Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iraq war veterans at home

This WaPo story is based on interviews with 100 of the some 500,000 veterans of the war in Iraq. (In other words, these are anecdotes, not data. Interestingly, however, if there’s an agenda driving the choice of interviewees and topics, it’s not the one you might expect. This isn’t "Iraq veterans oppose war.")

Two points stand out. First, there’s the gratitude and support coming from ordinary people--spontaneous applause in airports, for example (which I’ve seen as well). Second, there’s this, which reveals such agenda as there is:

But perhaps the worst is when [people] don’t say anything at all and just go on living their lives, oblivious to the war.

Which is exactly what Army Capt. Tyler McIntyre was trying to explain to some family members while eating at an Italian restaurant when he was home on leave a couple of years ago.

He looked across the restaurant and saw everyone stuffing their faces with pasta and drinking wine. "And everyone’s kind of just sitting there doing it," he said.

Which is really sort of extraordinary, he said. The country is at war. People are fighting at this very moment. Don’t these people know what’s going on? Don’t they care?

No, he decided. They have no appreciation for their easy, gluttonous lives and don’t deserve the freedom, prosperity and contentment he was fighting to protect.

He wanted to yell, "You don’t know what you have! You don’t appreciate it! You don’t care!"

But he didn’t. He kept his mouth shut. He was only home on leave. Soon, he would be going back to the war.

Republican (that is to say, non-bourgeois) virtue, anyone?

Discussions - 6 Comments

I’m not quite sure what the agenda is in that article excerpt that you pulled for your post. Considering how much the bloggers here are apparently wining and dining, it would seem odd for them to partake in sympathetic nods with a soldier ticked off at Americans’ business-as-usual indulgences.

While I would think the soldier should know better than to expect the chattering elite punditry from ever taking a long-term abstinence from their first-class consumables for anything less than a Red Dawn scenario, I am sort of puzzled as to that attitude from soldiers - that is, the one that asks "How can you sit there and eat and drink, while soldiers are putting their asses on the line?"

Whether it’s high-falutin’ Continental cuisine or distinctly non-"crunchy" burgers and fries, it’s not exactly as though abstinence will help the soldiers to avoid IEDs or some other grisly end in Iraq. And it’s not as if our Decider-in-Chief has implored, or even really encouraged, Americans to band together and cut back on anything since he first declared the Global Crusa...err War on Terror/Violent Extremism/Evil, Etc. First we were told to go shopping and go to DisneyWorld (!! amazingly enough), and only after our gas prices went (by pampered American standards) through the roof did he once give a limited, half-assed exhortation for Americans to limit their driving. On the one hand, our "leadership" isn’t encouraging Americans to treat this as a time of trial, that will require sacrifices from everyone (except that we better accept monitoring of our web activity and phone calls) but, on the other hand, it’s probably a good thing that we’re not being asked to make sacrifices, as I can’t see Keyboard Commandos being willing to give up much of anything for the duration of this war, which seems to have no end in sight (all those "corners" that we’ve "turned" notwithstanding). Then again, if the War on Terror is going to be similar in duration and success to the War on Drugs, why would anyone want to?

It is a lovely article and I will send it to all of my friends formerly and currently in service. It validates what they say. I think (more anecdote) that almost all of those returned home that I know are very grateful that is normal here. To be keeping the war over there is one of the things they wish to do.

Of course, it is also one of the things that makes the anti-war scream sound so loud. As if we can ignore terrorism and it will just go away.

Craig, do you want the war to be having an effect here? WHAT KIND OF EFFECT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Also, what would a really effective war on drugs or on terror look like? Very few in America have the stomach for either. Not even a blogging extremist like me.

Kate, you’re asking the wrong person. As I said, "I am sort of puzzled as to that attitude from [some] soldiers - that is, the one that asks ’How can you sit there and eat and drink, while soldiers are putting their asses on the line?’"

Mr. Knippenberg seems to admire this soldier who was, apparently, barely able to contain his self-righteous judgments and rage toward other patrons at a restaurant (Would the soldier find it appropriate for the restaurant to remain shuttered during the War on Terror, or only serve its pasta and wine to a steady stream of returning soldiers?). What’s ironic is that if similar sentiments were expressed by, say a liberal college student, at the same venue, they’d surely be labeled an elitist hater of America & Americans. Soldiers apparently get a pass when it comes to such swift judgments and sweeping generalizations, made easy by total ignorance of the particularities of the individuals’ lives.

This line of thought attributed to the soldier also struck me: "They have no appreciation for their easy, gluttonous lives and don’t deserve the freedom, prosperity and contentment he was fighting to protect." I certainly question that any fighting he’s doing in Iraq is responsible for my freedom, my...cough...prosperity (ok, in a relative sense), or my, well, no, I’m not "content" much lately. And I hardly have a "gluttonous" life, either.

As for what a successful "War on Drugs" might look like, given the tactics used and apparent goals, I suppose it would involve the unavailability of narcotics. But I’m guessing that few people in the U.S. currently live more than a McDonald’s drive away from pretty much anything they want or fear. For some Americans, I’d bet that illegal narcotics are more readily available, and even more affordable, than drugs that their own doctor may have prescribed to them. Given the resources funneled into the War on Drugs, and the current easy access to drugs, it seems that drugs are winning that war.

There are certainly more conservatives than liberals in the military, but there are plenty of the latter, as liberal as any college student, because often they were the same or aspire to be. Young people have varied circumstances and reasons for having joined the military, but one reason often given is the availability of funds for college after service and the advancement of education in many jobs in the services. Both of my sons have nearly the equivalent of an associate’s degree in their fields after completing their months of training. It took far less time than if they had attempted it in the private sector.

Also, they can be as blindly self-centered as anyone else, especially of that age, despite the perspective of "service."

And, yes, the drugs are winning their war. Given a free society, what else was possible? Which was my point. To be truly effective in either a war on drugs or a war on terror the US would have to transform itself in ways we do not want to do. No narcotics. No terrorists. Both desirable things, but at what cost? Yet, to do nothing? How do we live with that?

So Kate, what you seem to be saying is that we should continue to engage in a futile struggle against drugs because it’s better than nothing. But I’m not really sure why it’s better than nothing. If you’re admitting that we can’t win, then it’s an ultimately pointless effort. And since you say that because we live in a "free" society we cannot truly put an end to drug use, then wouldn’t you agree that it’d be better to just legalize drugs?

Maybe. I am reluctant to have the U.S. be saying that drug use is all right. If we make it legal, then it is ok. No one considers anything to be morally or ethically wrong anymore, without legislation against it. I think this is a pity, but it is so.

Which I grant, makes my position untenable, because I think current laws, or rather, enforcement of those laws, is failing, is in error, but would not rescind the laws. Or something. No, my position does not work in any practical way and I do not know what to do about it.

I would not have us encourage drug use, and legalisation would do that. A young friend who could not resist using drugs blew his brains out, fellatio on a pistol, just a couple of weeks ago. He was on LSD at the time. He is not the first of my friends to have done such a thing, or attempted it. If it had been easier, legal, to obtain drugs would he have been more or less likely to have done this? It’s a matter of concern to me.

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