Although today a semi-free country, the US was founded on and symbolizes the ideas of liberty and individual rights. With that context in mind, is it moral to serve in the armed forces of other semi-free countries which were not founded on such explicit ideals?
asked Sep 17 '10 at 15:37
Absolutely in so far as that service is in your rational self-interest and in the furtherance of your values.
The USA does not have a monopoly on the ideas of freedom, liberty or even individual rights. While no other country in the world that I am aware of has a constitution based exclusively on individual rights many western liberal democratic states do implicitly or explicitly recognize the same rights of Life, Liberty, Property and even the pursuit of happiness in their constitutions or in their various charters of rights.
answered Sep 17 '10 at 18:32
Martin Gasser ♦
"Although today a semi-free country, the US was founded on and symbolizes the ideas of liberty and individual rights. With that context in mind, is it moral to serve in the armed forces of other semi-free countries which were not founded on such explicit ideals?"
At the risk of answering a question with many questions, let me begin by asking the original question-asker this: "why does the morality of fighting in the army of a 'semi-free country' rest on the founding principles, or current moral evaluation of "free/semi-free", of that country?
Observe that the question-asker makes the political/philosophical distinction between past and present: the founding principles of a country (which could have been thousands of years ago, like Japan), and the current evaluation of the country in terms of the barometer of relative freedom/individual liberty (aren't Japanese people semi-free right now? How does that have anything to do with their 'founding principles'?). If making this distinction, why even factor in the founding principles of said country? Why not focus exclusively on the current evaluation of relative liberty? Not every country has 'founding principles' set out in a Constitution, like America. In England, they have a long constitutional tradition which can be reverse-engineered by a series of judicial cases and legislation passed by their Houses, over hundreds of years. They used to be a monarchy (if you ask me what the one main founding principle of a monarchy is, it would be "each man, woman and child is a servant of the king"), but now the British are 'semi-free". Would you serve or not serve in the British Army based on your best understanding of their founding principles and constitutional tradition?
In a 'semi-free' country, you would presumably have the OPTION to fight in the Army or not--there are no drafts in 'semi-free' countries, right. Israel is semi-free, wouldn't you agree? Yet they draft all males 18 years old into the military, with some minor exceptions. Forget about the fact that they are always in imminent danger--the fact is the draft exists there. How does a forced-draft affect your evaluation of a country as semi-free? According to Ayn Rand, the draft is one of the most egregious violations of individual rights. How does it affect your evaluation of morality, as it pertains to fighting in that Army, even in what you perceive to be a just war?
If a country is less than semi-free, do you even have the option of being in the Army or not? If the answer is no, and you are drafted, then it is not immoral to serve in that Army, provided that the specific actions you take are not immoral. For example, if you don't kill the enemy, who is on the 'right side' of the war, against your moral will, as opposed to doing a menial desk job which indirecty furthers the ends of the military you are fighting in.
To give an example of the aforementioned, in my personal estimation, it would not be immoral if you were forced into the Nazi army and did your job as a field nurse or an admin job in an office, but it would be immoral if you didn't refuse to kill the enemy as an infantryman, no matter what the consequences.
Here is a better idea: forget about founding principles altogether, and forget about your evaluation of the relavtive level of individual liberty avaiable in any particular country. Instead, consider each specific campaign/war, and whether that campaign is something you can get behind. Most soldiers don't serve in the military for more than four years. It's a fact. So ask yourself, can I morally get behind the current war against <this enemy="">, for the duration of my enlistment? Is the war just? Does my side have a legitimate reason to be at war? Would I be able to justify this war myself, if I was a political leader in my country, and I was "selling" this war to my people? I ask this, because it is politicians who choose to go to war, and whom to be at war with. It is usually at the Army's discretion, with consultation, as to how to fight that war. If evaluating a country's relative liberty status is the barometer, then one is always at the mercy of the politicians and the laws, rather than their personal evaluation of the current war/campaign.
I am a soldier in the US Army. Some guys I know (very few, out of hundreds of soldiers I personally know and have spoken to) are opposed to OIF/OEF. Yet they still go to Iraq and Afghanistan, because they are required to--because they signed a contract which implies as much. In my opinion, at a time of war, you can be morally opposed to the campaign/war in question, but still perform your duties and serve honorably, albeit at the expense of furthering a cause you disagree with, even temporarily, in order to acheive/sustain your personal ends (career/financial/etc). However, if you disagree, you also have a moral obligation to ask yourself very seriously "does my opposition prevent me from being able to perform my duties?" If the answer is answer is yes, then get out of the Army and do something else. If the answer is no, continue to perform your duties as expected, in order to complete the mission.
In short, my answer to the question is, 'forget about your moral evaluation of the country's founding principles, and forget about your estimation of the country's level of individual liberty. Focus instead on whether the war/campaign is just, and make your decision accordingly.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own, and don't reflect that of Ayn Rand. I am an Objectivist and I formulate all my ideas from my best understanding of Objectivism.
answered Sep 26 '10 at 03:09