Monday, August 08, 2016

War and Sacrifice

The Americans who died in the various wars are revered for sacrificing their lives for their country. That they did just that, is certainly correct. However there are other issues involved.

The Nazis believed that they were sacrificing for their country as well. So did the Soviets, whose casualties far exceeded those of the Americans.

Seeing all this, Ayn Rand, whose work the conservatives use to advance pure capitalism, said that self-sacrifice is evil and something that only a tyrant would want. She advocated selfishness – known in economics as rational self-interest - as a solution to what she called “an orgy of self-sacrifice” that was the world at the time of the Second World War.

I suppose when peaceful people who want to live die in combat, it is experienced as a greater sacrifice than if it is done by bloodthirsty maniacs – such as the people who willingly followed Hitler – or by people, such as the Islamic terrorists, who want to die. For this reason the 500,000 Americans who died in the Second World War are honored more than are the 10 million Germans or the 3 million Japanese who died in that war. But while the Americans who died in the war thought that they were going to heaven, the Soviets were atheists and did not believe in heaven; and the 20 million casualties that Soviet Union endured in that war was a much greater sacrifice than anything that was borne by Americans.

Is sacrifice a good thing? Well that depends on who sacrifices and for what. In war, innocent people sacrifice their lives for the arrogance and incompetence of their leaders. That these people should be honored is correct. But the leaders must be held accountable for leading their nations into wars; and war as such should never be honored but rather seen as failure of politics.

John McCain said that veterans hate war. As they very well should; as was especially the case with people of his generation, who believed in peace and love, dying in Vietnam. The draft filled the military with all sorts of people who were not fit for military service; who either died in combat or came home with PTSD and wound up on the street.

While Richard Nixon was hated by baby boomers at the time, he did something for which they should be grateful. He replaced the conscript army with a professional army. That way, the military was filled with people who wanted to serve and were fit to serve; and in military engagements since then, the American military fared much better than it did in Vietnam.

There continue to be calls from some on the Right for re-institution of the draft. They only need to look back to America's failure in Vietnam to know how self-defeating this policy would be. The metrosexuals in New York and San Francisco would make as worthless the soldiers as were the hippies; and recruiting them into the military would fill the military with people who simply are not fit to serve.

One problem with the current military recruitment policy is that it excludes people with criminal records. That is also self-defeating. The ghetto is full of strong, macho men who have already experienced the conditions of war and would make excellent soldiers; but because of the similarly misguided War on Drugs most of them have criminal record before they have turned 18. One of the constituencies most suitable for military service is excluded from military service. And that not only starves the military of potentially excellent recruits. It also denies these people a chance to get away from drugs and crime and become contributing citizens of America.

The people who die in wars deserve to be honored; but the people who send them there do not. War is a failure of politics in which innocent people pay the price for somebody else's misdeeds. The call for sacrifice should be seen as a call for tyranny. People who go to fight Muslim terrorists and similar criminals should be honored. The people who make them do such a thing should not.


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