Hey active duty people, the president doesn’t need your Syria opinions!
This morning I ran across this article in Business Insider (link). In it, supposed members of the military are holding up signs to hide their faces. Written on the signs are statements saying they are against military action in Syria—obviously a timely topic.
I’ve been seeing some people responding across social media and getting amped up over it. A friend asked my opinion. Figured it’s as good a blog post as any.
Given how few members of the public serve in the military (link), my mindset and response might be alien to most. On the other hand, given how off my damned rocker nuts I am, my mindset might be alien to my vet friends too. We’ll just have it out, then, shall we?
To cut to the chase…I do have a problem with what these (alleged) service members did. However, I probably understand why they did it. However however, I still take umbrage.
As a disclaimer, we have no idea if these people referenced in the Business Insider article are actually in the military, though their uniforms look pretty well put together, so signs point to ‘yes.’ Civilian posers typically do a terrible job at pretending to be in the military.
Anyway, assuming they are legit vets, let’s look at why they probably did it and then why it’s a problem. We’ll have to take a little romp through recent history.
The longest ‘war’ in US history. Remember when we first rolled in there? Yeah that was 12 years ago. Our involvement in WWII was four years, as a point of reference.
Did you know some people deploy there constantly—often for a year at a time, with a short break and then another year there? Did you know there are still 60,000 US troops there? Still? Yeah, that gets tiring. And it spikes suicides (link), divorces (link) and other fun stuff (link).
Did you know that we, the country who “does not negotiate with terrorists” are negotiating with terrorists (link)? Peace talks with the Taliban and (indirectly because of their ties) with Al-Qaeda itself. We’re hoping to make nice with the people we rolled in to eliminate.
That might ruffle the feathers of the vets who’ve sacrificed limbs, friends and marriages to serve there—might make it seem all for naught. Right?
Remember when we first rolled in there? Yeah that was from 2003-2011. People also often deployed there constantly—often for a year at a time, with short breaks and additional years there. Also contributed to the mental/emotional/physical and spiritual trauma of the American military.
Remember all those WMDs we found there? Or all those direct ties between Saddam and 9/11? No?
Think that also might ruffle the feathers of the vets who’ve sacrificed limbs, friends and marriages to serve there—might make it all seem for naught?
Skipping ahead past Somali pirates, Libya, drone strikes, Pakistani entanglements…well, that brings us to Syria.
The Syrian civil war began in 2011 and has, by many UN estimates, killed more than 100K people (link).
It’s another entry into a long line of politically, socially and religiously entangled regimes that is the Middle East, as summarized in a brilliant letter to the editor of the UK’s Financial Times (link):
Sir, Iran is backing Assad. Gulf states are against Assad! Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sisi. But Gulf states are pro Sisi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood! Iran is pro Hamas, but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood, yet Hamas is against the US! Gulf states are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf states against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi. And General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf states! Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.
So…I completely understand the exasperation of my uniformed brothers and sisters. It seems like another hopeless, ongoing perpetual conflict. I completely sympathize and empathize as to why many might feel compelled to speak out against their leadership and urge for not intervening in Syria.
My umbrage seethes over this idea that men or women would use the uniform of the United States to undermine the leadership of this country.
Referring to the alleged vets in the Business Insider article, they may think they are being slick by staying anonymous—that they aren’t hurting anyone—that they are simply using free speech or whatever…But they’re not. They represent something far larger than their individual political ideologies and agendas.
By doing this, especially doing it as a nameless/faceless member of the military, they are in essence showing themselves off as any soldier—any sailor—any Marine—any airman. The groups who would do us harm can now fan the flames saying, “the resolve of the US is weak…even their own troops rebel against their leaders.”
In fact, Syrian hackers took over a US Marine’s website today and did just that (link).
It’s not a matter of arguing for or against Syria—for or against future war. That’s not the issue here. They are catapulting themselves into the negotiations and national-level discussions in opposition to the US leadership. They are hijacking the system.
Look, I hate war. I served, though. I went to Iraq, even if I didn’t think it was on the up and up. I served with distinction. I was decorated. I gave parts of myself to the maw of war that I won’t get back.
I served because I swore an oath of enlistment (link). In it, I didn’t say “only the wars I like” as if I was some damned mercenary, selling my gun to a cause of my choosing.
Nope. I said I would sally up and serve wherever the elected leaders of this country said I should, regardless of any personal objection. It’s how it works. It’s why people stand up and clap for vets on Memorial Day. It’s because they realize it was a choice to serve, no matter how much it might have sucked.
And it’s how veterans deal with war. They don’t engineer them. They simply serve. And, while they’re serving, they should shut up in public about any objections.
So, while I would be glad for the US to stay out of Syria, were I still serving as the fourth-generation of my family to wear the uniform, I would go if asked. I’d serve with honor…and I wouldn’t take the wind out of my leaders’ sails by posting some damned pictures giving aid and comfort to possible enemies.