[written April 29, 2002]
Everyone's been telling me how evil the military is. Now, I'm sure in many ways it can be, like pushing kids into boring jobs, eating up tons of resources, etc., but specifically they are referring to how it kills people, particularly innocent people, is a bullying police force, and breeds machines that just want to killkillkill.
Not that there aren't some people who get off on abusing and killing while in a uniform, I'm sure...
Maybe I'm just naive and blind, but here's how I see it. I value life tremendously. I value civil societies as well. I believe in being civil to one's enemies so as not to incite hate or reasons to fight back. I want all societies to be peaceful to each other.
I don't see things so neatly that I think that human life must ALWAYS be spared. How come god-fearing pro-life Christians have no problems justifying war or the death penalty? I believe in the death penalty although not in its current implementation. I think the only ones to be executed should be repeat offenders of serious crimes. Ones who constitute a continuous threat to human life and have no possibility of innocence because of their multiple crimes.
I believe in abortion and think it's just another thing that needs to be used extremely responsibly and carefully. Is it better for the child in the long run? Better for the family? Better for society? People may call it murder, but it's such a complex issue that I think it's better left to the family to decide, and I think we're better off as a whole leaving these sorts of difficult decisions to the people directly involved than to soulless acts of law or court decisions.
And with the military, I follow much of what you would hear a general say, or a reader of von Clausewitz. The military isn't to be used irresponsibly or uncarefully or haphazardly. It's to be used for very specific things, and if you're sure there's no way to deal with things through diplomacy (which should be tried continuously), then it might need to be unleashed. The military should of course follow the Geneva Convention, but should be expected to be harsh and violent in its execution when it's let loose. That's what it does. It should be aware that it will be held accountable by other countries and by the media, so it shouldn't show cruelty. Most importantly it should be held accountable to American citizens, who compose its numbers as well as finance it and employ it into action. I was pissed that the military did ANYTHING to Walker Lindh that might be used by defense lawyers or the UN or the media against them. Give people no excuse to hate you or criticize you, and you'll be much better off when you make your case. It also shows basic human respect towards your enemy.
All of these things that involve killing human beings require a civil, intelligent, rational society. From such a society come representatives elected to the different branches of the government, who will be fully aware of all perspectives and know when to use the devastating tools available to them.
So I think when people complain about the military killing people and making the world worse, their arguments are directed at the wrong people. The military IS necessary (although I disagree with Bush pumping so much money in, even though I'll probably benefit from the extra shit it buys) and it needs to exist. If you debate its necessity then you might have a more solid argument...
But those who are really in power, American citizens, and thus, the people elected to represent them, are the ones who must truly be smart enough and open-minded enough to know how to deal with the problems that inevitably arise. Citizens don't take enough responsibility for their role in the representative democracy. Given that barely anyone votes, you wonder why people feel so alienated from the system! The military, the government, everything, they are supposed to be the tools of the peoples' will!
I don't know what will come of my time in the Army, but I know that I will be forced to deal with these important issues on a regular basis. War is full of contradictions and grey areas, and facing them I think makes one a stronger person, instead of running from them. Maybe I will change my thinking about things. It will come through first-hand experience though.
I may be forced to do things I don't agree with. I wouldn't be happy about the prospect of doing something I don't agree with, which is why I would hope my superiors will be the best and brightest and most intelligent and experienced people I could have.
I also realize to some degree that I may be pigeonholed as a result of having Army experience. But I don't want to be just a military man. I'd like to have experience in diplomacy, relief, politics, and so on later in life.
I have had to rationalize my decision with consideration towards the legitimate concerns those close to me have regarding American policy and the use of force in the international arena. It's been difficult. And it will continue to be, I should hope.
Surely the military isn't the only way to confront difficult human issues. Becoming politically active, working for international charities, and other such things are other very direct ways. I just happened to choose the Army. But I'd like to work in law enforcement or diplomacy or relief organizations later in my life.
I don't want to make peoples' lives better, I want to free people so that they can make their lives better for and by themselves. I want peace and I want open markets. I want federal institutions to have spotless records. I want everything to WORK, and I want everyone to fulfill their potential as much as they choose!
Does that make me a mindless killer? I hope not.