This opinion piece in the Washington Post really caught my attention. The writer asserts that soldiers currently serving in Iraq have high morale, but that their optimism and commitment to success are rarely reported by the media. For example, writing about Congressman John Murtha:
In view of his distinguished military career, John Murtha has been the subject of much attention from the media and is a sought-after spokesman for opponents of the Iraq war. He has earned the right to speak. But his comments supposedly expressing the negative views of those who have and are now serving in the Middle East run counter to what I and others know and hear from our own colleagues — from junior officers to the enlisted backbone of our fighting force.
On the surface this is a convincing point: who knows better what is going on in Iraq than the soldiers who are there? This is really the wrong question. The author claims that he and others know things from their own colleagues, while Murtha’s point comes from people he has spoken with. It is impossible to know which person, if either, has spoken with more soldiers, or knows better how things are going.
The next paragraph contains a statement that makes it clear why it may not be a good idea to rely heavily on soldier’s opinions in a decision like this:
Murtha undoubtedly knows full well that the greatest single thing that drags on morale in war is the loss of a buddy. But second to that is politicians questioning, in amplified tones, the validity of that loss to our families, colleagues, the nation and the world.
The claim here is that politicians drag on morale when they question the validity of the loss of a buddy. What in the world is the “validity” of a loss? It seems clear that this is a strain of the standard right wing talking point, that questioning the wisdom of any military action is basically treason, because it demoralizes the troops, because it implies that what they are doing is wrong, and that this demoralization helps the enemy. Unfortunately for the simpletons who use this argument, it is true that sometimes, some military actions really are a bad idea.
The writer of this article clearly feels that the War in Iraq is going great, and he is entitled to that opinion. Elected officials must use a more demanding system when deciding what is a good use of our military forces. If they see young Americans dying for a cause that is unworthy of their sacrifice, then they ought to say so. Of course soldiers on the ground believe they are doing a good thing–who would ever tell themselves what they are doing is bad? It is the abuse of these soldiers’ bravery, by decision makers who, in his opinion, do not respect their courage enough, that Murtha seeks to end.