I wonder why it is so difficult for some to entertain two concepts simultaneously. Take for instance the conflict between the North and South United States from 1861-1865. Is it really difficult for someone to be at the same time against the practice of slave labor and invading the territory of a separate and distinct political unit? I find no difficulty in denouncing both slavery and foreign invasions, yet many seem bent on decrying one while condoning the other.
Another example surrounds the movie “American Sniper” and the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. One can be opposed to the 2nd Iraq War and appreciate the compelling story of Kyle’s life, yet many have written the movie off as war propaganda and an endorsement of militarism. Need this be so?
The possibility exists to both “support the troops” and call for an end to interventionist foreign policy. In fact, these two concepts may be mutually reinforcing. I find it rather easy to say “bless our heroes” and follow up with “bring them home”.
Similarly, I can appreciate the skill, discipline, and valor of military or law enforcement snipers, while simultaneously recognizing that they are, in general, misemployed by politicians and bureaucrats under the sway of the government industrial complex.
An excellent example of this in the movie “Jarhead” where Marine snipers are sent on a mission to kill an Iraqi general and at the moment the trigger is about to release a high velocity bullet, the battalion executive officer spoils their shot and instead decides to call in a massive airstrike destroying not only the prized general, but his entire staff and the building their standing in.
The familiar saying is that the military gets to do some of the coolest things on earth, like shooting, camping, parachuting, hiking, scuba diving, etc, and then figures out ways to make them suck.
Precision shooting is a necessary skill set for a society’s warriors, whether the threats be internal or external, snipers can rightly end hostage takings and interstate occupations with minimum destruction, thereby fulfilling Sun Tzu’s maxim to “take it whole when contending”. Rather than asserting regime change through sanctions and invasions that impoverish entire populations, a well aimed shot can remove a dictator or enemy commander like excising a tumor rather than amputating an entire limb. The trouble arises through the “impersonal” nature of the nation-state.
The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 established the nation-state as the primary actor in the international system and established an agreement that head’s of state were illegitimate military targets since they were acting in the capacity of their office, rather than for their own benefit as monarchs and princes once did. So rather than assassinating a meddlesome king making belligerent decrees, the conduct of war became the actions of entire nations against one another. The source of the conflict could no longer be pinpointed and addressed as with a king or his direct appointee, rather ethereal and abstract offices issue “policy”. War became total among populations. Negotiated settlements became impossible, as they were replaced by the need for unconditional surrender.
Only the dead have seen the end of war. The skill sets of war fighting, tactics, and strategy remain valuable no matter how “civilized” societies may appear. Yet skillful employment remains the key variable of whether they are used for good or ill.
SWAT teams, sniping, and private military companies (yes, like Blackwater) can all be valuable to the security and defense of society…until they are employed by bureaucrats and politicians. Then all of these things become destructive elements within civilized society, they become the antithesis of civilization.
SWAT teams are good when they resolve a hostage/barricade situation or some other special tactical problem, yet as the enforcement tool of the ill conceived war on drugs and all other victimless crimes, they destroy lives and property with equipment donated from the military.
Snipers are a force for good if they were to expel an invading force decapitated from their leader, yet as part of the invading and occupying force in an interventionist foreign war, they are the harbingers of oppression.
Private military companies can secure people, resources, and legitimately held property in dangerous environments, yet when used as an extension or “surge capacity” of the military complex on a destructive campaign, they simply compound the travesty.
All of these skills and organizations are, and I believe will, be present in a free and prosperous society. Yet they will not enjoy monopoly privileges, qualified immunities, or any other government granted advantages. Indeed, any such claims to privilege or immunity are, and will be, completely illegitimate. This means that they will have to train ever more diligently to avoid costly mistakes. The fat, lame, and incompetent will be purged from the warrior class rather than coddled as they are now, and the corrupt or those that fail to fulfill their promises will lose market share those that uphold their integrity and agreements.
In short, entertaining dual concepts requires clarity of thought and abandoning false mental entanglements. War-fighting skills are essential for the security of a peaceful society. It is how they are employed, and by whom, that makes the difference.