The War Cult

Hate the war, respect the warrior. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that I’m not a pacifist or a troop-hater. For the purposes of this post, however, I have to pull out all the stops. Here we go, then:

No matter the country, we all hear the propaganda: the troops are heroes. The military is inherently righteous. If you love your country you love your military.

Nonsense. While a military force of some sort is necessary for the survival of any nation that doesn’t hide behind another for its safety, there isn’t much else to feel warm and fuzzy about.

First, don’t make the ridiculous assumption that anyone who dons a uniform is automatically a hero. There is a gravy train involved. You don’t have to look for a job. You don’t need to worry about anything pertaining to real life. Just sign up. You know how much easier my life would be if I could just say: “Alright, I’ve decided I want to do this. Here I am, take me away”?

It’s all possible because it’s all on the taxpayer’s dime. All the training, all the gear, all the traveling, all the salary, benefits, pensions, you name it. Even the recruiting propaganda. It’s all possible because it’s paid for by people who don’t have a choice. By people who had to get real and be productive, who have had to struggle and work hard, who had to do far more than just “sign up.” And if they dare try to not support those who live by the sweat of their brow, they are met with violence, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. There is nothing moral about living off of the productive by coercion and oppression.

Finally, we have what the military actually does. Bizarrely, there seems to be some confusion about this. Soldiers kill people and break things. That’s all. That’s what they’re meant for, and that’s the only thing they do well. Sometimes, when our safety is at risk, we need them to kill the bad people and break their things, and in those cases we owe our lives to their success. But in no way should we pretend that their mission of destruction is inherently moral.

I believe the troops always deserve a certain sort of respect. They are much like the garbage man, doing the dirty, nasty job that no one wants to do, but nonetheless has to be done. Keeping that reality at the forefront, they sacrifice life and limb to do the dirty work necessary for the people’s safety, with little recompense and no glory. That sounds like a hero to me.

But a worshiped, privileged class that rarely protects, sometimes destroys, and mostly lives off the hard work of the rest of society? Glorified by the state propaganda machine, offered all manner of opportunity and benefit, supported in entirety by theft from the populace at gunpoint? A massive drain on the resources of the host country, a huge and unnecessary expense nonetheless thrust upon the people? That sounds more like the regime of some third-world despot. Not like a hero.

Resist the war cult. Don’t buy into the lie that anyone who dons a uniform is a hero: in most cases the opposite is true. Do you want to really show your appreciation for society’s heroes? Walk up to any business owner you might find, and thank them for their service to their country, and to humanity at large. You have found a bloody hero.

(Read the follow-up to this post, The Peace Cult)

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.
  • A distinctly libertarian perspective. I like it. Hey, what do you think of privatizing the military?

    • John Whittington

      To trust any business in doing Military work can get risky. Doing certain jobs to compensate the Military because of lack of troops is great, but not for the entirety of the service.

  • Thanks. Next time around I’m going to offer the opposite perspective.

    By privatizing do you mean competition between security agencies for the position of national defender, or do you mean feudalism?

    • To your questions:

      If the security agencies are going to compete in the free market, the people who pay are the ones who decide, then I think that is okay.

      I’m not sure what you mean by feudalism, but if you recognize me from the other site then you may know of this suggestion. In my opinion every community ought to have its own voluntary militia. I think the funding should be voluntary, and I think our national defense would be stronger because I will not support a country that taxes and I will not fight for anything but liberty. The structure I just described is something I would defend and I only think tyrants would try to destroy it.

    • In terms of small communities and militias, I’m all for the privatization of the military. I would be in favor of the same thing on a much larger scale, but it just doesn’t seem feasible to protect a nation-state of hundreds of millions of people against a nuclear-armed aggressor with a full state-of-the-art standing army. However, as soon as we figure out how to do that on the private level, I’m there.

    • Do you like Stefan Molyneux?

  • Great points Joel. Its hard to get this stuff across to my conservative friends since saying anything negative is considered poor taste, sometimes you can be painted as if you are a member of Westboro Baptist Church protesting soldier’s funerals. This year for the first time in my life I felt a little uncomfortable with the memorial day service at my church. here’s a great article that quotes the brilliant Mark Twain on the subject from off of Lew Rockwell’s site.

  • Yes, I’m quite familiar with the War Prayer. Tough stuff for some to stomach, but always a favorite of mine.

  • I disagree with much of what you say. But as one of the troops, I too am actually annoyed that it is politically correct to call ALL the troops “heroes.” There are heroes in the military, I agree, but plenty outside it. Plenty of freeloaders and losers in the military too.

    I think that our US military at least deserves respect in part because of the values it stands for. The top USMC core values are honor, courage and commitment and it stands as an organization with clearly defined strong ethics and a (secondary) mission of creating ethical warriors (and later citizens of character) out of young men. These type of aspects make our military more honorable than just any force.

    That being said, we’re run and funded by the government so you have plenty of problems from that.

    Your assertion that life is “easy” and everything is “taken care of” for you, if you just sign up is ludicrous and detached from reality. My life is much harder and I have much higher stress than any of my college civilian peers. I am paid less than most as well. I have reached a point where more than 50% of applicants fail before reaching as well, so it is a much different process than signing up for welfare. Besides I do not have job security if I break a rule or am a poor performer, contrary to popular opinion and most of the other government bureaucracies.

    What do you think of this speech? He echoes some of my reasons for joining very well.

    -Paddy T

    • I have to say briefly that I don’t fully agree with everything I said either. It was as much a devil’s advocate piece as it was blunt honesty.

      I agree with the values promoted by our military (the same can’t always be said for every military). I seriously considered joining up myself for that very reason, and in absence of that I’m a professional martial artist, which drills in the same attitude, discipline, and honor. No disagreement there.

      I didn’t make the “easy” assertion without plenty of research and interviews with former and current servicemen. No offense at all, but the “real” world is much more brutal than school or duty, in a very different way. Generally speaking, in school and the military you just follow the prescribed plan, work your butt off, and it’s okay. In the real world, especially entrepreneurship, you have no guarantees that your efforts will even be for anything. I have worked for (and still do) several small businessmen, and am in the process of working that out for myself, and I can tell you it’s all kinds of hell that conformity doesn’t give you. The 16-hour days, the months of negative income, the necessity of always being at the peak of your game for mere survival.

      And as always, the statistics show it. There’s a ridiculous discrepancy between the young unemployed and the young unemployed vets. I cringe at phrasing it this way, but apparently soldiers just can’t hack it in the real world. And beyond the real world, being an entrepreneur is a special inner circle of Hell.

      As for the gun speech, I’ve seen it a few times before. Inspiring stuff. Make no mistake, I’m very pro-defense. I just absolutely had to take on the war cult. Respect is based on reality, not on myths and legends.

      I encourage you to read my post “Don’t Waste a Hero.” It’s on a similar subject, but much more sympathetic to the troops:

  • Jacob Hernandez

    First of all, you’ve changed your view at least four times in this one article. At first you said that these men are heroes, but then you went on to say that just cause they wear the uniform, doesn’t make them a hero, and that most of the time they are actually the exact opposite. You said to not give into the lie that they are protectors and heroes. Also, the money which funds the training, supplying, benefits, is all government funded, not tax dollars. Our government does have their own money, but it’s people like you that think the government never spend anything besides tax dollars. You’re dead wrong. And trust me, I hate the government as much as the next guy but I don’t let that get in the way of learning and seeing the truth. Just because you don’t like the way the government does things, or you think that all they want is to take all our money, doesn’t mean everything they do is wrong, and doesn’t mean that you have to blame everything on them. Also, I agree with you when you say that not all people in uniform are heroes, but you are wrong when you say that most of them are the exact opposite. Only about 1 out of every 200 people are only in the military because they can’t get a job. The rest are heroes that “signed up” because they heard the call of their country and they took the sacrifice and decided they are going to dedicate their lives to people that they don’t even know, and that they are going to protect those people no matter what. If you think that all it takes is a person who has no job and wants to just “live off our tax dollars”, then you are wrong. Because I guarantee you that you do not have the guts to enlist and do what they do on a daily bases. To put their lives on the line for people that do not know who they are, nor recognize them for their sacrifice the way they should. If you are going to state something then please just stick to that one thing instead of jumping back and forth, saying they are heroes then not even a paragraph later say that they aren’t heroes and they only enlisted for the benefits and easy living.

    • I never said they were heroes. I suggest you reread a little closer.

      Also, “government funded, not tax dollars” is an outright contradiction. That’s what a government is. They acquire money through taxes, or through printing (and devaluating) money, which is itself a form of tax in that it takes value away from the people in order to be spent by the government. To say that the military isn’t taxpayer funded is ridiculous at best.

      It’s impossible to truthfully twll the motivation for each and every last person joining the armed forces, especially since the strength of the propaganda machine makes it easy for one to be delusional about their true motivations for joining up. Even were 100% hero-minded, that doesn’t make them heroes. Shooting people and breaking things for money doesn’t make anyone a hero. The old argument is that people in the “service” make sacrifices to serve the people. But how many living veterans have actually served either of us in any way? Like it or not, most have simply sucked away money to kill people in other countries who never posed a threat to us. It’s like when your dog escapes and causes a bunch of property damage, and you call him a hero because he thought he was being righteous.

      I never went back and forth calling troops heroes and then not. I categorically stated that they are NOT so. I did mention a hypothetical warrior hero, but clearly stated that such a person does not exist in the present day. In the future, be sure to calm the butthurt and carefully reread the article before commenting in order to save on precious time.