I think we need to distinguish the high honor our troops deserve for putting so much at risk and standing in harm's way from whom they are serving and whether they're defending our freedom. Why? It is because if the President is sending our troops in for any other reason than to defend our freedom, then our troops are serving special interests rather than either serving our country or defending our freedom.
To not make this distinction is to allow the government to use the valor of our troops as a moral shield for its foreign policies. To be so busy or preoccupied that we are ignorant of the reasons why our government is sending our troops into potential or actual battles means, at best, that we will honor our troops with our lips but not our hearts.
I'm afraid that, all too often, the praise we verbally express to the troops for their service is nothing more than self-flattery. We seem to compete with others on how much we can praise our troops by thanking them for their service. The more we praise our troops, the more we seem to be showing off how we can honor them.
However, there isn't the same effort on our part to investigate and think through why the government puts our troops into harm's way. So in the end, we praise the troops with our lips but show no heartfelt concern over whether the risks they are taking are necessary. Rather than feeling a kind of concern that might lead to action, we compensate for our state of ignorant bliss by heaping more and more praises on the troops in kneejerk fashion.
But it is not just sending our troops in for the wrong reasons that should be a consideration, it is also whom we are supporting that should another of our biggest worries if we truly care for the troops. This is because many past allies have turned into enemies. We need to remember that we once supported Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein while knowing what kind of people they were. And we justified that support but selectively focusing on the immediate results while filtering out both morals and future ramifications.
So when we remember those troops who have either suffered or died in Afghanistan or Iraq, we must also learn from their loss. We must understand that their current sacrifices are because of our past policies. We need to learn this if we are to avoid repeating the same mistakes that create more sacrifices in the future.
But perhaps the most difficult truth we must face about ourselves is how we support interventions that are primarily for our own prosperity. The Iraq War comes to mind here because it was often said that the reason for the war was Iraq's oil. If that was the reason, then we have to count the war as a loss. But that isn't what merits a thorough examination in front of the mirror here. Rather, the uncomfortable truth here is that when we support wars and interventions are for economic gain, then we are telling the troops that both our bank accounts and lifestyles are more important than their well-being and lives.
Biblically speaking, the troops are there to carry sword to punish those who do wrong and protect the innocent (Romans 13). But too many observations and testimonies, such as Smedley Butler's War Is A Racket, prove otherwise. In addition, William Blum's research shows that democracies do attack democracies (click here). So the question which we must sometimes ask ourselves is this: Which is more important, the lives and well-being of our troops or our personal prosperity and lifestyles?
We ask our troops to do make tremendous sacrifices in two ways. We ask them to risk their life and well-being by sending them in harm's way. And we ask them to kill others while they are there. Both dying and killing bring great harm to our troops. And perhaps the reason for the growing uses of drones is to spare our troops not just from being injured or killed, but from seeing first hand the destruction and death which they bring to others. In other words, the increased use of drones is to make the act of killing more humane for the troops. BTW, this making the act of killing more humane for the triggermen but not for the victim has a disturbing historical precedent.
So the question becomes, will we disturb our own pursuit of pleasure, comfort, and riches to find out as much as we can about where our government intervenes in the world so we can tell the government what we think of its use of the military or are we keep doing the same old same old? To keep doing what we have done before tells the troops that we don't really care about them. Rather, it says that we prefer to fall in line when we are called to flatter the troops with our lips rather than honor them with our hearts by inconveniencing ourselves by taking the time to see if the risks and actions they take are really worth it.