Many years ago, American soldiers returning from Vietnam were greeted with contempt and disdain from pampered leftist antiwar protesters and draft-dodgers. The youth of the 1960s will forever be tarred with this dishonorable brush.
Today, once again, the left is protesting America's wars. To their credit, though, they're showing the actual warriors the respect and honor that is their due, at least via lip service.
In fact, to listen to the left, the best way we can honor our soldiers is by bringing them home where they'll be safe, rather than spending their blood uselessly in hostile sands.
Even on the right, worried bean-counters look at the mammoth cost of our hundreds of military bases all around the world and wonder why exactly we have to pay to protect the whole world. Mr. Obama's recent Libyan experiment with "leading from behind" won our grudging admiration for disposing of a bad guy on the cheap, which is about all we can afford. We've also asked what we're likely to accomplish in Afghanistan that's worth American lives.
How about Iraq? Like it or not, America's economy runs on oil and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. It's a Bad Thing for that oil to be controlled by unfriendly dictators, much less apocalyptic Muslim nutjobs. Yet, with Mr. Obama's trumpeted pullout, all that the Iraq War looks likely to accomplish is switching the place from the former to the latter - and Libya may end up the same way.
Our Founding Fathers thought the purpose of a national military was pretty clear: defend the nation. Yet they quickly realized that defense alone was not enough; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison sent the American navy to the other side of the world in the Barbary Wars, fighting countries that were absolutely no threat to America proper because they were a threat to our seamen, our ships, our travelers, and our trade. Clearly these great Founders didn't feel that American military might should be limited to our land and immediate coasts.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of American military operations have been somewhere other than in America, and most of the time against places that were never going to actually invade or try to conquer us. Yet few would argue that we should have let Hitler freely conquer Europe, say, or allow Spain to run roughshod over her colonies worldwide.
No, honor for our veterans can't be found by using them to rule the world, but it equally can't be achieved by bringing them home to huddle behind the walls of Fortress America.
What's another word for "honor"? Respect. On this Veteran's Day, and all of the time, we need to respect the lives and minds of our defenders by clearly explaining just what it is that we're asking them to do, and exactly why.
In recent times, Republicans have been no better at this than Democrats, so it's not a partisan issue. It's a question of honesty and patriotism, the honesty and patriotism that are no less than our warriors deserve.
Just maybe, as we carefully think through the rationale for all the places we send them and all the things we ask them to do, we'll discover that there are some things that don't need doing anymore and some places they don't need to be. Russia is not going to invade Germany anytime soon, nor Japan.
That wouldn't just be a way of showing respect to our veterans, but to all taxpayers. If only we had confidence that Congress would actually look at things logically and honorably, instead of just slashing soldiers' benefits!