Campus is aflutter with talk of English professor Steven Salaita‘s column at Salon, provocatively titled (and possibly not by him) “No, thanks: Stop saying ‘support the troops'”. Salaita preludes with an incident familiar to many of us, being asked at a gas station to “donate your change to the troops”. From the ambiguity of where the donation would go, Salaita proceeds to spotlight the ambiguity of the sentiment of “supporting our troops” itself. The article is worth a read, and i’ll assume visitors here have taken a moment to digest it.
As the Obama administration contemplates military intervention in Syria, with heightened enthusiasm (or is it urgency?) following the disclosure of the Syrian government’s probable use of chemical weaponry against its own citizens, we the citizenry are cycling through the now well-trodden exchanges: How successful can military intervention be? (And what does that even mean?) Should we take a utilitarian outlook that privileges lives spared or money saved in the short run; or recognize the imperialist tradition and the long-term destabilizing influence our legacy of intervention has wrought? How carefully—and to whom—are the Western powers obligated to respect the various international bodies, laws, and traditions that have been set up to manage this kind of thing—particularly those in the region?