That's not the only thing we owe our troops, but it should certainly be at or near the top of the list. Those who have joined the military have placed their lives and bodies at our disposal, to be used as our President, with the concurrence of Congress, sees fit. The least we can do is take that commitment seriously, particularly by:
- Understanding what the stakes look like to the people in the country we're going to war in, rather than what they look like from our generally distant perspective;
- Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of both our allies and our enemies;
- Understanding what the true obstacles are likely to consist of;
- Determining whether our objectives are achievable without war, and achieving them peacefully if possible;
- Not getting into a war for domestic political reasons;
- Not staying in a war due to fear of domestic political fallout;
- When it becomes clear that a war is placing inordinate burdens on our volunteer army, spreading the burden via conscription if popular support for the war remains, or wrapping things up and getting out if it doesn't; and
- Acknowledging when we've reached the point where if we were going to achieve our goals and be able to exit on our desired terms, we'd have done so already, and acting on that acknowledgement by winding things down and getting out.
I'm sure you folks can think of others to add to the list. Basically, they boil down to going to war (and continuing to fight) for the right reasons, and having a clue about what's going on in the war.
We haven't done very well by our troops, have we? We've basically thrown their lives away by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the tens of thousands in Vietnam before that. The best that can be said for any of these wars is that we might've been able to wrap up our involvement in Afghanistan fairly quickly, if Bush, Cheney & Co. hadn't had Iraq on their minds.
Someday, somebody ought to apologize to our troops who fought in these wars, and their survivors, for our wanton waste of their lives. Nobody will, of course, because not even the soldiers whose bodies have been mangled, or the survivors of those who were killed, want to hear that their lives were basically wasted.
I can't say I blame them. But I can't come up with any other conclusion about the meaning(lessness) of their sacrifice.
This Memorial Day, we ought to commit ourselves to no more wars where we don't have a clue about what we're getting into, and no more lives sacrificed in such wars. It's about the only way I can think of to honor the sacrifices already made by our troops in recent years.