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Supporting the Troops Is Apparently a Relative Thing

May 23rd, 2008

Everybody believes that the military is relatively right-wing, that conservative values and often Christianity are emphasized. It is likely true, though not having been there, I cannot say–but that tends to be the impression given from a wide variety of sources, with little to refute it.

However, this is not a case of cause-and-effect in terms of policy and legislation, or else the members of the military are masochistic. The Bush administration and the Republican Party, for quite some time now, have treated the soldiery–at the very least–with disregard. Oh, sure, they talk a good game–support the troops, how dare you criticize the troops, and so on–but these statements are generally made in reference to attacks on Bush and Republicans, whereupon they try to make it sound like an attack on them is an attack on the troops. The whole “human shield” strategy of dodging criticism, using the honor and sacrifice of the troops as a means of evading responsibility for malfeasance and incompetence. They love using the troops, not actually supporting them.

It’s not as if they actually care about the troops themselves. I would not go so far as to say they dislike the troops; it is simply that they don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the troops when it comes to actual, real-life support. I would not suggest that the Bush administration or the Republican Party actively hate soldiers when they decide to arbitrarily lengthen their tours of duty, deny them benefits, scale down pay increases, or generally act in a way that disfavors the troops. I don’t think they do these things because they dislike or disrespect the troops. I think that they simply don’t care one whit, and would just rather spend the money on pet projects instead.

So it is no surprise that the new GI Bill, the one that actually benefits soldiers, is opposed mainly by conservatives and the Bush administration. The bill outlines broad new policies that allow for greater education benefits, not just for members of the active military, but also for those who serve in the National Guard and Reserves but nonetheless serve the same as those in the regular military. It is a promise that anyone who serves, learns. You get an education, an education that will benefit not only the soldier but will continue to benefit the country.

So why are conservatives opposed? Because it’s too generous. Well, after all the effusive praise, and “nothing’s too good for the troops” talk, and the protestations to defends and support the troops at all costs, that sounds a little, well, contradictory. But they insist: be too generous in post-service benefits, and you’ll have trouble with retention, with keeping soldiers in the service.

This attitude has two problems: first, it’s bogus:

The Congressional Budget Office, in its cost analysis, estimated that the benefits would result in a 16 percent drop in re-enlistments, a number opponents have repeatedly cited. But the office also predicted a 16 percent increase in recruitment because of the new benefits.

In short, we’ll get as many new troops as we’ll lose former ones, so it evens out. But the second flaw in the argument against is the attitude of “let’s treat the soldiers like crap when they get out so they’ll never want to leave.” Anyone see a problem with that?

Naturally, John “I’m a War Hero and I Love the Troops” McCain is against it (his response to Obama’s criticism: “you didn’t serve like I did, so shut up!”), as is George W. “I’m a War Hero Even Though I Went AWOL” Bush. McCain is against the bill (he simply didn’t show up for the vote), and Bush promises to veto it. Fortunately, enough Republicans are now so scared of losing their jobs that they crossed party lines (along with a few who actually do respect the troops) and supported the bill, so it has passed with a veto-proof majority.

But it is nice of McCain and Bush to go on the record and state officially that they would sooner short-change the troops than take even the smallest chance of decreasing the amount of cannon fodder they need for their perpetual war in Iraq.

Because, of course, they support the troops so much.

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