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January 24, 2006
A Soldier's Response to Joel Stein
No doubt readers are aware of yesterday's LA unabashedly anti—war/anti—soldier "column":http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la—oe—stein24jan24,0,4137172.column?coll=la—news—comment—opinions in the ??Los Angeles Times??, "Warriors and Wusses" by Joel Stein. Reuters among others has a "piece":http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N24212064.htm on the huge fallout, while talk host and blogger Hugh Hewitt "interviewed":http://www.radioblogger.com/#001332%20 Stein yesterday.
LTC Steve Russell sent me his reply to the ??Times??, which it may or may not print.
LTC Russell commanded Task Force 1/22nd Infantry in Iraq (bagged Saddam) and is currently Chief of Tactics at the Infantry School.
John B. Dwyer 1 25 06
Here is what LTC Russell wrote:
bq. Mr. Stein's commentary on soldier support is remarkable because it reflects more than just his opinion. It may even express a viewpoint.
bq. While most of Mr. Stein's commentary is indicative of a man who has enjoyed our freedoms with none of the responsibility (by his own admission), he has at least one point of merit. He does not conceal his true conviction. When one considers those that say they support the troops but not the war, it is hard to distinguish which is more harmful to the soldier.
bq. Mr. Stein alludes to this as trying to have it both ways and implies this is a moral cop out. He may be right. It can also be viewed as similar to telling the trash man, 'Thanks.' It is seldom sincere. It is just so the trash will keep being taken away by someone willing to do it so one does not have to get his hands dirty.
bq. Mr. Stein's tragedy is not his clear conviction but rather that he steals freedom from his sacrificing countrymen. He sees no moral dilemma with that—which is indicative of an attitude prevalent among some self—proclaimed, high—browed, educated types that believe there is somehow a moral superiority in non—involvement. To defend his position, Mr. Stein is critical of what he calls 'American imperialism.' To borrow what he surely intended as a denigrating analogy, we can indeed see parallels in attitude if not government and conquest.
bq. Rome had its internal critics. So did Greece. But when the vast majority of Romans began to view the finer points of life as morally superior to the lower points of necessity, Roman youth lost their appreciation for what held Rome together in the first place. Soon, hired or conquered levies replaced Romans in the ranks. Why should Romans fight wars that they could not see any reason for fighting? After all, what impact did they have in Rome?
bq. Eventually, the theory of a moral superiority in non—involvement met the cold steel of non—theoretically superior sword thrusts from Vandals and Huns that replaced Romans in the Roman empire.
bq. I take exception to Mr. Stein's comment about soldiers ignoring their morality. And as a soldier that has served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, none of those experiences ever made me feel 'lucky.' The noble 'wars' and 'fights' are seldom noble for the soldier. They involve pain and human suffering on a grand scale. Mr. Stein I am quite certain has never killed a man and is proud of that. I have had to kill several men in desperate, close combat while I watched my opponents facial expressions change as life ebbed out of them. I am quite certain that I am not proud of that.
bq. But what separates him from me is certainly not education. Nor is it conviction of purpose. It is indeed morality. But of a nobler kind. No greater love has a man, than he lay down his life for his friends—even when they act and write unfriendly.
bq. As an American, I no longer draw a distinction of who qualifies to be one or is best suited to appreciate democracy. After serving nine years overseas and on multiple continents, I do not see white or black or Hispanic or Indian or oriental or educated or simple—minded Americans. I only see Americans. Even the unfriendly kind. And when I am old, I will be able to look in the mirror and know that I acted on my convictions to preserve what others will not. Cannot. Do not. And what I will see is a man with a clear conscience and a moral sense of purpose.
bq. I am thankful I do not have to look into Mr. Stein's mirror.
bq. LTC Steve Russell