THE BITTER END….It’s a common refrain among liberals that the best way to “support the troops” is to get them out of Iraq and bring them home. In the current issue of the Monthly, Spencer Ackerman says plainly that this is rubbish:

Haunted by Vietnam, Democrats are determined to express support for the troops. This is admirable. The truth of the matter, however, is this: many troops in Iraq, perhaps even most of them, want to stay and fight.

….Democrats have made the decision — rightly, I think — that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, “I don’t want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission.” This matters, because pretending that in ending the war they’re doing the troops a favor hurts Democrats politically. They risk looking condescending, and, worse, oblivious — which has the broader effect of undermining public trust in the Democrats to handle national security. More basically, it does a disservice to those who serve. For soldiers who are optimistic, being told that the war can’t be won is bad enough. But to be told that politicians are doing them a favor by extricating them from a mission they believe in is downright insulting.

This is God’s own truth. Ditto for the Democratic obsession with using better body armor, higher GI pay, or the quality of military medical care as proxies for “supporting the troops.” As with leaving Iraq, these are all good things to support. But they’re good things on their own terms, not because anyone in uniform will be fooled into thinking that voting for them means you support the military. It’s the equivalent of Democrats who thought that John Kerry had automatic credibility on national security just because he was a Vietnam vet.

Telling the truth, as usual, is better: we need to leave Iraq not because we think the troops need rescuing, but because we think that leaving is what’s best for our national security. And in the future? Our message should be that we’ll support the troops by making sure that we send them into war only with proper leadership, proper planning, and when the national security of the United States is genuinely at risk. On all these counts both the civilian and uniformed leadership of the military has let down the troops in Iraq. We need to promise that we won’t do the same on our watch.

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