Support Our Troops

It is a ridiculous position to be in, but I find very often that I have to defend a statement that seems self-evident: war is bad. It is obviously bad for the people who die and for the people who are wounded physically and psychologically. But it is also bad for the people who pay for it with their taxes and for the economies that suffer because capital that could be invested in products that improve quality of life is instead invested in devices that blow things up.

As Leo Tolstoy wrote, “in all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.” The heads of government (and their cronies) are the sole beneficiaries of war.

As a response to my beliefs on this subject, one night I was accused of not “supporting our troops.” I had been drinking heavily and decided that my antagonist was correct; I have not done enough to support the troops. It is easy to forget that although it is politicians, the companies that pay for their campaigns, and career military men who are the cause and driving force of war, it is honest young men and women who suffer and die.

Then and there, I made a commitment to do something to support the troops: I wrote to my congressmen and senators, insisting that they introduce or support legislation that would bring home our troops stationed abroad. Of course, I have little faith in the efficacy of writing letters to politicians, but it was the best way I could think of to support the troops. If we really care about these young men and women (which I do), then the loving and compassionate thing to do is to bring them home, take the guns out of their hands, and pour them a nice, cold beer.

Beer of the Week: Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale – It surprised me when I learned that Ireland remained neutral during the Second World War. They certainly had their priorities straight by choosing beers over bombs. Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale is an Irish nitrogen widget beer.  As I stated in the review of Guinness Draught, I am not sure that I understand how it works. Notwithstanding, the results are the same in this beer. The head is creamy, lasts forever and pours with some very attractive cascading. The aroma is of sweet roasted malts and the flavor is no different. The ruby brown beer is sweet and smooth and quite enjoyable.

Reading of the week: On Patriotism by Leo Tolstoy – “Patriotism,” writes Tolstoy, “[is] the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience… Patriotism is slavery.” For Tolstoy, patriotism is not a love of one’s land and people, but a “slavish enthralment to those in power.”

Question of the week: Is there a valid and meaningful distinction between “patriotism” and “nationalism”?

6 Comments on “Support Our Troops”

  1. Cole Simmons says:

    Your lust for the leisurely enjoyment of innocuous pleasures has caused me, once again, to raise the standard of reason in defense of man’s natural condition.

    Beer is made. It does not grow and therefore can only be obtained through labor. In fact, all people know the lesson of Genesis 3: “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” This condition of scarcity and death is the ground for all bellicose orientations, and inescapable.

    Nobody thinks war is good for its own sake, but a thing done for a certain end – a necessary labor of love for one’s kith and kin. It is done for a certain end because at times people think it is better to fight in a war than to submit their necks to the caprice of an invader. Invasion – a war of existential meaning for a people – is never an impossibility. It is either in the present or on the horizon. Indeed, experience would lead us to believe that not only invasion, but defeat, is an inevitability. Was this not the plight of the Trojans? The Czars? Bismark’s “Thousand Year” Reich? … Rome? … The entire world governed by a god.

    “If defeat is the end, why try?” If death is the end, why live?

    “But we are so strong! We needn’t worry.” This is an argument that lacks principle, and relies on circumstances that its acceptance undermines. It leads to the loss of the strength it depends on for its own vitality.

    In closing, you do not support a man’s labor by saying he should quit it, and you do not support the man by demeaning his labors. I say: Support the Troops.

  2. Cole Simmons says:

    Your position excludes the possibility of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” What about a tribe of Indians? Was their Chieftain necessarily bellicose out of a private desire for gain? The obvious fact that there are wars that are dishonestly waged does not mean that some wars can be waged honestly.

    Clearly not all governments are good governments, but this does not rule out the possibility of good governments. And even bad governments sometimes fight wars for their people’s very existence.

    • Longer form response:
      1. Quoting Lincoln to make a point about self-determination? I am highly skeptical. That speech may be the most well known and most disingenuous piece of American propaganda of all time. I should use that as a reading.

      2. If I understand you correctly, our disagreement may simply be that you have taken a side and I have taken an unbiased stance. I agree that it may be right, unnecessary and even noble to participate in a purely defensive war in which one is absolutely sure that their government is in the right. However, that assumes that the other side is in the wrong. Which is what I mean when I say that all wars are the result of governments acting improperly (in this exceptional case, one government acting improperly.) If both governments were right, there wouldn’t be a war in the first place.

      3. I know very little about the American Indians. The only military action that I know they took part in was the French and Indian War (which started because of the corrupt French government and the corrupt British government couldn’t agree on who could exploit the Indians the best) and Little Bighorn (which may be the exceptional case I was looking for in “2” since the American government was almost certainly in the wrong.)

  3. Cole Simmons says:

    # 1) Debater’s point. Remove Lincoln quote insert words expressing the same idea.

    #2) “If both governments were right, there wouldn’t be a war in the first place.” Do you think it simply is not the case that *vital* interests of two nations cannot conflict?

    #3) I was more thinking of the conflicts they would’ve fought between themselves, to illustrate my point that wars of necessity are not selfish wars.

    If you accept point number 2, and the correctness of defensive wars, then perhaps this phrase would become inappropriate in your eyes: “War is not waged by people for love, but by governments for profit.” Instead the phrase “Corrupt governments execute war for the purposes of enriching the ruling class” might become preferable. The latter phrase is sensible, while the former sounds too pacifistic.

    And the phrase, “war is bad” might be replaced with “war is qualifiedly bad.”

    And to soldiers, the message would not be, “your job is the execution of a bad thing, namely war” but perhaps, “in this instance your job is bad for these specific reasons. But in general, I respect that all nations need troops and that troops are generally comprised of brave men whose lives should only be put in danger for noble purposes.”

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