May 04, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
It's no secret that dehumanization and war go hand in hand. It's difficult for most folks to view an enemy as a human being and at the same time be capable of killing them for the sake of a government agenda. One must mentally turn the enemy into something less than human, and become less than human themselves.

On Beyond Interactability, a site dedicated to constructive ways of dealing with conflict (war is typically seen as destructive), dehumanization is described as:

... a psychological process whereby opponents view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of moral consideration. Jews in the eyes of Nazis and Tutsis in the eyes of Hutus (in the Rwandan genocide) are but two examples.

It's this lack of moral consideration that is responsible for what's going on in Iraq right now.

From NPR:

In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

More than 40 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians [includes hitting or kicking a civilian when it was not necessary], the Pentagon said Friday in what it called its first ethics study of troops at the war front. Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said.

While it's certainly true that there are forces in Iraq who dehumanize and even demonize US forces, that doesn't seem like a position the US forces are supposed to take, given their "morally superior" position. It's difficult to claim moral superiority when half your members don't report when innocent civilians are killed or wounded by your own.

This pretty well supports my "there are no good guys in war" position.
np category: politics


Luke said:
It's been a while but I had to comment. I don't mean to be disrespectful but your opinion in this respect might be due to your lack of experience in wartime? Mine as well for that matter but in my job I think I get a little exposure to things like fatals and assalts that make me a little privy to the sense.

Dehumanizing to a degree is a necessity or else soldiers would all be commiting suicide as they contemplate the families they've broken by shooting the last casualty, or any of the number of other scenarios they experience. They aren't 'bad' per-se but just human it seems to me. I don't think we were designed to cope with each kill.

May 05, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
Hey Luke -- Thanks for stopping by again. :)

I'm not sure what point you're actually arguing against. Just for clarity, these are the points I made:

1. War and dehumanization / lack-of-moral-consideration go hand-in-hand.

2. The NPR article demonstrates lack of moral consideration on the part of US troops.

3. I hate war.

Maybe you're mixing up the idea of "becoming numb" and dehumanization. I get what you're saying about having to be numb to fatalities and assaults and the such (I worked in the medical field for a while), but I think we'd agree that the Nazi's treating the Jews as "something other than human" is an instance of actual dehumanization, and is entirely wrong. Likewise, for a US soldier or marine to intentionally wound or kill an innocent civilian in Iraq is absolutely 'bad.'

May 05, 2007

The Conservative Manifesto said:
There are no good guys in war?

As is the case with many on the Left, you are entirely mistaken.

I noticed in your response to Luke that you brought up the Nazis (a favorite talking point of the Left). So if there were no good guys in WWII, is it safe to assume everyone was bad? Or were some on the level of neutral - not good, not bad?

Was America wrong to fight the Nazis?

Hitler was an evil, evil man. No amount of talking or negotiating would have stopped his murderous rampage.

In your post you say that you hate war. Yet in your response you say you disagree with what the Nazis did to the Jews.

Pray tell, what stopped the Nazi assault?

I'm reminded of my street corner conversation with a high school teacher/protester. She could/would not answer that very question: what stopped Hitler's Nazis?

I believe her answer was something to the effect of: "history is still being written, we don't know everything that went on..."

This coming from a high school American history teacher.

Of course the answer is simple: war stopped Hitler. Moral violence, and moral violence alone stopped Hitler.

For a man who prides himself on complex thinking and viewing issues from a more mature perspective (my words, not yours), the "I hate war" argument doesn't seem to suit you well.

Of course war is ugly. I know this first hand (and no offense, but I doubt your medical field experience holds a candle to the site of a suicide bomber blowing himself up in an innocently crowded marketplace - but I could be wrong). And of course sinful humans will partake in sinful practices - regardless of what we're doing in life. We all sin and no one is worth of God's grace.

However, to jump from sinful human activity to a declaration that there are no "good guys," I think, is intellectually lazy.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
...a time for war and a time for peace. [Ecclesiastes 3]

You may not believe that Iraq was/is a time for war... but to obtain a blanket hatred for war is asinine.

I'm going to force myself to stop here as I could ramble on about this for days.

As always, I look forward to your response - specifically pertaining to the question of the moral justification America had to wage violence on Nazi Germany.

May 06, 2007

The Conservative Manifesto said:
*worthy, not 'worth.'
May 06, 2007

Kristen said:
I think you already know how I feel about this matter. I could write an entire blog post about this, especially after watching a hilarious part of "The American President" (technically a rom-com) where the president is worried about a janitor he killed in Libya (after he sent orders to flatten the building). Yeah, right.

Anyway, RYC-I have been thinking a lot about Romania lately. Thanks for the video! That was great!

May 07, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
I was actually thinking about this before you sent the comment, because I realized that my position on the whole thing isn't terribly clear.

First things first.

As is the case with many on the Left, you are entirely mistaken.

Folks are entitled to their values, so let's drop the labeling and the declaration of judgment on the opinions and values of others. Your sweeping declarative statements are not useful to this conversation.

Second, the Nazis happen to be a favorite talking point on all sides of the political aisle, so again - stop with the labeling. If you can't execute an argument without injecting pathos rhetoric, your position on anything is a sales pitch, and not a rational discussion. I assume you'd like to be identified as one who argues rationally, and not one who argues manipulatively.

I think I mentioned the Ecc. 3 passage before, and have stated that I believe that war is, at times, necessary. We've had that conversation before. However, necessity has little impact on my lack of appreciation for it. I hate war. And if we're tossing scripture back and forth:

(Regarding Israel's wickedness)
As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; (Ezekiel 33:11)

It's hard to make an argument that God likes war and the destruction of His enemies when the passage states that He doesn't. There are many passages that reflect this thought. And as such, any believer that "delights in war" isn't in alignment with this text. Hatred of war seems to be the only appropriate response.

As to my "there are no good guys in war" position," I suppose this needs to be explained a bit. I think it's more accurate to say that I see no good guys in the wars to which I'm referring. I originally made that statement regarding Israel and Lebanon, and I've made it again regarding the US and Iraq. As a blanket statement across all wars -- I'm not sure. I don't believe nations are benevolent, though. I think that nations tend to war to serve their own interests; war is a means to their own end, and that end tends to mean profit and strategic positioning. These are humanistically good, and not morally good.

The fact that the US fought against Nazi Germany had a good componant to it, which was to protect a people against another people... but when does the US say "this is somebody else's war; let it be," and when does it say "this is our war; we will send troops to fight?" The answer, I believe, is that the US gets involved when the US has something to gain. And that doesn't seem like something a "good guy" would do.

May 07, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
Oh hey, Kristen! Your post got in right before my reply to The Conservative Manifesto, so my comment was in response to his, not yours. And yeah - you and I have chatted about war and the such before.

Glad you liked the video. :)

May 07, 2007

valdez said:
Hey Josh,

Before I comment on this, I love you man. I am so glad I've been able to get to know you and the family. I think you're brilliant, and I respect your point of view. With that being said, I'm definately on the other side of the fence with this issue. I don't even know where to begin, but maybe you should consider not what the US has to gain, but rather what we have to preserve. I would also not put any faith in NPR as a fair source for anything regarding Iraq. They have been known to stretch things a bit on the side of anti-war. And lets not forget the 2 million ink-stained fingers that wanted freedom from oppression. I'm going to stop here for another day. Thanks for sharing your site.

January 09, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Hey Ed (I assume this is Ed, anyway...),

I don't think that NPR is overly biased. They generally demonstrate both sides of a position by having qualified guests on both sides of the political spectrum. I think it's a healthy debate and presentation of the issues.

The actual issue in the post is about the report that nearly half of the troops admitted that they would not admit to their own forces killing an innocent civilian. And that's a statement about the "morality" of people involved in this kind of war. Dehumanization is a huge problem...

January 10, 2008

valdez said:
Hi Josh,

Yes it's Ed. I guess this would make me a bad guy too. I'm a 10-year Army veteran, and I would definately be tempted to avoid reporting the killing of an innocent civilian if I were placed in the same circumstances. It would be tough to face the truth when your own country put you there, and now because of political pressure, won't support you for reacting to enemy gunfire. This all could be very different if our country would stand united on this issue.

January 13, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Nah - I wouldn't say that you're "a bad guy,too." I try not to stick labels on people as best I can. I think that war is a complicated issue, and society need to maintain a healthy dialog about it. That's all.
January 15, 2008

valdez said:
Well, thank you for resisting, LOL. And I always appreciate healthy dialogs too. But do you really believe that our troops over there are bad guys? Some of the most selfless and servant-minded people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing are wearing or have worn the uniform. Our troops always seem to be working with "the short end of the stick" in seemingly hopeless situations, and are criticized and shunned by our own country for doing their job of protecting the peace and preserving democracy. I wish we could eliminate the possibility of innocents being killed, I can't imagine what kind of nightmares go on in the minds of soldiers ridden with guilt over that experience.
January 17, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
No - I don't think our troops are bad guys. I wouldn't characterize it that way. Again - I don't like labels.

What I do know is that the people that I view as the "good guys" (if I have to use a label) are the regular folks like you and me who want to enjoy a warm meal with their families, who have nothing to do with bombs and guns, and when they get killed as a result of a power struggle over oil or the "spread of democracy," I have a hard time appreciating the war, you know?

January 17, 2008

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