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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

7 - War

Summary

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be … Duty, Honor, Country: The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice. In battle, and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind… Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

General Douglas MacArthur (1962)

It is not only warrior cultures, honor cultures, or street gangs that require men to be violent: in war, people in most cultures and subcultures deem it a moral duty to kill the enemy – and in many cases soldiers feel that they should kill, enslave, torture, rape, or starve enemy captives or civilians. Philosophers and religious leaders often exhort men (and sometimes women) to fight, extolling the noble virtues of warfare. In the twentieth century, soldiers killed approximately 140 million people and wounded far more; in most cases they were morally motivated to do so out of solidarity in support of fellow soldiers, obedience to officers, military honor, or patriotism (Leitenberg, 2006; this number includes deaths in German and Japanese concentration camps).