In light of the recent insurgencies, and especially the attacks on civilians, I had an intense discussion on HOW the army could solve this problem. To summarize the two sides of the argument, my counterpart argued that army should be given the authority to do a “sweep” and flush the combatants from the citizens using tried and proven military tactics. I argued that it should not be so because the military tactics in question could only be possible if the army is subjected to a different set of morality. My counterpart agreed but ultimately supports that the army have a different set of morality from other citizens because they need to be “effective”. This is how we believe and act like so. The army is a therefore a different specie of animal. This is not scientific, but it is a potent myth. A myth we ought to revisit and assess if it’s usefulness outstrips its harms. Generally, I believe myths could be useful, as much as harmful… so where does this myth of an army lies?
Personally I see nothing respectable or impressive about the army; certainly not. I see nothing disrespectable about the army in itself either. Instead I subject them to the same standards as other citizens; even other citizens come across situations or moral decisions in their daily line of work. However given the pervasive myth that enables the army to do as it likes in terms of Human Rights abuse, I am more likely to disrespect the army. Aside from abuse of law and Human Rights, what virtue is there in being a robot who is good at executing orders and not “commanded” to think morally?
To put the issue of modern state army in context, which provides the blue print for most modern states, it may be insightful to visit the history of its formation. This history would be most justly presented by a Marxist account but I shall say it in brief. The army is essentially a well funded, well trained, full time mercenaries of the government used as the element of coercion for and defence of private/capitalist/mercantile interests. Prior to this modern “invention”, many soldiers were “ordinary folk” drafted on demand, and what they did was considered service even if compensated because they were expected to BELIEVE in what they fight/stand for. Even then there were mercenaries, but they were not considered as respectable or honourable. This picture may not have applied to all pre-modern societies but it is general enough. At the core of army, the duty of the modern soldier is to do the bidding of the Almighty Nation via its priests who are those in higher ranks.
In a similar vein I have issues with Nationalism. For non military citizens, what does it even mean to be patriotic if patriotism is built on the idea of a modern nation state? (Any ideas?)
Such a burden… such a commitment to the military… I wondered how soldiers do it. The military is an ideology as potent as Marxism. It is often said that “true” Marxists cannot reconcile their Marxism with their religion, so by inference they can’t be “true” practitioners of a deistic religion. These allegations are possible on Marxism because the fundamentals of the philosophy have been eloquently expressed and found incompatible with such religions. However in the case of the military I don’t know about an expressed philosophy, but the military relies on indoctrination on certain virtues like loyalty. Loyalty! Ahh what a virtue! The military is not a party of philosophers (like Marxists), it is a cult, and cults have initiation rituals for indoctrination. For instance I have heard there is an initiation tradition (fancy word for a ritual) where newly recruited officers into Nigerian Military “confess” their sins for being “bloody civilians” until then. “Bloody civilian” is one of those terms we have accepted without pondering on the ontological relevance of these claims; we “bloody civilians” even use it in jest.
Fact: In the hierarchy of the military order of the world (especially Nigeria), the Military is superior to the policeman. Interestingly, the Police, like us believe so… the military order of the world also posits that the police man is superior than the bloody civilian.
I was motivated to write about this because of a short video I came across. It captures some of what I have been trying highlight on this post namely: the tension between Nationalistic Values and Morality (as defined by other belief systems). This is the case of Orthodox Jews (religious scholars) protesting against the decision of Israeli state to draft them into military service. The state of Israel was built on Zionism, which defines a nationalistic morality not a Jewish morality. Also the State of Israel understands the potent function of modern military as an indoctrination ground. Find the video (8 mins) below to appreciate the situation.