The soldier Ruthless Criticism

The soldier

The soldier is on both sides of the front in war. His craft is the same in each case; his workplace over here as well as over there is the field of honor. And here he doesn't do a job or occupation in the usual sense of the word.

1. The use of violence is forbidden to everybody, but is the duty of the soldier

Normal life follows rules and laws, as everybody knows. Violence against others is prohibited – at least private violence. Conflicts must be resolved with so-called peaceful means, i.e. anyone who wants to do violence to an enemy or competitor is only allowed to try to use the power of the law against him. To kill the other person is one of the worst crimes. Not for the soldier: for him, killing is a duty, and in a war it takes place massively and effectively. The soldier is also not allowed to murder, which is, as said, strictly punished. Wherease a murderer has personal reasons to kill someone who gets in the way of his happiness, the soldier has no relation to his victims – except those who march under the flag of their nation, just like him, only that of a different state.

A soldier must “learn” a whole repertoire of violent acts as his craft, from individual killing of enemy soldiers to dropping bombs, the murderous results of which he is spared from seeing at a safe altitude. However, he is not spared this on any account out of consideration for his tender heart. Such weaknesses have possibly already been broken in him by training, and these days he is also looked after by military psychologists.

2. Soldiers need a picture of the enemy to hate, but have to keep their hatred under control

Soldiers have no personal reason to kill in war. They fight against people who they themselves have no hostility towards. The willingness to extinguish the lives of strangers would not be possible without a picture of the evil enemy who kills one's countrymen and comrades and hence deserves death. The official enemy picture is part of the soldier's basic equipment. The war itself then produces every conceivable bad experience with the enemy, which should make sense to the soldier as a reason for justified hostility. From such ideologically generated motives, the soldier has to be incited in order to fulfill his state task, but not to commit personal acts of revenge or atrocities. On the one hand, he should execute the state's orders with the full dedication of his person. On the other hand, he should kill with a cool head, as it were, objectively, and not be tempted by his hatred of the enemy into “excesses.” These “transgressions” mean exactly that, when they are not ordered. Then the soldier might have bad luck and his heroic deed suddenly means a “war crime” and is punishable by court martial, be it that of his own or that of the victorious enemy state.

There is an international system of rules for war, which mean to avoid unnecessary violence (that is to say: not pertinent to victory in and after the war); for example, the specification that one may not kill those taken captive and therefore out of action enemy soldiers.

3. Soldiers are perpetrators and victims of violence who deserve honor

Of course, the soldier produces not only victims on the enemy's side; he must also be willing to be a victim with his own life, in the worst case. Indeed, in civilian life a lot of victimization is also expected of the citizen, but this is always related to his personal calculations. In the worst case of war, all the concerns about bourgeois advancement lose nothing. Even if human life counts as a higher value of bourgeois society, as an officially guaranteed “right,” nobody on the front will probably come up with the idea of suing for his “right to life.” A conclusion from this would be: whether abortion, euthanasia or a hero's death – the state always wants to have the last word on the life and death of its subjects.

Being a soldier thus includes killing as well as self-sacrifice on command. From the outset, it is clear that this command has a higher public purpose. Soldiers are tools for the violent assertion of their state against other states. Officially, this always sounds different: it is called defending the country against an attacker, either a current or a potential one. In any case, it is clear: the state-established community knows no higher purpose than the one popularly called “protecting the country.” When a soldier kills or dies for this, he shows the highest citizen morality of all.

That's why the political leaders always vigorously advertise high respect for soldiers: Our boys (and girls) in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world where freedom is defended. Their contribution to victory just like their enforced victimization is appreciated as a voluntarily provided service to the community for which the homeland owes gratitude and honor, and for which there is a special kind of grave and the condolences of the Secretary of War – excuse us! ... Defense.