you do not support the goal that the soldiers are working towards then how can you support them without merely supporting a fiction. Its like a botanist who has trained all his life to look at daisies and all the support he receives is focused on going to the zoo. He needs wellies and his mother gives him a sandals.

    We have to at least accept the war and engage with its broadest goals. If we can not do that, if say the actual goal of the war was genocide then we must oppose both the war and the soldiers as many of our brothers and sisters did in Nazi Germany and are still doing today in horrible regimes around the world.

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