Lacey Smith

Public opinion and war

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 at 3:26 am

I’ve been watching a History channel mini-series called The Revolution recently on Netflix. And while it is riddled with inaccuracies I wouldn’t recognize if I didn’t know my history, I’ve been impressed with a number of things.

Something that especially stood out to me is the cyclical way that the people supported and opposed the war for independence.

When there were victories, Washington was a hero and the war was good. When there were defeats, support waned and people were out for Washington’s blood.

In particular, when the people had a villain, the swell of troops into the militia was intense but when there was no villain public opinion turned apathetic and along with that came a reduction in money and military supplies necessary to wage a war.

I think what struck me so strongly about that was how little things have changed.

We are currently fighting not-wars in no less than three foreign countries. They are increasingly unpopular.

There are many reasons, perhaps even dozens, that we should be withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and should end our support of the Libyan conflict.

The president recently caved to that pressure and announced a quicker withdrawal of soldier from Afghanistan than his military advisers would have liked.

I got to wondering what would have happened if Washington had folded to public opinion like the president did.

I’m not a big supporter of the conflicts in the Middle East. I think we should bring soldiers home from posts all over the world.

(It’s more than a little amazing that foreign countries would allow us to have bases within their borders. Can you imagine the American outcry if the British stationed troops in Kansas?)

What I think doesn’t really matter though. I don’t know the situation in Afghanistan and whether the draw-down is safe or the best strategy.

I believe that South Korea can and should take care of itself, but I don’t know what would happen if we withdrew troops from the DMZ.

I am not, thank goodness!, the commander-in-chief. The safety of America is not placed squarely on my shoulders.

The president should do as good a job as he can at explaining the wars we are in to the American people, assuming they are necessary.

However, he should not bow to party pressure or to the people when managing the military overseas.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Washington and Congress had said to the people, “You know, you’re right… this war is unpopular and so we’re going to dissolve the army and let everyone go home”?

Some of our greatest political leaders would have hung for treason. We might still be under British rule and everything that America is would be gone. If not, we would have had to still fight for our independence later, costing more of all we sacrificed.

We need to be more cautious of getting into wars in the first place, but it’s important we see things through.

The commander-in-chief needs to do what is best for our country and our military, even when it’s not popular. We should appreciate that we don’t know everything and be patient, even during unpopular wars.

We can’t know everything, which is why we elect representatives. We need to elect ones we trust and then we need to trust them cautiously and let them do their jobs.

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