Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Rant on the "Immoral" War

Really, the idea of preaching morality while at war is simply disingenuous, perhaps indicative of the mildly retarded. The entire purpose of war is to reduce the will or offensive of the enemy to such a point that their ideals and systems of governance fail and the ruling class of the opposition acquiesces to demands or conditions put forth by the victor. The very principle of war runs counter intuitive to the morals of virtually every society on the planet. That being the very deliberate taking or ending of another human life.

War is predominantly based on ending the existence of other human beings en masse for the "better cause" and it is in this respect that it, morally, divides itself from simple murder in the eyes of those that propagate it. A necessary evil, if you will, in which one accepts atrocity in trade for an outcome that is for the better.

The falsehoods bear their ugly heads in the ideal that the objective of a war and the ideology it entails should directly color the means to accomplish it. Which is hilarious in terms of the American experience. Had the Minutemen followed such a prescription they'd have met the Redcoats head on and in formation. And they'd have been utterly slaughtered. Quite contrary to the, then, conventional "moral" war the American revolutionaries (guerrillas really) invoked tactics that exploited the stiff weakness of their British overlords without regard to what was "acceptable" in terms of martial conflict.

The issue facing much of the American mainstream is the false pretense of waging war in a "moral" fashion. As though there is an "okay" fashion in which the armed forces can exact devastation. What's worse is that the political and military institutions have wholeheartedly engaged in the same "utopian" ideals. The result is half-assed strategic efforts that aim to present a public "soft" war but in reality result in a lengthy faux obligatory effort that prolongs both the initiative and the suffering as the political entities that invoke such idiocy seek to realize the ends to their wholly ineffective (yet publicly acceptable) means while maintaining the false pretense of moral sensitivity.


Anonymous said...

Be careful, when you things like this: The entire purpose of war is to reduce the will or offensive of the enemy to such a point that their ideals and systems of governance fail and the ruling class of the opposition acquiesces to demands or conditions put forth by the victor.

Otherwise you'll sound like 4GW isn't new at all...

Adrian said...

I see two arguments for morality in war.

1) Immoral practices can be self-defeating, as they give strength to the enemy and erode domestic support for war.

2) Immoral behavior in war can permanently damage those individuals that perpetrate them. If you have a mass conscript army, you go out and win the war using immoral methods (for instance, using rape and AIDS as a terror weapon against civilians) then your soldiers will be unable to reintegrate into civilian life, and your society will be worse off even if they "won" the war.

aelkus said...

Adrian raises good points.

As bizarre as it sounds, there also cannot be a disconnect between the peacetime values of a nation and how it fights conflicts. A democratic nation that wages a profoundly immoral war risks becoming a tyranny, because the methods used to fight it undermine democratic values at home. It is useful to consider, as Hannah Arendt does in her study of totalitarianism, how the European colonial wars that predated WWII established a precedent for domination and clinical elimination of massive amoutns of people thought to be "subhuman."

aelkus said...

Also, I don't think that the Minutemen example supports your point. There's nothing in international law that prohibits ambushing armed soldiers. The scope of war crimes law is to primilary to protect non-combatants (i.e civilians, POWs, injured soldiers, etc).

Jay@Soob said...


Please read the " this for some depth on my take on the xGW theory regarding war. I suspect you and I have a similar (but certainly not exact) take on such.


I'm not entertaining a strategy in which the US pursues the most immoral and destructive fashion of war. Rather, I'm taking to task the idea that once one engages in an act that guarantees mass death the idea of "moralizing" it and then basing ones tactics upon such is completely foreign. Certainly I'm not about to back the ideal of AIDS as a terror weapon. I'm speaking more in terms of those that condemn "torture" in light of our moral highground (as opposed to tactical use) and the "we're at war but we can't fuck too many people up at one time 'cause it looks mean" simplicity invoked in the Fallujah operations.

I truly believe that it is the adherence to what you describe in the first part of your response that holds the US back in it's current war. Given that the very basic principle of our nation is liberty it's very hard for me to understand how we can focus any war through such ideals. Isn't war about depriving your enemy of such freedoms? Perhaps I should read Hannah Arendt to fully understand the connection you're trying to make. The idea that, in making war, one should act in deference to ones own "morals" as opposed to what ones opponent brings to the table is difficult for me to accept.

As far as the minutemen, my point was to illustrate that by NOT practicing war within the constraints of what was "accepted" and considered "moral" in terms of warfare they survived. They fought based on what worked not on what was morally correct. Our opponents in both current theaters seem to be practicing war in much the same fashion. Who's winning?

The above was a post both titled and tagged a rant. It wasn't so much constructed as it flew from the brain to the keyboard. It was a reaction to way too many elements to describe here.
The benefit of writing in such a fashion is the simple satisfaction of pounding down words without hesitation. In short, you get your mojo on.
The negative is that the structural quality that invites the reader to fully understand what one is saying is often missed as it's not at all written. Hence the need for editors, perhaps.

Steve said...

One thought that came to me as I read this is that morality serves as a focusing agent, and rules out a bunch of outcomes and makes decision making faster - the moral is the practical.

Ymarsakar said...

There are a lot of side issues going on here, that can take a long time to delve into and explain. So I'll just go back to the point of war, which is military expediency, not morality. Actually, military expediency is morality, because doing actions that cause a war to end sooner, to be resolved sooner for the future generation, is the right course of action.

People can be wrong, but ultimately such generals as MacArthur found the winning formula for military expediency. So did Truman when he dropped the two bombs. That destroyed his ability to drop any more nukes, of course, but it was worth it in the end.

The characterization of the military's upholding of the Geneva Conventions and internal military discipline as utopian is incorrect.

The laws of civilized warfare are formualized for a reason, to reduce casualties on both sides.

The enemy doesn't want to play by the same rules, so normally what this meant was that the civilized warfare rules no longer apply. Because of Presidential policy decisions, civilized warfare rules still apply to terrorists.

Some in the military ,lawyers for example, would prefer this, including others. But it wasn't their choice to make.

Most military members are not so much focused on the morality of the issue, so much as whether the bureacracy can handle it. Are there clear and regular standards for treating enemy combatants? When there are, it is easier on the soldiers that must do the job of treating enemy combatants. If it isn't clear, lawyers tend to get into the game.

I prefer Total War philosophy, chief advocators being William Tecumseh Sherman and MacArthur Douglas. But we aren't in a Total War, so it doesn't apply. We're in a Limited War, and there are different rules for Limited Wars. Different physics even.

The problem and friction is that Limited War is usually fought by the SF, and Total Wars are usually fought by the conventional US Army and Marines. But now a days, Our Limited War is not so limited anymore to small groups of covert SF. That's the problem. There are no set of rules for how conventional forces should fight a Limited War against terrorists. They learn as they go.

Petraeus eventually figured something out. Even if you could get the US to erase the blocks limiting civilian casualties, you would still run into the problem of catching and kill insurgents, raising public support amongst Iraqis, and obtaining intel. Superior firepower matters little if the enemy know your movements and you know nothing of theirs. This requires the support of the villagers, and thus Limited War morphs into COIN, where the US military supports the population. Rather than fighting terrorists as the immediate objective.