The so-called "pro-war" crowd likes to think of itself as better educated, more enlightened, than the so-called "anti-war" crowd. Certainly people carrying signs equating Bush to Hitler and celebrities being quoted as being anti-war because it's "hip" doesn't help. Yet for pro-war folks to call anti-war protestors "un-American" is to express an equal, perhaps greater, ignorance. There's almost literally nothing more American than protesting war.
The open questioning of military leaders is a Western tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks. The entire Bill of Rights can be seen as an elaborate legal mechanism to preserve the right to poke our government in the eye. Anti-war dissent in particular has been with us since at least the Civil War, starting with the draft riots of 1865.
Foreign wars have been especially fond targets of our dislike for armed conflict. Without exception each expedition into the heartland of someone else's country has triggered at times massive civil disobedience and protests. Especially when conscription meant compelling young men to risk their lives whether they wanted to or not, protesting against war has been as natural for an American as watching baseball or eating apple pie.
The funny thing about today's anti-war protestors is that for many their motivation comes from a place normally thought to be the heartland of conservatives and Republicans-- a deep distrust of federal power. Conservatives worry what the federal government might do with their money. Liberals worry what the federal government might do with their kids. Both seem incapable of understanding the common ground they share: that government should not, must not, be unquestioningly trusted with things we hold dear.
"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows."
Anyone who says anti-war protests have never brought anything but misery to this country needs to go back and read their history books more carefully. Anti-war protests stopped the Civil War practice of "commutation", the ability for the rich to use their money to either buy their way out of the draft or pay someone to die for them. They also ensured that diplomacy got more than its fair chance during both world wars.
Korea and Vietnam are the only two large-scale conflicts in our history that weren't preceded by some form of anti-war protest, and neither of them could be considered stellar victories. Vietnam in particular stands as a shining example of what can happen when politicians are trusted without question with our armed forces. The liberal elite's near fanatic and, far more important, unquestioning support of Bill Clinton resulted in eight years of inconclusive and ongoing conflicts precisely because, as the traditional heart and soul of the modern anti-war movement, they remained silent.
It may be true that going to war without France is like going camping without an accordion (in both cases one is only leaving noisy and useless baggage behind), but, for America at least, going to war without questioning our motives is like trying to make steel without carbon... the result is often brittle, inflexible, and prone to failure. We need this kind of debate, if for no other reason than to make the politicians answer tough questions and make proper plans to ensure a war is prosecuted quickly and decisively.
It's perfectly OK to say the current anti-war movement is elitist and poorly thought out. I do. It's fine to disassemble their arguments like the badly constructed tinker toys they are. I do that too. It's even OK to point out that the leaders of the movements may have agendas at odds with those of their members. I've done it before.
It's not OK to call them un-American. It's not OK to call them traitors. It's not OK to refuse to listen to them, or to attempt to silence them. Anyone who does these things, anyone, is simply an ignorant thug who's out to attack people just because they disagree with them. It means you have become exactly what they accuse you of... someone who should be clever but has instead gotten mean.
Really, for the most part it's not particularly difficult to drop their arguments to the mat and pin them for the three count. Sometimes, though, it won't be that easy. Sometimes you'll run into someone who's every bit as skilled at argument as you, every bit as prepared for each point you make. They may not convince you. You may not convince them. But you'll both have a better appreciation for each side when it's over, and your own beliefs will be stronger for the examining.
And that, my friend, is the miracle of America.