The Left, Patriotism, and the Military

Presumably one of the conventional lessons of the Vietnam War was not to let anger at a war spillover to mistreatment of the war fighter. This is especially true for Vietnam where many of the combatants were drafted. It is lesson that, in some quarters, seems to be misplaced during the current conflict In Iraq.

In addition, the American Left seems to feel a little too sensitive at even the slightest suggestion that it is not sufficiently patriotic. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack, President Bush called upon the world to fight terrorism, more specifically Islamo-Fascism. Too many times, erstwhile American allies and friends had turned a blind eye or even deliberately harbored terrorists. The time had pasted to straddle the fence. Countries were asked to decide whether they wanted to be counted among our friends and not acquiesce Islamic terrorism. The shorthand for this new position (which, by the way, has not really been enforced) was expressed “you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Actually, the entire quote was, “…we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Nonetheless, the Left continually whines about the “you’re with us or against us” phraseology, suggesting that Bush is saying that anyone who disagrees with the approach taken by the Administration is unpatriotic. It is convenient to play a victim, but to deliberately abuse a phrase from Hamlet: “The [Left] doth protest too much, methinks.” The only ways the Left could construe this phraseology as a challenge to patriotism is if it harbors an unspoken guilt or if it wants to exploit the phrase for political advantage. We do not endeavor here to decide which.

Actually, the challenge to personal patriotism generally comes more from the Left than from the Right. In 2004, General Wesley Clark, in his unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party, appealed to the party’s rabid Left by routinely claiming, “I don’t think it was a patriotic war. I think it was a mistake, a strategic mistake, and I think that the president of the United States wasn’t patriotic in going after Saddam Hussein.” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean decried Bush’s plan to re-structure Social Security as “not an American thing to do.” Using “un-American” to describe a policy disagreement is more frequently a practice of the Left than the Right. The Left can make such allusions with nary a voice of response, while if someone on the Right suggests that someone is un-American they would be loudly and publicly rebuked in the main-stream-media.

There remains the general perception that the Left does not much care for the military or for the US and Left usually brings these aspersions upon itself. Even beyond the exercise of trumpeting every mis-step by an American solider and largely ignoring nobility and and heroism by the military, is the inability or unwillingness of some liberals and Democrats to distance themselves from the extreme elements of the Left.

Three weeks ago, ran a full page ad in the NY Times (where else) suggesting that General David Patraeus might “betray us.” For most, the ad was way over the line. The ad did not challenge General Patraeus’s professional assessments, but his character. The story would have died after a day, if the Democratic presidential front runners had loudly condemned the ad and disassociated themselves from it and Even given a chance to condemn the ad in a Senate resolution, 25 Senators, including Senator Hillary Clinton, declined to do so. Senator Barack Obama did not register a vote.

Now Senators Clinton and Obama in their hearts do not believe that Pateous would in any sense betray his country, but they can’t say so lest the upset the wing of their party. The behavior of Clinton and Obama will not likely be included in a future volume of Profiles in Courage. The refusal to condemn the ad is purely a shrewd political calculation. One must ask if these Senators have difficulty in standing up to the political partisans at, it is hard to understand what courage they would display in confronting murderously dangerous enemies abroad.

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