Military Honor

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Post by AABaker » Wed Aug 02, 2006 6:26 am

bellum paxque:

I think you missed my point. I merely wanted to point out that just war "doctrine" never has functioned right. In fact, there is no coherent theory of just has always been bits and pieces drawn from here and there.

Another note, the "just war" tradition, should probably be more accurately called, "justifiable war" since war can never be just in the Christian tradition from which tried to implement these things. War itself was always a failure, on both sides and in the middle ages, even knights who fought a "justifiable war" were generally excluded from the Eucharst for several years till their penance was over. "Just" as an adjective applied to the cause, but not the war, which was a necessary evil, but still an evil.

Second, there is no one single classic statement of all the criteria and just how they are to be phrased. There is no one single list, that is standard and normative. This in and of itself, shows that the "theory" was never meant to function in any real and serious way to limit war. The mian function of the theory, was for the confessional: the guy comes back from war and tells the priest and asks, "how bad is it?" Then the priest tells him. That is how this was meant to function. But without even that, this whole theory falls to pieces. It never functioned very well, even then, and today this theory is completely out of its home. It functions poorly because there are deeper problems.

Nevertheless, I would certainly support a strengthening of the doctrine, and a serious and strict application of it by would be leaders, and of course though it goes against the theory, the soldiers themselves to decide if they should fight or not (According to Augusting and Aquinas, this theory really is meant from the top down, and the lower people do not question the top.). But soldiers in the military are not free to say, "I will not fight in Iraq, because the Pope said it is not a just war...or Archbishop Botein from Canton Ohio said it is a mortal sin to participate in this war. (Botein actually released such a statement...and I believe Ratzinger said the Iraq was was not just, I could be corrected on the last one though)."

Individual soldiers can have their opinion, but that is all it is and they are not free to choose without severe penalty not to fight.

Regarding Chomsky and bias, well, I woudl certainly not want to get my history of WWII from school books...but where can you get "unbiased" history? Chomsky was drawing a lesson from that history...and it seems clear that Japan, as aggressive and totalitarian as it was, had good reason to think the US was a threat. But the lessons of history are not clearly, and objectively the result of the historical process. To draw a lesson from history is partly subjective, and always partly a projection of how historians asks questions, what readings that historian takes seriously, how that historian puts things together, etc. So anything that we talk about by way of lessons from the historical experience has to be subject to numerous footnotes about the extent to which the reading of history is itself a prejudiced operation.

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Post by alauda » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:19 am

I was following this thread for a couple days now, tempted to
respond the whole time. Finally I had a few minutes to write on
the topi, only it turned out to be quite a bit more than a few
minutes; in fact, I seem to have gone on and on.

To Lucus Eques I would say a few things. You seem like an
idealistic fellow. Obviously intelligent, you have the sense to
investigate a thing before doing it. Good!

Bad reconnaissance has probably been the cause of more lost
battles than any other factor.

Therefore, before you consider my opinion, let me describe my
qualifications for dispensing advice regarding a military career
or service.

I was never in the military, for a severe hand injury as a
teenager disqualified me, but I served as a civilian overseas in
an educational capacity, running the small distance learning
centers the US military installs at all bases. My rank was GS11,
equivalent to a Captain in the army or a Lieutenant in the
navy. My motivation for doing that job was not money, but duty.

I come from a long line of military men. Ancestors of mine have
fought in every American war in history, sometimes, as in the
cases of the Mexican American War and the Civil War, I have blood
on BOTH sides of those horrible conflicts. With a family like
that, one is reared in certain traditions, and from my Father, my
Uncles, and Grandfathers, I heard a lot of stories about military
life that you NEVER will see or hear in the news.

My physical disqualification was a source of pain, so it was with
great pleasure that I took my first overseas job at a
demilitarization site in which old chemical weapons were
destroyed, and at the that job, and later, it was my honor and
pleasure to know intimately many, many, soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and marines of all ranks, from privates to
generals. Because of the nature of my work, I could move through
all the different strata and services. I was able to get a real
big picture in a way that has proven useful.

Being the sort of person, I guess, that people tend to confide
in, I acquired a very good idea about military life. Heck, I
lived in barracks with soldiers. I ate with them. I traveled
with them. I got to know them well, and I heard all the stories
about "What they wish they'd have done if they only knew!"

But before I tell you about the different branches and the
various capacities available, I'd like to how I feel about
military types in general.

First, the officer class of the US military are some of the
finest people you will ever meet. Intelligent, educated, and
intensely dedicated to the welfare of their troops. Back in the
civilian world, I was often disgusted by the selfishness and
short sidedness of what for lack of a better term I call the
"mercantile mentality."

Sadly, our country is being run by a little gang of those
demented idiots with their puppet buffoon president, and that is
not beside the point, for if you do join up, ultimately, you will
be executing THEIR orders. You may not want that.

Second, among the non-coms (non-commissioned officers, like
Sergeants and Petty Officers) the quality varies. If you wish to
avoid the stupid thug type, you will do well to steer clear of
the infantry and the military police (MPs). The bullies tend to
gravitate in those directions with the MPs being the worst.

Now, I must qualify that. Some of my best friends are MPs. I am
still in touch with several of them, but they would agree. It was
from my MP friends that heard about what goes on behind the
scenes. The worst sorts of hazing, ostracism, and outright
physical violence were always those guys. Understand, that the
MPs were first instituted in the US military during the Civil
War. Their purpose, positioned at the rear, was to shoot their
own troops should they attempt to flee, so there is, among them,
a dark tradition. If you want a job as a cop when you get out,
the MP career is THE way to go, however.

But generally, what you want to do, is to do well on all the
tests they give you. That will qualify you for the best jobs, and you will
serve your country by positioning yourself where your skills are
best used. The moment you swear that oath, brother, your ass is
THEIRS, so make sure you DO NOT sign or swear ANY oaths until you
have talked to ALL the recruiters. these guys are under a lot of
pressure to get inductees. They are not always honest and
idealistic like you. They will work any naivete to their
advantage, so don't sign anything until you are ready. Play hard
to get. Ask to see IN WRITING where you will be posted and what
your job will be.

There are no guarantees of that however. Your oath includes the
statement that you will serve where you are posted doing what you
are told, but good, honest recruiters will not lie to you. They
will work to get you a good assignment and good training. But
your big bargaining chip is lost when you swear that oath.

verbum sapientis sat

Now as to the various branches.

For years now, the US has been downsizing the Marines. I knew a
bunch of men and women who when they re-upped, went over to the
Army because promotions were so hard to come by.

In the marines, right from the first day, they will tell you,
when the marines take a beach, there are two waves. The first
wave experiences, historically, 80 percent casualties, the
second, 20. Which wave you will be in is determined by how well
you do in boot camp. Needless to say, this fosters an intensely
competitive spirit. If you ever look at the lists of POWs during
the Viet Nam war, you will see very, very few marines. Why?
Because they fought to the death. The marines really ARE bad
ass. They are the elites, and they are respected.

But don't be blinded by the call of glory. That can be used
against you, and believe me, it WILL.

Me? I probably would have joined the marines if I could. But I'm
an idiot that way.

Now in the Navy, about half the people spend four years chipping
paint. You will hear all kinds of jokes about the Navy, like sub
crews, "100 men go out, 50 couples come back." They will tell you
you get to travel, but mainly you will be stuck in port aboard a
ship you are sick of with people you've seen to much of, and when
at sea, that is all you will see, whereabouts unknown. IF,
however, you are involved with aircraft, computers, or any high
tech job, you will have very, very interesting, exiting work. My
dad was in the Navy and served as a photographer on a gunboat in
Korea. It was not glamorous. Mainly he got to take pictures of
dead people maimed in horrible ways. I've seen the pictures. He
wouldn't even show them too me until I was eighteen.

The army is so large and so complex that there is TOO much to
say. You have a very good chance of getting a good job in the
army if you do well on the test. The people who do poorly get
sent to infantry, and that's part of the problem. Smart people
get intensely bored and frustrated around too many mono-syllabic
types. Most of my dealings were with the army, and I have a
feeling of sympathy for them, but the places the army goes and
the jobs it does is everything, everywhere.

The air force, among US military, has the reputation for having
the best food, the best housing, and the best training. I am
absolutely certain that is not always true, but it often is for
the simple fact that air bases are always located way far away
from any possible enemy. There is an appeal in that. You will
usually be posted fairly near large, metropolitan area, and you
can easily fix things so you can stay on one base your whole four
years. My sister's husband was stationed at an air base not
twenty miles from where he grew up and stayed there the whole
time, coming home to his family every night. (He was a ground
equipment mechanic.)

To correct the sort of impressions that movies and such will give
you, well, they always show military men acting like drill
sergeants. It isn't like that. The officers are much more polite
than the average person. Amazingly so. The non-coms are very
much "with the troops." Most of them, men and women, are just
regular people with a certain aptitude. They act pretty much like
jocks. There is great camaraderie. You will be told why you are
doing what you are doing. You will know how what you do fits in
with the whole. We are a democracy. Americans are a freedom
loving people. That spirit is reflected throughout all of the
military, and don't let any armchair expert tell you otherwise.

They try and make things comfortable for the troops. On every
base there's a college, a gym, a movie theater. There are always
sports event to play in. By the ocean, there will be sailboats
and diving classes. In the mountains there will be hang
gliders. In the desert there will be motocross bikes to
ride... Fact is, US soldiers probably have it better than any
soldier in history. The chances of you getting shot are very low.

But the chances of you getting, bored, humiliated,
disgusted... well, those are common. You might make friends whose
loyalty will inspire you your whole life. You might make enemies
who will wait till the bombs start going off and shoot you
themselves. It happens.

Being as I was involved in the continuing education aspect of
the military, I can tell you that everything they say about
getting an education in the armed services is true. It's also a
lie. A good friend of mine was one of the best turbine engine
mechanics around. He had to take a job as a short order cook when
he got out. There are lots of stories like that. But the benefits
and incentives for college are very real. These days, there's no
such thing as the old GI Bill though. That's been superceded by a
host of voluntary programs. The best one involves them taking
about 60 dollars a month from your pay for your college fund, and
then the service will pay the difference for your college, right
up to upper graduate work! Ask you recruiters about
that. Congress is always changing the rules, but once you sign on
to a certain program, they won't yank it from you later.

Right now they are hurting, so you will hear some fine
incentives, but the whole education thing requires that you form
a plan and stick with it. It will not be done for you.

A lot of people go into the service because they want to find out
what they are made of. Ironically, they always find out that they
already knew the answer before they went in, but then some of
them find they made a bad choice. The question is not, "are you

There are ALL kinds of toughness, and few of them are physical.

People who do well in the services are the one's who are good
sports. Can you take an insult? Can you put up with a bit of
stupidity? Are you loyal to your friends? Can you buy a jerk a
drink? Those qualities will see you through all kinds of hell,
should you be sent there (aka Iraq)

See, in ALL the services, if you get the reputation as a whiner,
a sniveler, a coward, you are OUT. You will be forced out. They
will mess with you and mess with you until you break. What any
soldier will tell you, is that the thing the soldier fears more
than death, is to be thought a coward. Most people would rather
die than have that happen. On this thread, there was some talk
about "self preservation" and how fighting seems to go against
that. But there is more to self preservation than one's immediate
life. Some understand that, and some others never will. There is
no sense explaining it to them.

But don't join up just to find that out. Don't join up to prove
anything to anyone. Only your opinion of you really matters.

I am myself most emphatically a patriot. I love my country. I
respect and admire the men and women of the armed services. They
are good, strong, brave Americans. I hate hearing them disparaged
in any way. You could do a LOT worse. But consider, could YOU do

Te, Saluto


bellum paxque
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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:54 am


That was one of the longest posts I've read on this forum. But I don't resent the length at all. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge of and experience with the armed forces. I enjoyed the read and feel like I've got a better picture of what it means to be an American soldier.



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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Aug 02, 2006 10:06 am

I merely wanted to point out that just war "doctrine" never has functioned right.
On this point, I'll agree with you. For the rest--well, I'm no expert on the topic of just wars, though I've read a bit of Augustine and Aquinas's opinions. I think I do understand your main point now. However, it does seem to me that, assuming for the sake of argument the moral values and ideals of a specific time and place, it is possible to judge whether a war is or is not just.

In history, of course, there are all sorts of problems, and historical judgment is often as subjective as you say. Still, I'm not sure I agree with you about Japan. Sure, they had very good reason to consider the US a threat. But a just war theorist must ask, a threat to what? If it was a threat to the military-industrial complex they were building in an attempt to continue expanding their sphere of influence--i.e., empire--does this justify a preemptive strike? No doubt the Rebels are a distinct threat to Palpatine and his cronies: thus the Death Star is a just response? Drawing lessons from history is by its nature a subjective response. This is because lessons are value-centered. They cannot exist outside of values and goals. Given our belief in the value of peace, of tolerance, and of self-determination, Japanese military expansion was unjustified.



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Post by Bert » Thu Aug 03, 2006 12:09 am

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:I imagine the United States millitary understood that cutting Japan off from 80% of its oil supply would seriously upset them, and logically decided to build up the anit-Japanese forces to which Noam Chomsky referred. Also, I believe the United States was scared that imperialist Japan might go after some of its Asian territories, paticularly the Phillipines.
I may have misunderstood you, but are you saying that the boycot was a bad thing or are you just making an observation.
How would you compare this boycot with the one against South Africa to try and stop the apartheid policies?

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Thu Aug 03, 2006 1:43 am

Bert wrote: I may have misunderstood you, but are you saying that the boycot was a bad thing or are you just making an observation.
An observation. I do remember hearing my history teacher lecturing about how, when the United States installed the last few embargos (it didn't happen at once), there was no way Japan could not go to war with the United States. And I was thinking of the Chomsky factoid about the Japanese attacking the military installation which was intended to attack Japan, and I made the connection "Aha! Maybe Chomsky was right in fact, just skewing the interpretation" (though I shouldn't say anything, since I haven't seen where Chomsky discussed Pearl Harbor).

The Pacific theatre of WWII was so complex, with the Chiang Kai-Shek Chinese, Maoist Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Koreans, Fillipinos, Russians, and Australians (and arguably the Nazis as well) that it is difficult for me to say "This group was right and that group was wrong". I do not approve of Japan's imperialism or the Rape of Nanking, but I can't say that the United States did everything right either.

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Post by bellum paxque » Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:01 am

but I can't say that the United States did everything right either.
If this is what my position was beginning to approach, my apologies. I don't blindly support US actions (far from it: I'm a keen opponent of American cold war politics in South America, for instance). I was just trying to point out that trying to justify Japanese actions, though certainly intriguing and provocative, is not very likely to succeed.


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