In the run-up to this upcoming Fourth of July, we are constantly being assailed with sickening pro-military propaganda of all kinds and flavors, which has gotten me thinking…
From what I have gathered of the Vietnam War era in the US, it was a period punctuated by a deep undercurrent of real loathing by US citizens for their own military. Soldiers were loudly derided as baby-killers, spat upon in the streets, forced to hide their military uniforms when visiting relatives stateside, that type of thing. Thus, the very individuals that were carrying out an extremely unpopular war of aggression were the ones to feel the public’s ire as a result. To me, that seems inherently fair and quite reasonable. Moreover, I have heard it plausibly argued that such public displays of hate influenced political discourse and decreased military morale, thus directly contributing to ending the barbaric war.
Contrast this with the present day. The same military is involved in the same kind of wars, slaughtering people halfway around the world for entirely murky and dubious reasons. And yet, all the hate seems to have disappeared… No more condemnation, no more spitting, and the soldiers proudly march up and down my block in their uniforms like flocks of strutting peacocks. Apart from a small handful of religious nutjobs in Kansas, no one seems to be giving the military the hate that it so richly deserve anymore.
Indeed, the pendulum seems to have swung completely the other way now. Even people that strongly oppose the current wars of aggression will fall all over themselves to assure everyone that yes, they love and support the troops, thank you for your service, come home safe, and so on and so forth, ad nauseum. All real debate has been derailed with these constant barrages of fanatical shows of support; instead of real discourse, we have an endless string of syrupy media stories about military families, flag-laying ceremonies at cemeteries, countless programs aimed at soldier re-integration, and so on. Unsurprisingly, the wars continue with no end in sight.
Now, I expect that many people would counter that we live in a more humane time, and that it would be unfair to criticize foot-soldiers that have no input in where they’re sent and what they’re ordered to do. Nonsense, I say. Do you really spend sleepless nights feeling sorry for the German soldiers that got killed by the Allies while fighting for the Third Reich? Do you really reject the Nuremberg principle that those that consciously follow illegal orders themselves become criminals? At some point, we must expect our soldiers to bear the responsibility for their own actions.
Anyway, what do you think? Isn’t it plausible that we could hasten the end of current wars by demonizing and deriding the people prosecuting them? And if the answer to the above is “yes,” aren’t we duty-bound to do so? Do you yourself hate the troops? If you hate the wars but love the soldiers, how do you reconcile these contradictory positions?