Christopher Hitchens just put out an article about a young man who persuaded by his writings on Iraq joined the Army and was killed in Iraq.
He was by all appearances a fine young fellow- well-liked, intelligent, thoughtful and persuasive. He came from a loving family of liberals and stood up against Nazis. I’m sure I would have hated him had I known him. Just kidding- he was in the Army, so there must have been something wrong with him. Again, just kidding.
What struck me about the article was the young man’s detailed humanitarian reasons for fighting in Iraq. I was motivated to join the US military by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis. I served in the Marines from 1983 to 1986. My service was uneventful and even more undistinguished. I never left the continental US.
My service is different from this man’s in one other more significant way. I joined and served for pretty prosaic and selfish reasons.
You see- it seemed to me it was going to be either us, or them. And quite honestly, in that case, I would prefer it to be them.
Now- how do I justify that? How do I morally justify the life my friends, family, and countrymen lead, ordering our own affairs, and living as we choose and see fit- against either the workers’ socialist revolution of the Soviets, or the Islamic caliphate of the mullahs? Well, I don’t, because I simply can’t. I’m not that smart, and in reality there is simply no justification for refusing to live under the dictatorship of the proletariat- as led by the Communist Party of the world’s socialist homeland- or the governance of the message of God’s final prophet.
The truth is I would prefer not to be killed or enslaved. Even if it would be more moral, and better for humanity if I was, I just prefer not to. Now isn’t that just goddamned selfish of me? Indeed it is, but that is just my preference.
I’m no Jacksonian. I hate the term. It implies we should run if we’re losing, instead of doubling down. The “paleos” disgust me. As Patton said, real Americans love to fight.
I can’t claim the high moral motivation of the soldier Hitchens writes about. I think Iraq ought to be a democracy, but because it’s good for us, not because it’s good for the Iraqis.
For every soldier like this one, I think there are a hundred like me. “I’m an American. Don’t fuck with me. As an American I’m friendly, and generous, and if you need patient help I will glady provide it. But never forget your destiny is in your hands, and if you fail to understand that nothing can help you.”