Respect vs. pity

I have long observed this and written about it, that instead of honoring those who hold the military vocation in the traditional way–admiring their prowess in battle and celebrating their victories–today our culture’s support for our troops is expressed by feeling sorry for them.  Now this is getting on their nerves:

The troops are lavished with praise for their sacrifices. But the praise comes with a price, service members say. The public increasingly acts as if it feels sorry for those in uniform.

“We aren’t victims at all,” said Brig. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, who commanded troops in Iraq and will soon leave for Afghanistan. “But it seems that the only way that some can be supportive is to cast us in the role of hapless souls.”

The topic is a sensitive one for military leaders, who do not want to appear ungrateful or at odds with the public they serve. They also realize that the anger that returning troops faced in the latter years of the Vietnam War was far worse.

As a result, most of the conversations about pity take place quietly and privately among combat veterans. . . .

The military’s unease springs, in part, from American indifference to the wars. Battlefield achievements are rarely singled out for praise by a country that has little familiarity with the military and sees little direct benefit from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“We, as a nation, no longer value military heroism in ways that were entirely common in World War II,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Instead, praise from politicians and the public focuses largely on the depth of a service member’s suffering. Troops are recognized for the number of tours they have endured, the number of friends they have lost or the extent of their injuries. . . .

Lower-ranking officers feel a similar frustration. “America has unwittingly accepted the idea that its warriors are victims,” Lt. Col. John Morris, a chaplain for the Minnesota Army National Guard, told the Rotary Club of St. Paul in August.

via Troops feel more pity than respect – The Washington Post.

Happy (belated) Gustavus Adolphus Day!

November 6 was the commemoration day for one of my heroes, the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, the military genius and devout Lutheran who arguably was used by God to save Protestantism from extermination during the Thirty Years’ War.   Sometimes honored as the greatest Lutheran layman, King Gustav makes for an interesting and inspiring example of vocation.

The blog of the LCMS leadership, Mercy, Witness, Life Together, has a great post about him, including an informative sermon by Rev. Eric Andrae:  Feast of Gustavus Adolphus, King and Martyr, 1632.

 

King Gustavus Adolphus

 

HT:  Mary

Israel considering a strike against Iran?

Wars and rumors of war:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally support in his cabinet for an attack on Iran, according to government sources.

The country’s defence minister Ehud Barak and the foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman are said to be among those backing a pre-emptive strike to neutralise Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

But a narrow majority of ministers currently oppose the move, which could trigger a wave of regional retaliation.

The debate over possible Israeli military action has reached fever pitch in recent days with newspaper leader columns discussing the benefits and dangers of hitting Iran.

Mr Lieberman responded to the reports of a push to gain cabinet approval by saying that “Iran poses the most dangerous threat to world order.”

But he said Israel’s military options should not be a matter for public discussion.

The inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran, where Iran has began to unload fuel for the nuclear power plant

The reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant where Iran has began to unload fuel for the nuclear power plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to report on the state of Iran’s nuclear capabilities on November 8, and that assessment is likely to influence Israel’s decision.

Western intelligence officials estimate that Iran is still at least two to three years away from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Israel has long made it clear that it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear capability that could threaten the Jewish State.

Publicly it is pushing for a diplomatic offensive against Iran – including the imposition of sanctions – rather than a military strike.

But prime minister Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that all options are on the table.

via Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Considers Pre-Emptive Attack On Iran To Prevent Nuclear Capability | World News | Sky News.

For Iran’s saber rattling, threatening  both Israel and the United States should this happen, see this.

Declaring victory and going home

We’ll be out of Iraq by Christmas.  So says the president.  The earlier plan was to withdraw nearly all of the troops but to leave behind a contingent to help keep the peace.  But the Iraqi government did not agree to that.  So the only American troops to remain in Iraq will be  couple hundred Marines to guard the embassy and some trainers, something lots of countries have.  It sounds like, after nine years, the war will really be over.

From the Washington Post:

President Obama will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war that deeply divided the country over its origins and the American lives it consumed.

In a Friday morning video conference, Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to a complete U.S. military departure that will fulfill a promise important to Obama’s reelection effort. The decision drew sharp criticism from his Republican rivals, as well as expressions of relieved support from those who believe it is time for the United States to conclude a war Obama once called “dumb.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

For months, U.S. and Iraqi officials had been negotiating the terms of an accord that would have kept several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for special operations and training beyond the year-end deadline set by the George W. Bush administration.

But Obama and Maliki, who have never developed much personal chemistry, failed to reach agreement on the legal status of U.S. troops who would stay in Iraq beyond Dec. 31. As a result, only a contingent of fewer than 200 Marines assigned to help protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad will remain, along with a small number of other personnel to provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

“The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home,” Obama said Friday at the White House, adding that they will “be home for the holidays.”

via All U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 – The Washington Post.

Will we have a big ticker-tape celebration to welcome our troops home and celebrate our victory?  Or is this another Vietnam moment?  Will this boost President Obama’s popularity?  What do you think will happen in Iraq once we’re gone?

Qaddafi is killed

Saddam Hussein, Osama bin-Laden, and now Muammar Qaddafi:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan strongman who fled into hiding after an armed uprising toppled his regime two months ago, met a violent and vengeful death Thursday in the hands of rebel fighters who stormed his final stronghold in his Mediterranean hometown Surt. At least one of his sons was also killed.

Al Jazeera television showed footage of Colonel Qaddafi, alive but bloody, as he was dragged around by armed men in Surt. The television also broadcast a separate clip of his half-naked torso, with eyes staring vacantly and an apparent gunshot wound to the head, as jubilant fighters fired automatic weapons in the air. A third video, posted on Youtube, showed excited fighters hovering around his lifeless-looking body, posing for photographs and yanking his limp head up and down by the hair.

Conflicting accounts quickly emerged about whether Colonel Qaddafi was executed by his captors, died from gunshot wounds sustained in a firefight, was mortally wounded in a NATO air strike on his escaping convoy or bled to death in an ambulance. But the images broadcast by Al Jazeera punctuated an emphatic and gruesome ending to his four decades as a ruthless and bombastic autocrat who had basked in his reputation as the self-styled king of kings of Africa.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Qaddafi has been killed,” Mahmoud Jibril, the prime minister of the Transitional National Council, the interim government, told a news conference in Tripoli. Mahmoud Shammam, the council’s chief spokesman, called it “the day of real liberation. We were serious about giving him a fair trial. It seems God has some other wish.”

via Qaddafi Is Dead, Libyan Officials Say – NYTimes.com.

So the War in Libya, in which the USA played second fiddle to NATO, was a success, with the rebels in power and the dictator dead, with no American lives lost.  (Anyone know the NATO casualties?)  So shall we give President Obama credit?  Or do you have mixed feelings about this?

Awkward: Commemorating the War of 1812

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.   We have been commemorating the Civil War and tend to mark significant anniversaries of other major events in American history.  But not much is being planned for this one.  Except in Canada, which is planning a big celebration of how they defeated the American invaders.  From a piece by David Shribman:

What is the best way to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812? . . . .

How does Canada celebrate its victories over American invaders without alienating its biggest trading partner? How does the United States approach a war in which its principal adversary, Great Britain, is now one of its closest friends? And do the British pause to mark this event at all, given that for them it was but a brief, minor sideshow in the far more important Napoleonic Wars?

Along with the Korean War, the War of 1812, which most Americans remember dimly as being about impressment on the high seas and freedom of movement on the Great Lakes, is often called the Forgotten War.

It is sad  that Americans are so forgetful, for this conflict, which lasted roughly two and a half years, gave the United States its national anthem and its national identity, cemented in large measure the nation’s cultural and geographical boundaries, ushered in 200 years of peace with Britain and Canada, made the White House white and provided durable heroes such as Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Oliver Hazard Perry and Tecumseh.

It ended in virtual stalemate — no side lost substantial territory except, of course, the Indians — and was a decidedly mixed experience for Americans, whose generals were execrable, whose militia didn’t fight well and whose twin theories of warfare (that the French Canadians would rush to the U.S. side and that Canada would collapse into American arms) were ludicrous.

“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, then out of office, “and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.” Maybe Jefferson wasn’t a genius after all.

At the same time, however, the American Navy excelled, forcing the British to lose whole squadrons, which had rarely happened before. American naval prowess on the Great Lakes is still the stuff of legend, as is the old warship, the USS Constitution, known then and now as Old Ironsides.

But from the viewpoint of Canada, whose War of 1812 heroes are Isaac Brock and Laura Secord, the conflict is a different matter altogether, remembered for its glorious victories over American invaders.

“Thus the war that was supposed to attach the British North American colonies to the United States accomplished exactly the opposite,” the late Canadian historian Pierre Berton wrote in his two-volume history of the conflict. “It ensured that Canada would never become a part of the Union to the south. Because of it, an alternative form of democracy grew out of the British colonial oligarchy in the northern half of the continent.”

All this was two centuries ago, but it remains potentially awkward today.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which often stresses renowned moments in Canadian history, vowed in its federal election platform to undertake a vigorous commemoration of the war. Now, however, it is trying quietly to steer the commemoration away from noisy celebrations of American defeat, an effort that may not be entirely successful.

Canadian military historian Jack Granatstein believes the commemoration will be the occasion for what he calls an anti-American festival. “The normal discourse in Canada is anti-American,” he says. “It’s a secular religion, and this is the only acceptable form of bigotry in Canada. So when we have a chance to get up on our high horse and be self-righteous and say we whipped the United States, we’ll do so. It doesn’t mean more than one Canadian in a hundred knows a thing about the war. They don’t. Usually we have a moral superiority. This time we have 200-years’-old military superiority.” . . .

The war ended in a draw, but the contest to conduct the most comprehensive commemoration isn’t even close. The Canadians have appropriated millions, the Americans hardly anything. At this rate, the Canadians will appropriate the war entirely, at least for the next several years. Which brings us to a lesson for our time: Even forgotten wars can be lost 200 years later.

via War of 1812 anniversary poses dilemma / LJWorld.com.

HT:  Jimmy, my brother, who remarks, “I was wondering if our Canadian neighbors know that when we play the Star Spangled Banner before ballgames with the Toronto Blue Jays, the ‘bombs bursting in air’ were aimed at Canadians. I just hope they don’t find out, and to commemorate the 200th’s anniversary of the war of 1812 they add another verse to Oh! Canada, which celebrates how they defeated us in our northern campaign to liberate them from the British.”  Actually, Jimmy, if you would come to visit us out here, far from Oklahoma, we would take you to Ft. McHenry in Baltimore harbor where that song was written and where you would learn that these were bombs being lobbed by British mortars into American fortifications.  But still, your point is well-taken.  I can’t understand why these countries we are always trying to liberate, to the point of going to the great trouble and expense of invading them,  just don’t want to be liberated!

 


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