Whatever their views of President Bush’s new “surge” of 20,000 soldiers, both liberals and conservatives continue to claim that they support our troops. Liberals say they support our troops by criticizing or opposing “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” which they claim has unnecessarily killed 3,000 soldiers. Conservatives say they support our troops by supporting the mission that most of our troops believe in.
In fact, neither liberals nor conservatives truly support the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend America. For both, “support our troops” is a cheap, undeserved claim to patriotism–one that obscures their unwillingness to do what is truly necessary to protect America and its soldiers.
Granted, almost everyone wants to give our troops the resources they need to do their jobs: the best weapons, armor, provisions, and training available-as well as praise, gratitude, and encouragement. But for our government to truly support our troops, it must do far more than help them do their jobs; it must give them the right jobs to do–the jobs that will effectively defend America while minimizing the risk to their lives. Our government must place soldiers’ lives at risk only when American freedom is threatened, and during war it must give them the objectives and tactics that will defeat the enemy as quickly as possible.
The conservatives’ Iraq war does not meet this standard. It could have–if the war had been undertaken as a step in defeating the anti-American, terrorist-sponsoring regimes of the Middle East and thus rendering the region non-threatening. Instead, President Bush made the war’s primary focus the welfare of Iraqis–above all, their “freedom” to elect whatever regime they wished, no matter how anti-American. Further sacrificing Americans to Iraqis, Bush and his subordinates imposed crippling “rules of engagement” (also supported by liberals) that place the lives of civilians in enemy territory above our soldiers. Our hamstrung troops in Iraq have not been allowed to smash a militarily puny insurgency; instead, they have been forced to suffer an endless series of deaths by an undefeated enemy, while Islamic totalitarians worldwide rejoice in our defeat.
One does not support our troops by sending them to fight wars of self-sacrifice and then thanking their corpses. The conservatives’ call to “stay the course” in Iraq-or to add 20,000 troops to that course–is harmful to America and its troops because the mission has been conceived and conducted in defiance of American interests.
If the conservatives do not support our troops, then do the liberals? Absolutely not.
Observe that while liberals criticize the Iraq war for killing our troops, they propose no alternative policy that would protect America against Islamic totalitarianism and its state supporters, including the militant, terrorist theocracy of Iran. Liberals’ only policy proposal is that we not take military action in Iraq or in any other country beyond Afghanistan. Why? Because they believe that America has no right to defy the “international community” or “impose its will on the rest of the world”–i.e., to aggressively pursue its self-defense. They, like the conservatives, advocate self-sacrifice in foreign policy. Denying our right to an all-out military defense, liberals say we must engage committed enemies like Iran with endless “diplomacy,” i.e., bribery, appeasement, and inaction.
One does not support our troops by keeping them home when their and our freedom requires military action. Our soldiers did not join the military to sit on their hands while Iran prepares for nuclear jihad.
If liberals were truly concerned with our troops in Iraq and the freedom our soldiers should be fighting for, they would call for our soldiers to smash the insurgency and move on to defeat our other enemies. Instead, they call for a self-effacing retreat from Iraq, followed by further kowtowing to the anti-Americans at the United Nations–actions that would greatly embolden the Islamic totalitarians.
Liberals oppose the Iraq war and other wars, not because they truly value our soldiers, but because they–like the conservatives–oppose our soldiers mounting an uncompromising, self-assertive defense of America. But such a defense is required to defeat the threat of Islamic totalitarianism. We must adopt a foreign policy of self-interest and commit to defend ourselves using our full, unmatched military might. Neither the conservatives nor the liberals support this, and thus they end up sacrificing our troops and our freedom.
Do not let the conservatives or liberals pose as defenders of America or its military. Demand that they start truly protecting America and its soldiers–or be scorned as traitors to both.
Alex Epstein is a Junior Fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. He is also a contributing writer for The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of culture and politics.