Should We Thank Veterans For Our Freedom ?by Doug Mataconis
A reader passed on to me a link that asks a question with what would seem like an an obvious answer, but at least one libertarian thinks the answer is no:
Why not? Because no living veteran of any US foreign military incursion has done anything to protect a US citizen. “Gee, Joe, you’re a heartless bastard. How can you say that?” Because no US war since the Revolutionary War has been a just war.
First is that really true ? Yes, the history of America’s war has been rather unpleasant. It’s hard to find real justification for the Spanish-American War or the Mexican War, for example, and America’s involvement in World War One may be among the worst foreign policy decisions ever made by a President — yes, I would argue, even worse than the Iraq War.
But not all of our wars have been unjust.
World War II, after Pearl Harbor, would clearly seem to have fallen within the category of just wars. The War of 1812, which was initiated after the British Navy was intercepting American shipping and kidnapping American sailors and merchantmen, would also seem to fall into that category. So, under the analysis of the author, the veterans of those wars would be worthy of respect. For different reasons, I would argue that the first Gulf War, and possibly the Korean War, could also be considered a just war.
But that just raises another question.
Why should the respect that is owed a member of the military be affected by whether or not the war he fought in was “just” by someone’s standards ?
Members of the military don’t make a decision to fight a particular war, they take orders from the civilian leaders who make those decisions. Why should they be held responsible for bad decision making in Washington ?
Moreover, up until the draft was ended, most of the men who fought in America’s wars had no choice. They were drafted in to the military and they did what was asked of them. Why shouldn’t they be thanked for that ?
And what about veterans who served in peacetime ? They certainly cannot be tarred with having fought in an unjust war and, to the extent that they were acting in defense of the United States, they were, in fact, protecting American citizens seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
I’ve known many members of the military, including family members and a Great Uncle who was among the first group of Americans to cross the Rhine River into the Third Reich itself, and they’re not evil people. Branding them with the responsibility for decisions they had no role in making is as bad as when people spit on Vietnam Veterans when they returned home.
America can do better than that.