Everybody says it, and I believe that everyone sincerely means it, but since every color on the political spectrum uses the phrase, even when foreign policy ideologies are diametrically opposed, I wonder what it really means.
It was originally branded during the Gulf War to emphasize conservative values that supported the military actions of the United States. It found more traction at the start of the Iraq War. Originally, it was more about the duty our troops were called to serve than about individualizing the troops themselves.
That position was blurred pretty dramatically when Barack Obama was President. Did it only mean any military action a Republican President takes? I ask that somewhat facetiously, but there were clearly conflicting standards.
There is, however, a meaning to the phrase that everyone can agree with. It can mean that we support the lives of men and women in uniform who represent the United States of America and we unconditionally admire their service and sacrifice. There is nothing party-specific about that. Sadly, however, even though the sentiment is sincere, it can become a mere platitude when held up to serious cross examination.
There was once a site on Facebook called “We Support Our Troops” and circulating from the page was a picture of an African-American soldier. The headline read: If Obama had a son, he wouldn’t look like this.
Clearly, the implication was that (then) President Obama would not have allowed his own child to be a soldier and in a twisted logic construed that conjecture as “supporting our troops.” I was frustrated because there is no depth of thinking in a post like that. Yet, that warped-view is a strong voice in the public discourse.
I wrote in the message box: This is quite possibly the stupidest post I’ve ever seen.
Floodgates opened with Obama-hating, liberal-despising, name calling (insert the noun-adjective of your choice), to let me have it. The nicest one said, “You’re a pacifist liberal!”…although I’m sure the intent was to insult, and not to praise me.
Actually, I call myself a “Realist-Pacifist.” While I promote peaceful solutions and wish for a world without war, I also believe that we must have a powerful military if we are to achieve that end. And let me be perfectly clear: I support our troops.
I support them by hammering in posts, emails and conversations with representatives or anyone who will listen, that American foreign policy needs to define its purpose and have an exit strategy before engagement so that more men and women can come home alive.
I support them by petitioning Congress to give our military the equipment and armor necessary to better protect their lives. (http://sftt.org/)
I support them by voting for legislators who believe that American military men and women should have better benefits upon returning home and receive superior health care. (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/29/veterans-need-jobs-better-health-care-leading-military-official-says/)
That means prioritizing the lives of the men and women on the battlefield above the margins of defense contractors who get rich off of military conflicts.(http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/08/13/680481/defense-contractors-profits-cuts/)
Here’s the sticker I would like to have: I Support Our Troops and That’s Why I Want to Bring Them Home Alive, as Soon as Possible, and to Receive the Care and Benefits They Deserve When They Get Here!
Supporting our troops is a vital responsibility in our democracy. Thinking about what that really means is essential, because our best support will come from what we agree upon.