Saturday, December 11, 2010

Soldiers without Honor

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. -- MacArthur at West Point
... The motto of the United States Military Academy and the watchwords of the United States Army. We understand what duty and country mean, but what is honor? Is honor any different than pride? When honorable behavior is scarce in our civilian pursuits, why should the military adhere to a different code?

Today, the US Armed Forces are posed with the question of whether or not to allow homosexuals and bisexuals to display their sexuality openly. The arguments for this innovation are along the lines that sexuality is an intrinsic property of the person, not a choice, and that service in the armed forces is a right, not a privilege.

MacArthur continues:
Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

As true today as in 1962. There is something eternal about the nature of war and of truth. Within the life and death struggle, there is a primal human invariant that either bends towards the bad or for the good. However, our civilian pursuits are much more vicarious. As technology marches along and urbanization increasingly becomes a global phenomenon, we are prone to think that man has changed as well regardless of the repeated lessons of recent conflicts.

MacArthur did not need to define the motto to the cadets. He knew that they each had a good understanding of its meaning. Duty is the obligation to the country that the soldier accepts for himself, honor is his integrity to keep that commitment, and country is the land, the people, and the ideals that are safeguarded and given life by the sacrifice of the soldier. But today, honor is considered by many to be a relic of the past--easily confused with baser things. In large, our society does not understand the meaning of the word.

Perhaps, before we take up the enigma of honor in earnest, it would be wise to revisit the questions of how women and minorities have been integrated into the US Armed Forces. A survey of the Army would find that minorities are disproportionately represented in the combat service support units as opposed to the combat arms.

Are the promotion guidelines blind to race and gender?

Why? What is wrong with our model of imposed egalitarianism? Is there something that we forgot?

If we cannot answer these questions satisfactory, then are we putting the conclusion ahead of the premise in regard to the question of sexuality?

Is human nature an anachronism? Has our ignorance of the meaning of honor obscured its importance? Most importantly, can our democracy rely on soldiers without honor?

UPDATE: 18 Dec

Letter of Resignation to the Branch Chief of ARPERCEN (Military Intelligence)

Please process my resignation.

The reason why I served was out of a sense of duty to a country that is quite exceptional among countries. Indeed, that is still true. However, there must also be a strong component of honor in the service. The strength of that bond has been weakened by the recent Congressional decision to change the nature of the service.

We are a country that has decided that there is no pressing need at this time for that dimension of service that brings the ordinary into the heroic and through which we have won our greatest victories as history has shown. Alternatively, poor character and lack of integrity has lead to the recent phenomenal security lapses, the slaughter of our troops at Ft. Hood by a known traitor, and battlefield losses that we have been too remiss to attribute honestly. I have seen the results myself in Iraq of putting politics above mission. It has always been for the worse.

At times in the course of events it is necessary for the leader to take a moral stand and by his actions demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice for that which he asks his subordinates to follow. We lead by moral persuasion--not by dictate. No punishment will force a unit to hold a line against withering fire--only the stronger bonds that are forged by example. This environment in which we can build those bonds is by this recent action being swept away. I doubt strongly that a leader can stand with much credibility as he simultaneously guards the myriad of moral inconsistencies within his command that always follow when we replace the rule of insisting on conduct for the good of the whole with special privileges and prerogatives based on race, gender, and now sexual proclivity. He might administer, but he cannot lead. Our mission demands leadership as we have seen time and again in the recent wars.

We call the faithful service of duty, honor. Duty is not defined by the whim of the superior as we ourselves reminded the defeated Nazis. Duty serves a higher cause as it must for our country to be safeguarded against depravities such as My Lai and Abu Ghraib. The leader swears an oath to the Constitution because he brings to the relationship his own free will. Our entire government is based upon this principle.

In such a time and in such a condition, it is immoral for the leader to sit idly by. A decision has been forced. The Congress has made a horrible mistake. Let them know from my example that they are jeopardizing much more than what is wise and for no good purpose than to appease those that place their own peccadilloes above service. It is a blunder that will cost lives and jeopardize the mission. Silence condones malfeasance.

Process my resignation.

Paul Deignan

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Between Want and Thought: Choosing our Religion

There are three main streams in religious thought developing in the globalized world: Atheism, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam. Each is differentiated from the others by a fundamental principle of philosophy.

Atheism asserts that while human existence may be of greater dimensionality than that which we directly perceive, there is no basis for a belief in an extra-dimensional organizing being. Whatever organization appears to the human is the result of chance being propagated in an immensely complex universe. As such our lives are only meaningful to the extent that we believe they are meaningful. There is no objective reference to infer a purpose of existence.

The moral code of public Atheism is utilitarianism. The private moral code of the Atheist is a path calculation for the satisfaction of want. Thus, when the Atheist finds himself unable to convince others to act according to his wants, it is seen as a fault in not being more clever in his manipulations. The information campaign that accompanies the path planning of the Atheist is necessarily deceptive since otherwise, the achievement of the most good for the most people would at some point act against the private interests of the Atheist.

If, however, we assert the existence of an organizing being beyond our direct human perception it seems natural to conclude that our existence is given context and meaning in respect to this unitary being and that within that context our own human activity can be organized. The primary differentiation between Theism and Atheism among most people is decided by their need to rationalize the observed discrepancy between their intelligent existence and the inability of man to give meaning to that existence within the space of their perceived world. While the Atheist may accept the concept of human will, the Theist is able to accept that will can be free. It is therefore rational for the Theist to believe in moral responsibility as a coherent public and private code whereas this coherence would make no sense to the Atheist.

Between the two major Theist religions, there is a choice in moral code regarding causality. Should thought follow action or action follow thought? This choice defines the present distinction between the main lines of Islamic and Judeo-Christian thought.

For the Muslim, the moral code is distilled to a number of actions that are directed by the organizing entity. The objective of the individual is to comply with those directives and to compel others to comply. Proper action leads to proper thought. In this paradigm, the human thought is noncausal. It exists in order to perceive the actions that must be accomplished. Free will is only free to the degree that a choice exists between subservience and insubordination to the organizing being. Thus, awareness of the moral code is transmitted by revelation without the ability to judge the validity of that revelation. In all practicality, the revelation is a product of the coincident will of the most forceful elements of the adherents to enforce a doctrine.

For the Judeo-Christian, thought precedes action. The validity of the revelation is judged by human experience and reason. Hence it is a greater heresy for the Judeo-Christian to believe incorrectly than to act incorrectly. Free will also carries with it the freedom to believe inconsistencies. For the Judeo-Christian, the moral code emanates from thought and is transmitted through reason and mutual inspiration.

Our clash or civilizations between these three fundamental lines of thought will determine the future of our world and will be felt thoughout this next century in ripples of action-thought-reaction. Our success in managing the damage of these tidal waves of human thought will depend on our willingness and ability to understand and respect the nature of the differences.