Friday, March 23, 2007

So you can sleep safely in your beds tonight...

I was listening to an edition of the Journey Home program on EWTN, and they had this Catholic military chaplain on. He presented something called "The Solider's Creed" as "an example" of how deeply rooted in moral goodness the US military is, something that is drummed into all US soldiers (and chaplains, it appears). Read this, and tell me if it makes you feel safer:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,
Trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

According to this Wikipedia article, it is a product of the "Warrior Ethos" program authorized in May 2003. The same article has a previous version on it. Today's "Creed" is certainly snappier, but you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to detect the direction in which it has "snapped".

I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't want to be defined as "the enemy" in this little example of dogmatic nationalism.

You can get the whole text set to music here.

6 Comments:

At Friday, March 23, 2007 4:18:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I just realised that there is nothing about "defence" in this Creed. Australia has a "Defence Force". What does the US have? An "Attack Force"? Now that gives a different spin on the whole question of whether the War in Iraq was justified according to the Just War theory, doesn't it? Attack first, ask questions later...

 
At Friday, March 23, 2007 5:37:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Interesting that, although it’s called a “creed”, its says nothing at all about what a soldier believes. In fact, it doesn’t mention thinking of any kind, at all.

Hardly suprisingly, really. Armies in general have no interest in encouraging the foot-soldiers to think. On the contrary; it is generally discouraged; it is not conducive to unthinking obedience, which is the main characteristic an army tries to inculcate.

I could equally point out that your Catholic blogger’s creed doesn’t mention the world “love”. But, of course, your blogger’s creed is a parody. I wish the soldier’s creed were, too.

Hooah!

 
At Friday, March 23, 2007 9:02:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Well spotted on both counts, Peregrinus! If I were to put up a real "Catholic Bloggers Creed", I would have put up the apostles or nicene creed anyway. Mind you, neither of them mention love either!! (Just goes to show you how unloving the church is...)

Re military thinking: that's one thing that has always put me off about the military--this unthinking obedience that is required, and the defence "I was only following orders". We know where that leads, don't we? Mind you, one presumes that the military generals and strategists have to do some thinking in their job--hard to know where they learnt it, given that they had to come up through the ranks.

 
At Saturday, March 24, 2007 9:53:00 am , Anonymous John Weidner said...

Actually, you need only do a little bit of digging to discover that neither the US military nor those of our allies that are still militarily effective wish for unthinking obedience. There is in fact in modern forces a constant emphasis on empowering individuals and pushing decision-making down the chain of command.

That's simply what works, especially since combat by large units is becoming pretty much extinct.

In the US forces there is also a strong emphasis on learning from mistakes. And also on education; it is very common to find officers with post-graduate degrees. The "warrior creed" stuff is very useful as an antidote to the nihilism and selfishness that characterizes modern life, but really there's a lot more going on than that. You should talk to some Australian soldiers, and see if they don't agree with me.

Your strictures here are about as accurate as those who claim that being Catholic is all about mindless obedience...

(Other than this quibble, I love your blog. Keep up the good work, and God bless you.)

 
At Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:43:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Welcome to Sentire Cum Ecclesia, John. You run a very tidy shop over there at Random Jottings!

What you say may well be correct. But I can't help thinking that even today there is a limit to free thinking in the modern military. For instance, what would happen if one were to accord "the enemy" (who, according to the Creed, must be "engaged and destroyed") with anything approaching actual humanity?

I note the quote from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on your blogsite: "I disputed the premise, "Blessed are the peacemakers." On the contrary, it was always those who fought evil whom history remembered as the greatest in their generations."

I fully appreciate the need to to fight and stand up against those who do evil. But fighting EVIL itself is something rather more difficult, and requires weapons quite different to guns and bombs. Nevertheless, Christ proposed an entirely new way to do this: "Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you." I have blogged on this at http://cumecclesia.blogspot.com/2007/02/jesus-pope-and-harry-potter-all-say.html

Again, a bit of wisdom from Harry Potter (as I was reading it to my girls tonight). It's pure humanism, rather than Christian theology, but for all that it proposes what is necessary for a virtuous response to evil. It's Dumbledore on the death of Cedric Diggory at the hands of Lord Voldemort:

"Remeber Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory."

Goodness, kindness and bravery--and a "belief that truth is generally preferable to lies" (something Dumbledore also recommended and demonstrated to the gathered students in his speech)--is a good start for facing real evil in the world. It might not save your life, but it could save your soul.

 
At Monday, March 26, 2007 9:32:00 am , Anonymous John Weidner said...

Thanks, that was a good post! I remember it.

I tend to pop off boldly on these subjects, because I'm looking for a debate, and also because here in ultra-liberal San Francisco there are a lot of people who will quote Jesus and Gandhi as a cover for apathy and nihilism. and who routinely defame our soldiers. And for whom "turning the other cheek" always means that somebody else gets whacked. Usually brown-skinned people in distant lands. It really riles me.

But I'm actually wrestling with the issues, especially since I'm currently deep in a very thought-provoking RCIA program. So it's is neat to be able to read blogs and "hang around" with guys like you. I don't mind being corrected.

I suspect you are right that our soldiers mostly don't accord the enemy much humanity. I doubt I would be able to do so, if I were facing snipers, IED's and car-bombs. But there's something else you might not have thought about. We no longer have "battlefields." Almost all our fighting in Iraq is in urban terrain, surrounded by crowds of innocent people. The terrorists fight there precisely because they know we will not cut loose with our heavy weapons.

So what does that mean? It means that our troops (and I'm sure Australian troops as well) are laying down their lives for strangers. Daily, routinely. We took Falluja fighting house-to-house, at a bitter cost in casualties. We could have ground that crappy little town to powder without the loss of a single American life. But that was never contemplated.

"Who then was the neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?"

 

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