Many Americans maintain that, while they oppose the Iraq War, they nonetheless
Is it possible to oppose the War and yet supportthe troops?If I support the war, that means I believe the ends are justified andgood, themeans are appropriate, and so on. So I believe in the mission, as youmight say. Whatdoes it mean to "support the troops"? It might mean that I writecomforting "lettersfrom home" to people in the services, that I have positive feelingstowards thesoldiers, that I applaud their representatives on the 4th of July, andso on and on. Thesetwo activities are very clearly different and perfectly distinct, asthe support has two different objects, and there is plainly no fantasyhere. The more seriousquestion is whether it is morally permissible to engagein the second activity (supporting the troops) without the first(support for the war), or if we think the war is positively wrong. To put anextreme case: could (a moral "could" here) goodGermanshave supported the Wehrmacht, the regular army, even though they didnotsupport Hitler and the War and its stated aims? And would it have beena good idea? (Or, even moreextremely, should such Germans have written warm supportiveletters to regular Wehrmacht units, but not say to SS army units?) Itseems tome that the answer to this moral question hinges on just how bad thewaris thought to be. Supporting the troops if the war is known to be agreat moral evilis more than fantasy; it is itself wrong. But there is nothing wrongwith supportingthe troops in a war which we know or confidently believe is a justifiedand good one, such as (from the Allied side) theSecond World War. So forAmericans today the question of whether we can or should support thetroops but not thewar depends on just how bad we think the war is. My own view, for whatit is worth, is that the war is very bad (even though it appears to be theresult of incompetence and lack of intelligence rather than of malice),but not quite bad enough tojustify withdrawing our support, if we wish to give it, to people inthe services.