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Is blindly pledging to "support the troops" necessarily a good thing?
I've been noticing a lot of facebook statuses with people pledging their support for troops and/or veterans. Although I think these people have the best of intentions, I don't think they have given that much thought to what our American soldiers actually fight for.

When I hear chants about how "they defend our freedom" and make "courageous sacrifices" I can't help but shake my head. If you analyze the phrase literally, soldiers have done very little to defend America's freedom since World War II, and even that's debatable (unless you think Hitler actually had a chance at conquering America). Invading other countries preemptively simply does not do much to secure our freedom at home in my opinion. Although these people are making courageous decisions, I don't necessarily think we should be praising people for making a misguided, albeit brave decision in which they think they are fighting for something in which they are not. We don't praise people who die in other dangerous activities such as mountain climbing or sky-diving because we basically assume they were adrenaline junkies who knew the risks they were getting into. I don't view Americans who sign up for the military as much different than these people (no, I'm not completely heartless - I feel bad for friends and families of people who have died in wars).

People who sign up for the military end up being responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people. No, they aren't heartless murderers who enjoy taking innocent lives, and yes, it's the politicians, not the soldiers who make the decisions to start wars, but if everyone simply refused to fight, it would be extremely difficult for us to fight these unjust wars (the possibility of a draft has basically been taken off the table since Vietnam). I'm a little more understanding for Vietnam veterans because many of them had to fight against their will, which is a crime in itself against humanity. However, current military operations have such little legitimacy, and the American military has turned into little more than a subsidy program for defense contractors. Can someone please tell me how a relatively small network of terrorist organizations is going to end life as we know it in America? The only freedoms that are being eroded as a result of the terrorists are self-inflicted (The Patriot Act).

I realize it is fairly controversial in this day and age to criticize "the troops", but it's been something that has been gnawing at me for some time now. Why are we praising these people who are willingly brainwashed into fighting for causes that are unfounded? This praise just helps perpetuate this cultural fondness for wars that we find ourselves in.

So, I ask: Why must we praise the troops? What are they actually doing for us? What motivates young Americans to become soldiers and volunteer to fight in these wars in the first place?

I apologize ahead of time to those of you who are veterans or have a close friend or family member who is currently fighting overseas. I don't mean to offend you, I just want to know the reasons for fighting and create some dialogue as to whether or not those reasons should be praised as they are in American society.
Brave post Matt, especially on Remembrance Day! (in Canada)

I've always found mindless "support the troops" sloganeering disturbing. There was nothing heroic about what American troops did to the people of Iraq, it was a blatant war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the US, which the majority of Americans supported (many fervently) at the time. I'll allow that Afghanistan is a more complicated case since in the Taliban were directly linked to the perpetrators of 9/11, but I'm pretty sure that war is also a lost cause.

I'm not anti military, in fact at one time  (when must have been suffering from some sort of temporary insanity) I was seriously considering a military career. Someone gave me some good advice and I joined the army reserves in college as a sort of trial run. Well, let's just say it wasn't a match made in heaven. The military is all about conformity, and military culture is intended to indoctrinate you to think and act in a very rigid way. Any tendency toward individualism or independent thinking is firmly suppressed. Someone once explained military thinking to me this way: "When I want your opinion I'll let you know what it is". Too true. Now I realize that this process, perfected over centuries of warfare, is necessary for military effectiveness, but I don't think it's helpful to get all misty eyed about how it works or what it is intended to do. It's intended to turn people into killers, and to prepare them to kill under extremely stressful conditions.

As for what motivates people to join the military, that's easy to answer in the US context: economic desperation. In a country with almost no social safety net and many people locked into cyclical poverty, the military is often the only option they have for advancement. In fact one of the reasons the military is such a sacred cow in the US because people realize it's virtually the only mechanism for social mobility that still works in American society and they are afraid to tinker with it. The people who join the military are generally the most motivated and capable members of the underclass. If there wasn't some way for them to climb the socio economic ladder they would the underclasses natural leaders, and it serves establishment interests to "promote" them out of poverty through military service rather than risk having them become advocates for the underclass. Also, this provides a self replenishing pool of recruits to fight America's endless wars without having to unduly inconvenience the middle and upper classes. Have you ever noticed the most mindless and fervent advocates of "support the troops" are people who have never worn the uniform themselves?

In response to Emma Brock
There is a website called WHO SERVED that shows the biggest war mongers as the hypocrites they are. 

In response to Francis X Mullen
Well I know who didn't serve - just about anyone who held a high position in the Bush administration.

Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, John Ashcroft (SEVEN deferments!), Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Andrew Card, Ari Fleisher, Eliot Abrams - the list goes on and on. It includes virtually all the Republican House and Senate leadership.

The Decider himself used family connections to hide out in the Air National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam  (I think the contrast with his father's actions World War II are very revealing)

Donald Rumsfeld served 3 years in the peacetime navy.

Meanwhile Democrats like John Kerry and Al Gore, who like George Bush were sons of privilege who could have avoided the war if they wanted to but instead VOLUNTEERED to serve in Vietnam are reviled as traitors??!! What does this say about the country America has become?

For that matter what kind of country liberally conscripts among its poor but grants middle class college students "deferments"  (which, if things had gone as the Pentagon originally planned, meant the war in Vietnam would have been over before the deferments expired) and allows the sons of the countries elite to "serve" in the National Guard, and then bars the National Guard  (i.e. the American armed forces' primary reserves) from being deployed?

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Latest Post: March 14, 2011 at 7:46 PM
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