Tag: soldiers

The Eichmann Defense: Who to Blame for the State’s Killing

Ryan Lau | United States

Anarchists desire a world without a government; such a notion is a requirement of the label. In many cases, they tout vehement dislike for the government. In fact, many people voice, at the minimum, that they do not trust the government. A 2018 poll showed that only about one-third of people said they could trust the government to do the right thing. But what does this mean? For many, the issue is more nuanced than it seems.

To make an accurate judgment of an organization, it is important to have a very distinct and specific definition of terms. We all know what the government is: a coercive, compulsory group that has political, social, and economic control over an area (in our case, U.S. territory, of course). I find that few people will dispute this definition. However, when speaking of who in the government to trust and distrust, like and dislike, the lines become more blurry.

Who’s to Blame?

A question that many anarchists, libertarians, and other anti-State advocates often fail to answer is exactly who to blame for the government’s wrongful actions. When the question is answered, it sometimes comes down to something as simple as those in charge or those who comply. Looking more closely, though, I find that these answers are quite unsatisfactory.

In certain instances, some may claim that the people are to blame. As voters, they choose to show up at the polls and elect someone that will use violence over others. By choosing a president, they choose someone that is likely, in recent history at least, to engage in acts of war. Thus, they are accepting and endorsing the use of force, especially if the candidate was open about his desire to engage in war during the campaign. But, they are not alone in blame. Such a suggestion would take responsibility away from the person actually carrying out the supposed will of the people.

The most simple answer to the question is that the president is to blame. After all, the citizens have very little influence in the direction of policy, and a singular vote is ineffective. The president, whether it is Trump, Obama, or anyone else, has immense power. This includes calling for wars, declaring martial law, and many more. Without a doubt, the president is capable of personally authorizing, if not carrying out, many evil acts. Can he, however, do any of them alone?

War and Pleas

As an example, let’s look at a time of war. Though the president pulls the strings, he does not go onto the battlefield: his life, in the eyes of the country and the military, is far too valuable. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even directly oversee many operations. In most cases, the generals fill these roles. Are they, then, to blame? After all, they carried out the actions of a man who, without any recognition, would have far less power. They, in a more direct fashion, are responsible for directly declaring the initiation of force. But once more, are they not similarly just giving orders?

The soldiers, as opposed to the generals, are on the receiving end of orders. When a general barks a command to kill an “enemy”, it is the soldiers’ jobs to do so. Without a doubt, they, rather than the generals, are the ones that are actually committing the acts of murder. Yet, the generals are telling them to do so, because the president told them they were going to war after the people voted in the president. The soldiers can make pleas for change, but superiors are unlikely to listen.

The Eichmann Defense

In response to this, many will suggest that the troops and even generals are just following orders. This famous defense first became popular, however, in the Nuremberg trials following the Holocaust. Adolf Eichmann, a key organizer of the Holocaust, famously denied any moral responsibility due to the fact that he simply followed orders and was playing into the system. This lack of thought is no substitute for a moral compass. Responsible for the arrangement of countless murders, Eichmann was anything but innocent.

The same theory, then, applies in today’s climate. If we can justifiably call Eichmann guilty, we must maintain that following the rules of a system because they are the rules of the system is not a fair moral defense. Therefore, the actions of the State, when they lead to murder, are always wrong. This eliminates some of the blame-shifting, back and forth, replacing it with more universal blame. Anyone who partakes in any action, however small, that directly leads to a killing, shares some of the responsibility for it.

The killer, the orderer, the authorizer, and the voter alike all play key roles in the deaths of foreigners. If any of the four dissented, then the action simply could not take place. The trouble, though, is that besides the president, each of these people is a small part of a collective. The voter is easier to convince than the president not to perform his act. Yet, there are millions of voters to vote anyway. The soldiers may be slightly more difficult to sway, but there are still many more of them who will act in one’s refusal to. The generals and president, of course, are far less likely to cease their actions. But when they do, there are fewer people to take their places.

Ultimately, it appears that only those who are not, in any direct way, participating in the process can entirely escape the blame. Though they may indirectly cause harm through inaction, this is critically different than direct harm through action.

Direct and Positive Harm

For example, imagine a drowning man in a lake. If another man knocks him unconscious, he is to blame for initiating an action that worsens his position. On the other hand, if a third man does not swim out to save him, he is not causing harm; instead, he is withholding benefit. Though the third man, if he is a strong swimmer, may not be making a good decision, we don’t know if that is the case. Inaction at least gives a chance for the action to be moral; definite immorality does not do so.

Looking back at the president, or I suppose the generals and troops and voters too, what gives them the legitimacy to do so? The simple answer is the Constitution, but I am not referring to mere legal right. The Constitution, like any other document, can have its flaws. Thus, it falls under the same category as the Eichmann defense. Action in favor of supporting the Constitution because it happens to be the law is not necessarily good. It isn’t necessarily bad, either, but cannot alone be a moral defense. The words of the Constitution must also have merit in order to be defensible.

So, if not the Constitution, why do people positively create these acts of violence? Simply put, there is a chain that is incredibly difficult to break. The Eichmann defense is wrong, but that doesn’t mean people don’t use it. If they didn’t, then there would be no word for it, no deference to superior authority on the mere grounds that they are a superior authority.

A Larger Pool

It appears, then, that the scope of those who hold positive blame for the state’s actions is far larger than previously imagined. It includes, rather than one simple category, everyone who has played a direct role in the use of force. This includes all voters, politicians, government workers, soldiers, and leaders. This does not, however, mean that these people are in some way bad.

In fact, Eichmann is a famous example of this very phenomenon. German philosopher Hannah Arendt witnessed the Eichmann trial and stated that his problem was not that he was evil himself. Instead, he merely allowed his moral thought to slip away and embraced the status quo. In a lecture, she actually suggested that Eichmann was equally accepting of his death sentence as he was of his actions of mass murder. The only major thing the two had in common, besides that they affected Eichmann, was that they were both the current law of the land.

On a much lesser degree, the same thing applies to many soldiers who believe that they are doing well. They are not evil, necessarily. Instead, they are acting without thinking. While the actions are certainly evil, in many cases, the individuals behind them may simply be unthinking, and there is a clear distinction between those who knowingly do evil and those who simply do not think about the morals of their acts at all.

Opposing Evil with Knowledge

Combating the spread of evil, thus, requires combating this notion of the Eichmann defense. A weak response of “just doing my job” does not excuse murder or any other immoral act. Yet, it also does not make the actor evil. Recognizing this, it is important to instill within everyone a value of truly thinking, rather than accepting the status quo. Perhaps one of the greatest dangers that mankind faces is the blending of questions of “what is” and “what should be”. The former and the latter may be equivalent but are not always. If such was true, the world would be a perfect place, and it certainly is far from it.

Sound easier said than done? It certainly is. There are many aspects of society that are deeply ingrained into each of our brains, and that isn’t always a bad thing. Simple social cues, for example, are essential for any of us to flourish in our relations with others. But we must always be on the lookout for those aspects which cause direct and positive harm to others; they may be far more prevalent than many of us imagine.

From war to taxation to a simple lever pulled in November, such harms are everywhere. It is our jobs, as knowledgeable citizens, to inform others of this whenever possible. Though far from perfect, perhaps increased thinking and moral consideration can at least reduce one element of evil in the world.


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The Top 5 Reasons Not to Go to War with Syria

I found Trump Version 20.17 to be a pleasant surprise. He stuck to many of the promises I had hoped he would keep (like nominating textualist justices, taking a hatchet to the administrative state, and cutting the corporate tax rate) while not doing anything too drastic regarding the promises I hoped he wouldn’t keep (like going over the top on immigration or starting trade wars).

Trump Version 20.18, however, is turning out to be an absolute disaster. This is largely due to his signing of an obscene omnibus spending bill, starting a trade war with China, and beginning to fill the foreign policy wing of the executive branch with neocons.

Just as John Bolton, who is essentially a caricature of a belligerent American war hawk, enters his role as Trump’s national security advisor, reports of a chemical attack in Syria have surfaced. The attack is being blamed on President Bashar al Assad, and Trump has tweeted a warning to the Syrian dictator, Vladimir Putin, and Iran.

It seems as though the US is on the verge of yet another attempt at regime change in the Middle East. The mainstream media and establishment wings of each major party are fanning the flames of war, and I would wager that our presence and involvement in Syria is fit to escalate soon.

I do not think the United States should get any more involved in the Syrian conflict than it already has and, in an ideal world, would like all US forces in Syria to return home immediately.

Here are five of the main reasons I believe we should stay out of the Syrian conflict:

  1. It’s complicated

The Syrian Civil War is complex and impossible to fully understand. There are many factors that make this so. The simplest is that this is not a battle between two opposing factions, but a proxy war with at least four direct participants.

Bashar al Assad, protected by the Syrian Armed Forces, is trying to maintain control over the nation. “The rebels” are his primary opposition, and they would like to see Assad removed from power altogether.

To me, this is already reason enough for the US to stay out. While I believe in the right of a people to secede from a government they find intolerable and would not be so squeamish about the US assisting a population in declaring their independence, I generally do not support revolutions that disenfranchise those who are loyal to an established government, and certainly do not believe the US has any business getting involved in conflicts of this nature, especially when they are contained within a single country.

Other opponents of Assad include ISIS and more undoubtedly terroristic organizations. Since fighting against Assad, as bad as he may be, is effectively fighting alongside ISIS, it seems like the best bet is to let the monsters settle their own scores.

The fourth major faction in the Syrian conflict is the Kurds. This ethnically-bound group occupies portions of both Syria and Iraq and have their sights set on founding a nation of their own. The Kurds are generally too busy fighting ISIS and other enemies to be in armed conflict with Assad.

Several months ago, when it felt like the Syrian Civil War was finally beginning to wind down, certain pro-government social media outlets I had been following were settling into victory. To my surprise, they quickly began espousing hostile rhetoric about the Kurds. To me, this suggested that Assad and his backers had no interest in allowing the Kurds their independence, which further illustrated how complex the situation is.

Keep in mind that what I have attempted to explain thus far is only the direct participation in the war. The proxy-component takes the situation to a new level. Assad is backed by Iran and Russia among other nations, the rebels are backed by most of the west, Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, ISIS is backed by terrorist outfits across the Middle East (and indirectly backed by supporters of the rebels), and the Kurds are supported by the US (though the feds did not back their independence referendum), but brutally opposed by Turkey, Iraq, and Assad.

And that’s not all. We must also be aware (or aware that we are not aware) of the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural divides across the diverse population of Syria. There are at least 16 ethnoreligious groups residing in Syria, and no one is capable of possessing the knowledge required to accommodate even a fraction of them. This challenge is Syria’s, not America’s.

  1. The evidence leaves much to be desired

The most recent “gas attack” continues the cliché of incidents that are blamed on Assad without verification. Aid groups on the ground tend to be the primary sources for the UN and the US federal government, and videos documenting the aftermath always accompany the reports.

The problem with all of this is that hard evidence is never presented to the public. Perhaps the government has evidence that it refuses to release, but as far as anyone can tell, hard evidence does not exist.

Just two months ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis publicly stated that the US is still looking for proof that Assad is the culprit in previous gas attack allegations. Per ZeroHedge:

“I don’t have the evidence,” Mattis said. “What I am saying is that other groups on the ground – NGOs, fighters on the ground – have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.”

While it is silly to use President Trump’s Twitter handle as a source of factual information, the president seems to have admitted that he has no evidence the latest gas attack is Assad’s doing either:

If the area in question is “inaccessible to the outside world,” and it needs to be opened up for “verification,” it is obviously not confirmed that Assad launched the chemical attack.

As I outlined in my latest blog post, applying Occam’s razor to the situation makes it hard to imagine that Assad is the culprit. Why would Assad, on the verge of victory and fully aware that the bulk of the Western world is seething for a reason to remove him from power, commit a strategically and economically idiotic war crime that makes it impossible for the US to exit? Why would he do this on the heels of Trump saying that the US would be exiting Syria very soon? Could any remotely rational human being be so evil that he puts everything he has spent most of the past decade fighting for on the line just to murder a few civilians?

It is true that logic may not be the best means of understanding Middle Eastern conflicts. But I still find the possibility that Assad was framed by his enemies to be far more persuasive than Assad effectively committing suicide.

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  1. Regime change does not work

Let’s give two huge benefits of the doubt and assume that 1) we know who the good guys are in Syria and 2) we can verify that Assad is intentionally engaging in something akin to genocide.

Even under these circumstances, contemporary history teaches us that toppling dictators and installing democracies is a futile effort. Iraq and Libya remain failed states years and year after their autocrats fell. There are probably many reasons for this, but I will extrapolate on two.

First, I believe, as Andrew Breitbart famously stated, politics is downstream from culture. Unlike many radical leftists, I generally do not believe in social constructionism in which oppressive systems are put in place and dictate the way society turns out. Instead, I believe people get the governments they deserve. In other words, Saddam Hussein was a result of Iraqi history, values, and living conditions, not the other way around. If I am right, removing the system will not lead to sustained improvements in the way a people do politics. They will resort to their old ways quickly, and the effort will be all for naught. The people must change before the way they are governed can.

Secondly, Jeffersonian Democracy is not for everyone. While I am only in favor of government if its purpose is to protect natural, individual human rights, other people may have other preferences. You cannot force a form of government on people who do not understand it and do not want it.

  1. Trump is president

Here’s a brief list of accusations that have been hurled at Trump over the past few years:

  • Idiot
  • Liar
  • Conman
  • Racist
  • White Supremacist
  • Nazi
  • Fascist
  • Homophobe
  • Xenophobe
  • Misogynist
  • Rapist
  • Thief
  • Russian agent
  • Corrupt
  • Lunatic
  • Mentally ill
  • Reckless
  • Immature
  • Ignorant
  • Illiterate
  • Vengeful
  • Narcissistic

I’m not going to say which ones I think are accurate and which ones I think are off base. But if a handful of these are true, anyone that would follow Trump into war is a complete and utter dotard. Since there is a common hawkishness among many of Trump’s most fervent critics, they must not believe what they say about Trump or are miles past sensibility in their stubborn desire for war.

  1. We are $21 trillion in debt

Last but not least, war has costs. The most horrific tragedies of war are the lives lost, both military and civilian. Injuries are suffered, homes and livelihoods are destroyed, and relationships are torn to shreds in all armed conflicts.

With that being said, I understand that war is sometimes the best option, and that the costs of not going to war can vastly outweigh the costs of participating.

But based on the complexity of the situation in Syria, the unproven nature of the claims that would justify intervention, America’s recent history of failure in armed conflict, and the lack of competence in the White House, this is not one of those times.

Since intervention remains unwarranted, exhausting more US resources as a trillion-dollar surplus looms would be beyond the pale. As Pre-President Trump tweeted way back in 2013:

Let’s hope the new Trump channels the old Trump before we get ourselves in another mess.

***

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Politicians Are Standing In The Way Of Our Veterans

By Michael Kanter | United States

Once soldiers go off to war, the focus shifts to the diagnosis of PTSD. Amongst other views on the subject during WWI, PTSD was not taken seriously by doctors performing diagnoses. The symptoms related to PTSD were widely misdiagnosed as the concussive effects of shells landing near soldiers and were often attributed to general insanity. However, after noticing similar symptoms from soldiers who had never been within range of artillery shells, they realized that there must be another cause.

By the time WWI ended, it was called Combat Stress Reaction (CSR) and was soon inducted into the brand new 1952 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which included a protocol to properly diagnose (and treat) CSR. In 1980, as a result of research on Vietnam War victims, holocaust survivors, and victims of sexual assault, the DSM created the diagnosis known as PTSD (Friedman).

Today, soldiers are regularly assessed for PTSD upon return from war, and can also be recommended for screening by commanding officers based on unusual behavior or other concerns. For someone to be diagnosed, however, there must be an identifiable “Stressor Criterion,” or a stressful event that one can link to the disorder (Friedman). This makes it harder to seek support since it can be difficult to identify one particular event as the cause.

Despite apparent improvements in the diagnosis of PTSD, there are still many roadblocks to fully address the problem. Firstly, the “toxic masculinity” that is often core to military culture creates a stigma around the diagnosis, and soldiers are often reluctant to properly describe their symptoms. In addition, many wish to avoid formal diagnosis because it might ruin their military career. Lastly, politicians are cost-averse when defining the levels of severity of PTSD for which government funding is available.

As with diagnosis, the treatment of PTSD has developed immensely over the past century. During WWI, treatment was virtually non-existent. In fact, when soldiers complained, doctors’ objective was to quickly and efficiently return them to the front lines (Reid). Treatment options ranged from shaming the soldiers to electroshock therapy (“Shell Shock Through the Wars”).

However, today, with the abundance of new information and changes in social understanding, treatment has improved. The increased emphasis on the value of soldiers’ quality of life caused governments and corporations to invest in research for treatments. The government has a new framework of programs to help veterans suffering from PTSD, and has created an extensive guide to the disease designed for veterans, including coping strategies and useful resources accessible online. Canadian Armed Forces members are also offered therapy and counseling in order to help them cope with the PTSD.

Notably, 18% of all benefits received by veterans are for mental health conditions, and more Afghanistan veterans received benefits for PTSD support than any other ailment or disability (Veterans Affairs Canada, “Mental Health”). Programs, though, are criticised for long wait times; some veterans have had to wait as long as three months to get an appointment for PTSD diagnosis, during which time treatment was unavailable (Bogart).


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