posted on Oct, 15 2006 @ 11:47 AM
I'd like to make some observations on all that has gone before...
I am ex Military (many years ago) and I follow no 'faith'. When I consider all the people throughout all the ages who have died due to religious,
racial and ethnic differences, I can find no place in my heart or mind for a belief in a god! Therefore, I could say that the original question holds
no meaning for me, since I do not believe in heaven or hell (or any of the other possible destinations of non-Christian beliefs).
However, not believing in an omnipotent supernatural creation figure does not absolve me from law, ethics or personal behaviour consistant with the
standards of the day. Just because I don't believe in a god, does not mean that I can go around killing people for any unlawful reason, now does it.
In fact, there is no reason to suppose that just because I do not believe in a god that my ethical behaviour or personal standards are lower than
those who do. In reality they may be higher!
Firstly, consider ethics and morals. Morality is a measure, if you like, of what is appropriate behaviour in a particular place and time. For
instance, what may be considered quite moral in most western civilizations right now (such as, say, topless sunbathing), would not be moral in either
another time (past or future) or perhaps in another place. So morality changes from place to place and from time to time.
Ethics is a measure of what you (or I) as an individual (or an organisation of individuals) consider to be right and wrong. And deep inside all of us
we can easily define whether we consider any particular action to be right or wrong.
This matter of 'thou shall not kill' vs 'thou shall not murder'. Is this a particularly American thing? I have never in all my many years heard
of 'thou shall not murder'! From the outside looking in, this sounds a lot like propaganda to me - an attempt to influence morality. Many
religious texts are contradictory in any case. For instance where does 'thou shall not kill' stand in relation to 'an eye for an eye',
The modern concept (at least since the Romans) of a military force, unless one is bent upon conquest, is the concept of defence. Since the end of
WWII, Japan's military forces have possessed no offensive weaponry (although they have lived under the umbrella of America's offensive
capabilities). Military strategic and tactical thinking over the years has determined that, as the saying goes, ' The best form of defence, is
offense', culminating in the cold war scenario of mutual deterent (that is the threat of mutual annihilation). Therefore, I would say that anyone
who joined the military 'to kill' has about the same morals and ethics as Adolf Hitler, whereas to join the military 'to protect and defend' can
be seen as a noble and ethical following - much the same as joining the police forces, for instance. That one may be called upon to act pre-emptively
in the act of defence does not change matters. In reality a modern military force is a balance of defensive and offensive capabilities.
And don't be fooled into thinking that a state can exist without defensive military forces. Even the Vatican has a well trained military force,
albeit these days mostly ceremonial (as far as the public is concerned). But these forces are Swiss, and the reason that they are Swiss is that the
last conflict that the Swiss fought (a couple of centuries ago) proved them to be the most fierce fighters in Europe (at the time) and that was the
reason that they were appointed as the Vatican guard.
So, to paraphrase the original question... Is it ethical for soldiers to kill in war?
The answer to that is dependent upon the judgment and ethics of the military and political leaders who send them into war, and what they command them
to do. It is not just a matter of 'just following orders' either. There was NEVER any army that was sent into battle that did not believe that they
were doing 'the right thing' or that it was necessary to win the battle, win the war and restore peace.
Beyond this, an individual soldier's actions must stand the test of ethics and morals.
So, if you believe that it is not ethical for a soldier to kill in war (within ethical rules of engagement, of course) and that soldier should be held
accountable, then so should all those 'civilians' who helped put the political leadership in power that deploys that soldier. You are just as
responsible, because it is 'you' that the soldier is 'defending' - in a democracy, it is 'you' who sent him into battle in the first place, it
is 'you' who decides what that soldier may or may not do on the battlefield.
Finally there is one, almost self evident truth about war that is worth remembering.....
People don't make war, armies don't make war - only politicians make war! And the true reasons for making war, the politicians keep to themselves,
while telling the rest of us what they want us to believe.