Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Mothers, Wives, and War: part II

Adding some anecdotal evidence to Peter’s point below: My son’s pre-school teacher has a 26 year-old son who is a Marine and just left for his second tour of duty in Iraq on Sunday. Adding even more emotion to this parting is the fact that his wife just gave birth to their second son in mid-January.

In talking to her about it, however, she will accept offers of prayers but no show of pity. Her own husband escaped Castro’s Cuba and has told her what it is like to live without freedom. They raised their kids to respect what we have in this country and to understand that it is our responsibility to protect it.

She related the following story of her son’s emotional departure: All of the kids ages 10 and up were summoned and it was pointed out to them that though they were being asked to sacrifice some time with their fathers they had been blessed with the inestimable gift of having been born in a free country. It was also pointed out that that would not have been possible without the sacrifice of many other fathers before. It was further noted that the children of Iraq had not been equally blessed but that their fathers were great heroes for helping to make freedom a possibility for those kids as well as for them.

Great stuff and further proof that we Americans are not made of sugar candy.

Discussions - 35 Comments

This is simply more emotionally manipulative wartime rhetoric. Certainly it is our responsibility to protect our freedom in the United States. But, there is no responsibility to procure freedom for other nations. This is a new concept being jamrodded down the throats of Americans being forced to send their husbands and fathers to die for something that does not threaten our freedom. This is lunacy, and a terrible misuse of our armed forces, who trust us to send them only in times of threatened national sovereignty.

Things that were going on in remote reaches of unfree, Taliban/al-Qaeda tyrannized Afghanistan during the 1990s certainly had an effect on the freedom of thousands of unsuspecting New Yorkers and Washingtonians on September 11, 2001. Whether it’s our "responsibility" to procure freedom for other nations or not, there may be circumstances where it’s in our interests to do so, for liberal-democratic regimes (even the rough & ready kind that the broader MidEast might produce with our help) will not willingly host or otherwise sponsor, abet, aid, or assist terrorists and their infrastructure. The Taliban did and so did Saddam, which is why they’re no longer in power today. In a world of intercontinental jet travel and portable hell weapons, our security and the kinds of regimes that govern remote peoples about whom we may know little are connected, whether we like it or not. Bush gets this, which is why he got reelected.

Nevertheless, this pre-school teacher is obviously a strong woman and I, quite frankly, am impressed with her.

"Wartime rhetoric"?? I’m not sure if I agree with the "blessedness" of being an American, but we certainly have a great many more freedoms than other countries that I am very grateful for. Our soldiers should be recognized for the important role that they are playing in the Iraqi War (whether you agree with this unjust war or not). I don’t think this is so much "wartime rhetoric" as it is simple appreciation and acknowlegement . . .

Lori, you have no desire to share the freedoms you enjoy with your fellow man? Our "freedom" came at a price, ironically a price people like the French shared, why should we not be willing to share the burden so that another people have the oppurtunity (keyword here, oppurtunity they must take it from here) to have the same type of "freedom" we have? This is far from a new concept. America has spent it’s best blood and treasure since our inception, even if the result wasnt always what we wanted, our intentions were good. And as a member of our military since 1988, allow me to say that Beirut and Somalia are examples of failed trust and lunacy, not Iraq.

And real quick, Julie -

Being made of "sugar candy" is not necessarily a bad thing. :)

Having desire and good intentions to do something is completely different from actually accomplishing a just action. Please keep that in mind, Sam. I mean, we could argue all day if America really has some sort of moral obligation to "free" the oppressed nations of the world (especially when it could result in hurting us). I just hope that you will not use our intentions and our desire to do good to justify the Iraqi war . . .

To Matt, re your comment 4 above:

Being made out of sugar candy may not be too bad . . . unless it rains.

And as Sergeant Stryker (John Wayne) said in "The Sands of Iwo Jima" (1949), "Into each life a little rain must fall."

Lori Kubiak:

"This is a new concept being jamrodded down the throats of Americans being forced to send their husbands and fathers to die for something that does not threaten our freedom."

Last time I checked no one was forcing those men to join the military. They did it of their own accord.

I would have said more, but I believe the others that have spoken before me on this issue have summed it all up.


Hehe! That was pretty good. Stupid metaphors . . . grrr . . .

That is the problem with joining the military. You are never sure ahead of time what your specific the obligations are(what will happen in 4-5 years). However since Dan swore to uphold and defend the constitution, he could make a good case if he can argue that the parameters of this war on terrorism are now unconstitutional. I hear Dr. Tiel is working on something to this effect.

Chris & John:

Members of the military do join voluntarily; however, those members ought not be expected to withdraw reason and give their bodies over as tools.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Citizens are expected to become weapons with no mind or thought of moral consequence. The soldier who refuses a deployment to an unjust war is considered a coward.

I tell you now that the soldier who refuses a deployment due to his moral convictions is braver than those who board the departing ships.

Though war itself may be difficult, obeying orders is the easiest choice within the military environment.

I doubt I would have had the courage to refuse a deployment to Iraq. So, I was saved by Grace of God with a degenerative spine disorder.

I may walk daily with pain, but I will never walk with those who killed in Iraq and knew they should not.

But, I will also never walk with the men brave enough to refuse the war.

More evidence of the inversion of classical values. Those who burn flags are the ones who are patriotic. Those who refuse to go to war are the courageous ones. Those who leave the country are the patriotic ones.

Nice soundbite, but I do not recall my discussing patriotism - that foundationless emotion.

I wish you would remain in the intellectual sphere and define "classical values".

Why is it better to kill unjustly than to refuse a war?

How is following the masses and adhering to the law courageous?

Tony, I wonder if you have witnesses the child in the store, the one grabbing things off the shelf and throwing a fit, and wished his mother would finally say "no".

It’s pretty clear that bloggers Ponzi, Moser, Schramm and Knippenberg - at the very least - are quite in favor of the righteous cause(s) underlying America’s military involvement in Iraq, as are many of the commenters here, such as Tony Williams. I think it is time that you all enlist and go fight over there. Put your own necks on the line for your lofty ideals (and your Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Leo Strauss quotes)...please!! Alright, if you’re too old to enlist, perhaps you could work for one of the fine U.S.-based private security firms, guarding oil wells or whatever. I think many of them are armed and able to dispense with the enemy much like the troops are. I’m sure that whatever you might discover and learn over there would only help to strengthen your faiths, both religious and ideological. I’m sure you will all weigh this proposal seriously, since you don’t consider yourselves above or better than our fine fighting men & women abroad, unlike those elitist blue-state voters. Those of you who are professors could certainly get a military service sabbatical from your (tenured?) positions in the ivory tower and, upon your (hopeful) return, your lectures would captivate students that much more as you integrate your personal experience with theory and pepper your lessons with the occasional valiant battle tale.

J Montgomery:

You do realize that the maxim of your post--viz., that nobody has a moral right to an opinion on national matters of war and peace unless they are actually bearing arms in a combat zone--is a call for military dictatorship? I guess it’s good to know where the "antiwar" movement seems to stand these days.

Also, FWIW, private security companies recruit youngish men (typically in their late 20s or 30s) w/ military, law-enforcement, and intel type backgrounds, not middle-aged writers and academics w/ no little or no relevant professional training or experience.


Both of your posts underscore a serious flaw in our military system as it expects men to give up that which makes them men: reason.

Imagine that in a future far far away….

At age 18 John Smith becomes PFC Smith in the Marine Corps. He joins for some vague notion of patriotism, and because he really has nothing else going for him. PFC Smith is successful, signs up for at second tour, and at age 23 is Sgt. Smith with a wife and two kids.

Sgt. Smith is ordered to invade Switzerland because it is determined that Switzerland may have the ability to produce toxic chocolate and ship it to the United States. Sgt. Smith reviews the case the politicians and their tag-a-long professors have made, and he decides the potential to inflict harm is insufficient cause for invasion. He will not turn his rifle on the people of Switzerland.

His platoon sergeant catches wind of this and tries to prevent the inevitable court martial. He explains to Sgt. Smith that it is his duty to obey the President and carry out his orders. Besides, refusing this order can result in execution or, in the least, prison time with a discharge characterization that will prevent future gainful employment.

You see, the United States has developed a culture where refusing to fight in a war is cowardly. It is believed that if you hold convictions against it, you really are just too scared to fight. Nobody will hire a guy with a dishonorable discharge.

Sgt Smith is in quite a predicament. Does he travel abroad and destroy other families? Or, does he accept prison, unemployment, and the inability to support his family? Does his kill them, or does he abandon his wife and children? Does he not also abandon them if he stains his soul with murder?

Our military system asks men to affirm they will fight in any future war as another man sees fit. It asks men to ignore their minds and offer their bodies as tools.

Unfortunately, man cannot separate his mind from his body. So, any soldier acting in a war that can be determined as unjust by the information available to him is guilty.

But, as Sgt Smith demonstrates, refusing the war and going to jail is not always an easy answer. We need a military system where men can be free.

I propose that we only have a small military capable of defeating an invasion of physical borders. This military would be highly trained, highly paid, and would never leave the United States.

For all foreign wars, the President and Congress must petition the nation for volunteers and money. Once enough of each is collected, the invasion may begin.

Mr. Kubiak,

I agree with you about the mentality that the military has helped to encourage in Americans. And I was all about your post until the last paragraph. What are we to do if a nation declares war on us or they are undeniably a threat to our country? Wait around until we get enough volunteers and money? Are you suggesting that if a country launched an air strike at us, and (with our elite army) we defeated it easily, that we should not go and send an air strike back? I’m just wondering how you would react to such a situation in your hypothetical world . . .


PFC Smith has a legal obligation to obey all presumably lawful orders from the US command authority, behind which stands, ultimately, the people as it expresses its will in free elections under our Constitution.

Sgt Smith, I’m assuming, will normally have had the right to have his say as a voter. Citizens or others lawfully subject to US laws (such as visitors from abroad and noncitizens serving in the US military) are expected to obey the laws or face the consequences, whether they personally think those laws pass their personal test of rationality or not. Sorry, but Marines are not exempt. As I’m sure you well know, the US military would dissolve in chaos (and our nation wd be left defenseless) if your model of the military as a debating society were upheld. You’re allowed to have your private opinions, but you have to do your job (this is true in one way or another in many, many areas of life besides the military, my friend, and for good reasons--you shd get used to it b/c you’re going to encounter a lot of occasions when you don’t get your way but can’t just walk away). The USMC is for good and all decidedly NOT a graduate seminar in ethical philosophizing. What in the world did you think you were signing up for when you joined the Marines?

Recently, I got a ticket for going over 55 mph on a stretch of highway and under road conditions wherein I personally and strongly believe the 55 mph limit does not pass the test of reason. But obeying the limit there would not make me a slave, nor does it make the state a tyrant to have issued me a ticket, no matter what my ’druthers are.

PS, Dan:

I’m not even going to dwell on the sheer silliness of your proposal that we shd always wait till enemy action and then stage a separate drive for men and money. Do you really think our enemies will allow the luxury of a telethon to raise an army?

Sorry, "Reason’s Gimlet Eye" (spare me!), I definitely believe that everyone "has a moral right to an opinion on national matters of war and peace," even if they aren’t bearing arms. But I also think that such zealous war boosters (note, I didn’t say warmongers) as those here at NLT might find it more rewarding and edifying to be personally involved with the practical application of spreading freedom and democracy in Iraq. Why should this irk anyone? I think that such enthusiasm for the war in Iraq really warrants that at least some of you get "out of the shade and into the heat" (to use a carefully edited military saying). And I have no delusions that going over there and seeing the worst of the worst would change any of your minds about the war; but if people are gonna put their lives on the line for this, isn’t it better if more true believers are among those at risk? Considering the average educational level of grunts in the field (and this is in no way to disparage them, so don’t even go there...), some of your PhD-level ruminations about the meaning of freedom and democracy, and how our actions there are helping it to flourish, might not have crossed their minds. More than a few soldiers are finding it hard to connect the dots between non-existent WMDs, spreading democracy with daisy cutters, dead fellow soldiers, dead civilians, limited federal government, and their not being permitted to return to their families even after they’ve completed what they signed up for (Rummy’s stop-loss programs). Perhaps your presence could help them make sense of it all, and see the bigger picture. So, if you’re an enthusiastic supporter of the war, if you’re well-versed in the intellectual bases of democracy (from the Ashbrook perspective, that is), AND you’re 35 or under (isn’t that the cut-off age?), I’d think you should feel morally compelled - like that NFL fellow did, may he rest in peace - to AT LEAST VISIT your local recruiting office, and see what can be worked out.

Matt Mingus:

I’m not sure exactly what a practical application of my idea would entail. However, it would certainly need a military capable of defending our borders. We’d have to consult the experts for the details.

As far as undeniable threats, would not enough people volunteer to fight such an enemy? Would you?


I am aware that if the military was encourage use to rationality and debate moral questions it would turn into chaos. The permanent force would not debate, it would defend against invasion. So, your final point is also incorrect.

There would be limited debate within the volunteer invasion force since all members would support the cause. Also, once you were in, it would be typical military culture.

I suggest you review my proposal and respond to the larger point about man being responsible for his own actions.

As for what I was thinking when I joined? I was thinking that I would defend our Constitution against all enemies. And, that is why I debate you here.

As for what I was thinking when I joined? I was thinking that I would defend our Constitution against all enemies. And, that is why I debate you here.

So, you thought there was a chance the United States might be invaded? Did it occur to you that you might be called upon to serve under other circumstances? Did you make it clear to your recruiter--particularly if the Marines paid for your college education--that your service was conditional on your agreeing with the particular mission?

Daniel -

That would depend on my definition of "undeniable threat". I’m not sure I’m willing to trust people enough to make that sort of decision (whether or not to volunteer). What if you thought it was an "undeniable threat" and no one else did? I mean, that could be a very problematic situation . . .

Oleaginous Screed:

I’m not sure if you read my post or care to share your name, but I will gladly answer your concerns:

1. I did not receive financial assistance from the Marine Corps.

2. My time in the Corps was rather uneventful, even boring. My current civilian job is much more exciting.

So, what was point anyway? Did you read my previous post or not?

Matt Mingus:

I suppose an undeniable threat would be one that cannot be denied. A nation legitimately threatening to invade our borders is a good example.

Contrary to you, I do trust people. I trust that people want to be free and live in prosperity. If a real threat stands in someone’s way, he’ll join the fight in the same he would attempt to shoot a burglar.

Dan, your implication that Marines are irrational unless they parse and debate every order strains credulity way past the breaking point. That people do not chop logic 24/7 does not make them robots.

J Montgomery: I’m glad to see that you’ve so quickly disavowed the antidemocratic, antiliberal, authoritarian, and antirepublican drift of your first and rather praetorian post. That’s some progress at least, even if the desperation with which you cling to the juvenile (and now very tired) "chickenhawk" sarcasm continues to speak volumes.

Some more questions, then:

1. Do the police have a moral right (or perhaps even duty) to refuse to enforce laws with which they do not agree? For example, if a police officer is opposed to drug laws, should he turn a blind eye to a heroin deal?

2. If a member of the armed forces refuses to participate in a military operation that has been duly sanctioned by his country’s elected representatives, would he or she not be under an obligation to refund the taxpayer money that went toward training, equipping, and paying him or her?

3. You explain that your reason for joining the Marines was that you wanted to defend the Constitution. Since, by your definition, the Constitution is only threatened when the country is actually invaded, I repeat my earlier question--did you think there was going to be an invasion? If not (and this goes back to RGE’s question) why did you join?

4. My cousin just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Is he a war criminal?

RGE: I haven’t "disavowed" what I said in my first comment. I corrected your faulty interpretation of what I said to deflect your attempt at a straw-man argument. I don’t see how you were able to infer from my first post that I believe that some people have no right to an opinion on these matters (or any). As for the "volumes" that my viewpoint supposedly indicates, I await your studied analysis to appear on the shelf at my library (will I find it under "Eye, Reason’s Gimlet"?). As for YOUR viewpoint on this, I don’t think it speaks volumes; to me it merely says that you will NOT be visiting your local recruiter.


The two are quite flawed in your thinking. You are trying to apply my moral arguments to the current structure of the military.

My very point is that this is not possible. The current system leaves no good solution for the moral soldier faced with an immoral war.

Please review my posts and respond appropriately.


A straw-man argument would be an improvement, since your original post contains no argument at all, but only a backhanded taunt dressed up in some overblown sarcasm. Your lame attempt to promote it to an argument ex post facto is wishful thinking, and won’t fly.


I don’t find that your ideas have purchase on reality, certainly not as compared to the current basic structure and workings of the military. Your effort to suggest, for instance, that all of America’s ground-level force-projection capabilities should be zeroed out and replaced by some scheme for ad-hoc expeditionary forces strikes me as inadequate (to put it mildly) to likely defense exigencies in a world of rapid transport and communications.

I don’t see how that changes anything, but I’ll humor you by altering my wording slightly.

1. Would you also support reforming the police system so that cops have the option of not enforcing laws that they don’t agree with?

2. Under your proposed reform, if a member of the armed forces were to refuse to participate in a military operation that has been duly sanctioned by his country’s elected representatives, would he or she not be under an obligation to refund the taxpayer money that went toward training, equipping, and paying him or her?

3. This is a personal question that has nothing to do with your proposed reform. You said earlier that you joined the Marines to defend the Constitution. Since, then, by your definition, the Constitution is only threatened when the country is actually invaded, I repeat a third time my earlier question--did you think there was going to be an invasion? If not (and this goes back to RGE’s question) why did you join?

4. My cousin just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq--and he didn’t go merely because he was afraid of being court-martialed. He believed that he had a duty to his country, and he believes that it was right to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein. Does the fact that he was a willing participant make him a war criminal, or simply an unthinking robot?

Sorry, Dan, I should have written: "in a world where our enemies will be able to exploit rapid transport and communications faster than we will be able to accomplish the inherently exacting process of raising and training troops for special expeditionary purposes."

RGE: Huh? I was calling you out for YOUR use of a straw man argument (as in when you attempted to falsely paint my viewpoint as "nobody has a moral right to an opinion on national matters of war and peace unless they are actually bearing arms" in order to then shoot it down as anti-democratic), I was not attempting to "promote" MY comments to that of a straw man argument. How exactly would that be a PROMOTION, anyway?? (And, speaking again of straw men, where did I refer to my comments/viewpoints as an official "argument" at all?) So, I think the most zealous war boosters should sign up to go to the front lines. You disagree. Fine. Ok, enough already, that’s as far as I’m willing to go with anyone who refers to themself as "Reason’s Gimlet Eye."


Dwelling on someone’s civilian status in order to discredit their views and insinuate that they have no standing to speak on a major national issue before all of us as citizens smacks of praetorianism.

You say you didn’t really mean anything like that: OK, fine, but that just makes you an idle trash-talker who has nothing to offer beyond some bitter and increasingly hollow taunting. Congratulations. And you’re probably one of those "antiwar" geniuses who sits around wondering how President Bush cleaned your side’s clock last November.

One final point: If you knew anything about military recruiters, you’d know that they’re extremely busy people who don’t want their precious time and the taxpayers’ hard-earned money wasted by visits from obviously superannuated candidates. FWIW, I know b/c I had that conveyed to me in blunt and memorable terms when I called my local recruiting office at the age of 41 shortly after 9/11 and tried to ask about signing up. A little thought and/or research might have revealed this to you, but hey, why let facts or common sense get in the way when insinuating that people whose opinions you don’t like are "chickenhawks" is so darn much fun?

So, Raisin’s Giblet Egg, I guess that means that you, too, lacked common sense and failed to think or do your research before calling your busy recruiter when you were 41 yrs. old. Man, I’d LOVE to hear a tape of that phone call, I bet it’s simultaneously heartwarming and hilarious!

A real shame you weren’t able to go over there and show ’em who’s boss!



My phone inquiry WAS research. I didn’t have regular Web access back then, or I would have checked online. I felt like I should at least look into the possibility of serving, and figured a phone call would be less trouble to everyone involved than showing up in person and trying to get an interview. Sounds fairly commonsensical to me.

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