Tuesday, April 27, 2004

On Leadership and being pro-troop and anti-war

I said I'd return to this point yesterday, and lest I make a liar out of myself:

The Sunday NYT article on Kerry's anti-Nam activism quoted him as saying: "'We are here to say that it is not patriotism to ask Americans to die for a mistake.'"

Which brings me back to a conversation I had the other night on citizen armies, the draft, and current troop rhetoric.

Why is it, asked my friend, that we're poor-trooping this, and this-is-wrong-ing that when they signed up to go? He's right, 100%. I remember getting made at a woman interviewed during the first gulf war for saying "My son signed up for the army to get an education, not to go to war." Wonder what brochure he read?

It's very true that because we have a volunteer military right now, most people should've been prepared to have to use all that heavy metal stuff they played with in basic. I get that. It's the reason I haven't turned in my JAG papers - I'm not sure I'm willing to answer that call. Not because I am not a patriot - I love this country. But because I disagree with the commander-in-chief so fundamentally that I don't think I could serve well. And I have the luxury of refusing a command because, well, I'm not in a position to receive one.

So should we reinstate the draft? I'm not sure. I would like to believe the arguments that say: were congressional kiddies in play, maybe we'd be more deliberative - but I'm not so sure. My friend says there's no way we'd have another Vietnam because we already had one. We've learned. We won't and can't cross that river instead.

I'm not so sure. But I'm working on a Iraq v. Vietnam Celebrity Deathmatch post.

Either way - at this point, there is no draft (incidently, though, my dad is on the Selective Service Board, so maybe we'll ask him to guest post on the process and what he thinks of the various proposals floating around out there - especially with respect to drafting certain needs - scientists, engineers, etc. Look out Mudders!). So there's no draft - what do we do about the volunteer army question. Who are we to argue with where they go - they signed the forms?

Well, the answer lies in leadership. And followership.

Though I almost minored in comedy (no, I'm not joking - and yes, CMCers, I know we don't have "minors" but try explaining "sequences" to outsiders), I ended up minoring in Leadership instead. That involved spending many classes trying to define leadership. Of course, you can't, otherwise it would only take one, very short class to get the degree.

In short, a good leader should not take advantage of his followers' willingness - or contractual obligation - to follow orders. So on a certain level, the troops are doing the right thing - what they agreed to do. The wrong here lies in Bush's having asked.

He asked under false pretenses. What a fancy phrase for "lies." That permeates all action after the order.

Part of leadership studies, however, involves examining the followers. This point can be made most succinctly by using the following line: "We were just following orders."

No, stop, close the comments window. I don't think our boys and girls in blue, khaki, and white are committing war crimes. But as I've said before, lately, why don't people just put down the weapons - on a grand scale. I get why they don't - but on another level - you can see it too, right? If everyone just said, "you know war sucks . . ."

So, we have followers who would be hard put to stand up against bad orders at this point. We have a leader who doesn't seem to get it. But there's more voices here.

Right, that would be us, the voters. Democrats specifically, of course, have a chance, if not an obligation, to object. Our voices are here to be used while soldiers - the followers with the most to lose right now - are abroad.

Demand more.

"Because they signed up," isn't a rational reason to blindly support our troops or the policy that sent them there. Conscientious support requires examining the means and the motivations and deciding accordingly.

I'm glad they signed up and were willing to serve. More than glad - I'm fortunate and grateful. But I will take responsibility for making sure they are following justly motivated, truthful orders. Their lives are not to be taken advantage of because they wear the uniform. They deserve more.

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