Should Anyone Join the Military?
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
I have maintained in a number of articles over the past several years that no Christian — whether he terms himself a conservative, an evangelical, a fundamentalist, or a Bible-believer — has any business in the U.S. military, including the National Guard and the chaplaincy.
Although the same goes for anyone else who names the name of Christ, I have always emphasized these particular Christian groups because of the unholy relationship that exists between them and the military.
But what about American Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus? Would it be okay if they joined the military? And what about the members of the various cults and sects that abound in the United States? Is the military a good place for them? And let's not forget about atheists, agnostics, infidels, witches, Satanists, and the irreligious. Should they be discouraged from joining the military as well?
Should anyone join the military?
Here are seven reasons why I think that no one, regardless of his religion or lack of it, should join today's military.
1. Joining the military may cost you your limbs, your mind, or even your life. There is no end in sight to the Iraq war. Over 3,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Many thousands more have been wounded. Hundreds of these have had limbs amputated. An increasing number of soldiers are committing suicide. Untold numbers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some soldiers will spend the rest of their lives unable to work or drive a car. Others will live out their days as physical and/or emotional basket cases. What makes you think that you or one of your loved ones will not be sent to Iraq or will emerge unscathed in body and mind? Don't trust the recruiter who tells you that you won't be sent to Iraq. They are getting so desperate for cannon fodder that they are blatantly lying to potential recruits.
2. Joining the military may have an adverse effect on your family. The breakup of marriages and relationships because of soldiers being deployed to Iraq and elsewhere is epidemic. Multiple duty tours and increased deployment terms are the death knell for stable families. It is devastating to a young child to be deprived of his father for months at a time. It is a national disgrace that we send single mothers in the National Guard off to war who must then leave their small children in the care of friends or relatives. Yes, I know they joined the military of their own free will, but it still shouldn't be done. What makes you think that the military will never send you away from your family for an extended period of time? You know that the possibility exists, so why gamble with your family? And then, as if being away from your family wasn't bad enough on you and them, some soldiers come home with such physical and/or mental problems that they are unable to return to civilian life. Debt, doctors, and divorce lawyers soon consume their finances. It is U.S. military families that are the unseen victims of the war in Iraq.
3. Joining the military does not mean that you will be defending the country. The purpose of the U.S. military should be to defend the United States. Period. Yet, one of the greatest myths ever invented is that the current U.S. military somehow defends our freedoms. First of all, our freedoms are not in danger of being taken away by foreign countries; if they are taken away it will be by our own government. It is not a country making war on us that we need to fear, it is our government making war on the Bill of Rights. And second, how is stationing troops in 150 different regions of the world on hundreds of U.S. military bases defending our freedoms? It is not the purpose of the U.S. military to change regimes, secure the borders of other countries, or spread democracy at gunpoint. The Department of Defense should first and foremost be the Department of Homeland Security.
4. Joining the military means that you will be helping to carry out an evil, reckless, and interventionist U.S. foreign policy. For many, many years now, U.S. foreign policy has resulted in the destabilization and overthrow of governments, the assassination of leaders, the destruction of industry and infrastructure, the backing of military coups, death squads, and drug traffickers, imperialism under the guise of humanitarianism, support for corrupt and tyrannical governments, interference in the elections of other countries, taking sides or intervening in civil wars, engaging in provocative naval actions under the guise of protecting freedom of navigation, thousands of dubious covert actions, the dismissal of civilian casualties as collateral damage, the United States being the arms dealer to the world, and the United States bribing and bullying itself around the world as the world's policeman, fireman, social worker, and busybody.
5. Joining the military means that you will be expected to unconditionally follow orders. There will be no questioning of the purpose or morality of an order. You will often times not be in a position to know whether an order is in fact dubious or immoral. You will be expected to, without reservation, drop that bomb, fire that weapon, launch that missile, and throw that grenade, as well as kill people and destroy their property. Do you question whether that prisoner should be transported to some secret CIA prison to undergo "enhanced interrogation techniques"? Too bad. Do you question whether the United States should have troops in 150 different places around the globe? Sorry. Do you question whether the United States should launch a preemptive strike? Banish the thought. Do you question whether the United States should effect a regime change? Keep your mouth shut. But wouldn't military effectiveness unravel if the troops didn't obey orders? Let's hope so. Every act of American military intervention was made possible because the troops blindly followed the orders of their superiors. If they had refused to do anything that was not related to actually defending the country, then there would not have been any overseas deployments, land mines buried, bombs dropped, preemptive strikes, or missiles launched. The result of this would have been not only less anti-American sentiment, but fewer terrorists, fewer dead foreign civilians, and fewer dead American soldiers.
6. Joining the military means that you will be pressured to make a god out of the military. Am I exaggerating? Here is a note I recently received from a veteran:
I, perhaps, have some insights why soldiers or Christian soldiers do not refuse to fight.
I enlisted in the Marines when I was 17. I went to boot camp 2 months after graduating from a Jesuit high school in 88. I served until 94. In that time I graduated from boot camp as Series Honorman, was meritoriously promoted twice, was platoon high shooter a few times, and volunteered for as much advance and rear party (so I could stay in the field) duties I could. At the time, I was not a Christian and worshipped the USMC.
Boot camp was an interesting experience. They instill ones duty to first the Marines (before I went to combat, I made sure I had a good picture of me standing proudly in front of the Marine Colors) then your comrades. At the end of boot camp we would have done anything for the drill instructors and our comrades. There was a saying, ours is not to reason why, but to do and die. There are few people that have the where-with-all to go against this. Plus, the intellectual foundation required for resistance (which, even though I went to a Jesuit prep school, I didn't have) is constantly attacked. The honor of our former Marines and duty to current Marines must be upheld.
The attitude, when in these situations, is that you must make "them" objects. Otherwise you might hesitate and it could get yourself or your comrades killed. This attitude pretty much trumps everything else.
Luckily, I got out, found Antiwar.com and then LewRockwell.com.
Idolatry is certainly something that any non-religious person should be averse to.
7. Joining the military means that you may be put into a position where you will have to kill or be killed. What guarantee do you have that you will always be in a non-combat role? You are responsible for the "enemy" soldiers you kill as they defend their homeland against U.S. aggression. It may soothe your conscience if you attempt to justify your actions by maintaining it is self-defense, but it is hardly self-defense when you travel thousands of miles away to engage in an unnecessary and unjust war. You are responsible for the civilians you kill. Dismissing them as collateral damage doesn't change the fact that you killed someone who was no threat to you or your country. You are responsible for every soldier and civilian you kill: not Bush, not Cheney, not Rumsfeld, not Gates, not your commanding officers, and not Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, Perle, Abrams, Tenet, Powell, Rice, and the other architects of the Iraq War. Bush and company will not be firing a single shot. You will be expected to do their dirty work and live with it the rest of your life. "Thou shalt not kill" is not just a tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition; it is part of the moral code of every civilization, pagan or religious.
Should anyone join the military? Certainly not today's military. And until a major change in U.S. foreign policy occurs, not tomorrow's military either. So be all you can be: Just don't be it in the U.S. military.
October 26, 2007
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. His latest publication is War, Foreign Policy, and the Church. Visit his website.
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