I was rereading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity this weekend and noticed where he mentioned patriotism in the context of his defense of a higher moral right that was separate from an "instinct" to do good or to save others or whatever. Basically, Lewis included patriotism as one of several instincts that were neither good or bad, but which like other instincts, like let's say the sex instinct for argument sake, which needed to be regulated by a higher morality. This made me think of how conservatives have made patriotism in general, and "support" for our troops in particular an absolute moral value, a kind of a mandatory social response that presumably one should not question. But it is not. As Lewis notes, patriotism can be taken to an extreme where the absolute right or good is forgotten, and other people are made to suffer unjustifiably.
I was thinking of this line of argument when I happened upon James Wolcott's site this morning and read this post on the article from The Economist about the American conduct of the ongoing war in Iraq. After a holiday of continued tributes to "the troops" on every program from football to beer ads, I wonder at what point we raise the issue of our troops' conduct and attitude and of the overall war effort. The "support the troops" rally cry is the hallmark of political correctness and is pressed on us in a subtle but emphatic attitude that warns off dissent for the war, defended always in the name of "fighting for our freedom". But everyone except Faux News and Clownhall.com knows the war there has nothing to do with our freedom.
A couple weeks ago, one of my blogging colleagues (Roger Ailes or No More Mister Nice Blog, I can't remember which), reflected on their sympathy for the troops and concluded that they supported the troops (and presumably their families)--to a point. It's hard to say what I or any of us would do there were we trying to survive, but the troops have for voluntary and to a large extent for attitudinal and ideological reasons put themselves in the position of armed warrior in a hostile land serving at the whim of their CIC, who, surveys tell us, they support.
So, for reasons relating to moral right, I don't think the troops should be off limits to criticism, or their political (but not economic) supporters given a free pass on the "values issues" given their blind and relativist support for American military operations there and anywhere, whenever a Republican president and Republican congress are in charge.