"Suck it up and salute": Bergdahl, Kerry, and the left's view of the military

Kerry’s activism back in 1971 was in the service of a similar end. When he ran for president in 2004, he expected both his war record and his antiwar activism to work in his favor. After all, most Americans had wanted out of Vietnam, and the Nixon administration achieved that aim a couple of years later. But while Kerry’s end might have been justifiable, it did not justify the means of slandering his fellow Vietnam veterans.

The left’s blinkered view of military culture is perhaps best summarized by Elias Isquith, a young writer for Salon.com, who yesterday explained the backlash against the Bergdahl deal as follows: “When a member of the military fails to adhere to the far right’s rigid formula of what a soldier should be (nationalistic, religious, obedient; conservative) right-wingers . . . come down on them [sic] like a ton of bricks.” He cited one example in addition to Bergdahl: John Kerry.

Isquith seems to imply that servicemen are fungible, each entitled to equal respect regardless of conduct. But the bitter criticism of Kerry in 2004 and Bergdahl today would carry no force if it came from mere “right-wingers.” It comes, instead, from servicemen and veterans who see the two men as having behaved dishonorably. Once again the left is being undone by its failure to comprehend the centrality of honor to military culture.