"Against War" or Something Else Entirely?
I have a good imagination today, and I had a good imagination back then. I did not think that war was easy. And though I was not infantry, I did not think that war was going to be pretty. I was not surprised by photos or bodies or wounds in combat hospitals any more than I would be surprised by a car wreck or a surgery back here in the States. I had the luxury of not knowing the people that I was with in Baghdad until I got over there. So, I was not tied to them. They were not my deep friends prior to being "in a war zone" with them. And, the whole time I was in the Army, I don't think I ever thought of a fellow soldier as some "normal" friend who was impervious to harm or death. Noone is...but especially not a soldier - at war or not.
Realizing these realities prior to "going to war" or (to use the more political term) "being in a war zone" doesn't exactly make it easy. But it does make it a little easier than if you never even thought through it all before it happens. It does make you a little, or perhaps a lot, better prepared.
So, I considered myself one of the mentally strong ones. I still consider myself that. All my personality traits and my philosophical and religious and psychological studies had prepared me better than most. You see, a lot of people think that philosophy or religion or psychology has little to do with reality. But, that's what's always made me different. I forced my philosophy and my religion and my psychology to deal with reality to the best of my ability. I did not believe that these studies should exist in books written by inexperienced people or people simply handing down the ideas of somebody else. I wanted to make my studies better than that, more real than that. I wanted to see myself become one of those people that others might quote or be inspired by. If I could not get others to want to live life as viscerally and as intellectually as I wanted to, at least they could look at me from a distance as one of those who did so.... Yeah, I've always been a bit different.
So, war was not a shock, by the time I arrived in Baghdad. And the main thing that I think I can say in comparing myself to infantry men is that there are a few who, through a criminal record or through personal decision, may look as "intelligent" as I do on paper but who were not able, or who did not want, to accept another job in the military. So, there may be a few infantrymen who I could be compared to in terms of the opportunities available to them at the time that they joined or in terms of some of the dynamics they went through when making the decision on what they wanted to do in the military.
But, in my situation, while I wanted to experience the military, I wanted to come out of it with broader experience than just combat. And, by the way, I had no idea just how mentally tough I really was until after I had joined the Army. And, I liked the fact that you could do something entirely different from being a soldier at the same time as being one...as if you could take on two or more roles simultaneously. So, I staid out of the infantry. I chose to be something other than an infantry man or an artillery man or an armament man. I was "just" a computer geek...with a gun...and some rounds...ready to go into combat, but not wanting that to be the full extent of my experience in the Army.
So, how I came to realize that I would not want to willingly support a war ever again was not related to some mental weakness. I had the mental toughness of a rare breed of philosopher and had developed a lot of the intellectual objectivity toward the human body that would serve a doctor well. Instead, it was simply the conclusions of all my philosophical questions, my honesty, and my sense of visceral reality that had led me to conclude that I could not support a war. Not because we humans are not capable of war. Not because we are not capable of combat. Not because we should be afraid of it. And certainly not because combat is "too sloppy" (which only makes it more challenging and therefore morbidly intriguing to an adrenaline-driven philosopher like me). But because the only purely rational reason for a war is a lack of planning, a lack of solid concern, a lack of realistic care for our quality of life, our sense of meaning, and our future.
War is irrational, when you have the mental capacity to truly understand it. And the only possible, rational motivation for it is so that some humans can have wealth at the sacrifice of others. So, that is why I say that it comes from a lack of planning. Because if it's sacrifice we need, we could give it willingly rather than taking it from each other and thereby losing the whole context and purpose for it in the first place. And even if we were caught off-guard by extreme, unforseen circumstances, and we were driven to the point where we had relative starvation or (god forebid?) even death, we could still choose it willingly for ourselves as individuals, so that others could survive, so that others could live. That is, we could do so if we had the guts... if we had the understanding.
But, all this philosophizing, and all this boiling things down, and all this "wishful thinking," in and of itself, still does not justify my stance of refusing to support war. It doesn't. What really closes the deal, is where all that fancy philosophy hits home. You see, I don't want to agree with anyone just because they put me on a guilt trip about "freedom" or the safety of my family, even if that someone is trying to motivate me for what they honestly believe is a higher purpose or a greater good. Not when that higher purpose or that greater good boils down to me killing another human being just so I can have a prettier life. War is more cowardly than philosophy. And I couldn't call war what it is if I were busy supporting it.