Monday, September 3, 2007

Professional Warriors and Morality

Robert D. Kaplan has a long and slightly rambling article at The Atlantic Monthly titled Rereading Vietnam. You don't have to read more than the first third, perhaps half, though he does put the punchline at the very end.

He assumes we're all aware of the distinction between civilians who know almost nothing about war and the citizen soldiers, who do. What he does is to tell about a third class, the professional warriors, who are so far removed from the civilians that even their historical memory is contradictory. The professional warriors read books the civilians have never heard about, and in the case of Vietnam, these books describe a war the civilians would never recognize (nor accept). A war that America came near to winning, and also a war that was morally just. Whew.

Near the end he talks a bit about Israeli soldiers, and then finishes with the statement that professional warriors must be controlled - though since the civilians are irrelevant to their world, the controlling needs to be done by their own officers.

I would say that the distinctions are not helpful for understanding the Israeli case. This place is too small, the war is too near - and, most significantly, I don't think we have either the first group, the uninitiated civilians, nor the third, the professional warrior class.

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