Whatever their views
of President Bush’s new “surge” of 20,000
soldiers, both liberals and conservatives continue to claim
that they support our troops. Liberals say they support our
troops by criticizing or opposing “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” which
they claim has unnecessarily killed 3,000 soldiers. Conservatives
say they support our troops by supporting the mission that
most of our troops believe in.
In fact, neither liberals nor conservatives truly support the
brave men and women who risk their lives to defend America. For
both, “support our troops” is a cheap, undeserved
claim to patriotism—one that obscures their unwillingness
to do what is truly necessary to protect America and its soldiers.
Granted, almost everyone wants to give our troops the resources
they need to do their jobs: the best weapons, armor, provisions,
and training available—as well as praise, gratitude, and
encouragement. But for our government to truly support our troops,
it must do far more than help them do their jobs; it must give
them the right jobs to do—the jobs that will effectively
defend America while minimizing the risk to their lives. Our
government must place soldiers’ lives at risk only when
American freedom is threatened, and during war, it must give
them the objectives and tactics that will defeat the enemy as
quickly as possible.
The conservatives’ Iraq war does not meet this standard.
It could have—if the war had been undertaken as a step
in defeating the anti-American, terrorist-sponsoring regimes
of the Middle East and thus rendering the region non-threatening.
Instead, President Bush made the war’s primary focus the
welfare of Iraqis—above all, their “freedom” to
elect whatever regime they wished, no matter how anti-American.
Further sacrificing Americans to Iraqis, Bush and his subordinates
imposed crippling “rules of engagement” (also supported
by liberals) that place the lives of civilians in enemy territory
above our soldiers. Our hamstrung troops in Iraq have not been
allowed to smash a militarily puny insurgency; instead, they
have been forced to suffer an endless series of deaths by an
undefeated enemy, while Islamic totalitarians worldwide rejoice
in our defeat.
One does not support our troops by sending them to fight wars
of self-sacrifice and then thanking their corpses. The conservatives’ call
to “stay the course” in Iraq—or to add 20,000
troops to that course—is harmful to America and its troops
because the mission has been conceived and conducted in defiance
of American interests.
If the conservatives do not support our troops, then do the liberals?
Observe that while liberals criticize the Iraq war for killing
our troops, they propose no alternative policy that would protect
America against Islamic totalitarianism and its state supporters,
including the militant, terrorist theocracy of Iran. Liberals’ only
policy proposal is that we not take military action in Iraq or
in any other country beyond Afghanistan. Why? Because they believe
that America has no right to defy the “international community” or “impose
its will on the rest of the world”—i.e., to aggressively
pursue its self-defense. They, like the conservatives, advocate
self-sacrifice in foreign policy. Denying our right to an all-out
military defense, liberals say we must engage committed enemies
like Iran with endless “diplomacy,” i.e., bribery,
appeasement, and inaction.
One does not support our troops by keeping them home when their
and our freedom requires military action. Our soldiers did not
join the military to sit on their hands while Iran prepares for
If liberals were truly concerned with our troops in Iraq and
the freedom our soldiers should be fighting for, they would call
for our soldiers to smash the insurgency and move on to defeat
our other enemies. Instead, they call for a self-effacing retreat
from Iraq, followed by further kowtowing to the anti-Americans
at the United Nations—actions that would greatly embolden
the Islamic totalitarians.
Liberals oppose the Iraq war and other wars, not because they
truly value our soldiers, but because they—like the conservatives—oppose
our soldiers mounting an uncompromising, self-assertive defense
of America. But such a defense is required to defeat the threat
of Islamic totalitarianism. We must adopt a foreign policy of
self-interest and commit to defend ourselves using our full,
unmatched military might. Neither the conservatives nor the liberals
support this, and thus they end up sacrificing our troops and
Do not let the conservatives or liberals pose as defenders of
America or its military. Demand that they start truly protecting
America and its soldiers—or be scorned as traitors to both.
Alex Epstein is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/)
in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy
of Ayn Rand—author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.