Tuesday, January 24, 2006


On Joel Stein, and Supporting The Troops

Hugh Hewitt is (rightly) up in arms about a despicable editorial by Joel Stein (above) in today's LA Times.

If you haven't read it -- and chances are you already have -- then you might want to go do so. I'll excerpt part of it here, though, to give you the general idea:
I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
He goes on, at great insulting and condescending length, but I think the point is made.

I won't try to argue that the man clearly has not the slightest idea of what a national army is for; Hugh has that covered nicely. Nor will I argue that his condescension towards American troops, all of whom have volunteered for risky, nasty, dirty work so that he can write his columns in safety, is in extremely bad taste at best; again, other bloggers have that covered quite well.

Instead, let me point out something that Hugh seems to have missed -- the one thing that Mr. Stein got right, in my opinion. He clearly says that, because he doesn't support the war, he can't bring himself to support the troops.

And you know, I commend him -- for at least being honest enough to say that. Many of us have been saying, for years, that it's stupid to argue "we support the troops but not the war"; you can't support the troops while condemning what they're doing, particularly when the troops are all too aware of what they're doing, and are, on the whole, proud to be doing it. Well, Mr. Stein has simply taken the next logical step... and so far as I know, he's the only one to have done so publicly.

Mind you, I think it's a lousy position to have taken. And his position is rife with contradictions of its own -- such as calling pacifists "wussy by definition", all the while dripping with sarcasm for the soldiers who make a society with pacifists possible. (Whom does he not hold in contempt, I have to wonder? Himself, presumably -- the 30-ish wordsmith who freely admits he knows nothing at all about the military he's been condemning.)

But when you compare him to all the "I support the troops but not the war" hypocrites, at least he's got the courage of his convictions. That puts him a cut above Cindy Sheehan, Rep. Murtha, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, and all their ilk... not that that's saying much.

UPDATE: Joel Stein's biography at LATimes.com says repeatedly that he is "desperate for attention". Somehow I don't find that difficult to believe.

UPDATE II: Jeff Harrell apparently feels the way I do, but more strongly... and he says it better. Go have a look. (Later -- he's had occasion to revise his opinion, and not in Mr. Stein's favor.)

UPDATE III: Michelle Malkin & Stephen Spruiell point out a previous let's-make-fun-of-the-army column from The New Yorker. They're right; he's not funny. He sounds desperate... and sad.

UPDATE IV: Solomonia puts the whole thing back into perspective, with an open letter by a father sending his son to war. Does he "support the troops"? Damn straight he does... and he explains why.

UPDATE V: Michelle Malkin lists "25 ways to ignore Joel Stein"... brilliant!


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