I’m reading What It Is Like To Go To War, by Karl Marlantes. It is an in-your-face, blunt, disturbing picture of the suffering we require of our warriors when the nation’s leaders decide to send them to war. Facing war through the eyes of a soldier who’s been there and doesn’t pull any punches teaches the rest of us things we need to know. As we wrestle with the debris of our past wars and the possibility of future wars, we need an accurate assessment of war’s costs.
For Marlantes is not a pacifist. He recognizes that a government must secure its people against enemies. He asks that we understand the suffering of war, even a war we choose in order to protect our country.
To train young people to kill is against every moral precept that we otherwise attempt to instill in a civil society. It doesn’t matter if we believe the cause is valid. To order a person to kill, violates the moral code of civilized people.
To tell a warrior that killing to protect your country is different from other killing, so he need not feel guilty about it, forbids the soldier to weep when he needs to weep. Any time one takes life, one needs to sorrow and grieve. An enemy’s life is just as valuable to him and his loved ones as any other life.