06/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's More Important to Honor our Military: Better Leadership or Another Sunday Speech?

Senator Obama has come under fire from William Kristol and others for not mentioning military service at Wesleyan. Frank Shaeffer has blogged about this issue and has rightly noted the importance of progressives honoring the military

Of course, Senator Obama should have noted military service in his Wesleyan commencement address last Sunday. He has praised the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces on many occasions to many different audiences. This was an oversight noticed by many of us who support the Senator.

William Kristol, in his desire to paint Democrats on an "elite northeastern college campus" as anti-military, wants to make more of it. Kristol comments: "Obama failed to challenge--even gently--what he must have assumed would be the prejudices of most of his audience."

Whatever Kristol means, he is fighting a culture war that ended many years ago. I know dozens of Obama supporters. I teach on an elite campus. Most of my students are liberal Obama supporters. Everyone I know admires our men and women in uniform. We are grateful for their achievements and their sacrifice. We are concerned about the hardships they now endure. By the way, we also want them to defeat al Quada terrorists who are trying to kill us.

There is no ideological or partisan divide when it comes to caring about Americans in harm's way. Whatever we believe about gay marriage, universal health care, the Arab-Israeli peace process, or Donald Rumsfeld, we care just as deeply about the Marine in Kirkuk and the special forces operative in Afghanistan. We want them to have the best equipment, the best training and support, the smartest leadership, the best medical care if they are hurt. I'm sure that almost every Wesleyan student and parent feels exactly the same way.

Mr. Kristol chides Senator Obama for indulging "a soft patriotism of low expectations." This is such a cheap shot. Anyone can praise the troops in a Sunday speech. True patriotism requires that our next president do what President Bush has not: Sweating the details to manage our diplomacy and our military more effectively, to honor our commitments to both active-duty and former personnel.

One more thing: Given the Bush administration's horrendous treatment of our troops on repeat tours, its poor planning and baffling mismanagement of the Iraq war, I expect many service members, veterans, and their families will be supporting Senator Obama come November.

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