Ten years ago, invading American troops were moving through stifling dust storms towards
American troops have been ordered out of
There is no sign anywhere of a New Middle East. There are only intimations of more American-supported war to come, likely to involve
The article below, in a longer version, was distributed on
"The professional soldier's role, one of the most ancient in human society, is like no other because it is inherently and voluntarily a tragic role, an undertaking to offer one's life, and to assume the right to take the lives of others. The latter, morally speaking, is probably the graver undertaking. The intelligent soldier recognizes that the two undertakings are connected. His warrant to kill is integrally related to his willingness to die.
"A former commander of the U.N. Protection Force in
"That long relationship left me bemused by the nature of the soldier's vocation, which ordinarily is to serve anonymously. The act of enlistment removes the choice of the cause for which the soldier is sent to fight. To die as a deliberately elected risk in the service of values consciously chosen is one thing. The soldier is trained to serve national objectives or policies that he may not understand or to which he may be hostile.
"The professional soldier finds honor in what may be called the absurdity of this situation. The 19th-century poet and professional soldier
"A form of moral stoicism is thus required of soldiers, ordinarily evoked by refocusing loyalty upon the unit and on comrades. This is notable, for example, in the French Foreign Legion, whose soldiers are trained to give their loyalty not to
"This is why Vigny also wrote that the soldier is both executioner and victim. The army is a machine to kill but 'is, too, a machine capable of suffering.' What it does in the service of the state is at potentially fatal cost to its members.
"Because it is a company of those prepared to die, it possesses the moral authority to set terms and a limit on the claims of the state. This, Vigny concludes, is the 'grandeur' of the soldier's 'servitude.' One is uncomfortable with a war instigated and directed by the military virgins who head the Bush administration -- who would not understand any of this."
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