So, the White Stripes demanded that the Air Force stop using their music in recruitment ads. Cool. But…

Shielding in advance any criticisms that they don’t back the troops, the duo clarified that they “support this nation’s military” but “simply don’t want to become a cog in the wheel of the current conflict.”

And so it goes. One of the greatest little victories the right wing has won in this country over the last few decades is the way they have so successfully cowed liberals into being absolutely terrified of accusations of not “supporting the troops”. If our reactionaries had just a little something resembling a sense of humor, I have no doubt that they could, in no time, have liberals tripping over themselves to outdo each other in insisting publicly that yes, colorless green ideas do sleep furiously, and anyone who insists otherwise hates the Founding Fathers and the Bible and the Super Bowl.

Of course, in reality, the troops are just tools in service to a mission. It doesn’t matter how many happy thoughts you think about them, it doesn’t matter how many of them are the boys next door you’d be proud to call your friends; they are the epitome of cogs in the machine. That’s not a slur or a value judgment, that’s a job description. They follow orders handed down a long chain of command, even if those orders are repugnant to personal sensibilities, even if they are almost sure to result in their grisly deaths. If one of them breaks down, we’ve got a million more just like them to take their place.

It should be obvious to anyone with two eyes and half a brain why there has been this push to personalize war in the form of the individual soldiers fighting in it — because the missions themselves are not defensible by any of our accepted standards of justice or morality. Apparently, the only way we can allow ourselves to act like Romans is by finding a way to keep pretending that we’re still the Continental Army at Valley Forge. For more than half a century now, we’ve found ourselves being asked repeatedly to accept the idea that tiny, poor nations thousands of miles away are a dire threat to our very existence. Rather than keep trying to come up with increasingly far-fetched proof of this, some genius realized that it would be a lot easier to simply shift the focus. Now, we’re told that we have the greatest military that has ever existed, that it can fight multiple enemies at once and prevail, but as any scriptwriter knows, it’s booor-ring when your hero is utterly invincible. So, to round out its character, this world-beating colossus has an Achilles’ heel: it needs a lot of reassurance and encouragement. It’s very sensitive. It just wanted to pet the mouse, George. A few discouraging words from people at home can do what bombs and tanks and rocket launchers could never do: bring our mighty military to its knees.

Well, what can you say. People have believed dumber shit over the ages, I guess. But still, it should also be obvious that even having this back-and-forth over we’ve got troop-love, yes we do, we’ve got troop-love, how ’bout you? is a luxury, like others, that proves the essential lack of any real existential urgency to any of our foreign occupations. There wouldn’t be any question of support if we we knew what it meant to truly fight for our lives. We would all recognize a real threat if we saw one.

Well, actually, I take that back. It wouldn’t be hard at all to make the case that the future stability and security of our nation is vastly more threatened by the obscene and ever-increasing amount of military spending than it is by any group of “Death to America” insurgents with homemade bombs, but no one that matters has seemed to notice that yet.