"Defending Their Country"

No, I am not trolling. I just need to get this off my chest.

Firstly, I respect anyone that has joined up, either pre- or post- 9/11, to serve in the US Armed Forces. Their duty, whether they intended or not, is to serve under whichever Commander in Chief is elected, and wherever that CiC has sent them.

But what I hate is people saying that US soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Balkans, etc. are “defending their country”. Since when are these these places part of the US?

(I have more to say about the legally-hobbled attempt at hunting down Osama bin Laden and his power base, but I need to collect my thoughts more.)

It’s rather simplistic to limit the phrase “defending one’s country” to apply only to that country’s borders. Defending a country’s interests in other parts of the world is also a form of defense, and a time-honored activity for national militaries.

(Whether you agree or disagree with the justification for a particular extraterritorial engagement is another matter entirely.)

For better or worse, US foreign policy initiatives, up to and including war, is doing something that, at the time and by the people making the decisions, reflects US interests. From that perspective, the military is in fact defending the country in that the goals that they achieve prevents or causes something beneficial to the United States, in theory if not in practice.

Your argument presupposes that the only actual defense of the United States would involve protecting its possessions or the mainland itself from armed invasion, maybe even assisting US allies in defense of their lands and possessions. I’m not arguing that this isn’t what the armed forces should predominantly used for, but the United States has long been engaged in affairs abroad to protect their interests so that argument is somewhat facile. Presidential administrations of all types have used military force or the threat of it for the better part of 100 years, and I wouldn’t suspect that this will change any time soon.

If this bothers you this much, I would suggest that you choose who you vote for accordingly and lobby the current office holders to cease this policy. It probably won’t get you very far, but that’s the only real way to effect the kind of change you’re looking for.

Bear in mind that such an action, if successful, will undoubtedly have consequences, however. A toothless tiger is no longer feared. The United States’ ability to implement beneficial foreign policy initiatives will be severely curtailed. Not that such a situation is entirely a bad thing, mind you, but it will require changes in the way we conduct business, in the way we live, and the way we will be perceived across the globe, and those consequences may not be pretty.

Enemies of America might strike anywhere, so troops are defending the country wherever they are. And if the country was actually attacked directly, those troops would be sent over to directly defend America.

Our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan serve no defensive purpose whatsoever. The troops are protecting us from nothing. There isn’t any threat. Does anyone really think the Mooslims are going to take over America? Give me a break.

Seriously? I can see somebody arguing that our actions in Iraq are not defensive, but Afghanistan? Al Qaeda really was using that country as a base with the support of the Taliban regime that was running the country. So the invasion of Afghanistan was a defensive action by any reasonable standard.

I’m struggling to think of a single war of aggression that could not be justified as “defending their country” using this paragraph.

What troops aren’t serving the interest of their country? Even the most unjust, evil wars were fought by people who claim they were defending their country. If you include any sort of soldiering to be “defending your country”, then it becomes essentially meaningless.

This is true, thus the observation that history is written by the winners.

That doesn’t change the inherent truth of it.

I don’t dispute that the winners get to write the history, but a claim like yours, made by an individual as a matter of principle, should be able to demonstrate a certain amount of internal consistency.

If you believe, as you seem to, that “defending their country” can be defined so broadly as to encompass basically any form of national self-interest, do you agree that Japan’s invasion of Pearl Harbor (or of China, for that matter), or Germany’s invasion of Poland, constituted “defending their country”? Would you take issue with someone who used such words in describing those military actions? If someone started a thread on December 7 as a memorial to Pearl Harbor, would you care if someone else came in and said that the Japanese were just defending their country?

There is a difference between serving the interests of one’s country, even its legitimate and pressing interests, and defending it. Even if you think that, for instance, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was both justified and truly in America’s interest, to refer to it as “defending the U.S.A.” is a dishonest and misleading euphemism.

Frankly, even to refer to the D-Day landings (which were certainly very well justified) as an act of “defending the U.S.A.” would not be entirely straightforward.

The phrase is used for the same reason that The Department of War was changed to The Department of Defense. It sounds a whole lot better, regardless of how accurate or inaccurate it may be in any particular instance.

Exactly, it is a euphemism to disguise the nastiness of what is actually being done. (And waging war is very nasty even when it is thoroughly justified and entirely defensive, let alone when it is neither.)

And, it is useless and overly broad to equate defending “interests” as “national defense.”

Not that it is or is not a worthwhile use of the military, but I concur with the OP that “defending the country,” is an untrue and jingoistic description of what the US armed forces do in many situations.

There is no inherent truth in it. Self-interest is not the same as self-defense no matter how you slice it. By your standard, all robbery is self-defense.

Whether this is true or not, it’s not true because of these places not being in the US, which was the OP’s claim.

Obviously the people who made that observation never read Thucydides.

Would “Defending our country’s oil interests so we can continue our extremely high, wasteful standard of living” work for you better? :slight_smile:

Armed forces guys are largely macho-ish, alpha types. They need to feel heroic, it’s part of what makes them tick. So they frame their service in ways that reflect this.

“protecting their country”, um, no, in fact, not. Iraqi’s and Afgani’s present no threat to ‘their country’.

“protecting our freedom”, um, no, again. Our freedoms are not under threat.

Are they doing a difficult task?, yes indeed. Do I honour them for pursuing their countries objectives, possibly sacrificing their lives?, I definitely do.

They are protecting our country and freedoms like Sarah Palin is keeping an eye on the Russians for us.

These memes are a tad offensive to me as it appears that they are trying to paint themselves with the same brush as the generation that was, in fact, doing both of those things.

It makes them feel righteous, moral and proud, which is like crack to alpha types. But it also makes them look like lame posers, in reality.

I think most people recognize the difference between what their really doing, policing conflict arenas, and the high rhetoric they are so fond of, but choose not to speak up out of a sense of feeling if that’s what it takes to help you get through, I won’t challenge you on it.

But they’re not fooling anyone.

Although we probably agree on quite a few aspects of this issue, i have one quibble with your post, elbows.

While it’s true that there are soldiers who have portrayed the whole Iraq and Afghanistan enterprise as defending their country and defending our freedoms, it seems to me that this sort of rhetoric is, for the most part, even more likely to come from politicians and from regular American citizens and commentators who support these interventions.

Plenty of soldiers that i’ve seen interviewed have been content to talk about trying to maintain peace and order on the ground, and while some of them speak in abstract notions of freedom and self-defense, most seem more concerned with the specific tasks they need to accomplish. If there’s any excess of “defending their country” and “defending our freedoms” rhetoric, it tends to come from chickenhawks trying to make a political point here at home.