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

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Quoting from "What It Is Like to Go To War", by Karl Marlantes, Kindle version:

(I set off quotations from the book using ~~~~ here due to formatting problems. Quotations are in plain text; my responses are in bold italic.)


...room he removed his blindfold, and there, left accidentally on top of the toilet, was a fully loaded automatic rifle. His guard was the only guard around, just outside the door, unsuspecting. Waite walked out of the room and handed the rifle to the guard. In an interview after his release Waite said he had no doubt that he could have killed the guard and escaped. He handed the rifle to the guard because for years he had been telling his captors and other terrorists that violence was not the way to settle disputes, and that he wasn't on one side or the other of this particular dispute. If he killed this man to escape, he felt it would have devalued everything he stood for. He said, "Other than to protect someone, I could not use that weapon."


Is Terry Waite the warrior of the future or just crazy?


He is neither. He is a brave man. Not all brave people are warriors. But in that interview Waite helped define what a warrior is when he said he would not choose sides and would not use a weapon, i.e., violence, other than to protect someone.   In contrast to Waite, a warrior does choose sides. Choosing sides is the fundamental first choice that a warrior must make.[Emphasis added] Like Waite, a warrior is also willing to protect someone against violence, but Waite was talking about violence that is immediately being applied. The second fundamental choice of the warrior is to be willing to use violence to protect someone against even intended or implied violence. [Emphasis added] This second fundamental choice engenders an additional choice, which is accepting the risk of death and maiming that usually results from the decision to use violence against violence.   To become a warrior requires making these two fundamental choices and accepting the risks entailed.   Doing the above eliminates any need to use the adjective "ethical" in front of the noun "warrior." A warrior, by my definition, acts ethically. [Emphasis added]   Using violence other than to protect makes a person a bully or a murderer.


This is where you lose me, Karl.   It seems to me that when a man chooses to be a warrior he makes the choice when he enlists, and he forfeits the right to decide whether or not to participate in any future conflict.   This choice is the same choice a professional hit man makes as a made member of the Mafia.   The enlistee signs a contract to kill or be killed at the beck and call of the President of the US with no questions asked.   How is this ethical or moral?


The first decision, choosing sides, means taking on the warrior spirit. People who take on the warrior spirit become metaphorical warriors. They are like warriors in certain aspects, but they are not warriors. This choice is serious enough, often entailing commitments of great personal sacrifice. A prime example is a government or corporate whistle- blower. The second decision, however, choosing to use violence to protect someone else against actual and intended violence, a choice that usually also entails danger to the lives and psyches of the people who choose the violent path, moves one from being a metaphorical warrior to being a warrior in deed. Warriors are prepared to kill people.


Who decides that the killing is necessary "to protect someone else against actual and intended violence"?   Certainly the soldier does not make that decision. In our system it's not his job to decide. It's only his job to kill while risking being killed.   So is it moral to sign up for this? I don't see it.


We have seen deliberate lying to Americans by the President to justify and start a war.   The Iraq wars were about profit for the oil industry.   Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11.   We killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in that war and thousands of our warriors died.   The warriors never gave the morality issue a thought.   They went right to work without critical thought.   I see nothing moral about that.  

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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 was a founding member of the Save Barton Creek Association in Austin, TX. In 2006 I was a member of a select (more...)

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