The American soldier has at turns been revered, embraced, reviled.
And now, decades after the acknowledged shame of his mishandling upon returning from that other relic of a war in the 1960s, the American soldier is securely clasped in the moist, heaving bosom of its once unappreciative motherland. It's being petted and stroked in public.
But it's caged and kicked in private.
The fact that the 50,000+ lost lives are mocked by the presence of our former foe's products arranged in militaristic rows on Wal-mart's shelves is but a nuisance to ponder. But really, what is behind our recent unceasingly vocal and seemingly bottomless indebtedness for the American soldier's service? The ubiquitous "Support Our Troops" ribbon-magnets clinging to the rear bumpers of our Hummers indicates the full saturation of the sentiment as well as its graduation to one of the essential phrases in every politician's election handbook. But is it genuine thanks from a grateful nation or a classic assuaging maneuver from people who still need someone to do the dirty work and who know that mere flattery will be enough to entice the young and unflinchingly loyal to do something seemingly honorable in a seemingly dishonorable society, where even undereducated and inexperienced youth can detect the lean toward profit instead of probity, yet are prevented from the full impact of that epiphany by being convinced to serve in what they are told is a noble endeavor?
Soldiers follow orders and their ultimate fealty to the cause along with their inherent valor are the reasons battles are won. They are rarely to blame for the overarching errors that result in short- or long-term defeat. That responsibility lies with their commanders--the Deciders. The ultimate responsibility of the soldier is to carry out their superior's decisions, and for this they are rightly praised as an indispensable element in the waging of a war. But the praise is suspect when the source is itself following orders issued by a consortium that has proven to be conniving, desperate and cruelly craven. If that group was truly interested in the welfare of its naÃƒÂ®ve warriors, then it wouldn't continue its shrill call to serve at the current administration's pleasure.
The military has devolved since Vietnam and certainly since the halcyon days of World War Two, its overall standards dropped in order to maintain the numbers to sustain a standing army. And one of the reasons for the diminished rolls might be that the actual causes worth fighting for as outlined by our current leadership and all who subscribe to its ideology are themselves diminished. War, it seems, is less just and less necessary than ever and the presumption from on high is that the only way to wage the business is to tap the saps on the epaulet and tell them we'd better fight 'em there before we have to fight 'em here. That there are fewer men and women willing to lay down their lives to serve in the military means they are becoming aware that those warring governments think no more of sending young men and women to their deaths than they do about getting kinged in a game checkers. But the quasi-patriotism decrying the hollow expressions of support for the troops must at last penetrate the soldier's patriotic reflex, the flood of unctuous patronizing must eat away at their boot leather, so caustic its composition. There is so much bad acting from smarmy politicians it's a wonder there hasn't been a mass fragging. Eventually, even the most obedient warrior will turn on its patron with frightening ferocity if they suspect their most precious commodity--their love of and loyalty to their country--has been been messed with for less than noble reasons.
And what will happen if we "lose," if we leave Baghdad under the same veil of ignominy with which we fled Saigon? If we continue the momentum implied by the current model of leadership The Enemy will indeed overrun us and we will be resigned to living in a world in which Americans are curs at the boots of the triumphant, pitiless, godless Islamo-Terrorists...
Or will the eventual result of ending our presence in that country resemble more of what occurred when an arguably more terrifying threat--militant Soviet and Chinese Communism---"won" in Vietnam: trade emboldened, diplomatic relations restored, new frontiers open in which American capitalism is not so much dominant but competitive in an ever expanding international marketplace, all of course after a period introspection and hopefully, meaningful self-analysis?
America's receiving a bloody nose at the hands of forces from without its general perception of reality might result in building the much need character it once had and lost.
So support the troops. Give them everything they need. But don't force them to fight an immoral fight. That's like swearing allegience to a gun without caring where its aimed. And the sickest irony is that Bush, Inc. actually prefers to drink deeply from the Blackwaters rather than trust the real work to pimply kids barely out of high school. Keeping its enlisted army is mere neo-con-artist sleight of hand. Why inspire true loyalty when you can purchase it? Best known for having played a string of affable, horny fools and affable, quirky sociopaths, in a logical next step Steven Weber now plays the chairman of a television network on NBC's Studio 60, finally attaining the credentials to become a spewer of hyperbolic, liberal-leaning outrage, which first burst forth some 6 years ago.
© 2007 The Huffington Post