Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Anti-War Intellectual Honesty

I received We Were Soldiers for Christmas. I like the movie and I especially liked the commentary from Col. Moore. He said the story of the war was one of a dramatic dichotomy.

The American fighting man is one of the bravest, most gallant images in existence. He (and now perhaps she) is an embodiment of self-sacrifice, brotherhood, determination, and victory in the face of daunting odds. He is the hero and anyone who has served counts themselves in a proud company and a noble tradition.

But there is a counterbalance to that symbol of heroism. War is hell. It is dirty, disgusting, bloody, and costly. It exacts a physical, mental, and spiritual toll. It is not something to be praised. Because of the battle for landing zone X-ray, 79 families didn’t have their sons, husbands, and/or fathers return to them. War is an awful thing.

I think many protestors have really latched onto these concepts. Joel Stein hasn't. He has officially come out as anti-troops. That makes him intellectually honest. Perhaps the other war protesters are presenting an ideology that isn’t exactly rationally coherent. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean those "oppose the war, support the troops" protestors are being dishonest with themselves.

I think there has been a real push from the right to impose a version of what the protestors believe onto the protestors themselves. Lets redefine the protestors as dishonest because the stance they hold is logically untenable. If my experience has taught me nothing, it is that people aren’t necessarily reasonable or logical. Some people really do believe six impossible things before breakfast. Most of these people are acting on their feelings and emotion rather than their reason. They feel the war is wrong and that war is hell, but they also feel that a grudging respect for the military fighting for what they, the soldiers, believe is right. War is still hell, but soldiers are still the heroes of their own narrative.

I suppose we might be entitled to some smugness because the pro-war stance is on a sounder philosophical footing. But I don’t think we are entitled to call those other people liars just because they haven’t worked out the incoherency of their own beliefs. Joel Stein might admit he doesn’t respect the troops, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that everyone else also believes the same and are attempting to deceive us.

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