A question that has been cropping up lately as Veteran's Day passes is if this idea of treating our veterans with honor regardless of their individual decisions is appropriate. This view of things has become even more pronounced with those of younger ages slowly beginning to learn real American military history, and the fact that it has been quite some time since America has been engaged in a defensive war. This is further compounded by the highly controversial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was speaking with an Anarcho-Capitalist the other day, and he suggested that no veterans deserve his respect or thanks and then posted this: http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance216.html
Several of his comments:
Naturally I disagreed with this position but I am curious what a more elegant refutation of these ideas in general via Objectivism would be. Is this a result of concrete-bound thinking?
The comments from the Rockwell site are simply incoherent. People wind up serving in the military for a wide variety of reasons. Some were drafted. Some joined voluntarily in peacetime and wound up serving in a war that started during their term of enlistment. Some joined during a war because they judged that, all things considered, it was the right thing for them to do. Some joined because they couldn't get a job in the private sector and needed to eat. As individualists we should judge veterans as individuals, on the basis of their specific motives and actions -- but your anarchist has a simpler approach: collective guilt. He hates the government, the military supports the government, therefore veterans are all bad. Is there a difference between the President who sets foreign policy, the congressmen who pass the declaration of war, the general who plans the military campaign and the grunts who carry it out? Nah, we can just lump them all together and blame each of them equally for the decisions made by any of them.
I hope the problem with that is obvious.
As Objectivists, the idea of "automatic" moral approval (or disapproval) should raise a red flag. Veterans should be judged on the same basis as any other person: by their actions, statements and conscious convictions. A man who joins the military because he has concluded that doing so defends rational values important enough to him to warrant risking his life in combat deserves a different evaluation than a man who joins because he is a racist and just wants to kill 'ragheads' in the 'Stan.
If specific evidence about an individual is available, it should be the basis of judgment. Someone who joined the military for dishonest or irrational reasons should be condemned for his dishonesty or irrationality. This leaves open the question of how to evaluate veterans in the abstract -- if all you know about a person is that they served in the military, does that speak well or ill of them, or is it neutral? The answer here turns on our evaluation of the government under which the service occurred, and the typical reason why people choose to serve. If we believe that the predominant motivation for joining the United States military is a desire to defend freedom -- even if the belief that doing so turns out to be questionable, as it so tragically is today -- then we should evaluate veterans positively qua veterans. If not, not.
answered Nov 12 '10 at 19:24
Kyle Haight ♦
Obviously, no individual or group literally receives automatic moral approval. Military veterans can be good people or bad people.
On the whole, however, the U.S. military deserves our immense respect and appreciation. We owe them our liberty and our security. (This is true in spite of the fact that in the last several decades, our military has increasingly been used for purposes other than American interests, from humanitarian missions to nation-building. Vets aren't responsible for those wars; our politicians are, especially our disgraceful line of recent presidents.)
Moreover, the military today receives heaps of undeserved scorn—from anarchists such as this acquaintance of yours, and from pacifists on the left.
Thus, on Veteran's Day and every day, a military veteran should by default have our respect (that is, unless you happen to know something negative about a particular individual).
answered Nov 13 '10 at 02:56