This morning I was passing by the television when one of the morning-show hosts asked a senator this question: “Do you think the troops are fighting and dying for nothing?” The senator went to his deer-in-the-headlights look and the host, smelling blood, asked it again, louder and in a more confrontational manner. The question, of course, is one of those “gotcha” questions. It’s not a question about policy. The senator had already said he thought the policy should change. The host was asking about values, and being a senator doesn’t give one more insight into the eternal value of something than being a news anchor does. I always wish that people asked these questions would turn around and ask the same question of the interviewer.
So here I offer my answer to the question: are the troops fighting and dying for nothing? Let me put it in Soldier language: “Not only no, but [insert favorite expletive] no!”
I believe that’s true whether you agree with the current policy or not. If a man jumps in a river to save a drowning child, and they both die, who would say, “He died for nothing.” You might suggest that there was another way to save the child, or you might even suggest that there was no way to save the child to begin with. That is, you might question his tactics or his strategy , but who would denigrate the man’s effort and intentions by saying that the man’s death was morally worthless?
Soldiers deploy, and fight when necessary, and sometimes suffer grievous injury or death, for many reasons. At the most basic level, they do it out of loyalty to the people they train, live and fight beside. Soldiers are a “band of brothers [and sisters].”
They deploy and fight out of love for the country that sent them into conflict, having sworn to carry out the nation’s orders even at great cost to themselves and their families.
They deploy and fight because there are worthy goals within the mission itself:restraining evil, bringing freedom, giving people new opportunities for life. The troops I know see themselves as “peacemakers.” Soldiers are very good at finding (or creating) worthy goals in the midst of any mission they are given. Give them a pile of manure, and they’ll find a pony in there somewhere.
And they do it for the sake of their own honor and integrity. These things are not “nothing.”
Christians, especially, should understand the moral value of a life offered for others. Two thousand years ago a man rode a donkey into Jerusalem in an age-old gesture that told everyone, “here is your king.” He was put to death, his reign of peace rejected. Did he die for nothing? Over two millenia, generations of martyrs have offered their lives out of faithfulness to Christ. For Christians, it is simple loyalty to Christ and the church – more than dreams of earning a heavenly reward – that motivates their faithfulness unto death. Do they die for nothing?
The question of the way ahead in Iraq is a question for national discussion, but none of this calls into question the value of a Soldier’s sacrifice. Our troops are fighting – and sometimes dying – for something. They are fighting and dying for you! It’s up to the nation to decide how to use this precious gift wisely.