Friday, March 04, 2011

Gabriel Ladeen on cheering for the home team and not worrying about a citizen's responsibilities on war

I don't know if we're starting to see the AOL-ization of the Huffington Post, or if this article is an example. Regardless, it's a straightforward statement of the idea that it is the duty of American citizens to cheer for any war in progress as though it were a high school football game: Gabriel Ledeen, Who Supports the U.S. Soldier? 03/04/2011. It's not Ledeen's first stab at this pitch. He has been doing it for years, as in the conservative National Review Online in 2006 and 2003. If the Absolute Astronomy and Wikipedia entries on neocon and Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen are correct, Gabriel is his son.

High school civics class is a better reference point. A soldier signs up to be a soldier, which includes carrying out any legal mission to which they are assigned. They operate under regulations limiting their freedom of dissent while operating in their official roles. Soldiers who are citizens of the US - most American soldiers but not all of them are - are also voters who make decisions about leadership and policy in their role as voters. Soldiers also have freedom of speech and opinion in their private lives.

A factory worker doesn't have to like the model of car he's building, his job as a factory worker is to build it. He can be enthusiastic and conscientious about his work without having a high opinion of the end product. If employees of a corporation had to be personally convinced of the wisdom of the policies they are required to implement as part of their jobs, no corporation could function.

Ledeen's article is one of those that either strikes an accord and you agree with it - or you actually think about what it says, in which case it probably doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially if we start off recognizing that pretty much anyone over the age of 15 or so can recognize that soldiers in the heat of battle typically don't concentrate on debating the finer points of international diplomacy at that moment. Here's his pitch:

Once our volunteer soldier deploys, his sole purpose is to achieve the objectives he is ordered to secure by our elected leaders. In fact, every soldier swears an oath that defines their duty, to "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me." The soldier, more than anyone else, wants these orders to be well-considered, valid, popular objectives that are worthy of his sacrifices.

Once he receives these orders, he wants to accomplish these objectives as quickly and as decisively as possible. Every delay exposes him to further danger and risks the mission. Once he is so engaged, "supporting" him necessarily means sharing this desire for victory, defined as successfully fulfilling the mission. [my emphasis]
Here in the real world, neither Democrats nor Republicans operate on such a premise. Nor can they, unless they just turn over their responsibilities as office-holders and citizens to some general who gets to define a military mission any way he wants to. That is not how the American form of government is set up, however. And the overall mission of every US soldier is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

When the "Black Hawk Down" incident happened in Somalia in 1993, Republicans demanded that President Clinton pull all American troops out of Somalia immediately. Democrats and Republicans have criticized in various ways the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effects and advisability of the drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen have been widely discussed, if inadequately reported by our national media.

Were Republicans wrong to criticize the Somalia mission in 1993? Should they have just cheered for "victory"? Even if they couldn't define what constituted "victory"? General Petraeus when bragging about the alleged brilliant success of The Surge in Iraq stated that the military situation had been on the verge of disaster in 2006. Were the Democrats who pointed that out - in the face of Republican lies about the brilliant successes in Iraq in 2006 and Republican accusation that they were being unpatriotic in questioning the unending successes of our glorious generals - also undermining "victory"? How in a democracy is it okay for our Savior-General Petraeus to say that something needs to be done differently and not be impeding "victory" but it's not okay for members of Congress who have the Constitutional power and responsibility for declaring war not to do so?

Ledeen continues:

Undermining public support for the effort, delegitimizing the mission, and declaring victory unattainable make it tougher for the soldier to decisively achieve his objectives by emboldening the enemy, damaging morale, and undermining political leadership. Therefore, from this perspective, there is a logical and inherent contradiction in claiming to "support" the soldier while taking actions that undercut his efforts.
Well, dude, what if victory is unattainable? Or, to use the calculation that every nation that's ever gone to war has had to make, is "victory" attainable at an acceptable cost? And if it's not, is it responsible in the least for conscientious citizens and voters to just shut the hell up and cheer for disaster?

I've given Ledeen's cheer-for-the-generals-no-matter-what pitch more attention than the actual arguments he makes are worth. All you have to do to see how frivolous his argument actually is, is to look for where in his article he gives even a vague definition of what "victory" actually is in what he calls "the protracted, unstructured war [sic] in which we are engaged, where public and political support are critical elements of success."

In fact, what war is he even talking about? Afghanistan? Iraq? The secret missions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else?

Like I said, if it fits you agenda of the moment, Ledeen's article may resonate to you. Otherwise, it's just more Republican "culture war" hot air.

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