Jacob Meeks

Veterans Day and American Opinions about War

Veteran Jacob Meeks points out on this Veterans Day that it is our responsibility as citizens to stay informed and protect our troops from unnecessary conflicts.

 

This subject came to me when I was thinking about Veterans Day, a day where my Facebook feed is flooded with military pictures from a time past and I may have had one too many drinks … or two too many. That’s the thing I’d like to discuss.

There’s an idea that I’ve heard since I was a kid in Wyoming, and after I was in the U.S. Army, and still after as I’ve watched American media and politics in the years that followed. The idea that’s pushed by politicians of all stripes basically goes: If you question why the country is in a war (or conflict), then you are not supporting the troops and you are basically unpatriotic. There’s another variation of it that goes: If you didn’t serve, then you can’t question a war (not talking about the troops here, but about the war itself).

To both of those ideas, I say, “Bullshit.”

Hear me out.

First off, as a citizen of a free democratic country, it is my responsibility to elect representatives who I think will represent what I feel is the best direction for the country. But just because I voted for the person or even if I didn’t vote for them, doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them. In all matters, and especially matters of war.

If I am a citizen of a free country, I would argue that I not only have the right but that I also have the responsibility to (A) have an educated opinion about whatever I’m speaking about and (B) express that opinion when I think it’s the right thing to do. Especially when it comes to the most important of human matters which are issues of life and death. War is definitely that.

I could logically disagree with a conflict for many, many reasons. A very important thing here is to remember that war is a means to a political end. So, of course I may disagree or may question what those political ends are.

 

Don’t let people die for needless things. And if we feel it’s needless or wrong, then we should speak up.

 

Take Afghanistan. I would never argue that we shouldn’t have gone after Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. I would question our other political ends (particularly after Bin Laden) and how we’ve been trying to get there. Are we going to make Afghanistan a bastion of liberal democracy? Probably not, and I don’t really think any outsider with a gun going to a country can create a liberal democracy for someone else. It doesn’t work like that.

Are we going to keep the Taliban occupied indefinitely so they don’t open the place back up as a new training ground for more al-Qaeda and another Bin Laden? There are a lot of problems with that strategy. First off, the longer we stay, the more the Taliban seem to be making a comeback after that initial invasion. Can we even do it indefinitely? (Probably, but it’s costly.) What does that look like? What are our political goals that tell us when we can walk away?

I’m using that as an example but there are plenty more. Not just ground wars or ground troops. I could question our deals with the Saudis to support their war in Yemen which has caused untold civilian suffering. There’s countless, countless examples of where we should have conversations as concerned citizens, both of our country and of the world about these things. But we don’t for a bunch of reasons (too many to go into right now).

The original idea I started with was about whether or not a citizen can question the validity of one of our wars. In my opinion, of course they can. And they should when they have reason to.

As to whether you have to have military experience to question the political decisions behind whether our country wages a war or not? I would disagree with that. It helps to have that experience, yes, but it’s not a necessity to be a free-speaking, free-thinking, and free-voting member of our society.

I would argue that it’s a far greater service to both troops and veterans to question the political motives and intent behind any conflict. It’s also a far greater service to the world at large. I would argue, at the heart of this support the troops slogan, it’s one of the bigger things one can do to actually support the troops (other than listening to and being there for the individual).

Don’t let people die for needless things. And if we feel it’s needless or wrong, then we should speak up.

I would argue that it’s not just a right, it’s a responsibility. I think it’s important to remember on Veterans Day how one becomes a veteran and that we remember the whole country plays a role in that. One that I think we should be more aware of.

Happy Veterans Day.

 

Jacob Meeks

Jacob Meeks is an aid worker, a leader, an operations professional, a complex problem solver, a veteran, and a writer. He has been working for the past seven years as a humanitarian in a variety of different locations from South Sudan to Lebanon. These experiences have afforded him a broader cultural look at the world and also offered a great many learning opportunities. Jake hopes to learn from these opportunities, stay involved in the humanitarian world, become more involved in the veteran’s world, and eventually become a writer in film, television, or another medium.

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