What the Active-Duty Military Wants

The American military — once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war — has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, according to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

Robert Hadierne, Poll: More troops unhappy with Bush’s course in Iraq, December 29, 2006, MilitaryCity.com

The military is famously not a democracy, but within our democracy the military tends to vote Republican, has tended to support the Iraq War and has tended to support this Commander in Chief. The military will continue to submit to civilian control, and soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen will continue to follow tactical orders, but what happens culturally when they no longer necessarily agree with the strategy of the war?

An active-duty sailor has circulated a petition, written in a tone he calls “short and simple … patriotic and respectful in tone.” The petition will be sent to Congress on Martin Luther King, Jr. day; the names of its signers, all active-duty servicemen and women, will not be made public. It reads:

As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

An Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq

The petition is legal and intended to appeal not to the public but to Congress, with whom members of the military have a legal right to communicate directly. It is unprecedented.

What are we to make of this shift in perception within the active-duty military? Is it a consequence of the stress of repeated tours in Iraq, or frustration with stop-loss measures that extend enlistment periods? Is it a reflection of what soldiers and marines are seeing on the ground in Iraq? Is the culture of the active-duty military changing, or did the Army Times poll uncover only a temporary reaction to institutional stress?

James Meeks

Captain in the Army’s Inactive Reserves

Served two tours of duty in Iraq

Student at Stanford Business School

Guest List
Jonathan Hutto
Naval Petty Officer stationed in Norfolk, VA Served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt March '05 - September '06 Co-founder, Appeal for Redress
Seth Moulton
Captain, US Marine Corps Reserves Served in Iraq Currently writing a book about Iraq and national service
Michael Yon
Writer and photographer, Michael Yon: Online Magazine Embedded blogger in Iraq in 2005, unembedded in Afghanistan, 2006 Former officer in Special Forces U.S. Army Author, forthcoming Battle for Mosul
Dave Danelo
Former Marine Corps Infantry Captain Served in Iraq in 2004 - left active duty at the end of 2004 to become a journalist Author, Blood Stripes: The Grunt's View of the War in Iraq Editor, US Cavalry on Point

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