Unacceptable Response (fwd)

Sat, 20 Jul 1996 22:59:40 -0400

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 16:09:48 -0400 (EDT)
From: sixties@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
To: sixties-l <sixties-l@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU>
Subject: Unacceptable Response (fwd)

] I'm glad that we've transcended the simplistic opposition of
] our-soldiers-are-war-criminals/our-soldiers-are-John-Wayne, but the evolving
] consensus has its own drawbacks. Last year, I showed my comp students "Four
] Hours at My Lai" and assigned some essays on Vietnam. I was taken aback to
] hear more than a few say, "Yeah, ok, so we were Nazis at My Lai, but it's
] not for us to judge the actions of the soldiers--their behavior was a
] natural response to the insanity of the war and they had no choice." What
] about morality? "Morality and war are incompatible."
] I don't like to generalize about generations, but I do fear that cynicism
] about the government and despair about the possibilities for change have
] robbed these kids of the capacity to feel outrage. Meanwhile, movies like
] "Courage under Fire"--which sugarcoat f.f. and PTSD by turning the
] insanities of war into purifying rites of passage--scarcely help.
] Ben Friedlander

May I recommend to folks that when the proposition:

"Morality and war are incompatible."

is presented by ANYONE, that it be firmly and
HARSHLY noted that this is a VERY Unacceptable Response,
and that it displays a COMPLETE LACK of cultural sensitivity
towards those who have taken to arms as a Profession!

Although FM 27-10, the law of land warfare, is not one of
the larger FieldManuals, I do recommend it as a simple
tool for DRUMMING a bit of THINKING into the heads of
those who have not paused LONG enough to ponder the Matter.

Allow me to counter pose the film "Crimson Tide" as a working
model of my WORST NIGHTMARE. When My housemate's went to see
it and chatted about it, I knew from 'holy doctrines' what the
"Correct Answer" was, without pause, without skipping a beat of
my heart. When I finally caught the film on Laser Disk, as a 'family
event' I noted to my housemates WHY this is a Nightmare Film, it
simply is NOT a case that can Happen. { which is a point held by
shear force of Will and exceptional Religious FAITH. } My housemates
were kind enough to understand that I could ONLY support the Chief
Boatswain of the Boat, Since he was the only person still working
within the Regulations. Which is the dialectical problem that I
believe the films writers were intending. For those who have not
seen the film, it is a basic argument of the 'shoot/don't shoot'
dilemma, but with nuclear weapons. In spite of my dislike of the
problem, I highly recommend the film to anyone interested in a
nice 'conversation starter' about the problems of 'morality and warfare'.
{ I will confess that It would have been a bit more interesting had
the film run a bit longer, and the XO had been WRONG.... I wonder how
the civilian population would have reacted to the thought of being on
the recieving end of a 'nuclear exhange', simply because one person
was unwilling to follow lawful orders.... }

Unfortunately, I do not share Ben Friedlander's belief that we
really HAVE extracted ourselves from the simplistic dialetic of

NeoWaffenSS v. JohnWayne

For me, we will need to be able to establish some universal standard
that will allow us to be equally critical of our enemies as well as
with our own 'troops' in regard to their compliance with both the
spirit and the letter of the Law. As long as we allow the simplistic
excuses, 'the viet cong were engaged in terror tactics' to stand
independent of a critique of the use of 'schelling' and 'douhet'
strategic air doctrines, we will have allowed the 'means' of "terror
tactics" to take precedence over the actual use of 'terror' as a
weapon of warfare.

As many who survived the sixties will recall, a part of the TRAUMA
that makes the anti-war/pro-war debate so complicated is the CLASH
of good intentions. Many reacted in Horror to find out that Philip
Caputo was RIGHT in his assesment that 19 year old american boys can
do unpleasant things. { a proposition that would hold true of the
Weather Underground as well, since the prospects of americans having
to 'bomb' their own government was not yet fashionable. }

We had left nuclear weaponry in the hands of the Government, predicated
on the Mystical Belief that the BOMB had ended WWII, and that it would
prevent any future wars. We had struggled Valiantly against the rising
wave of totalitarianism with the korean war. But the vietnam war would
suddenly oblige people to step away from the simplistic models of state
sponsored propoganda. For some this was a 'reformational' movement that
would follow the Calvinist Model, and reject all but that which could be
instantiated by 'Gospel'. For others, they would follow the Lutheran Model
of seeking to reject only those components of 'Orthodoxy' that did not
conform to 'Gospel'.

And as we still see with so many of the NewNeoCons, Some have simply
adopted the policy guidelines that there exists NO SUCH NOTION as
Morality Or HONOR. { adding here, "May They ROT IN HELL." would be
both an understatement and a redundency. }

At best Hollywood can raise a Mirror of what the Popular Culture will
tolerate and buy into. It will remain an obligation of the akademik
world to challenge the next generation to THINK and to THINK HARD
about what ethical systems can and SHOULD be in place.

If we are Unable, or Unwilling, to shift the locus of morality in
regards to warfare, then we are MERELY condemning the NEXT generation
of Troops to a Repetition of one of the KEY instigators of what ever
PTSD will be called next, the failure to Live Up to the Mythical
Models of Morality that they brought with them from civilian society.

or your ARE a part of the PROBLEM.


While we are this way wandering allow me to again 'plug'

Slow Burn: The Rise and Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam
Orrin DeForrest
c. 1990
ISBN 0-671-69258-5

Although he does Not specifically Address the Problems of 'morality'
in the process of Information Gathering and Analysis, he does address
the problems that come with a lack of a 'moral' standard in that
portion of the trade, and the concommitant contamination of both
the method and the information that it develops. I shall take it
that most people have a working knowledge of Frank Snepp's "decent
interval" and the long term complications of 'contaminating' the
information feed that is the alledged basis upon which National
Level Authority develops it's 'opinions' as to "what must be done."