After the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people were constantly exhorted to thank the troops for their service. The mantra spread throughout American society. Politicians used it in their campaigns. Church ministers emphasized it in their sermons. Airliners used it when giving the troops early boarding privileges.
That raises an obvious question: Should we also thank the Russian troops for their service?
I think most Americans, especially those imbued with a strong anti-Russia mentality, would say no. They would say that Russian troops don’t deserve our thanks because they are waging an illegal or unjust war against Ukraine.
But doesn’t that imply then that when we thank the troops for their service over here, it’s not because there is something special and noble about being a soldier? If that was the reason for thanking the troops for their service, it would seem logical for Americans to thank the Russian troops for their service too.
The decision not to thank Russian troops for their service obviously requires an American citizen to make a determination of whether the war that Russian troops are fighting is legal and just. If Americans decided that Russian troops were fighting a legal and just war, I don’t think they would have any problems thanking them for their service. For example, during World War II most Americans, including U.S. officials, effusively thanked Russian troops for their service against the Nazi regime.
But an obvious question arises: If we are to make an independent determination as to the legality and just nature of Russia’s war against Ukraine before deciding whether to thank Russian troops for their service, then why shouldn’t we do to same with respect to wars in which U.S. troops are engaged?
If we determine that a particular U.S. war is illegal or unjust, should we nonetheless thank the troops for their service? During the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, American statists said that it didn’t make any difference how people felt about the wars. They said that Americans should thank the troops anyway because it wasn’t their fault that they were fighting illegal and unjust wars. But if that’s the case, why the reluctance to thank the Russian troops for their service also? Why should it make any difference that they are waging an illegal and unjust war, given that it doesn’t make any difference if American troops are waging an illegal and unjust war?
The U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were both waged without a congressional declaration of war. That made both wars illegal under our form of government because the Constitution prohibits a president from waging war without a congressional declaration of war.
Moreover, neither the Afghanistan government nor the Iraqi government ever attacked the United States, which made the U.S. government the invader and aggressor in both conflicts.
American statists say that the U.S. government was justified in invading Afghanistan because the Afghan government refused to comply with President Bush’s unconditional extradition demand for Osama bin Laden. But there was no extradition treaty between Afghanistan and the United States, which meant that Bush lacked the legal authority to invade the country to get bin Laden.
American statists say that the U.S. government was justified in invading Iraq because the Iraqi regime supposedly had WMDs. But even if Iraq did have WMDs, that did not provide President Bush with the legal authority to invade the country to seize them. Moreover, in retrospect it is clear that the WMD rationale was a ruse to justify the invasion, especially since U.S. troops continued occupying the country for years after the WMDs failed to materialize.
One thing is for sure: American troops wreaked much more death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq than Russian troops have wreaked in Ukraine, at least so far. Moreover, it bears emphasizing that around 99 percent of the people that American troops killed and injured in Afghanistan and Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
Notwithstanding all this, Americans are still exhorted to thank the troops for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq but not thank Russian troops for their service in Ukraine.
Maybe the answer to this riddle lies in the following: When it comes to your own government, don’t ask questions. Don’t challenge. Just accept and support, blindly. Thank the troops for their service and support whatever they are doing. Then you will be considered a patriot.
But when it comes to foreign regimes, exercise independent judgment as to the war that they are waging. If you determine that it is a bad war, then don’t thank them for their service. Or, better yet, just see what Pentagon officials say and follow their lead.