Why so Little Hate for the US Soldiers?

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?

I’m not all that fond of the wars, but I’ve got family and friends who are serving and have served over there. The soldiers are just doing their jobs. It’s not their fault that the government’s boneheaded and doesn’t know how to win the wars.

I have friends and acquaintences who have been over there.

If you hate the soldiers, you’re hating the wrong people. The individual soldiers did not vote en-mass to fly over to Iraq and spend a trillion dollars to fuck the place up.

There’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

Suffice it to say, that it was the pressure put on the President (Specifically the Cronkite broadcast) that triggered the troop withdrawals.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
-Joseph Campbell.

Campbell did not use that as an excuse to use to justify wars like Vietnam or Iraq, but it shows why one should protest against the leaders that decide to use troops for questionable reasons.

That also does not remove culpability of specific soldiers when they are involved in crimes, as the pictures at Abu-Grahib and the ones that came from other battalions in Afghanistan showed.

Not all soldiers are willing to do that and one has to realize then that hating all soldiers is a stupid thing to do.

I think your statement

is more due to media coverage than actual reality.

Keep in mind that most of the Vietnam soldiers’ parents were WWII era folks, many (most?) of whom had been in the service during WWII. Hardly the kinds of people who would have been calling their sons “baby killers”.

What you saw when that happened was a relatively small segment of the younger population who disagreed with the war and weren’t bright enough to separate the draftees from the generals and politicians ordering them around.

A LARGE part of the latter-day support and adulation for our soldiers since Desert Storm is a direct result of a perception that the Vietnam vets weren’t treated properly, and a desire to see that it’s done right from now on.

Although I opposed the War in Vietnam at the time, I knew and liked men who fought in it. Either they were drafted or they genuinely thought that they were fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese. Those I knew and liked turned against the War when they learned what was really happening. Several joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Ho Chi Minh was a popular Vietnamese national leader. President Eisenhower estimated that as many as 80 percent of the Vietnamese supported him.

The same cannot be said of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban. They were unpopular and evil. That does not mean that it was necessarily a good idea to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. It does mean that those who participated in the invasions do not deserve to be hated.

The great majority of Americans who fought in Vietnam did so honorably under very trying circumstances. The behavior of some anti war activists toward those Americans caused the anti war movement to be hated in the United States. This behavior contributed to the election of hawkish politicians who prolonged the War in Vietnam, most notably President Nixon, who was reelected by a landslide.

It kinda is, though.
After all, since the armed forces are now an all-volunteer group, they could quit at any time. They can refuse to go, and nobody can make them go if they don’t want to. There is no penalty whatsoever for breaching that contract, besides the loss of pay and benefits and whatnot. It’s not a good discharge, but it’s still a valid option.
By not making that choice, don’t they tacitly approve of what they’re ordered to do and where they’re ordered to go - and have an implicit part (and guilt) in enabling those bad decisions/policies ? The idea that soldiers have no choice but to follow orders isn’t quite true any more.

So the lack of criticism **Commissar **notes is actually stranger than the criticism that did happen during Viet-Nam, back when G.Is were drafted and really did not have a choice (well, I suppose they still did but the choice is harder to make when it involves doing jail time).

I have not heard this “plausibly argued”. Would you be so kind as to plausibly argue it for those like me?

Which illegal orders are the US soldiers following? And what was the lowest rank of anyone prosecuted at Nuremberg? The principle you are arguing isn’t applicable to the current situation.

The wars are controlled by the civilian leaders of the military. I don’t hate the soldiers since the US needs a military in order to survive.

Well, why so late for the soldiers who served in the oppressive Communist regimes that oppressed, exploited for narrow Russian interests Eastern Europe over the latter part of the 20th century. Because they were cogs in an oppressive machine.

Hate towards individual soldiers for any structural policy is primitive.

Hating on conscripted soldiers is misdirected. Asking someone to kill themselves, go to jail, or flee the country is a tall order. Hating current soldiers is more understandable since it’s voluntary, but for many of them they’ve been economically coerced into it and are part of the underclass.

Plus, the vast majority of people aren’t anti-war. They’re just anti-losing. Example:

Jerry Lembcke, in his 1998 book “The Spitting Image”, argues that this is a myth that’s been used to great effect by the Right Wing. It’s very similar to the Stabbed in The Back mythology the Nazi party created around World War I to blame their political opponents for losing the war. The idea is that we would have won the Vietnam War if it weren’t for those meddling protestors betraying us. :rolleyes:

For my part, I think its just part of a wider effort by certain sections of the media and happily supported by governments to promote and lionize the military in order to stop people from questioning their actions and the role they play. While here in the UK we’re not quite at the same levels of adulation and unquestioning support as in the US, we’re getting there. We now have members of the military playing an increasingly prominent role in public life, for example appearing as guests of honour at large sporting events whereas in the past it would the royalty or other ‘VIPs’. It is always squaddies (GI equivalent) who take part and not really top brass which is also deliberate in order to try and foster a ‘you can’t question the lads’ type of atmosphere. We now also have very public repatriation ceremonies which have seized on by the media with huge coverage ensuing. It’s really insidious and very worrying. As I said it’s just a way of preventing people from questioning the role of our military and the role the country plays in the wider world - if you’re questioning the military then you’re questioning the ‘boys’ and that is unacceptable. I hate the whole thing. I am fairly ambivalent about the soldiers themselves, part of me sympathises with a lot of them who see the army as a way of escaping pretty miserable lives and impoverished conditions and the fact is they don’t really know what they are getting into and know little about the wider forces that shape whether they will be deployed or not. On the other hand a lot of them have acted disgracefully in Iraq and Afghanistan and if you come home in a body bag, well you knew the cost when you bought the ticket.

That’s not the problem.

The problems are:

a) that fulsome praise is too often the ONLY thing politicians give to the troops. When it comes to veterans’ benefits, they don’t put their money where their mouth is.

b) too many politicians, especially Republicans, confuse “support the troops” with “any defense cuts are treasonous.” They prate about the debt crisis, but spend all their time trying to cut a million here and a million there from job training or health care or family planning services, while they could cut tens of billions from the Pentagon, and the US would still spend more on its armed forces than any other country, by far.

You remember incorrectly; these stories are almost entirely bullshit.

Would you like to recast your OP basing it on things that are actually true?

Why would anyone hate the glorious American soldier? They single-handedly saved the world from the most powerful and sadistic military force that it had ever known by winning the Cold War and stood laughing astride the corpse of the USSR.

But then he would have nothing to say. Or believe in, for that matter.

So we have multiple elements going on here with regards to the OP’s premises and questions.

As mentioned, the level of contemporaneous “hatred” for the Vietnam Era troops was exaggerated and magnified in the retelling so there may not be a real basis for the very first premise in the OP. Generally speaking nations do not hate their own soldiers (unless the soldiers have turned on their own population) however badly the war may be going.

As Blalron mentions, outside a relative handful of fringe a-holes the “spitting” was more of a figurative sort. The bigger assault on the dignity of the VietVets , IMO, was the*** post-war **stereotype that they were a whole bunch of PTSD-addled Agent Orange-damaged violence-prone drug-addict burnouts and failures… and that committing atrocities was common, if not an everyday routine. One does wonder if this was not reinforced by how establishment authorities failed the VietVets in the areas of follow-up attention and services, apparently wishing they’d just quietly and inexpensively fade away like old-school soldiers(), rather than call attention to things that did go wrong.
(*Common comments when a WW2 soldier passes: “He never talked or made a big deal about it” ; “We found a DSC in his kit box, he never mentioned he was decorated or even in battle”; etc.)
Yet, ever since the 90s there ***has ***been a societal (over?)compensation in the opposite direction. In the beginning IMO this was fed by a sort of “civvie guilt” over the previous shabby treatment, and the realization that the faults for wrongful policy and failures of discipline lay on the policymakers and commanders, not on the grunt who’s just trying to get out of this alive. So far, so fair, and indeed it would be an improvement if the traditional “peacetime” attitude of neglect and even contempt (ref. Kipling’s “Tommy”) evolved into one of appreciation and respect.

*** BUT*** as brocks and Marquez mention, fostering a virtual “idolatry of the troops” is something that has been taken up opportunistically by political leaders to make sure that everyone’s singing the troops’ praises and to insinuate that any questioning of defense policies (usually meaning expenditures) means “not supporting the troops”. As noted, there’s the notion that “we would win if everyone just rallied together”, which misses the greater point which is: well, SHOULD everyone rally together?

This is news to the men who have sought asylum in Canada during the present wars, or been sent to military prisons.

I pretty much stopped reading after this sentence. It was these very soliders who have fought for your right to post this opinion, and continue to do so, so others who want the that same riight, have it.

I’m a vet and though I served in peace time, I did so with honor and pride for my country, and I am extremely proud of that accomplishment, that’s how vets and their families view what you refer to as “propaganda”, and as far as I am concerned, anyone who does not, is welcome to find another country in which to reside.