There is a science to debating in which it's less about being right and more about outfoxing your opponents, painting them into a corner and forcing them to use their time to argue irrelevant points. Just watch "Meet The Press" on Sunday and you will see what I'm talking about. It's an effective tactic, but also infuriating to those who just want to drive a decision based on facts.
The "support our troops" line of conversation can often be used as such a debate tactic. Most in the military like moral support, but what they really care about is good equipment, equitable pay and clear mission parameters. When most people say they "support our troops" they back it up with the same level of sacrifice they give when supporting the Red Sox or Yankees. There are obviously exceptions.; if you are one of them, this doesn't apply to you.
So, if most people don't actually make any substantial sacrifices, why do most debates about the Iraq War include a self conscious "support our troops" component? It actually sidetracks both war opponents and war proponents. War opponents have to craft troop support into their arguments. War proponents have to explain how the latest military scandal doesn't negate any value from the overall effort.
The current Middle East crisis, most directly involving Israel & Lebanon, has really driven this point home. Most there don't seem preoccupied with a military self-consciousness that side-tracks discussion, but are instead focused on debating whether or not a war should be pursued. This is likely because most of their citizens are personally impacted by the decision and can't afford to be distracted by debate tactics ... amazing how real sacrifice focuses a discussion. I hope future decisions in the US are as focused on the salient issues.
note: this post isn't a "for or against" post. It is a "how" post. At this point what matters is how we make the national decision regarding our next conflict.