Empire Notes has some good reflections on "supporting the troops":
. . . perhaps it is time for the left to put to rest the nonsensical slogan, “Support the troops, bring them home.” It is true, as crafters of this slogan have been at pains to point out, that the other side makes precious little sense either. Supporting the troops by not anticipating the dangers, waiting years to adapt Pentagon procurement practices so that they’re equipped as well as possible, and having psychologists deny them rights to combat-related disability benefits because of claims that their PTSD actually results from when their parents didn’t take them to the circus is not exactly in accord with the vernacular definition of “support.” I wouldn’t deny this. But I think their version still makes more sense than the antiwar movement’s version.“Support the troops, bring them home” sounds a lot to me like “Support the policemen, make sure they don’t have to fight crime” or “Support the ballerinas, keep them from performing dangerous dance steps that could lead to serious joint injuries.” If your daughter was a doctor fighting, say, a malaria epidemic, would you be “supporting” her by trying to get her called away?
Of course, it is true that, unlike said doctor, many of the soldiers want to leave. Do you mean “support the soldiers’ wishes?” Do you really think decisions about war and peace should be made by polling the military? I imagine not.
For whatever reason people join the U.S. military, the truth is that it exists to fight wars abroad. If we fought lots of noble wars abroad from disinterested humanitarian motives and nobody was killed (except, of course, for “bad guys”), and the countries we bombed were transformed into Sugar Candy Mountain, then perhaps that would be a noble goal. As it is, the last war we fought in which our participation was unequivocally a good thing (with lots of horrors embedded within it, of course) was World War II and at the start of that war we barely had a standing military. The purpose of the war machine created since then is not to defend what George Bush likes to call the “homeland.” Before 9/11, about 8% at most of the military budget was spent on anything potentially related to “defense.” The Army’s Northern Command was created only in 2002. A telling anecdote of Richard Clarke’s: in 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed, a Naval attaché assisting him was unsure whether domestic attacks were part of the purview of the National Security Council.The muddled thinking embodied in this slogan is like that at the New York Times, where the editorial staff not long ago managed to say that, although Bush’s occupation of Iraq was clearly a terrible idea, we need a larger army. What do we need that army for if occupations are a bad idea? They couldn’t say.
The war in Iraq is not about to end soon, but it’s already time to look forward and consider the lessons we learn from it, as a nation. The story of the war has been told by a group of liberals for whom this is the one aberration from America’s exceptionalism: the one time we struck first, the one time we used torture, etc. When we use their language in order to be accepted, we forfeit our ability to tell a different story. The price of our intellectual liberty is eternal vigilance.