|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
Let's say that President Bush orders U.S. troops to invade and occupy Bolivia. With perhaps one or two exceptions, no soldier would challenge the president's decision to invade Bolivia.
Suppose a soldier says, "Mr. President, I can't carry out this order because you have no moral right to order an invasion of Bolivia because neither the Bolivian people nor their government has attacked the United States. Moreover, the invasion would be illegal under our form of government because you haven't secured the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. My conscience will not permit me to kill any Bolivians as part of this operation, including Bolivian soldiers defending their nation from this attack. Therefore, I will not participate in this invasion."
That soldier would be taken aside by superior officers for a very candid conversation. His superiors would explain to him that it is not within his job description to second-guess the president's decision to attack Bolivia. The soldier's job, he would have carefully explained to him, is to trust that his commander in chief is making the right decision and to carry out his order. The soldier's superiors would also explain to him that if he persists in his refusal to participate in the operation, he will be court-martialed and severely punished.
Undoubtedly, 99 percent of U.S. troops would obey the orders of the president to invade Bolivia, even if they felt a bit uneasy about killing people in the process. How do we know that this is true? Easy -- because we know that they followed the president's order to invade Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.
Throughout the operation, the troops would be reporting back on how they're killing the "bad guys." American reporters, donning military helmets and embedding themselves with the troops, would breathlessly exalt the heroic exploits of the troops. The American people would be infected with war fever. Protestant ministers and Catholic priests would exhort their parishioners to support the troops.
But what about the morality of the entire operation? Where is the morality of killing people who have never attacked the United States and who have done nothing worse than try to defend their country from a wrongful invader? Where is the morality in killing in "self-defense" when you don't have a right to be there killing people in the first place? Does a burglar who has entered someone's home in the middle of the night have the moral (or legal) right to claim self-defense if he kills the homeowner who shot at him while he was burglarizing the homeowner's home in the middle of the night?
Indeed, where is the morality in signing a contract that obligates a person to go kill people who haven't attacked his country?
By signing a contract that obligates the soldier to kill people in the process of obeying the president's order to invade other nations, the soldier effectively agrees to surrender his conscience to the will of the president.
But the troops aren't the only ones who surrender their consciences. As soon as the troops are committed to battle, many citizens also surrender their consciences, rallying to support the troops and cheering them to victory, praying that God bring an end to the violence and the "terrorism" in the country that the troops have invaded, without heed to whether the troops have the moral right to be in the invaded nation killing people.
How wise is the surrender of conscience, both among the troops and the citizenry, in both the short term and long term, especially in a country that prides itself on Judeo-Christian principles?
In my opinion,
not wise at all.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.