|“How to Truly Support our Troops” by Alex Epstein, published by ARI January 15, 2007. Republished with minor changes to the first paragraph as “Who Really Supports Our Troops?” September 27, 2007).|
The above article should be seen as part three in a series, part one being “Honoring Virtue” by Andrew Bernstein and part two “What We Owe Our Soldiers” by Alex Epstein.
American soldiers invaded Iraq right after the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003. In this third article Mr. Epstein tells us “what is truly necessary to protect America and its soldiers.” This coupling of America with its soldiers might seem odd. America is where it always was, then its soldiers traveled six or seven thousand miles to where they need protecting. According to Mr. Epstein, as we shall see, America also needs protecting from Iraqis. Protect American soldiers in Iraq and you protect America as well, that is the logic behind his phrasing.
Mr. Epstein helped send American soldiers to Iraq in the first place. Not long after 9-11 he began promoting the Iraq War like any neoconservative or Bush administration hack:
Though the regime of Saddam Hussein was quickly overthrown, four years later that is not enough for Mr. Epstein. In this essay he refers to U.S. troops in Iraq as “the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend America” and he would keep them there for a while still. But there is a problem defending America from Iraqis on the other side of the earth (emphasis his):
“... 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.”And what are the right jobs? (Note the plural.)
“If liberals were truly concerned with [that is, about] our troops in Iraq and the freedom our soldiers should be fighting for, they would call for our soldiers to smash the insurgency [men in Iraq opposing the U.S. occupation] and move on to defeat our other enemies.”That last, as will become clear shortly, hints at the real message of Mr. Epstein’s essay: On to Iran. A subsidiary message: Invading Iraq was the right thing to do, there’s a problem in the implementation is all, easily fixed.
“... neither liberals nor conservatives truly support the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend America. For both, [their] ‘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.”Then Mr. Epstein chastises the Bush administration for having “imposed crippling ‘rules of engagement’ ” on U.S. soldiers which prevent them from “smash[ing] a militarily puny insurgency.” The troops are, he says, “hamstrung.”
He leaves to your imagination what the rules of engagement are, so let’s take a look at them. There follow a few quotes from the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Rules of Engagement (CFLCC ROE) distributed to all U.S. Army and Marine personnel in Iraq early in the war (emphasis mine):
Though the Iraqi opposition Mr. Epstein would “smash” may be puny it is pervasive, and the insurgents are in their own country. The war is not the cakewalk Cheney predicted and Mr. Epstein in 2007 still maintained it could be. 
Mr. Epstein says “Our government must place soldiers’ lives at risk only when American freedom is threatened ... .” We could all agree with that except that Mr. Epstein speaks in double-talk. Even at the late date of 2007 he claims that Iraq is a threat to America, not only physically but to our very freedom: 
“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 ... .”In fact retreat was the only self-asserting act the U.S. ever performed during the Vietnam war. The Iraq war was no different in that regard: both were wars the U.S. should never have entered.
Mr. Epstein goes on to accuse those who “oppose the Iraq war and other wars” of doing so because they “oppose our soldiers mounting an uncompromising, self-assertive defense of America.” Once again this jingoist claims that Iraqis threaten America. Jingoist? No, even a jingoist loves his country after a fashion and places it number one even if through a mindless outlook. ARI writers on the other hand place Israel number one, and sacrifice Americans to Israel. (See This is Our Ally? on this website.)
“We must adopt a foreign policy of self-interest and commit to defend ourselves using our full, unmatched military might.”Again we could all agree with that, properly construed. And again Mr. Epstein speaks in double-talk. ARI’s “foreign policy of self-interest” means destroying Israel’s enemies qua Israel’s enemies while giving the destruction a gloss of self-interest.
Mr. Epstein’s “and other wars” and his earlier “and move on to defeat our other enemies” sound like hints, and indeed he makes it clear that he means invading Iran. He places Iran among our “committed enemies,” and derides diplomacy, which must be “bribery, appeasement, and inaction” – sounding like John Dewey promoting entry into World War I.
Mr. Epstein concludes by claiming that Iraq War critics “end up sacrificing our troops and our freedom” when that is precisely what he and ARI had been doing for the last five years.
Like the Marxists of yesteryear Mr. Epstein has a way of accusing others of the very thing he is doing:
“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 ... is harmful to America and its troops because the mission has been conceived and conducted in defiance of American interests.”All this is very true, with conservatives replaced with neoconservatives. But consider:
In the midst of Mr. Epstein’s essay one paragraph stands out:
“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 nuclear jihad.”Very possibly some of “our” soldiers did not join the military to get killed following emotionalist claptrap like the above.
Mr. Epstein’s article is one in a chorus of ARI articles calling for the invasion of Iran, see Relentless Propaganda: Redux for Iran on this website.