I recently received an e-mail from the head of a student antiwar group stating that both sides share “one HUGE thing in common: concern for U.S. troops.” My immediate reaction was one of acceptance and understanding — of course we all care about our servicemen and women and share a common wish to see them home safely. But the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I was with the notion that my concern for the troops was the same as that of the antiwar demonstrators. I asked myself why I was feeling so insecure about the activist’s statement of concern, and finally it dawned on me: It’s Kant!
Yes, Immanuel Kant. Kant’s moral philosophy prohibits us from treating an individual merely as a means to some end: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” Human beings possess a rational will, and as such have more than a simply conditional worth (as would be valuable in the pursuit of some end). Therefore, persons are to be treated as ends in themselves and never as merely means.
The Left has decided that U.S. troops are the ultimate tool in convincing others that this war is unjust. As the New York Times’s Bob Herbert wrote in the latest of his intellectually stunted op-eds, “I think the men and women moving militarily against Saddam are among the few truly brave and even noble individuals left in our society. They have volunteered for the dangerous duty of defending the rest of us. But I also believe they are being put unnecessarily in harm’s way.”
As I stated in my reply to the student activist, “I find it disingenuous of you to claim that you support our troops now, when it is politically convenient to do so. Groups with which you identify have been railing against the military for years and years, idolizing those who burned down ROTC facilities. They spat on returning veterans in the ’60s and early ’70s. They have been protesting against the ‘homophobic’ and ‘sexist’ practices of the military, banning recruiters from career fairs all over the country, closing down ROTC units at Ivy League and other universities, campaigning against tax breaks for military families and against an increase in the shamefully low military salaries. It is convenient now to present your arguments within the framework of a pro-military view, since nobody would listen to you otherwise. However, to say that we share a common concern for the men and women serving our country is a false statement, and one that is quite unwelcome. While your concern for the troops is born of political strategy and desperation, I worry for my friends and comrades who are put in harm’s way to accomplish a mission. These men and women are heroes, and they deserve to be treated as such — not as pawns in a political chess game.”
If there are still any who remain unsure about where Democratic leaders stand on the issue of support for our troops, just look at House Resolution 104, entitled “Expressing the Support and Appreciation of the Nation for the President and the Members of the Armed Forces Who are Participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Eleven Democratic representatives voted against the resolution, and 21 voted “present,” signaling their unwillingness to even enter the arena.
This isn’t about the troops at any serious level of the political game; it’s about the rabid hatred of the president and opposition to his every move, based on a concern for their own political future. But this view is decidedly unpopular — as the Dixie Chicks recently discovered — and so the Left must turn to a neutral and common belief (such as concern for the well-being of American soldiers) to remain politically relevant. It costs them nothing; but for our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and coworkers engaged in war, there is no room for such disingenuousness. For the Left to use our troops in an attempt to regain political ground is a betrayal of their service, and those who oppose the war should be confronted for their treachery.
— Gabriel Ledeen is an undergraduate at Rice University and an officer candidate in the United States Marine Corps.