What Should Be Common Sense regarding the Evil of War Seems Not to Be Accepted by Many Americans — on a Comment from Professor/Colonel Andrew Bacevich
© 2012 Peter Free
25 March 2012
A moral statement so transparently obvious, that almost everyone ignores its implications, as if it were a see-through window
Former U.S. Army Colonel (now professor) Andrew Bacevich recently stated a historically and morally obvious principle that too many Americans ignore:
The older I get, the more I am persuaded that war is not simply evil, and therefore to be avoided . . . if at all possible. [W]ar is destructive of the human spirit. War compromises our humanity.
There may be some people who walk away from the experience of combat and are better as a consequence. But I'm persuaded that those people are few in number.
And that for the great majority, there are wounds that may not be visible, or that may not become visible, until years after the fact.
[A]s time has gone along, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the extent to which friends of mine, classmates of mine from West Point, were traumatized -- whose lives were deeply affected. Sometimes, in ways that were not immediately evident back when we were in our 20s, or in our in our 30s. . . . it's an evil thing.
© 2012 Andrew Bacevich and Bill Moyers, Sgt. Robert Bales and the Trauma of Repeat Deployments, Bill Moyers & Company (22 March 2012) (paragraph split)
Magnitudes more freight to carry
The toll that Bacevich addresses in this quotation is only about soldiering. His statement does not include the magnitudes more damage that war does to combat’s collateral victims.
Morality’s purpose is to guide beneficent action — so, what happens when we hypocritically turn morality on its head in order to justify actions based on greed and power-lust?
Most ethical traditions frown on killing. Even popular entertainment prizes the motivating quality of avoiding untimely death. One would think that this life-sustaining ethical principle would be more reliably considered, insofar as carrying out national policy goes.
Yet, most of my life has been spent watching Americans propose complex justifications for initiating ethically and strategically misdirected wars. Whether in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, the primary geopolitical and ethical outcomes of armed conflict have very visibly worked against initially announced American purposes.
And the costs to the people who fought, and/or were intentionally and unintentionally victimized by them, have been unimaginable.
These costs in suffering, a rational person would think, should have awakened us to the reason that the simple “though shalt not kill” moral principle exists. Even realistic thinkers might wonder why this easy-to-remember moral guidepost should not more frequently offset the Military Industrial Complex’s self-interest.
Yet, instead — “Throw me that carpet, bud”
American leaders, and much of the public that supports them, reliably sweep the costs of war under forgetfulness’ carpet.
By making combat’s costs vanish from our national consciousness, we avoid learning the lesson that the death-prohibiting moral principle was intended to teach.
The moral? — Having created the equivalent of a volunteer military slave class, American society has badly distorted the nation’s ethics and its example to the world
The immorality of war is most easily ignored under conditions in which its fomenters do not have to bear its burden in death, injury, and permanently damaged spirit.
It is absurd, at every conceivable ethical level, to think that voluntary military service should require multiple deployments to deadly combat zones — while the rest of us sit on our comfortably squishy and cost-avoiding behinds.
War is almost always evil. Forgetting this guidepost to human action is perilous, on every strategic and psychic level that I can imagine.