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Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 10:16pmSanction this postReply
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Some time ago, I joined the military. Ultimately, I was given a medical discharge because I have severe tissue damage in my lungs and cannot do the physical activity required.

Some months later, I read The Fountainhead.

Since then, I've spent my little spare time reconciling the ideas brought forth by Objectivism. In most cases, they make sense. But just like a good little thinker, a few don't.

The one that has popped into my head recently is the compatibility between an objective philosophy and a military philosophy. You see, I was fortunate enough to go through the bulk of the basic training for what roughly amounted to a highly skilled infantry-man. One of the common themes used in training (among many) is the survival of the state; the duty to country/public that all soldiers MUST abide by.

Part of my problem resides with whether this attention to grinding 'patriotism' into a persons head is symptomatic of socialistic mentality or vice versa. The other part is far more insidious.

As an objective person, I have difficulty reconciling how any objective person could want to be a soldier. I mean, how could someone want to protect a country full of altruists, socialist, rotters, and other people who don't care about the country, those who protect it, or themselves. I could understand wanting to protect ones family, business, other property. But that's not what soldiers do.

In fact, I can't think of a time when regular Army ever was interested in protecting me, or any individual for that matter. Sure, the National Guard breaks up riots, looting during disasters, and other policing functions that the 'locals' can't handle.

So, what's the point?


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Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 10:53pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, I've wondered the same thing. Never in the army myself, but the idea of the obedient, unquestioning soldier always troubled me, even before I read Rand. The idea that a soldier is but a pawn in a chess game is what bothered me. I think ideally that anyone who wants to defend their country from attack would not have to be "broken down" and programmed to follow orders. And if I were a soldier, as an Objectivist I could not follow orders merely for the sake of being obedient. I think what Ayn Rand wrote about ad hoc committees applies here. She wrote that the only organizations one should join are ad hoc committees to achieve a purpose, and in the case of the military, that purpose is homeland defense. Once that military is used for any purposes that initiates force, say, the enforcement of eminent domain, I think it would be immoral for an Objectivist to take part.
(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 9/25, 10:55pm)


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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:57amSanction this postReply
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Good question. A smooth war machine does not question its premises every 5 seconds. The best fighter does not hesitate. You have to believe in your chain of command. You must have faith in your mission. Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die!
 
I don't see it as a problem since maybe 1% of the American population is genuinely interested in philosophical issues. Perhaps if the world were as interested in philosophy as it is in TV and religion there would be no more war..........nahhhhhhhhhhhh.

(Edited by Lance Moore on 9/26, 1:58am)

(Edited by Lance Moore on 9/26, 1:59am)


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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 5:50amSanction this postReply
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The military structuring has always been at odds with the founding fathers' premises, but much of that has to do with the way the military structure had been during those times. It was Pulaski, who convinced Washington to utilize the Prussian system as far as organization went, instead of the proper version of Eathan Allen and 'Lightfoot" Harry Lee - the guerrilla form, which was geared to self-defense of one's territory, not the aggressiveness of militarism.  The format of, as you said - "Ours' is not to reason why, ours' is but to do and die" - stems from the Prussian mode of adherance to the State...  and. unfortunately, I do not know of any good works which has covered this in other than the practical manner of Che's book.  In the 60's, had thought of doing it myself, but the research involved was more than interested me, who saw the interest of it in terms of defeating the validity of the draft - itself another manifestation of the Prussian mode.


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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 9:22amSanction this postReply
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Joe Idoni, I don't know if this will answer your question but even as a teenager, years before I started reading Ayn Rand, I wanted nothing to do with the military. When the US Marine Corps contacted me in order to recruit me, I told them that I wasn't willing to fight for a corrupt government.

I personally see no reason for an Objectivist or any sort of rational person to serve in a standing army, as standing armies are not meant to defend liberty, but to further entrench tyranny. A free country should not need a standing military; a militia composed of rational citizens ought to be enough to defend against invasion.

As an Objectivist, I would only take up arms in defense of my own. I won't raise my fist in the names of moral cowards who are unwilling to even clench their own.

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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 12:45pmSanction this postReply
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Matthew,
I personally see no reason for an Objectivist or any sort of rational person to serve in a standing army, as standing armies are not meant to defend liberty, but to further entrench tyranny.
As a military brat whose father and older brother served with distinction during Vietnam and the Cold War, you may want to discount what I have to say - but hear me out first.  These men were rational.  They understood they were defending liberty, even if our government wasn't always doing so.  But then they were not serving a government.  They were serving the country, their home, that they loved.

I'm just old enough to remember that the Soviet Union was a real threat to us.  It was not armed to the hilt with nuclear warheads for nothing.  While we can and should argue whether there was a better way for us to meet that threat, I don't think militias would have been the only answer.  Objectivism does recognize the validity of national defense.  As I said, maybe to you, in another thread, Objectivism is not a suicide pact.

Andy


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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:55pmSanction this postReply
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While Objectivism indeed recognises the validity of national defense, Vietnam was not national defense.

Post 7

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
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Making life difficult for your ideological and geopolitical enemies I consider part of a legitimate national defense. That said mistakes could be made. Leaders can spend a lot of lives and money on what turns out to cause little harm to our ideological and geopolitical enemies.

I am interested, Robert: what you think Kennedy was trying to do?

Jon

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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 3:20pmSanction this postReply
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At that time, I was in high school - a senior when he got shot - so wasn't that knowledgeable  on the details... but as I recall, he had sent in advisors, and had no intention of waging a fullscale war - that was Johnson's farble, under the guise of the so-call 'dominoe' effect, using the 'Gulf of Tonkin" as the means of entering [tho, like this present one, was an undeclared war]... in any case, it certainly was no 'act of self- defense' for the nation.

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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 3:41pmSanction this postReply
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OK, it wasnít self-defense, thatís your view.

But why *did* they do it?

Donít repeat that Kennedyís sending in Ďadvisorsí wasnít self-defensive; Iím asking why did he do it? Same for Johnsonís commitment.

Jon


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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 6:59pmSanction this postReply
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Andy:

As a military brat whose father and older brother served with distinction during Vietnam and the Cold War, you may want to discount what I have to say - but hear me out first. These men were rational. They understood they were defending liberty, even if our government wasn't always doing so. But then they were not serving a government. They were serving the country, their home, that they loved.


No, I won't discount it. If I understand correctly what you're telling me, your father and brother viewed service in the government's military as a means to an end: defending their home and country. I respect their reasons, but their reasons would not convince me to put on the uniform. While there are probably good and brave men in nearly every rank of the armed services, I think that the civilians given command over the military are nothing but villains.

I'd have fought beside Washington, beside Jefferson, and beside Madison. I could not have fought under orders from Kennedy, or Johnson, or Nixon, or any of their successors.

I'm just old enough to remember that the Soviet Union was a real threat to us. It was not armed to the hilt with nuclear warheads for nothing.


Having been born in 1978, I grew up watching the Berlin Wall come tumbling down, and the Soviet Union with it. But before either fell, I remember as a younger child being told to run for a basement bearing a 'fallout shelter' sign if I heard the air raid siren, and had been made to practice the old "duck 'n cover" at school.

I know that the Soviet Union was a threat, but I suspect that the means the US government used to defeat the Soviets served only to arm new enemies. Osama bin Laden was the US' puppet long before he was our bogeyman.

While we can and should argue whether there was a better way for us to meet that threat, I don't think militias would have been the only answer. Objectivism does recognize the validity of national defense.


I won't dispute that Objectivism recognises the validity of national defense. Nor will I dispute its validity myself. My argument is with standing armies. I think that those who seek power do best in a country that is always at war, always under threat, and thus always under pressure to sacrifice liberty in the name of security.

As I said, maybe to you, in another thread, Objectivism is not a suicide pact.


Yes, you said it, and probably to me. But I have my pride, and if it came down to it, I would rather fight alone and fail than fight under the orders of villains and succeed. What good is living if one must live in shame?

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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:01pmSanction this postReply
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Matt, good post.

Post 12

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:06pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you.

Post 13

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:46pmSanction this postReply
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Matthew,

Were you really made to practice duck-n-cover?


Post 14

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 7:54pmSanction this postReply
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Only a couple of times in grade school, John, during the mid-1980s. I think Gorbachev had recently taken power, but I don't trust my childhood memories, especially when they touch on the time I spent in public schools.

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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 8:11pmSanction this postReply
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I remember those - believe it or not, in the late 50's, in seventh grade in Ny, used to have the air raid horns go off and we'd - lol - get under the desks we had, to save us from the nuclear blast... or  so we were told...

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 2:00amSanction this postReply
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Soldiering is a profession. It offers unique opportunities. But there does seem to be a lot of altuistic expectations of self-sacrifice. And a few percent of Americans are libertarians, and worthy of a good defense. The freedom of Democrat and Republican altruists to be stupid should be defended.

Having said that, I know several enlisted soldiers who weren't too thrilled with their army and navy experience. I know a couple dissapointed officers. Like many big organizations, corruption burns people out. I doubt anyone that admires Rands philosophy will have a happy military career.

If you check out the file-sharing networks, you might find an MP3 of Rand's speech to a class at Westpoint. She thanked them for their service, during a lecture (Philosophy Why it Matters?).


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 6:20amSanction this postReply
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Matthew,
If I understand correctly what you're telling me, your father and brother viewed service in the government's military as a means to an end: defending their home and country. I respect their reasons, but their reasons would not convince me to put on the uniform.
You got it dead right.  You also added something that is important.  Their reasons are theirs, just as yours are yours.  Objectivism doesn't require us to live our lives the same way, but to be true to what is the best in ourselves.

Scott,
I doubt anyone that admires Rands philosophy will have a happy military career.
Not true.  My older brother, who retired from the U.S. Air Force after a successful twenty-year career, introduced me to Objectivism.  He likes to tell me that Objectivism is the only philosophy for living in the real world.  By that he means he can live as an Objectivist despite the non-Objectivist society he lives in.  So he had no problem squaring Ayn Rand's philosophy with serving in the military of a bloated bureaucratic welfare state when that was the most effective means by which he could battle the Soviet Union, which he thought was the most lethal threat at the time to the free world, imperfect as it is.

Andy


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 3:20pmSanction this postReply
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Andy,

Although it is possible for men like your brother to function in the military, I'll explain why I think individualists and egoists would resent, and be resented.

I may be wrong, but from what I've heard, the military is an altruistic organization. Recently I heard a high-ranking officer explaining to a journalist that asked why the military didn't select for special honor (make heros) out of men serving in Iraq. The officer explained it was against the culture and ethics for individuals to take credit, only individual responsibility. Team action and honor was recognized and rewarded.

The Germans have a word, "dingst" (sp?) that describes the self-less, altruistic spirit of self-sacrifice of the individual to the group, which I heard a historian discussing regarding military culture, going back to the revolutionary war.

A metaphor can be made between self-esteem and money. An altruistic organization is like a socialist or communist tribe. Anyone holding private property is cheating the group. An individualist or egoist in an altruistic organization is cheating it in spirit and would be resented, and the egoist would in turn resent the expectation of self-sacrifice as a of fraud, not recognizing the claim of the group on his spirit.

If there is any organization in which altruism is valuable, the military is it. Individual survival is increased when the individuals stay and fight, rather than break and run. An egoist would have to deal with a cultural conflict his peers would not, a divided loyalty between self and others that altruist wouldn't understand or feel.

If I wanted to denigrate the military, I would quote Eistein:

"This topic [the importance of individuality] brings me to that worst out-crop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed."

Individual brains are often not what the military desires; its backbone, resolve, blood and guts to not break ranks, but break the enemy.

Then there is another, ugly aspect of military and that is corrupt bureaucratic culture. But that extends in all areas of human relationships - corrupt relationship games in which individuals desire social dominance over technical achievement of the mission. The individualist and egoist is likely to immediately identify the cheap excuses and corruption, fight the system and be punished or expelled. The naive and the altruists believe the excuses and submit. sycophant are rewarded, social predators win the rank rat-race.

Scott

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 3:45pmSanction this postReply
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"The officer explained it was against the culture and ethics for individuals to take credit, only individual responsibility. Team action and honor was recognized and rewarded."

Which is ironic, given the recruitment advertisements of "an army of one."

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