One of the really formative experiences in my life was serving as an officer in the Marine Corps. I thought military service was an honorable profession, so much so that I urged my sons to consider military service—even though that was during the Vietnam War.
But after what I have been watching the past few months, I wonder if I would urge my grandsons to serve today.
One of the most disillusioning moments for me was when the New York Times ran that ad—at a discount, by the way—for MoveOn.org calling General Petraeus “General Betray Us.” This honorable West Point graduate with a distinguished military career: We do this to him? Unbelievably, a resolution in the Senate to disavow the MoveOn.org ad war was opposed by all the leading Democratic presidential candidates.
Equally bad is what the Senate did to General Peter Pace. The majority leader—who, by the way, ran an elevator in the Capitol during the Vietnam War—accused this most decorated marine officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, of being incompetent. Senate leaders attacked Pace because he had the audacity to express his view that both adultery and homosexual behavior are morally wrong.
The mainstream press has also done its share of harm to our service members. As General Ricardo Sanchez said, as described in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece last Thursday, “What is clear to me is that you [referring to the media] are perpetrating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.” He lashed out at Congress for rank partisanship, undermining the confidence of the troops.
The general also faulted the Bush administration for its handling of the war—which, by the way, was the only thing the New York Times reported from his speech.
This is what we have come to in America: slandering our generals and undermining—even endangering—our troops.
Our cultural and political leaders have forgotten, if they ever knew, that the willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others is why serving in the military is considered such a high calling—and a part of what makes just wars just. Thomas Aquinas in his classic Summa Theologica puts his discussion of just war in the chapter on charity—the love of God and neighbor.
And reformer John Calvin called the soldier an “agent of God’s love” because “restraining evil out of love for neighbor is an imitation of God’s restraining evil out of love for His creatures.”
We are blessed that so many fine men and women are willing to wield the sword on our behalf in this country. But are we, in turn, willing to respect and honor those sacrificing for us? And if not, can we blame them if one day they decide to lay down their arms?