Joel Stein wrote, in today’s Los Angeles Times,
I DON’T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.
At last, an anti-war activist (?) who is willing to tell the truth. Mr. Stein said what a lot of other liberals feel, but are too afraid to say.
But I’m not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken â€” and they’re wussy by definition. It’s as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn’t to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
He continued, a few paragraphs further down:
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.
I’d guess that a lot of liberals would not agree with Mr. Stein’s sentence that “blaming the president is a little too easy.” They’d object that the soldiers must obey their orders, while Mr. Stein is making the soldiers responsible because they have not rebelled. But he comes very near to the real conundrum for the left: to support our troops is to support the success of their mission. If the mission succeeds, fewer soldiers are killed, and the troops get to return to the United States sooner. And while there certainly are those who don’t support the war because they don’t believe it can be won, there is also a substantial segment of the opposition which doesn’t support the war because they don’t believe it should be won. Mr. Stein referred to it as “an army of people ignoring their morality,” by which, of course, he meant the troops, but the implication is clear: he considers their mission to be immoral.
We are in Mr. Stein’s debt. I spent part of the 2004 election season arguing in a mostly leftist e-mail group that to support the troops required wanting them to succeed, and desiring their success meant supporting something that would improve George Bush’s reelection chances. I was told that no, it didn’t mean that at all, even though one writer said, at one point, that if the deaths of American soldiers contributed to the electoral defeat of President Bush, they would have died for a good cause.
Well, Mr. Stein wrote publicly what so many of the leftists feel privately, but have been unwilling to say in public; perhaps a lot of them simply couldn’t admit it to themselves. I think it’s time for complete honesty here: those on the left who think that George Bush is a tremendous danger to the world ought to admit, to themselves and to the world, that they want the mission of the troops to fail.
And if that required increased deaths on the part of American troops, they ought to admit that such is a price they are willing to see our country pay.
Update: Mr. Stein was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt, and didn’t necessarily come out of it looking good. Patterico addresses a point that I did not consider, namely that Mr. Stein assumed that his moral views controlled the moral views of the soldiers. A good discussion follows Patterico’s article.
Second Update: Keith Thompson of Sane Nation took the same position that I did:
At least he’s honest. He opposes taking the battle to the Islamofascists and so it follows he can’t bring himself to support the American soldiers who are on the front lines of that battle. None of this “Oppose the war but support the troops” stuff that Kerry, Kennedy, Boxer, Durbin, Dean and all the usual suspects stutter and stammer on a regular basis. Many find Joel Stein’s views vile. I find them refreshingly straightforward. Still, it’s evident he’s pulling his punch when he says “I’m against the war. (I have no regrets) if this helps us get out of that war and bring our troops home safely.” It’s hard not to hear something very much like: “The more dead American soliders, the sooner the war will end. More U.S. blood, please.”