November 12th, 2009

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Military Morality

This article caught my eye today ...

A Morally Bankrupt Military: When Soldiers and Their Families Become Expendable
The military operates through indoctrination. Soldiers are programmed to develop a mindset that resists any acknowledgment of injury and sickness, be it physical or psychological. As a consequence, tens of thousands of soldiers continue to serve, even being deployed to combat zones like Iraq and/or Afghanistan, despite persistent injuries. According to military records, over 43,000 troops classified as "nondeployable for medical reasons" have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan nevertheless.


The opening contains a point worth discussing first: changing a normal person into a soldier requires ripping out the original moral framework and replacing it with something else. This allows the soldier to kill other human beings without hesitation, to continue fighting even while substantially damaged, and otherwise do all sorts of things that normal people can't or won't do -- which is necessary if the soldier is to live and the war is to be won.

The problem is, that process has drawbacks. It tends to destabilize the personality, which may or may not ever manifest as serious personality problems. Going to war also destabilizes personalities. Most people can recover from one trip, enough to be reasonably functional. But every trip lowers the chance of functionality and raises the chance that the personality will fray or break altogether. Because much of a soldier's self-preservation has been dismantled, and this is reinforced by other soldiers, it requires very careful observation to tell when one of them is damaged enough to require treatment or retirement. Failing to do that usually means the soldier loses a grip on the implanted violence routines and attacks themselves or other people.

It is hardly fair to blame the soldiers when the army pushed them to that point, and not even entirely fair to blame the army for also being what it is. Society needs to recognize that the army needs enough personnel to meet the demands on it, or else demands need to be lowered to what the personnel can do; that the army needs resources aside from artillery, such as adequate health care and staff; and that the army requires some supervision from ordinary people who will have an easier time spotting soldiers in need of care rather than leaving it all to other soldiers who have all been reprogrammed with the same "keep moving till you drop" routine. Because if we don't take care of those steps, broken soldiers explode out of the military and wreak havoc in other communities.

So is the military really morally bankrupt? Of course it is. It's a military. It's not supposed to be moral; it's supposed to be a formidable killing machine, and morality just gets in the way of that. Morality is society's job.

And society is becoming morally bankrupt. It sucks people in, uses them up, wipes its arse with them, throws them in the gutter, and then complains that the trash is unsightly.