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Should We Love the Troops?

Waiters and waitresses at a particular restaurant chain I frequent all wear company shirts while they serve their customers. I noticed the other day that while the front of the shirts were all the same, the back of the shirts had three or four different things written on them. I don’t recall what most of them had written on them except for one statement that stood out like a face mask on a sunbather at the beach: “I Love the Troops.”

Now, first of all, let me say that, as a libertarian and a supporter of the free market and property rights, I believe that any restaurant should have the right to compel any host, hostess, waiter, waitress, manager, cook, chef, sous chef, dishwasher, barista, bartender, cashier, or busser to wear whatever shirt or uniform they are told to wear. If some employee doesn’t like it, then he can go work somewhere else or open his own restaurant.

And the same goes for patrons of the restaurant. If the restaurant wants to have a dress code or require customers to wear a red shirt in order to be served, then so be it. Those that don’t like it can go and eat somewhere else. No one has the right to be served at a restaurant if he doesn’t meet the business owner’s entry requirements. And no one has the right to not be discriminated against.

Now, none of this means that any employee has to like the shirt he is required to wear while he works in the restaurant. And none of this means that any customer has to like the shirts he sees on the employees in the restaurant. Being a libertarian does not mean that one cannot have an opinion about the style, color, or sayings on the shirts.

So, back to the shirts.

What is it about a shirt saying “I Love the Troops” that is so important to me that I would write an article about it? As someone who has written about the U.S. military and U.S. foreign policy for almost twenty years, that shirt was calling my name and begging me to write about it.

First of all, why would a restaurant (or any place of business) require its employees to wear a shirt saying “I Love the Troops”?

Perhaps the business owner is a veteran or a lover of the military and wants to express his love for the troops by making his employees wear “I Love the Troops” shirts? Not very likely.

Perhaps the business owner loves the troops and wants people to love the troops like he does? In this case the message on the shirts is just shorthand for “I love the troops and want you to love them too.” Again, not very likely.

The real reason probably has nothing to do with how the business owner actually feels about the troops. He may not be a veteran or know a veteran, and may even be ambivalent about the troops. He could even have a bad taste in his mouth when it comes to the military.

But regardless, he knows what suckers Americans are for the military. He probably feels that veterans and lovers of the military will, upon seeing the shirts, be more likely to leave a larger tip, be less likely to complain about the food or service, visit the restaurant more often, and/or recommend the restaurant to other veterans and military lovers.

Second, and most importantly, is the question of whether we should love the troops. The short answer is that we shouldn’t. The long answer is what follows.

Should we love the troops who make widows and orphans?

Should we love the troops who join the military, travel the world, meet interesting people, and then kill them?

Should we love the troops who die in vain and for a lie?

Should we love the troops who leave collateral damage in their wake?

Should we love the troops who help to carry out a reckless, belligerent, and meddling foreign policy?

Should we love the troops who go where they have no business going?

Should we love the troops who blindly follow orders?

Should we love the troops who fight unjust and unnecessary wars?

Should we love the troops who police the world?

Should we love the troops who invade and occupy other countries?

Should we love the troops who engage in offense while calling it defense?

Should we love the troops who help to create terrorists, insurgents, and militants?

Should we love the troops who destroy foreign industry, culture, and infrastructure for no good reason?

Should we love the troops who maim and kill foreigners who never threatened any American?

Should we love the troops who pretend to defend our freedoms?

Should we love the troops who fight wars that are not constitutionally declared?

Should we love the troops who recite filthy cadences?

Should we love the troops who support a network of brothels around the world?

Should we love the troops who act as a global force for evil?

Should we love the troops who carry out inaccurate drone strikes?

Should we love the troops who obey immoral orders?

Should we love the troops who pretend to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?

Should we love the troops who act as the president’s personal attack force?

Should we love the troops who are pawns in the hands of Uncle Sam?

Should we love the troops who die for the military/industrial complex?

Should we love the troops who spread democracy at the point of a gun?

Should we love the troops who unleash sectarian violence?

Should we love the troops who, by their presence, create enemies of the United States?

Of course not.

But it’s just a shirt. Yes, it’s just a shirt. But it’s a shirt with a nonsensical slogan.