Support Our Troops — But How?

A1C Courtney Wagner, getting the job done as the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster in 2017. When America thinks of “our” troops, someone like A1C Wagner may come to mind (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Divine Cox)

W.J. Astore

Today I saw a “support our troops” magnetic ribbon on a pickup truck.  I used to see more of them, especially in the Bush/Cheney years of the Afghan and Iraq Wars.  I don’t oppose the sentiment, though the “support” it encourages is undefined.  I’ve always thought the best way to “support” our troops is to keep them out of unnecessary and disastrous wars.  Even to bring them home, not only from these wars but from imperial outposts around the globe.  But, again, “support” on these ribbons is unspecified, though the Pentagon seems to equate it with huge budgets that approach a trillion dollars every year.

Americans continue to profess confidence in “their” military, with 69% of us saying so in July 2021, whereas only 12% of us have much confidence in Congress.  Can it be said we hold Congress in contempt?  Americans know, I think, that Congress is bought and paid for, that it answers to the rich and the strong while dismissing the poor and the weak.  If you’re looking for affordable health care, for higher pay, for fair treatment, best not look to Congress.

Indeed, if you want a $15 minimum wage, free government health care, and a government-funded college education, your only option is to enlist in the U.S. military.  These “socialist” programs are a big part of the military, including government-provided housing as well.  Yet we don’t think of them as socialistic when the person getting these benefits is wearing a military uniform.

It’s truly remarkable that despite disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere, Americans continue to “support” and have great confidence in “our troops.”  There are many reasons for this.  I think most Americans recognize now that the wars our troops are sent to are losing concerns from the get-go.  You really can’t blame the troops for failing to win unwinnable wars.  You can, and should, blame the leaders for lying us into these wars and then lying again and again about (false) progress in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  But the troops who bleed on the frontlines?  No – we sense it’s not their fault.

I think many Americans also support our troops out of guilt and ignorance.  Most Americans are isolated from the military and therefore have little understanding of its ways and even less understanding of its wars.  Less than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military, plus there’s no draft, so young Americans can safely ignore, so they think, the discomforts and potential perils of a few years spent within the ranks.  After a flurry of attention paid to a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, the mainstream media is back to saluting the troops while warning of potential conflicts elsewhere, perhaps with China over Taiwan.

The disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq, among others, are already being sent down the Memory Hole to oblivion.  After all, there’s always another war looming, so we’re told, which serves to convince most Americans that a strong “defense” is needed.  So why not support our troops.  We’re going to need them to fight the next war, right?

This is precisely how we fail to support our troops.  We don’t ask enough tough questions – and we don’t demand enough honest answers – about why the next war is necessary.  How it serves national defense and the ideals of the U.S. Constitution.  We are always pressured to salute smartly, even if we’ve never served in the military.  And that way lies militaristic madness.

So, if I had to define how best to support our troops, I’d answer with another bumper sticker motto: Question Authority.  Especially when it’s wrapped in the flag and camouflaged by a military uniform.

It’s folly in the extreme that Americans routinely acquiesce to Pentagon “defense” budgets – let’s face it, these are war budgets — that consume more than half of federal discretionary spending each year, even as the Pentagon loses wars and fails audits. Nevertheless, our very unpopular Congress continues to throw money at the generals and admirals and war contractors, and indeed these groups are often interchangeable, as many senior officers join corporate “defense” boards after retiring from the military.

It’s not Private Jones (or A1C Wagner, pictured above) who’s cashing in here.  It’s America’s military-industrial-congressional complex, which is guided and motivated by one word: more. More money, more power, and, often enough, more wars.

If we keep “supporting” our troops while funneling vast and unaccountable funds to the Pentagon and the weapons makers, America will get more weapons and more wars.  It’s that simple.  And more weapons and more wars will combine to destroy what little is left of our democracy, no matter how many “support our troops” ribbons we stick to our pickup trucks.

Do you really want to support our troops?  Besides questioning authority, one might best begin by reducing their numbers.  America’s military should be no larger than what it needs to be to provide for a robust national defense.  Then we need to remember that a state of permanent war represents a death blow to democracy, no matter how much we profess confidence in our troops.  Since Congress is already deeply unpopular, it should have the guts to cut and limit military and war spending to no more than 25% of federal discretionary spending.

Cutting funds to the military-industrial complex will help bring it to heel – and force more than few spoiled and hidebound generals and admirals to bring our troops home rather than wasting them in faraway countries fighting unwinnable conflicts.

What say you, America?  Ready to support our troops?

33 thoughts on “Support Our Troops — But How?

  1. You have cracked the code of troop support, Sir! Exactly my thinking and feeling as a Canadian retired officer. Yes, reducing troops to meet the requirements of “national defence” would be the way to go, but national defence better not be defined as whatever corporations deem necessary to control their resources and markets, or what politicians and military leaders would like to have to ensure US global dominance. Temper your foreign policy, stop creating enemies and you will have fewer of them, and will need smaller defence budgets. Perhaps then you will have money for education and health care, and to offer your youth a career besides the military.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, National defense does not require “full spectrum dominance.” It’s not about offensive power projected around the globe. It really should be about defense — defending America and upholding the Constitution. Anything else is not “defense” but imperialism most often aligned with or driven by corporate agendas.

      So much can be camouflaged under the term “national security.” Too much!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes….the Pentagon must be either denotation-challenged to define “defense” as attacking other sovereign nations on ginned-up pretexts; OR, it must have completely converted to Orwellian doublespeak.

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      2. We have 800 bases overseas. None of which are concerned with defense. The great majority of our $778 Billion “defense” budget should be categorized as our Imperialism Budget.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Encourage, but not demand national guard service [state level] and let active-duty go home, except (perhaps) the SOF operators that could act as a QRF, if needed. National defense would be achieved, without creating an international [SEE: corporate] hazard. If there is a need for a large-scale deployment, which is becoming increasingly unlikely, the ability to send Jo(e)s into the grinder would be decentralized rather than concentrated.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As long as there is Profit in War,
    The World will never know Peace Peace!

    Unless more than the small minority of Believers come alive to this, BEFORE the End of the World,
    Blessed are the Peacemakers: for they shall be called the Children of God.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I cringe every time I see one of those bumper stickers that say something about our troops. I feel ashamed of our military for all the injustices it has done in the last 60 years. I am not anti-military or anti-veteran. I know that in this violent world, a military is necessary for self defense, and that means existential defense. I respect the courage of the individual soldier who follows orders which unfortunately are given by incompetent officers who are taking orders from incompetent and corrupt politicians, who are taking orders from the corporate interests.

    Two time medal of honor recipient General Smedley Butler sums up his time as a U.S. Marine:
    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
    ― Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Breathtakingly ironic that Butler, having aided big business to such a vast extent, would also be the most-decorated soldier. I don’t know anything about Butler’s actions in battle, but my cynical side says the medals are directly proportional to his accomplishments for corporate America. I’d be happy to be corrected about that.

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      1. He was known as one of those officers who insisted on being at the front with his men.
        He also arguably saved American democracy (such as it is) from one of the previous fascist coup attempts (see McCormick-Dickstein committee hearings).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Its ironical that to mention “socialism” to most Americans drives them crazy and sets their hair on fire. But mention to them that the US military is the largest socialized Institution in the World they do not bat an eyelid. Same with “welfare”. A dirty word in America. But sadly a huge percentage of military jobs are just welfare for poor kids who could not get a job in an economy ravaged by obscene military spending.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. I like this comment by a poster on anti-war dot com:
        Socialism prevents “accountability”. The DOD/MIC/Washington DC/Bureaucracy is largely immune to accountability. Accountability requires a negative market signal, negative feedback that translates into less profit which translates into less ability to acquire the factors of production, etc … Socialism doesn’t and can’t provide “accountability” and usually the exact opposite occurs – more money is spent, more promotions are made, more misallocation of labor, resources and capital occurs and so on …

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Troops are nothing more than a tool. To say support our troops is the equivalent of saying support this hammer, support this chainsaw, support this pair of pliers. Troops have no more ability to determine what they will be used for than does any other tool. A pair of pliers can be used to extract a nail, or a fingernail. Troops can rescue earthquake victims or they can destroy on command.

    But troops are people with family and friends so a call to support them is an attempt to distract attention from what they are being used to do in favor of a warm feeling for “our boys (and now girls) in danger”

    Our emotion blinds us to this direct equivalence in function of a human tool vs something that hangs on a pegboard in the garage and that is exactly why the phrase is employed. The military reduces a free human being to a tool, something that only direct danger to the survival of a county should make necessary.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. But they can be expensive and unpredictable “tools” — maybe that’s why they’re now arming robot dogs.

      Gives new meaning to Shakespeare: Cry havoc! and let slip the (robot) dogs of war.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Well I support the troops – I pay their salaries…tho the funding mechanism also assigns my money to the sorts of entities that promote military actions for politics, practice and profit…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. @Wiliam Scott
    I found your quote from Smedley Butler interesting in that I was just rereading Lies My Teacher Told Me. There is a section on Woodrow Wilson, describing his virulent white supremacism and imperialism. Wilson ordered many of those military operations without Congressional approval. So the rampant militarism we see today has a long history.

    On another note if we want to support our troops we’d better reign in all the talk about large scale combat operations. Angry Staff Officer has a good post on the topic
    https://angrystaffofficer.com/2021/10/15/so-about-that-next-wave-planning-for-the-next-war/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope the Pentagon doesn’t take Angry Staff Officer’s advice. The less prepared the military is, the less likely a conflict will start, Rummy’s comment about “going to war with the army you have,” notwithstanding.

      But it’s my understanding that a large-scale land war would simply never happen again. Or have I not gotten that right?

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      1. WE saw with the 1st Gulf War in 1991, how long it took to marshal all the Military forces of the coalition of the willing into place in SAWdi Arabia.
        In this Nuclear Missile Age, if tensions get to the point of War with China and/or Russia, it will be over before troops, tanks and artillery get into place.

        When the Spirit moved me to protest “economic, military and political pollution” in 1978, The Ottawa Citizen published this,

        At the Time, I had no foreknowledge of the 1991 Gulf war, but it was interesting for me to note it happened 13 years later from publication of the picture, and the the buildup to that War and the great concern, was the need for gas masks.

        There is no doubt it was a prime example of “economic, military and political pollution.”
        In retrospect, I should have included “religious pollution” since there’s too much of that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Denise, for acknowledging this incident in my CV. It’s seems so long ago, but was just made current with news of the Death of General Powell Today.

          Watching from CanaDa, I see the positives in the MSM portraying him as almost a Saint, having genuine Humility, Kindness, Gentleness, Patience, a Listener and Thinker, having the Common Touch without imposing himself.
          Those are exactly the characteristics Americans need to Practice Now, more than ever before, before Passing the Point of No Return as see as entirely possible with all the Leading Indicators.
          I wish I didn’t see it taking shape on the Horizon, but I do.

          The picture posted above comes my Blog article published 10 years ago, ‘GAS MASKS AND THE 1st GULF WAR.’
          With all the Eulogies for General Powell Today, I just learned he was The Senior Military Commander during the 1991 War and the Public General Schwarzkopf reported to him.

          I totally forgot the report from 13 years earlier, and didn’t see the similarities until many years after the 1991 War.

          I devoured the News Daily from many sources.
          I read a report in the NYT, how the Coalition of the Willing were on different wavelengths, and didn’t have their Communications Act together yet.
          It was a report about the British having a surveillance team on the ground in Iraq’s Al Başrah Oil Terminal The Americans didn’t know they were there, and was bombing Basrah at the same Time.
          Days after that, the US Military accused Saddam of being an Eco-terrorist, deliberately opening the oil tap to pollute the Persian Gulf.

          I read a 3×3 report US B-52 Bombers were carpet bombing Napalm at night right at the Iraq-Kuwait Border.
          My 1st thought was that’s insane dropping Napalm in an oil producing region.
          Sure enough, a few days later, the US accused Saddam of starting the fires.
          We know Saddam was demonized by the US saying his troops were tossing babies out of incubators n Kuwait, and only learned afterwards that was lying Propaganda to manipulate American War sentiments.
          Truth still is the 1st Casualty of WAR.

          I don’t doubt General Powell exhibited all those positive personality and character traits in person, but he was a War Criminal in prosecuting that 1991 War against Iraq.
          Especially since the US supported Saddam in starting the brutal 8 year War with Iran in 1980, to nip the 1979 Iranian Revolution in the bud.
          The 1979 Iranian Revolution put the Fear of God into all those British created, Royal Oil Sheikdoms.

          GAS MASKS AND THE 1st GULF WAR

          Liked by 1 person

  8. BTW Wilson also sent American troops to Russia to fight for the White Russians. I’m not sure that had Congressional approval either. Seems like he would have fit right into the current paradigm.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Mea Culpa.
        Just did a little more perusing of above website. Yes, I do appreciate the large list of available books on PDF.
        However I just gave a scan of some of the organizations/websites that are proudly supported.
        All I can say is wow, just wow. (and not in a good way)
        Once again I am reminded to think and read a bit before acting. (as in posting the equivalent of a thumbs up)

        Like

      2. That’s really great to hear! I will be updating the listings soon, I have literally a thousand pieces of content; books, essays and trade journals, I’d like to get up there…

        Like

    1. More likely, Special Ops forces, like the Navy Seals will be sent in to extricate the Hostages or get them killed trying to rescue them.

      Remember the 13 US Troops killed at Kabul Airport? Seems so long ago with the rapidly changing News cycle along with 75 Afghans?
      There were initial news reports with the explosion, it was American troops that fired in fearful reaction and killed more Afghans than thew bomb.

      That report had to be squashed after the US rush for revenge for the bombing, killed even more innocent people, including children, having nothing to do with the Airport bombing.

      Like

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