Nathan H. on Non-Aggression
Leading the league in HBP's


In an earlier article, I had opined ...


=== Jeff Says ===


"Obviously you can make an argument that no athlete owes his original club loyalty - or in fact anything at all.  The club was acting exclusively in its self-interest when it prepared the athlete for stardom, right?  (Wrong.)

You can make similar arguments that a Soldier owes his country nothing; the Army was acting exclusively in its self-interest when training, paying, and feeding the Soldier, right?  (Wrong.)

You can make arguments that nobody owes anybody anything.  People in fact do make these arguments.  How many blogs are going to discuss "loyalty" with respect to Felix?  It's a dirty word, seen as an unfair indictment of those who made different choices.

Hopefully we re-think the concept of Virtue when we have our first child."


=== Nathan Says ===

Coming from the perspective of someone who accepts the following as part of his world view:

  • The principle of non-aggression
  • Virtues exist (corollary to that, evil acts and ideas exist as well)
  • Any idea taken to sufficient extreme can be abhorrent

I'd be interested in exploring the idea that my worldview is wrong in some way. 'Enlightened self-interest' is mentioned in the article and is associated with a sneer. The idea is put forward that the Army is not acting exclusively in its self-interest when training, paying, and feeding the Soldier.

This may not be the appropriate forum, but could you expand on these premises? I'd genuinely like to explore this.


=== Jeff Says ===

Second topic - Non-aggression.


Nobody, not even Buddhists, believed more fervently in non-aggression than did first-century Christians - most of whose leaders passively went to their executions for simply speaking what they believed.

But all of those first-century Christians believed in government, in the enforcement of civil behavior -- by force when necessary.  If thugs tried to carry off a maiden, a Christian solider would have drawn his sword to protect her.

Is it your premise, Nathan, that government, police, military, etc., are unnecessary?  Do you believe that the Allies should have picked up guns against Hitler?


As a Christian myself, and a believer in loving my enemies, I'm going to walk away from a fight, if it's only my ego at stake.  But I'm not going to allow people to throw my daughter into the back of their van; I'm going to use physical force to prevent her being sold into slavery.  

Could you define your term "non-aggression" in the context of when, or if, a good man should use physical force to prevent evil?


=== Nathan says, re: non-aggression ===


To me (how's that for being relative) the principal of non-aggression means that aggression against another person is inherently illegitimate. If someone were to initiate force against you, that is wrong. At that point, it would be acceptable to defend yourself.

If the thugs were to attack me, I would have no moral qualm defending myself. In your example, it would be okay to defend the maiden against the thugs, the thugs are initiating force against the maiden with the intention of doing evil and she does not have the means to resist.

To be fair, I'm still trying to come to terms with the idea of interventionism in this worldview (maiden example included), so my argument for or against WWII is not on solid ground at this point.

I have heard it said that the logical conclusion of this worldview is anarchy because a government can only survive by initiating force but I have not come to terms with this idea yet. Exploring anarchical ideas certainly has been thought-provoking, though! A society based solely on voluntary interaction is something I've been quietly reading up on while I try to evolve my worldview.


=== Jeff Says ===


(Appreciate the discussion Nathan.  I was braced for a less-productive debate, but I see that you're interested in an idea exchange.)

1.  So that we're not talking past each other ... right off, it seems we are at least 98.888% agreed on the baseline here.  Obviously we both HATE to see physical force used, and apparently we both agree that there are times that a good man is FORCED to use violence against a bad man.


2.  Right.  That's our problem.  In WWII, why would Poland and France not be considered the "maiden" in the analogy, or any smaller country brutalized by a more powerful one?  

In law (enter Mojician) when YOU use your gun to defend ME against JOE's knife attack, you are covered under a legal principle that is actually called the "Good Samaritan" principle (Luke ch. 10).  Anything I could do myself, you could do for me, if necessary.

What France could do for itself, the U.S. could do for it, if asked to, correct?


3.  Notice that we're not talking about interventionism proper.  That refers to the situation where the guy being stabbed to death didn't ask for our help.

Does that change the situation inherently?  That the altruist IS, or ISN'T, asked for help by the little girl being put into the van?  

Or would the Samaritan be justified (even COMPELLED) to intervene based on the atrocity that would be committed if he did not intervene?   I'm wondering here what there is about the free will of the victim that changes the situation.  Or what about the person who is not in a position to make a choice about whether to be helped or not ... supposing the girl being thrown in the back of the van were drugged and unconscious.


4.  Why is physical disincentive not okay, but other disincentives are okay?  Is it merely a genteel sensibility, merely that we have become effete, too pseudo-refined to get our hands dirty?

Why are we fine with mocking a person until they break down in tears -- as people would like to see Al Gore or Sarah Palin do -- but consider ourselves above applying a public caning to a rapist?

Our reaction to physical violence may be hypocritical in view of our love for psychic violence.  We love to hurt people.  We just want to hurt their minds and hearts, not their flesh.  

Why, exactly, is it more evolved to wage war against someone's heart than against their flesh?


5.  Unless you can demonstrate otherwise - which I'd be fine with! - my position is straightforward.  

A good man HATES to use violence - or indeed any other DISINCENTIVE applied to a fellow human being.  But!  There are times when a bad man FORCES the good man to do so - when the good man would actually cease being good, if he were to do anything OTHER than apply violence.

Enjoying the exchange Nathan!  :daps:

Chime in any time Mojo...





There are defensive and even disabling choices that do not inflict near the same harm but that is not what war has ever been. War involves death. Reacting to murder with murder is fighting fire with fire, it only expands and expounds the incorrectness of virtue. Ok, that's a bit extreme. The point is you can respond to a punch with a punch, a kick or learn "the art of fighting withou fighting" (I left the t out because Bruce did and I've quoted it many times.) War is fighting and I'm not saying it doesn't have a place. What I am saying is that there are other ways to resolve international conflicts that aren't as costly to human life and involves much less to possibly no collateral damage.
Fighting fire with fire is a "being bad" example in the Bible but for some reason society seems to think "it's in the Bible so that's what you're supposed to do." Fire doesn't beat fire, it only expands it, how can that be misunderstood? Escalation is also a common response in conflict thinking, but escalation of conflict by definition makes things worse. In your personal dealings does outdoing the slights you perceive end with a better outcome than trying to diffuse? Trying to understand or compromise? Ever? should it in a world view? Asking a question is better than assuming the answer, proclaiming the others intentions and attacking, but that's not as fun to watch on TV.
Saving people from harm to come is nearly impossible. Consider how police have to respond to threats refered to them of a person in fear of someone else. In most situations they can only suggest a restraining order. It may seem unjust that they have to wait for harm to actually be done in most cases before they can act, but wouldn't it be similarly unjust to penalize someone for something they haven't done or for someone else's perception? I'm certain there's situations that should be more clear of a threat, but still what can you do. They can shoot when the gun is pointed at them, you can throw a punch if one is thrown at you because that's self defense. Police shooting someone who has a gun pointed at them is viewed with much more understanding than them shooting someone who has a gun pointed at someone else. Is that not how it should be?

Nathan H's picture

1. Response: I’m loath to see a person violently aggressed against. That said, I’m not squeamish about violence in general. I like watching MMA, boxing, football…inherently violent sports. I don’t like watching injuries though. Those make me queasy.
2. Response: Because Poland and France don’t exist? The people in those countries exist; Poland and France are an invention. (Sorry, semantics, I know :) That the people in those places were being aggressed against and could not resist; this makes a powerful argument for intervention.
3. Response: I guess my noodling about this issue comes out to, what does your gut tell you what is happening? The whole of our existence is not black and white morality but interpretation and shades of grey. If your mind/gut/soul is telling you, ‘Hey, what’s going on here is wrong.’ It seems to me that it would be a moral imperative to respond, with violence if necessary. Another man might view the same situation and see something different. He might not respond because of it and have a strong argument for not responding.
4. Response: I definitely failed to make this point clear at the beginning. Your highlighting of the word ‘initiates’ in my statement was acute. My interpretation of the principal of non-aggression doesn’t preclude the use of violence in defense. In fact; violence as a last resort used to protect yourself could even be viewed as virtuous. In that scenario, If extreme prejudice were called for, I’d have no moral qualm about that.
5. Response: Looks like we agree on that.
Counter-point: I think there's a key argument here. Morality vs. the violation of the Principal of Non-Aggression.
Each person decides their moral boundaries for themselves. But with so many people who have a difference of opinion on where those boundaries lie, how can people come to an objective standard? The principal of non-aggression seems to me to be an objective standard of virtuous conduct. If your morals involve the initiation of force against me, or mine you, we have an interaction that requires resolution.
Does any person have the right to enforce a view on others? If you respond from a moral standpoint there cannot be an objective answer because each person answering would have a different moral standard to apply to the question. But if you approach this from the principal of non-aggression, I believe we can come to an answer: Where no initiation of force is taking place, no. Where the initiation of force takes place? Yes.
But what if we scale that question up? How do we, as a society, determine what is good and what is bad, what activities and beliefs are to be supported by the force of a gun? If we're talking from the perspective of establishing moral boundaries, we can’t, right? A societal moral view doesn't exist. Each individual has a different opinion on what is moral.
Democracy? A lynch mob is democratic. Enforcing the will of the majority violates the rights of (initiates force against) the minority.
The only answer seems to be, has this entity violated the principal of non-aggression?
Isn’t having a large group of people go somewhere to shoot other people in order to force a moral view wrong? Who decides what the moral view is that is to be enforced? What gives the person who commands the army the moral imperative to decide who lives and who dies, Bilbo? If it's not based on a violation of the non-aggression principal, it cannot be legitimate, right?
Excellent conversation. Looking forward to continuing it.


"for some reason society seems to think "it's in the Bible so that's what you're supposed to do."
When is the last time you ran into a person who said that?!  I don't even run into them in my church, and my church is sitting on a yellow-striped Religion Zone.  Nobody speaks about religion on any non-yellow-striped territory in Pierce County.
Obama doesn't order military strikes because it's in the Bible so that's what he's supposed to do.  George W. Bush emphatically does NOT believe that the Bible is inspired and he didn't liberate Iraq because he thought the Bible told him to.  John Kerry and Hillary Clinton did not vote to approve the Iraq war because it was in the Bible.
FDR didn't go into WWII because he thought the Bible told him to.  Abraham Lincoln didn't fight the Civil War because he was a mind-numbed, mewling little churchgoer whose preacher told him to spend his Presidency on that bloodbath.  What incredible disrespect to them it is, to imply that American heroes were mindless idiots.
I don't know when the last time was, that America participated in a military operation because anybody thought the Bible said they should.  The only time you could even suggest the Bible was a proximate element in the motivation, would have been the Revolutionary War -- when men used the concept of "God-given rights" toward life, freedom, and happiness to throw off tyranny.
If that's all we think of the other side's position -- that they're drinking Kool-Aid -- then it's a drudgery to try to sort out the ideas being exchanged.  
It's 2013.  Let's drop the "society obeys the Bible mindlessly" excuse, shall we.  We've used that as an ego defense for long enough.
In February 2013 ... IF society "obeys" anything, it is Hollywood it obeys.  The ever-looping images we get on our TV's and movie screens, now those things have an effect.


Blinkin' seldom that Dr. D goes line-item with a poster, but your ideas command respect, with a capital R :- )
Next chance I get, will mosh off that ... great post N ...
Okay :- )
1.  I couldn't agree more, my friend.  
Only one thing to add:  Let's empathize with Servicemembers whose duties have de-sensitized them to violence.  A good man can become numb to the pain involved in war, his own and those of others.  Warriors are a different breed, and we need to be compassionate towards their life histories, no?
An EMT doesn't react to a bloody car wreck the same way you and I do.  A Soldier who has had to kill 10 men doesn't react to the 11th the same way we do.  We shouldn't feel any superiority to him over this, in my view.  He's the one getting his hands dirty to protect our liberty.
Needless to say, there are bad guys wearing uniform like there are bad guys anywhere else...


"Police shooting someone who has a gun pointed at them is viewed with much more understanding than them shooting someone who has a gun pointed at someone else. Is that not how should be?"
"In order to succeed we must ask the right questions" - Aristotle
1.  You and Nathan said that it is only violence that justifies violence. 
2.  I don't DISagree with that, but was asking you to help me out.
3.  Bad men say yellow and --- > Good men respond with yellow.  Bad men say green and --- > Good men respond with green....
4.  I asked, what is the BASIS for this correlation?  Who ever said that orange must oppose orange?  WHY IS IT that blue might not be the best (and most loving) response to orange?
You replied with, "is that not how it should be?"  Well, that's what I'm asking a basis for.
You and Nathan feel more comfortable in seeing physical pain inflicted upon threat of physical pain.  You oppose psychic pain with psychic pain.  I'm asking, what causes you to believe that this is superior morally?
If a man steals a widow's inheritance, most people are comfortable throwing him in an 8x10 cell for twenty years and watching him get raped.  I'm more comfortable giving him 10 lashes in the town square, and letting him go, and watching the crime rate drop by 98%, while the embezzler gets a "re-set" and can go try to live the rest of his life in peace.  What is the moral differentiation?
But none of this is fundamental to the discussion.  I'm just noodling around about our assumptions re:  violence.  This alley isn't going to take us anyplace important, so feel free to ignore.


2.  Agreed again ... so once we realize that "America" and "France" and "The Third Reich" are simply communities of people ... villages on a larger scale, as it were...
2a.  Now we are likely to conclude that SOME wars are morally right.  They're extensions of the self-defense principle -- simply with larger numbers attached.
3.  Agreed 101% that once we decide (2) we had better be BLINKIN' CAREFUL which wars we "righteously" fight.  Just like you, in the street, need to be blinkin' careful who you punch!  :- )
3a.  You mention your "gut."  Agreed 101% that --- > there is no substitute for a man's conscience.  None.  A man obeying his conscience is a good man.  A man violating his conscience is acting as a bad man.
There have indeed been many American Presidents -- perhaps most of them, perhaps all of them -- who pulled the trigger on wars (with the consent of Congress) after SINCERE PRAYER.  Religious or not, I approve of this ultimate effort to follow their consciences.  And in America, war occurs (normally) only after a LOT of men and women have followed their consciences in agreement to oppose a Hitler, or Saddam, or whoever.
Ironically, atheists worry that when Barack Obama prays before ordering a military action, that it's going to lead him into a self-righteous cruelty.  Sometimes it's impossible for a Blue man to "get" a Green man.  If I were anti-Bible ... and I used to be ... I would still want the man in the Oval Office worrying about answering to God.  I wouldn't want him thinking that he was the ultimate authority in the galaxy, with no one to answer to!
There's an asterisk.  Obama no doubt orders certain drone strikes, CIA ops, etc., in a manner not consistent with the above.  That's another case; we're talking about whether war CAN be the right thing to do.
As C.S. Lewis put it, If the U.S. and Spain both honestly thought they had to fight each other, and two Soldiers shot each other in good conscience, Lewis said, they'd stand up outside their bodies and share a laugh with each other.
Tragedies occur, but God holds men responsible for no more than obeying their consciences the best they can.  It's a tough world we've created.


A village that has 12 people, you might be able to get a unanimous agreement on every point of law.  THAT community can exist without ever forcing a community member to do anything he/she doesn't want to do.  Free will and government might exist without contradiction.  (Not really, LOL.)
Once the village has 120 people, and 1,200 people, and 300 million, you're not going to be able to get unanimous consent any more.  Now it is simply going to come down to which system you want, in order to resolve differences.
The individual members can then choose to remain within the village, or leave it.
Isn't it as simple as that? 
As an American, I can give thanks for the system, live within it, work to change it within the law, or I can leave it.  I'm content with that.  Only 1 in 25 people worldwide are born in America.  I'm blinkin' glad I wasn't born in Saudi Arabia or Libya, ain't you?
No doubt a Benevolent Dictatorship is better than democracy.  All you have to do is guarantee that all the successive Dictators will be equally benevolent.  Simple as that.  :- )
George Washington coulda been the first one.  He turned it down.  That literally is why he's the Father of our Country.


I wasn't saying that decisions of that ilk are based solely on the reference only that the root of the idea "an eye for an eye" is calling it out as bad practice. Turn the other cheek is good practice from the same collection. Meeting red with red is wrong. We can call it "make the punishment fit the crime"to use more current vernacular.
I don't know what the right answer is for every situation, but the idea is to be how you want them to be not how they have been. All acting like a tyrant does when confronted with one is create more tyrants. That doesn't lessen the suffering exacted on innocents, it increases it. This is not just biblical but inherent in every religious philosophy I've spent any time learning about. Eastern, Native American, African, makes no difference. I'm not talking about pacifism as "you piss me off, I'll pass a fist". That's how the ideal comes off from people who think force should be met with equal or superior force in the same vein. Its not an ideal at all if the answer is to punch the bully back.
I wholeheartedly agree that punishment in the present system is not deterring crime enough, but I also believe the problems have a root in our society that will not be fixed by treating symptoms. George Carlin said "as long as we continue to have selfish ignorant citizens, we will continue to have selfish ignorant leaders." He want saying that we're all selfish and ignorant (neither am I) just that those are two pervasive flaws in society here. There's no easy answer for the fix in society, but it will continue to decline until there's a breaking point or answers are implemented. Just as the war on drugs has failed and its time to try a different approach, our ideas on how to resolve conflicts have proven more costly than the gain in this age. Education in this country is not working, its timefor a different approach. So many things are not working and slow change isn't making significant progress, in fact so many things continue to get worse even with it.
BTW, How is it that the fundamental debate between Lucifer and God was that God wanted us to be free to choose and Lucifer wanted us to be forced to do what's right, yet many Christian groups seem to want us all to be forced to do what's right? Am I misrepresenting or misunderstanding vocal Christian groups? I do not mean it as an insult, just a curiosity I've had for awhile.


This issue has been fought out in the United States for a long time. The right of the State to regulate health, safety and morals versus the right of the individual to do what he wants. For a while, and on some issues, the libertarians won, See Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) (State's worker's rights statutes unconstitutional), Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), State law banning contraception unconstitutional.  That tide has shifted in some cases and not in others.  Near as I can tell without doing work, Lochner is long overruled, but Griswold is good law, and the underpinnings of Roe vs. Wade.  In Griswold, the Court noted a narrow exception to the States' broad power to regulate health, safety and morals.  That is, the Griswold court invented a right to be free from the government intrusion into the most intimate matters of your life.  This inherent privacy provision isn't written on the face of the Ninth Amendment, it had never been heard of before, and I'm pretty sure that the Griswold court made it up.
So, the debate here is where government obtains authority to enforce its moral code onto others.
Here goes:  Matthew Henry, in his book "Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Entire Bible" states that without law, men would be as the fish in the sea, with the powerful consuming the weaker.
Government is necessary to keep people from acting like cavemen.
Note that the government does not require a moral high ground or any one person's approval to do what it does.  I once tried to help defend a man who claimed he didn't have to pay his income tax because it was unconstitutional.  He went to jail.  He also didn't believe that the government had any right to jail him.
If you are a libertarian, America is still more free than a lot of places that you might have lived.  You can say whatever you want, you can believe whatever you want, the taxes aren't very high, you can keep guns, you can have a jury trial, etcetera.


have nothing but respect from me. I don't begrudge a man following orders to an extent. I hate the Nazi argument that causes me to add the "to an extent". The decisions are essentially not their own in most cases. The choice to desert is always available, but not inviting at all. In most cases what they're doing is in good conscience anyway and there's no reason to put down their decision to serve us all.


Thanks for that  Wishiker :- )
1.  The fundamental debate between Lucifer and God isn't specified in the Bible anyplace, other than in Job chapters 1-2.  I could summarize if you liked.  
It's interesting that you suggest that Lucifer wanted us to be forced to do what's right.  Did that come out of a Chris Walken movie?  ;- )  ;- )
2.  Yes, you're misunderstanding Christian groups.  Thanks for asking my friend (sincerely).
EVERYBODY wants the rest of the world to be forced to do what's right.  You, for example, want the rest of America to be forced to refrain from foot-binding their infant females.
EVERYBODY thinks the rest of the world would be better off, if it believed more as they do.
In my experience, over the last 30-40 years, Christians are somewhat LESS interested to trying to legislate behavior than other interest groups.  Christians aren't particularly interested in passing laws against premarital sex.  90%, or more, of Christians, just want to be left alone to raise their kids as they think best ... and they would prefer that their kids not be taught homosexuality in kindergarten.
It really is a massively inert interest group.  According to Gallup, 78% of Americans identify as Christian, and yet how much did Christians affect the last election?  Imagine if the NAACP had 78% of the electorate.
It's true that Christians oppose the institutionalization of values opposite to theirs -- when society initiates laws and moves down the path toward the dismantling of traditional marriage, toward wider drug use, wider pornography, etc., Christians indeed worry what's going to happen to the next generation of children.
EVERYBODY opposes the institutionalization of values opposite to theirs, correct?  :- )
But as to whether somebody wants to live their own life around sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll?  Most Christians feel that it's their decision.  Trust me on this one.
As opposed to that, I heard Alan Dershowitz (ACLU) say the other day, that if he could take all the children out of Christians' houses and put them in schools where they could learn tolerance and liberalism, he would do so.  I believe that the ACLU is quite a bit more aggressive and militant than Christian groups are.


Suppose that a helicopter pilot is given orders to strafe an area, and the pilot sees civilians down there, and says "this isn't what I signed up for."
What happens next?  A (possible) court-martial followed by probable exoneration of the pilot if he was sincere?


That's how I always pictured law in the real world Mojo ... that EVERYBODY agrees at the very extremes ... that libertarians agree that SOME morals have to be upheld, that radicals agree that SOME freedoms have to be maintained, and that there's a tug-of-war to keep things relatively moderate?  That's fairly accurate?
I'm confident of very few things, but I'm totally confident in your fish-and-sea argument.
If we had a Mad Max post-nuke style environment, no government available or even possible, I would predict at 10,000:1 odds that you'd see a wasteland of atrocity.

Nathan H's picture

The authority of a court making a decision on what government should and should not be able to do is flawed, isn't it? The court isn't enforcing what's right, it's enforcing what's lawful. There's a difference there. Who's making the laws?
'Without law men would revert to the powerful consuming the weaker' and 'Government is necessary to keep people from acting like cavemen.'
I think I disagree here. Most people are generally good. I have yet to see someone knock people out of the way in order to get on a bus first just because he could. I don't need an authority to tell me to call my mother because she's lonely. People generally have the dignity of values built in to their being.
Re: the guy who didn't pay his taxes - just crafting an argument here - by what right is the government able to demand taxes? He could argue that he never agreed to pay for or reap the benefits of those taxes. The tax is forced. He went to jail. He was put in a cage because he refused to uphold a contract that he never agreed to in the first place. If he resisted the cage he would have eventually been killed. Government is force. Does this man not have a valid argument?
Just because there is currently nothing better doesn't mean we can't create something better, right?. Has a voluntary free-market society been attempted? One based on agreed upon contracts? Genuine question.
So I reject the argument that 'If you don't like the way it is here you are free to leave'. I don't want to leave. I want things to work better. Don't we all?

Nathan H's picture

Conversations like this are what happens when the off-season is done and the regular season has not yet begun. Can we get some dingers already?


Military officers are sworn to obey LAWFUL orders. An order to strafe civilians would be unlawful, and refusal to comply would result in an investigation (using the helo's gun camera or other evidence) and probably that would be it. During the Gulf War, pilots used their discretion on firing on Iraqi units that were surrending or appeared they'd given up. During the more recent conflicts, I have been told that much discretion is allowed if American units are not under fire.
If the order is given to strafe an AREA containing hostile forces firing on American troops, and there are civilians in the area, the order is lawful under specific rules of engagement (ROE) that (always) call for minimizing "collateral damage" which is damage to property or injury to innocent civilians. In insurgent or guerilla war, particularly in inhabited areas, that is difficult at best and may depend on weapons load, etc. An F-18 is not going to return to the carrier to rearm with smart bombs if the 20mm cannon will immediately resolve danger to troops, even though strafing is notoriously undiscriminating (think about firing a gun from a car doing 60, then imagine doing it at 200kts while trying to avoid ground fire). Thus, pilots are officers expected to use their judgement in carrying out tasks, and are backed if the collateral damage is considered excessive by those who do not know the context, but the action results in saving the lives of American troops. In cases of excessive collateral damage or endangering your aircraft or American troops, the pilot is fully liable for his actions, and violation of the rules of engagement is extremely serious.
One sticky issue that came up in Viet Nam and continues to be a problem, is that the Laws of War (not really Laws but International treaties signed after meetings at the Hague and Geneva over the past few centuries) do not apply to partisans (who can be shot when captured, as both sides did during WWII) or any armed force which is not state-controlled and/or does not fight in a distinctive uniform. By the Laws of War as strictly read, an ununiformed armed person who takes a shot at an American is a criminal, not a soldier. Much of the discussion about treatment of prisoners, and about tactics in the Wars from Viet Nam on, revolves around legal interpretations of the Laws of War to apply them to insurgents and partisans, and to provide guidance in preparing rules of engagement and for treatment of prisoners that actually unilaterally (since Al-Qaeda isn't sending reps to the U.N. meetings or White House conferences) extend the Laws of War beyond any intent of the original negotiators or signatories.
As to what one signs up for: the time to determine what you signed up for is 1) when you sign up, or 2) prior to engaging in combat. Although #2 will probably result in an investigation and administrative action that will ruin a career and result in an uncomplimentary separation without benefits, it would not be a crime. Once a unit is in combat under rules of engagement, officers are responsible to obey all lawful orders under those rules, and to see to it that enlisted personnel obey them AND remain within the LIMITS of the ROE and Laws of War, as interpreted for the conflict. Refusal to engage or otherwise obey a direct order from an officer while engaged with the enemy is potentially a capital offense. This, incidentally, is the reason for "fragging" as occurred a few times in the Viet Nam War - no officer, no lawful order. Exceeding the limits of the ROE or operational order makes any soldier criminally liable for his actions.
Rules of Engagement are far more important than civilians realize. If an officer objects to the rules of engagement, he or she could put those disagreements in writing prior to being engaged in combat. This would probably result in getting to review the rules with a JAG lawyer and your C.O. I am aware of instances dating back to WWII where review has resulted in changes that later review found to be correct. Before an armed aircraft launches from a carrier, or a unit enters an operational area where they could come under fire, or before a unit is issued orders authorizing deadly force (such as to protect weapons on a U.S. base, or during times of civil unrest such as Katrina) the unit personnel are briefed on the rules of engagement. Usually the officers are briefed by JAG lawyers, and allowed to discuss any questions. The ROE is approved and then orders given. The officers then brief the units under their command or in their charge. At that point, all personnel are under legal obligation to obey the operational order (usually written) and all written or verbal orders from officers and supervisory enlisted personnel to accomplish those orders. If they feel they cannot they must say so then and there.
Sorry this is a bit long, but it is an important issue to anyone in the military or law enforcement who is ever authorized to use deadly force or who engages in combat. Taking of human life is a serious business. Those who do it for the defense of our country take it seriously, for all the talk of zapping or neutralizing or any other euphemism for killling an enemy. Dying for your country is still the greatest love one can have for your fellow citizens, whether they reciprocate or not. I have traveled and lived in countries that do not have our freedoms. I would not want to live there. I believe that the freedoms in our Constitution have a reality that many Americans do not recognize, but are the rights of every human on this earth. Defending and extending them is a noble cause.


That came from Mormon scriptures. Free will, refered to as agency in many different scriptures, is a big belief among them and the initial debate that started therebellion described as being that not in the Bible but the book of Mormon and D &C. Been so long since i read much of either that i misremembered.
In books that were removed from the old testament, like Enoch, the final debate was in Lucifers refusal to worship Adam because his creation was newer. Actually just found a lengthy and thorough account of "the plan and implementation" as I'd describe it. It is somewhat pieced from many different scriptures that were removed in Canon and otherwise. Researching was the main reason for a delayed response. If you're interested in these other scriptures, here's a link to it:
Fall of Lucifer
I was surprised to find that many of them pieced together to tell any biblical story because finding any other than Enoch and Dead Sea scrolls were difficult last time I looked. That reasoning generally lines up with the more vague "vanity" claims in other scriptures but is also basically the exact account in the Qur'an.
I did spend about 12 hours one night translating the most confusing commandment in my estimation from PaleoHebrew to English. "Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain" should read something more like "thou shalt not pretend to be for God if you are not" or "thou shalt not pretend to speak for God if you do not" though there were close to 20 possible translations that mostly ran in those veins. None of which equate saying God or Jesus in any context as being swearing which is the most common interpretation I'd heard at that point. Been awhile since i had a discussion about religion that didn't soon seem like it was best to change the subject though. Actually that's mostly with christianity, but I'd been more interested in learning more about others for quite awhile now.
Christians are probably just like any other group where there are some that can rub you the wrong way and those can be easier to recall. I don't have any problems with Christians in general, maybe it's just the few that do push agendas politically that have brought my view to the point of wondering about all the more vocal believers.
Sorry if I went a little far afield on religious talk, been awhile since I've had good conversation about Christianity.


Somebody brought up the Nazi "I was only following orders" issue. I vehemently disagree that it has ANYTHING to do with American service men and women.
German soldiers from 1935 on thru April 1945 swore an oath of allegience to Adolf Hitler and to obey all orders from him. This implies that any order he gives is lawful.
Japanese soldiers swore an oath to obey the emperor. Any utterence of the divine emperor or those speaking in his name was law.
American armed forces swear to support and defend the Constitution and to obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over him (or her) ACCORDING TO LAW AND REGULATION, which according to the Constitution is framed by the representatives of the people, elected by the people, and making laws for the people.
I will maintain to my last breath, U.S. Servicemen and women defend the People of this country and the Constitution which establishes the government amongst us. It may not be perfect, but it is not capricious, willful, or arbitrary.
Regardless of your own personal beliefs on oaths before your God, the fact remains that the American serviceman swears to support and defend YOUR RIGHTS, not to support megalomaniacal individuals. It is a BIG difference!
Yeah, you hit a sore point.


I mentioned i hate that one too and only a acknowledged it because I knew if I didn't disclaim it in talking about following orders it might devolve the conversation. Self fulfilling prophecy?


It was enlightening and paints it better and clearer than I was. I wasn't trying to imply we're using nukes when we could just drug someone and haul them away. I hope it didn't come across even nearly that clumsy in my phrasing. You point out that there are different tactics depending on the situation and I practically ignored that distinction exists in my explanations. Sorry for the oversight. Still taking all that in...


I don't have anything in particular against the country I live in. Wanting to see it be the best it can is something any parent has for their child. Pointing out areas that can improve is not the same as hating or even disliking what it is. Being disappointed in bad habits that they're trying to ignore or "cut down on"when it's past time for cold turkey or rehab seems rational to me. How I see it is that there are things in general that can and should improve with some needing to badly and as soon as possible.
I hope I'm not ruffling feathers, because I mean no disrespect to anyone. A couple of the running topics here are ones that people tend to take very seriously and I don't want to cause any harm with my words. Just discussing my views and appreciating everyone else's. The conversation has been great, the way I see it. I've learned a lot today from everyone here and looking things up to give proper answers as much as possible.

Fett42's picture

Having just returned last month from a deployment to Afghanistan with much of that time spent as a Platoon Leader in Kandahar, I can tell you that no military force in history has been remotely as concerned with collateral damage, civilian casualties, and codifying escalation of force and ROE as the military is right now. I made it a point to review them and come up with scenarios with my Soldiers before every patrol or mission, but the fact of the matter is that you will inevitably run into situations not explicitly covered where a decision that could end someone's life has to be made in a tenth of a second. That's why its so important for values as well as specific rules be inculcated into the military, as my squadron commander liked to say, you will be right every time if you act within the Army values and with a nuanced understanding of the commander's intent.


This statement right here:
"No military force in history has been remotely as concerned with collateral damage, civilian casualties, and codifying escalation of force and ROE as the military is right now."
RELATIVE TO OTHER MILITARY ORGANIZATIONS IN HISTORY the U.S. military is just flat-out --- > Benevolent.
I've been in the UW poli sci classes, and heard the scoffing, and the demonization, and seen the city of San Francisco forbid the Navy from sailing into its harbor out of disgust with their existence, and wondered how we could ever turn these light bulbs on for them.  In historical terms, the attitude of the U.S. is simply unprecedented, and then the kids try to characterize the U.S. as imperialistic.
A lot of my classmates would prefer that the military receive no credit for any such attitudes or restraint.  It just doesn't fit into the demonization agenda.
Lucky for the world (and us) that we are NOT imperialistic.  Imagine if we were.


There is a book on the subject that I read part of in college. It is called "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville. This is one of the authoritative books on American political philosophy. Tocqueville thinks that a majority can be just as tyrannical as a dictatorship in the right circumstances. This is also the gripe that the anti federalists had when United States law was still in its infancy. If you really want to get into the subject, and read some libertarians who had some serious swagger, all of the anti federalist papers can be found at: ""
The anti-federalists, such as Thomas Jefferson, who think like you do, debated and compromised with the federalists and secured the bill of rights, and many of the individualistic liberties that make the United States unique.
You're right that because something is the law does not necessarily make it right. The Southwestern United States was taken by force from Mexico for largely no reason, except that US settlers felt entitled to live there and wanted it. They won the war and set the current boundaries in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty came about because US forces invaded Mexico and were about to overrun Mexico city and take over the whole country. Guadalupe and Hidalgo are suburbs of Mexico City where the treaty was reached. So, should the US give back California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?
Its okay to be a libertarian. They have serious sway in the United States, and have been an important political group from the very beginning. I have some libertarian views too. I think that whenever someone writes a new law they should repeal an old one. But, libertarianism has never been the majority viewpoint and that probably won't change any time soon. The federalists have some good political philosophies as well, they are the majority, therefore you have to exist in their world.


I wasn't so much questioning decisions in the field in the first place though. The question to me has been the frequency that determinations have been made to put them in the field. The reasons the decisions are made to deploy have at times been questionable. There's no doubt that none of us have all the information though.
Hearing anything from those with experience in a subject is always welcomed by me.
Thank you all for your service, I mean no disrespect in anything I'm saying.

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