Happy Armistice Day.
Please read it here.
That’s what it’s actually called. I have no problem with honoring veterans, per se, although taken to the logical extreme someone who volunteers for an unjust war is either ignorant or evil. Here are possible exceptions:
First exception. The war itself was not unjust. Therefore, the individual soldiers that fought in it may have been genuinely fulfilling a moral duty to protect them and theirs. A just war is a defensive war. There are many scenarios that could lead to a defensive war, not all of which necessarily require being fired upon first. But outside of the most obvious reason for going to war defensively, in retaliation or defense against invasion or attack, the legitimacy of the reasons for going to war come into play. Especially in the context of previous wars of aggression.
Consider this scenario: Iraq is alleged to have weapons of mass destruction that they intend to use against the United States, either directly against the homeland or against Americans abroad (let us ignore for now the fact that many Americans “abroad” have no business being so in the first place), or in conjunction with terrorists who intend to do the same. So we go to war against them only to later find out three things: there were no WMDs (that really does depend on how that term was defined), there were no intentions to attack America or Americans, and there were no ties to terrorists with a focus on attacking the United States or its citizens.
More than a decade later we find the exact same people making the exact same claims about Iran. This should lead us to a question: even if they are right (there is simply no reason to believe that they are as not only are they proven liars and have obvious conflicts of interest, but the facts point in the opposite direction than that which they would lead us), Would that war be just?
Of course that war would be just. But because of past deviations from a just and peaceful and honest foreign policy, there is simply no reason to risk it without actual proof first. Some worry that that proof might come in the form of a dirty bomb. Others in the form of a warhead sent right into the US or a region heavily populated with Americans. And others still in the form of an attack against our “ally” Israel.
The first possibility is not absurd, per se, but because of how tenuous it is, it in and of itself is not a justification for war. If there was a legitimate fear of that sort of thing happening, it would easily be prevented, then the answer is not going to war but security checks. And if it did happen, it was because there was no real effort made to prevent it, in which case the indication should be that the players would not have been known, as the attack itself was not ofreseen. The second and third possibilities truly are absurd, as there are such things as nuclear defense shields. The US and Israel both have that area covered. Further, there is the possibility of retaliation. For those that maintain that the Iranians just want to see the world go up and smoke and don’t mind dying to accomplish that, the idea of retaliation is not an objection to their fears. But it is still a losing battle for the Iranians. More than that, its a battle in which they wouldn’t even be able to land a blow.
And the possibility of an attack on Israel is the most absurd of all. And not because it can’t or won’t happen, but because it truly is none of our concern. Some think it is cruel to say such things, and not just because they are our “ally”, but because they are human beings. They might even be right were it not for the fact that Israel can and will take care of itself and doesn’t even need our help (though some interests in that nation and in ours will see to it that we are permanently entangled, and not always with simplistic or well-understood motives).
Second exception. The soldiers were drafted. This is slavery. There may have been ways for them to avoid this draft, but it won’t have been without its own set of risks. Some might feel it is better to go “over there” and risk their lives than it is to be in hiding the rest of their days and risk not only their lives, but their livelihoods, and to disquiet the lives or comforts of their families. Whether this line of thinking is right or not, and regardless of which route they take, they are no less victims for it.
Third exception. The soldiers volunteered on their own terms rather than be drafted on the state’s terms. There was a draft in effect, but in order to avoid getting the short end of the stick, they volunteered knowing the deal they got would not be quite so raw. Just as with the draftees, they are forced to choose between two choices, neither of which is entirely moral on their part and neither of which is moral at all on the state’s part. Thus, they are, once again, the victims.
Fourth exception. The soldiers volunteered in a time of peace expecting that their duly elected representatives would only send them to die for a just cause. But then an unjust war is waged and they have no choice but to serve or become a fugitive. This applies to the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and the US Air Force (although it is worth noting the Air Force is unconstitutional.)
Fifth exception. The soldiers volunteered for a branch of the service that is only called forth for combat duty in a time of invasion or rebellion, but then are sent to combat in a foreign land against which the United States is the clear aggressor. This applies to the various National Guard groups.
Of course, one can question the idea of a “public” military itself. But it is reasonable that so long as the Westphalian Nation State is the prime mode of political organization and that citizens a part of and within that paradigm are in need of protection that can not be adequately provided (in theory they could, but such a society does not exist yet) in some other way, that the state-controlled standing army is a necessary evil that can, and has at times, been used in a moral way, even with a nonvolunteer force. Though this in no way cancels out the underlying violation of rights that such systems of defense (and offense) are predicated on in the first place.
So, join with me to celebrate the Armistice that was declared to end the Great War. That war in which many men were enthralled and then brutally murdered. That war which ever since, every US-involved conflict can be easily traced to the entanglements that arose therefrom. And if you know a veteran, you might even consider understanding his story before you either thank him or condemn him.
Veterans Day, as it is now called, has become just another excuse to get into a flag waving frenzy and to feel good about things that perhaps no one should be feeling good about. But if you’ve read what I’ve written, don’t take this day for granted. Rather, commemorate the day in the way it was intended. Reflectively. Soberly. With an eye towards peace.