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Showing posts from April, 2015

Observations about Soldiers' Experiences of Killing in War

by Pete Kilner (@combat_ethics)

Killing the enemies of our country in war is something that has to be done, but it’s not something that soldiers talk about much, especially with civilians. To help the next generation of soldiers prepare for combat as well as help the American people understand what soldiers experience, I offer these observations, which I have gleaned informally from hundreds of interviews and conversations with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as with veterans back home. (The list is not in any particular order.)

Soldiers join the Army to defend our country. They kill in war to protect their buddies and accomplish their mission.The American soldier is much better at reacting to contact than at initiating contact. Maybe it’s our training, maybe it’s a cultural thing about not throwing the first punch. Yet once the enemy engages us and crosses that threshold, we are lethal. (This aversion to engaging before being engaged diminishes with combat experience.)Firefigh…

War Needs a Better Tagline

Long before I ever read the classic On War by Prussian war theorist Carl von Clausewitz, I was familiar with its most famous line--the one in which Clausewitz says, “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.”

Yes, I realize that Clausewitz offered dialectic arguments and his insights on war are profound and nuanced, but my concern is that many citizens--and more importantly, politicians--to the extent that they know anything about a theory of war, accept uncritically what they have heard--that “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means.”  It’s not Clausewitz’s fault (nor anyone else’s) that his complex theory has been reduced in popular culture to a superficial tagline, but it has, and the result, I think, is morally problematic.

The German term that Clausewitz used, Politik, can mean “politics” or “policy.”  Both meanings of the term discount the importance of a war being morally justified.

Is war merely policy?  I think not. The decision to go to war is…