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A question regarding patriotism and supporting your troops

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TheIndividualist Posted: Mon, Jul 16 2012 3:33 AM

Hello Mises Forums, this is my first forum post after lurking for a few months!

Anyways, I had a question concerning the nature of the patriotic individual. I was observing a conversation among military individuals and one person who was not serving stood out in opposition to serving the military and gave a heavy critique about the foreign intervention of troops, saying that it was a misuse of national defense, which I agree. However, the person was then critisized by many of the serving individuals and called them out on the idea that they were unpatriotic and deserve neither liberty nor defense. Even though the person refuses to enter military service, they offered civilian like services to help others leave war zones. But the others otherwise beleived that the international wars were justified and one of them cited that if it wasent for the Allied victories in World War II, we would be speaking either German or Japanese.

I was a bit clueless about whether or not this person was indeed, unpatriotic. It seems like a simple question but I really want to hear what the minds of the Mises Forum think of this. :) Thanks!

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Patriotism is a devotion to one's country [wikipedia].

1. Strictly speaking, a country is an abstraction, so it's hard to see how one can be devoted to it. But we'll let that slide.

2. There are a lot of abstractions out there. Truth, Justice, the American Way, Honesty, Compassion, Charity, Generosity, Kindness, the list is long.

How far up the list does Country belong? Should one be more devoted to Country than to Truth or Justice or Compassion or Kindness? What is the justification for where you put it?

3. What is Country? The govt? Should I be devoted to those who govern me? What if I didn't elect them? What if half the people think they are destroying is the country, as is often the case?

Is the Country the Army? Does that mean I have to be devoted to the Army, no matter what it does? Is it the patriotic duty of both sides at war with each other to be devoted to their Army? Do we have to praise Germans if they were devoted to Hitler's conquests? Should we give medals and honor to Ghengis Kahan and his men, because they were an army? Is anything an army does worthy of devotion, no matter what?

I remember the US Army calling the Vietnamese it battled Gooks, a derogatory term. Where they violating the very patriotism they were calling for by doing that? Why is the army of my country more deserving of devotion thatn any other army? 

4. Maybe patriotism is a religious duty, a mystery not to be questioned. Like they said in the Nixon era, my country, right or wrong. Does freedom of religion apply to patriotism, like to any other religion? Can I choose to be a Canadian patriot, say, if i was born in the USA? Why or why not?

5. What does devotion consist of? If I am devoted to my children, does that mean I appprove of everything they do, including mass murder? Is encouraging their actions, however evil, an act of devotion to them? 

6, Finally, why has patriotism been called the last refuge of the scoundrel? Why have other fine sentiments never been called that? Honesty, generosity, kindness, have never been called the last refuge of the scoundrel. In fact, why does the govt so try to make us patriots, and somehow neglect every other good quality a person should posses? Why are there so many parades and celebrations of war and patriotism, but never an honesty parade, or a kindness parade? Doesn't the govt and the army we are so devoted to want us to be good people? Are they as devoted to us as we are to them?


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Lady Saiga replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 11:32 AM

Here's my take on the whole scenario as described.

The conversation assumes that it is “good” to be patriotic.  It also assumes that patriotism = love of one’s State and perforce love of one’s State’s military agenda.  Obviously it’s easy to question all of those assumptions.

Protection is a commodity that the military service person provides.  In our current system everyone who pays taxes is part of a kind of nationwide contract with that group.  Everyone who doesn’t pay taxes or serve in the military but who resides within the protected region more or less freeloads on that contract but logically doesn’t have the right to demand benefit from it.  To suggest that the fellow who probably does pay taxes but doesn’t want to actually participate aggressively doesn’t deserve to benefit from that contractual arrangement violates the basic terms of the agreement doesn’t it?

The military guys are right in the sense that if the objector refuses to be part of the system, i.e. he doesn’t pay the taxes AND he doesn’t serve in the military, he is not contracted to receive the benefits.  He’s demonstrated that he wants to be on his own.

It’s completely irrational to state that a person who has not aggressed against another doesn’t deserve liberty.  Liberty is innate, it is not something you have to demonstrate that you deserve.

Now as to the statement about WWII, I fail to understand what that has to do with anything.  I believe they are suggesting that it would be impossible to be a patriotic American if the United States were under Japanese rule.  Do they think the French resistance had no right to patriotism either?  It’s a matter of definitions.  In their case, “to be French” meant something besides “to be a German citizen living in this geographic area”.  Or that an objector to the U. S.'s aggressive involvement in the war, in that hypothetical scenario, would have been responsible for the successful invasion and thus "unpatriotic".  They implied that without U.S. aggression during WWII, foreign rule on North American soil was likely.  I don’t think that follows.  I don’t think it matters.  It’s kind of a pointless speculation.

The rationale of the military guys was that “sometimes the best defense is a good offense” way of thinking.  We all know this is true.  One way of preventing a guy from kicking you is by cutting off his legs, and by gum that’s a 100% effective solution.  On the other hand, it’s WRONG.  It’s about ends vs. means.   They are saying that patriotism requires the willingness to perform immoral acts on behalf of one’s country.   Obviously there’s an alternative definition of patriotism that demands otherwise.  Perhaps one could call this a deeper level of patriotism, a devotion to the moral superiority of one’s group.

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Malachi replied on Thu, Jul 19 2012 5:06 PM
Follow the money. By suggesting that the govt shouldnt send the military overseas to kill people and destroy things, the (alleged) non-patriot questioned the means by which all those servicemembers made (at least a portion of) their living. Even if, among those servicemembers, there were some that hadnt deployed, they still worked to support deploying units. And any veteran will tell you that your pay increase while you are serving in a "combat zone" increases by a lot (I dont have actual numbers but it seemed like I made about 50% more). Plus, in the martial culture, the more deployments you have, the higher status you enjoy. So by suggesting that these servicemembers would do their jobs better, if they made less money, enjoyed lower status, and refrained from seeking opportunities to exercise skills like killing people and demolishing buildings, the (alleged) non-patriot threatened their identities and beliefs, as well as their group identity.

if his desired end-state was "national defense" and his argument was that aggressive warmongering was unfit means to achieve that end, I would say that he seems to conform to a nominal understanding of patriotism. If patriotism is synonymous with endless wars, torture, flying killer robots, and groupthink, then these are dark days indeed.

Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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