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"What It Is Like to Go to War", by Karl Marlantes--My Response

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jerry Lobdill       (Page 2 of 6 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Because warriors make these two fundamental choices that Waite does not, warriors operate under a moral code that is grounded on different principles from Waite's. At the base of Terry Waite's moral philosophy is what I call Waite's dictum: "Violence is not the way to solve problems." But Waite himself said in the same interview that he would have used a weapon to protect someone. This is the warrior's dictum: "No violence except to protect someone from violence."

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No. The dictum of the warrior is "Violence whenever and wherever the commander in chief demands it--without question."   There is nothing moral about that dictum.

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These two seemingly incompatible positions invite wonderful moral philosophical debate. I can't say that Waite's position is more or less moral than the warrior's. I can say that the position of the conscious warrior will decrease the suffering of political violence in an imperfect world while the position of Terry Waite will eliminate the suffering of political violence only in a perfect world.

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Do you really believe that is what happened in Iraq? In Afghanistan?

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One of my axioms of faith is that we don't live in a perfect world. In order for a moral code to be of any practical value, that moral code must be applicable in the world in which we live. I unabashedly take a utilitarian stand that any moral code must help reduce suffering.

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There was no warrior's moral code at work in any of our wars except in those men who elected to defy the draft and move to Canada rather than serve in Vietnam.

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This view invites the criticism that war itself causes more suffering than not going to war. The answer lies in the relative value one places on nonphysical suffering-for example, living under a dictator-and that gets us back into basic belief structures.

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You assume that it is the place of the US to make that judgment for other nations and start a war wherein the civilians of that nation have no voice and die by the hundreds of thousands as a result.

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Although the world would definitely be less violent and therefore a better place if everyone acted like Waite, we happen to live in a world where people abandon Waite's nonviolent position regularly. When they do, they inflict injustice and suffering on innocent people. The warrior steps in and persuades them, by threatening or inflicting pain and death, to put an end to their harmful behavior. The warrior's dictum is, however, oddly dependent philosophically on Waite's dictum. In order to adhere to the warrior's dictum the ethical warrior acts only when and if others use violence first.

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I am a retired physicist and hold a B.S. in Ch. E. as well. I have been an environmental activist since the early 1970s. I have been a writer of opinion pieces and other essays since about 1995 and am a published author of history. I have (more...)
 

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