Harpo Jaeger dot com

It’s just what armies do

The major thing I’m taking away from the latest Wikileaks release is that it’s pretty inaccurate to evaluate an army as anything other than a group of individuals. People all over the ideological map make this mistake all the time, whether it’s the US army being referred to as a “liberator”, the IDF being called “the most moral army in the world”, or, from the other direction, ours being painted as ruthless colonizers or the IDF as an entity hell-bent on abusing Palestinian detainees. Both of these descriptions might be accurate in terms of what the army does, but they don’t hold water in terms of explaining why. And this is where Wikileaks fills in the blanks.

You can train an army all you want, but it’s still made of individual people. You can adopt as complex a strategy as you want, but you’re still relying on those individual people to carry it out. At the end of the day, an army is just a collection of people with guns, and all evidence shows that when you give people the kind of power associated with carrying a gun and serving in an army, things go wrong. It’s inherent to the concept of an army in general. Clearly, individual soldiers can be held responsible for their actions, but to claim that those actions prove that the army is “immoral” is missing the point. Of course it’s immoral! It’s an army! Its job is to fight and kill people.

The sooner we stop conceptualizing our own army as the harbingers of democracy, the sooner we can really grapple with the implications of our military involvement. The sooner we stop excusing war crimes by the IDF, the sooner we can really understand the effects of military occupation. We don’t have to look at soldiers from either as evil they’re just normal people. But when normal people become soldiers, they necessarily help carry out the function of the army. And we shouldn’t ever forget what that is.