Double fuck. (Bush's approval for same. CIA backing off with their noses held.)
It hit me, when I was watching A Few Good Men at the plasma place the other day, what the role of civilian/noncombatant in the military control structure is. It's the role of the military to fight for those who cannot or will not fight for themselves. That's what they do. They're very good at it, as they should be. This was pointed out, very keenly, at the end of the movie. One of the Marines told the other one that they had failed, because their assignment was to protect those who could not fight up to standard, and by accidentally killing their comrade, who could not fight up to standard, they had failed in this. And I started thinking, as I walked towards the bus stop, of how such a relationship is rarely one-sided. If the military has an obligation towards non-combatants, then those who are protected have an obligation to their protectors.
It is the job of the military to be given a simple assignment by their leaders (such as, "Keep our nation safe," or "Rescue this country from its poor leadership structure and let them govern themselves after the former leaders have been removed in such a way as to make them not come back") and carry it out. It is their job to plan the details of carrying it out, because they are the experts in the field of carrying things out, even if it includes violence, bloodshed, and death (theirs, or that of others). They are told what they need to accomplish, and judge what they need to do to accomplish their objectives. They fight for those who cannot defend themselves.
It is the job of the civilian to support the military in return for the protection, and to keep an eye on the military and agree to be protected, and to help point out things that they'd like to be protected from. It is also the duty of the civilian to look at the military and say, "If protection means stomaching this particular atrocity, then maybe I don't want to be protected."
I would compare it to a doctor and a patient, and heroic medical measures. At some point, the patient has the right to say, "That's enough. Let me live, or let me die, but that's enough." There's such a thing as dignity in illness and death, and there is supposed to be honor as well as horror in war. (I'm a sentimental sop whose only experience with war has been through fiction or the tales of others.) I feel that when someone is exposed to the horror of war, what keeps them human is the thought that they are doing this to hold safe the people and things they treasure, and if they're deprived of a tangible human reason for committing acts of violence and murder, then they become less than human, and the recovery from that is difficult to impossible.
If we had to choose again, would we give consent to dropping the bomb at Hiroshima? The thought of being put in that ethical corner buggers the imagination and raises all the hair on my body. But it's questions like that which should be the concern of every noncombatant. What could have happened had the Allies not done that? What could have happened if the opposition had won?
As civilians, we must give our consent to putting our beloved military people into a situation. Is the ultimate goal worth the degradation of our men and women? Where do we draw the line? By training men and women to offer controlled violence and instant obedience, we have lowered their resistance to the thought of offering violence to any given situation. If we don't wish violence, we must order it to not happen. And if they cannot accomplish an objective we have set them without violence, it is their responsibility to point out the conflict in the orders and have it resolved.
In order for us to live with ourselves, in order for them to live with themselves, in order for them to live with us, we must examine carefully the need for violence, and what level of violence we are willing to stomach, and check to see where instead other methods might work. If they provide the brawn and the brain, we must be the conscience and their heart.