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Ayn Rand and the military

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I was reading Ayn Rands book in Iraq. And I think that she neglected the fact the military is an altruistic instition, but a neccessary one at that. With out the military the country that we know would not exist. So basically if anyone agrees or disargees with me on this I would like to know your opinion and thoughts. I think this is her weakest link, and as far as I can tell with her all encompassing philisophy this seems to be its widest gap. Because nations cant co exist without militaries plan and simple. Unless of course you believe in Utopian society in which we can live in peace. Which that too seem inconceivable. But dont misunderstand me I like Ayn Rand and her philosphies and they have helped me develop my own life. Despite working for the military.

-Greg

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I was reading Ayn Rands book in Iraq. And I think that she neglected the fact the military is an altruistic instition, but a neccessary one at that. With out the military the country that we know would not exist. So basically if anyone agrees or disargees with me on this I would like to know your opinion and thoughts. I think this is her weakest link, and as far as I can tell with her all encompassing philisophy this seems to be its widest gap. Because nations cant co exist without militaries plan and simple. Unless of course you believe in Utopian society in which we can live in peace. Which that too seem inconceivable. But dont misunderstand me I like Ayn Rand and her philosphies and they have helped me develop my own life. Despite working for the military.

-Greg

What's the altruistic part?

I serve because I value living in a (mostly) free country. I serve because I'm good at it and it's the productive work I want to do. I serve because I'm well paid for my work.

At the point where my desire to serve, and the monetary reward for doing so is overshadowed by a lack of freedom in my country I will most likely quit.

I'm not saying that many people don't serve out of altruism, but I bet if you refused to pay most of them they would stop being altruistic. :o

If you are serving out of altruistic ideals, then perhaps you should find what work it is that you believe you should be doing.

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A proper military is not an altruistic organization. It's proper function is to kill people and break their stuff, in order to protect the rights of the citizens of the country it is defending. The fact that many governments use their military for altruistic purposes does not change that. It is in your own best interest to have a military protecting your rights, and if you find you have an aptitude for and interest in the role you play for the military, you should continue to do it so long as it continues to serve your own long-term self-interest. I understand why you think the military is altruistic; one of the Core Values of the U.S. Air Force, in which I serve, is Service Before Self, and I'm sure the other branches have similar silliness in their own official ethics. In my own case, I see Service Before Self as implying a false dichotomy; I cannot perform the service I do without at the same time serving my own self-interest. Military service does not require altruism and I do not practice it at work.

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You'll have to elaborate on your position that the US military is an altruistic institution. I don't think many here are going to agree with your assessment, and you're going to have to describe what you mean--what makes it an altruistic institution--before anyone gives their opinion. Otherwise no is going to know what you're talking about, as there are many notions out there regarding the military an altruism.

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You'll have to elaborate on your position that the US military is an altruistic institution. I don't think many here are going to agree with your assessment, and you're going to have to describe what you mean--what makes it an altruistic institution--before anyone gives their opinion. Otherwise no is going to know what you're talking about, as there are many notions out there regarding the military an altruism.

OK good point point to clear up what I said.

First this is what I mean. The reason I beleive the military is an altruistic institions is because as a whole its sole propose is to serve the country. It provides a self less service for the greater good. Isnt that plan and simple defintion of Altrusim. Self less service for the greater good.

Second I do it for the pay check and am content with that.

Edited by Greg12341
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OK good point point to clear up what I said.

First this is what I mean. The reason I beleive the military is an altruistic institions is because as a whole its sole propose is to serve the country.

The military's purpose is to defend the nation.

It provides a self less service for the greater good.

It, as a part of a largely good whole (the government) defends against the evil (our enemies).

Isnt that plan and simple defintion of Altrusim. Self less service for the greater good.

A military is one of the proper functions of government, to say it serves selflessly would in that case be correct because without a government a military can not exist as a legal entity in the manner it is designed to.

"The military" as a unit is not a monolithic mindless drone but made up of the individuals within it. I do not serve selflessly, do you?

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Hello, I just wanted to drop a few references to some of Rand's work that might help you further decide for yourself. Someone else more knowledgeable than I can probably directly answer better.

Ayn Rand was actually very passionate about American military service. She even gave a speech to the West Point Acadamy on the very topic. You can listen to it for free on ARI's website here. (I think it requires free registration) Or otherwise you could read the whole thing here. That's by no means an exhastive exploration of the subject, but it should help you consider it further.

Lastly I wanted to quote a relevant portion of her talk:

In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms. This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say — not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots — that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.

...

You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service — it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it.

Edited by IchorFigure
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OK good point point to clear up what I said.

The reason I beleive the military is an altruistic institions is because as a whole its sole propose is to serve the country. It provides a self less service for the greater good.

The military was set up by the people to defend the country, for the people. That is a very selfish act on the part of the people.

Saying that the military is selfless is like saying that a car is selfless, because it serves its owner. They are both selfless, because they are not people so they don't have selves: one of them is an institution, the other is a machine.

As for the soldiers in the military, some of them probably are altruists who, when the time comes to do their job and kill the enemy, will probably wish they never signed up. But most in the military are there to defend their families and their country because these are the things they love (and have a very selfish reason to love them: they are of great value to them).

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The military is not an altruistic altar for some mystical sacrifice. The military is the organization that is joined by those who wish to protect their country, their freedom and their liberties for the sake of their own lives and for the lives of their loved ones (who are part of their selfish values), and the principles upon which their country was founded.

A soldier will not die on the field of battle as 'a selfless sacrifice'. The actions of a soldier are the result of the ideas of a man who would rather die free than live as a slave-- "Give me liberty or give me death" -- and is willing to fight for the values he selfishly holds as his own, because he would rather do so than live in a world in which those values are destroyed, in which his own life -his value of values- would be a living hell.

If the army were altruistic, it would not fight *for* anything.

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I don't believe in sacrifice, but those altruists who serve in the US military should find another line of work since they are working at cross purposes with the brave soldiers trying to defend our nation. As George Patton said:

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

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  • 1 month later...

altruism

1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others

The U.S. military as a whole tends not to be altruistic, at least in theory. As a nation, by definition, we are not devoted to the welfare of other countries except in the sense of our own interests as a nation. The reason is simply because it's too expensive to do anything more than is critically necessary to achieve the primary objectives. In practice, it seems to get a little muddy. Our recent liberation of Iraq, as a slogan, smacks of altruistic overtones, but maybe it was a military necessity in the big scheme of world diplomacy, regardless.

To the individual soldier, I suppose it can vary. Some soldiers might be in it purely as a career decision. Some soldiers might feel good about certain aspects of the job, one aspect of which might include protecting their home country. But if one thinks in terms of nationalism, then they are thinking about a greater good, which is altruism. I don't think that's the end of the world, as long as altruism doesn't become an obsession or compulsion. Any obsession or compulsion seems to be dangerous in the sense that one loses one's self to the obsession or compulsion.

To expand on this concept, we might look at service careers in other professions. By definition, many jobs are altruistic by definition. Careers like nursing comes to mind, devoting care to a patient. Sure, the nurse gets a paycheck, but from my experience nursing is a very tough career if you're just doing it to pay the rent. It takes a special person to really connect on the type of a level that certain nurses need to do as part of their job description. I'd say any profession where there is intimate interaction on a personal level with other individuals is the same way. There are a lot of jobs which are tough, if not impossible, without having some kind of connection with coworkers, customers, employees & supervisors to varying degrees. I know there are lots of jobs that are not this way, banker, for example. Fiction writer? The point is that there are different types of jobs for different types of people. Some jobs are altruistic in nature, which extends beyond the pay check. Some jobs require little or no meaningful devoted interest or interaction with other people.

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altruism

1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others

.

.

.

.

To expand on this concept, we might look at service careers in other professions. By definition, many jobs are altruistic by definition. Careers like nursing comes to mind, devoting care to a patient. Sure, the nurse gets a paycheck, but from my experience nursing is a very tough career if you're just doing it to pay the rent. It takes a special person to really connect on the type of a level that certain nurses need to do as part of their job description. I'd say any profession where there is intimate interaction on a personal level with other individuals is the same way. There are a lot of jobs which are tough, if not impossible, without having some kind of connection with coworkers, customers, employees & supervisors to varying degrees. I know there are lots of jobs that are not this way, banker, for example. Fiction writer? The point is that there are different types of jobs for different types of people. Some jobs are altruistic in nature, which extends beyond the pay check. Some jobs require little or no meaningful devoted interest or interaction with other people.

In yet another thread, you mistake altruism for "not being a hermit" or "having a connection with people". Also, every selfish job extends beyond the paycheck. It is in no means selfish for a person interested in graphic design to become a stock broker, and if he chooses the career of a graphic designer, never sacrificing his values, and he makes just 30K/year, he still is selfish, which he would not be if he went against his values, and made a fortune as a stock broker, hating every second of it. A billionaire can be an altruist/unselfish, a "struggling artist" can be selfish. You really dont understand Rands point, even a bit.

But the weirdest thing about your comments is that being a fiction writer is altruistic. It's probably one of the only professions where it is almost impossible to be an altruist. Writing fiction is a declaration of ones own values, a kind of flaunting of ones own ideas, and i dont see how you can think fiction writers are altruist by nature. You seem to make the point that the fact that other people buys the books, that that would make it selfish.

Selfishness is not "lets just hoard as much stuff to yourself as fast as possible without ever socializing with others" and altruism is not "having a connection with people and pursuing a career where you have to socialize with others"

Even though the definition of altruism you quoted doesnt perfectly identify all the finer points of the concept altruism, your writings still dont apply to that definition.

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By definition, many jobs are altruistic by definition. Careers like nursing comes to mind, devoting care to a patient. Sure, the nurse gets a paycheck, but from my experience nursing is a very tough career if you're just doing it to pay the rent. It takes a special person to really connect on the type of a level that certain nurses need to do as part of their job description. I'd say any profession where there is intimate interaction on a personal level with other individuals is the same way. There are a lot of jobs which are tough, if not impossible, without having some kind of connection with coworkers, customers, employees & supervisors to varying degrees. I know there are lots of jobs that are not this way, banker, for example. Fiction writer? The point is that there are different types of jobs for different types of people. Some jobs are altruistic in nature, which extends beyond the pay check. Some jobs require little or no meaningful devoted interest or interaction with other people.

Believe it or not, some people probably--I don't know any nurses--like the practice of nursing, which would make the devotion that you write about just a vehicle for that practice, not a primary. I also disagree that any job requiring intimate interaction or interpersonal skills, is altruistic; I don't see how that's even a subject of morality, necessarily, unless I'm missing something.

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Slacker00 you are a Borg in that you seem to have no concept of personal value.

There is NO profession that is "by definition" altruistic, not one. Even a priest can do his job for his own sake (and I'm sure many do). Just because you can not conceive of a person deriving value from some "service profession" does not mean that it doesn't exist.

As a soldier I serve my country because I value the freedoms I have. I value those freedoms enough to want to ensure that they continue to exist... That means I'd leave my country (and have) to ensure that evil people in far away places don't threaten my freedoms. It's all about me and what I value.

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OK good point point to clear up what I said.

First this is what I mean. The reason I beleive the military is an altruistic institions is because as a whole its sole propose is to serve the country. It provides a self less service for the greater good. Isnt that plan and simple defintion of Altrusim. Self less service for the greater good.

Second I do it for the pay check and am content with that.

Being in the military is a profession. Like any other profession, there are membership requirements, standards of training, and standards of right and wrong conduct. Being a soldier is no more altruistic than being a doctor, lawyer, school teacher, or architect. What a soldier does is protect rights; it is self-defense systematized and professionalized.

Anyone can treat himself with a bandage or stay in bed when sick, but doctor applies specialized knowledge to make surgical repairs or medicate a patient. Anyone can argue with a cop or a judge, but a lawyer will be better at protecting his client because of his prior study of the law. Anyone can read a book and teach himself a subject, but a teacher can present material to a student in a proper hierarchical order and ensure he understands a point before moving on to the next. Anyone can pull a tarp over their head or use basic carpentry to make a shelter, but an architect will design and supervise construction of a building having economy, safety, and beauty. Anyone will defend himself when attacked, a soldier is able to defend others by using using superior force and skill.

It is true that individuals have rights. It is true that you should value rights in principle, everyone's rights. It is true that the proper ultimate beneficiary of one's actions is self. It is true that taking action to defend the principle of rights is selfish, because you personally value those rights. Therefore being a principled, professional soldier is no more selfless than understanding that other people's rights are valuable.

You aren't merely serving your country, you are valuing your country and inflicting that judgment upon the world.

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One thing that has struck me about the U.S. military in my reading over the years, is that in the main their Generals,Admirals etc. have been highly averse to squandering the lives of their soldiers.

Well, after the Civil War anyway!

They definitely weren't treated as cannon fodder as much as ,say the Brits have been.

Also, the U.S.Army was the first-probably the only- to pass a law making it OK for a soldier to disobey a superiors order, IF the soldier felt the order was immoral.

This was in response to an atrocity commited in Vietnam.

Can anyone tell me if that law is still in place?

Ayn Rand wrote,spoke ( can't recall the source ) about the need for a standing,professional Army- well trained,paid and motivated- during the Vietnam war , in opposition to conscription.

So a well paid, highly trained career soldier who is 'serving' his self interest,as well as his country, at reduced risk of his life - well that's the way it should be.

Altruism? I don't think so. Damn ,I'd enlist myself , if I were an American.

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Also I'd possibly wager that we'd see a lot less ground forces and more bombings. No huge masses of American infantry in Baghdad etc.

The average "fighting individual" would be something like a bomber pilot.

Edited by L-C
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Also I'd possibly wager that we'd see a lot less ground forces and more bombings. No huge masses of American infantry in Baghdad etc.

The average "fighting individual" would be something like a bomber pilot.

No, strategic bombing can be part of a overall campaign that includes ground forces. But without ground forces physically occupying the opposing country there is no way to ensure a change in the opposing country's politics. Changing the other country's politics is what rational war is all about.

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Yes, the incredible expense and expertise that a life-affirming nation such as the U.S. goes to in order to minimise losses in battle is very uplifting.

But as you say, with all the hi- tech,and air cover, the soldier on the ground will always be important,and at risk.

By contrast, a poem written by the well known English war poet , S. Sassoon, writing about the trench warfare of WW 1, the massacres of soldiers, and the stupidity or callousness of their Generals:

The General

"Good morning,good morning",the general said

When we met him last week on our way to the line.

Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,

And we're cursing his Staff for incompetent swine.

"He's a cheery old card", muttered Harry to Jack,

As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

------

But he did for them both with his plan of attack.

:D

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whYNOT, you can no more get the feel of the modern army from the history of WW1 than you can get the feel of a modern automobile from Karl Benz's "Velo"

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The problem in Iraq wasn't the ground forces, it was the subsequent "changing of hearths and minds", by which patrols and supplies (for the rebuilding of Iraq) were sent out to be picked off by insurgent attacks.

The same tactic failed in Vietnam, because the US gave the advantage of surprize away to the enemy, with the search and destroy missions. After the occupation was accomplised, they should've stayed inside bases, at airports and other high value facilities, and only sent special forces out to high value targets, in actual surprize attack situations.

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...After the occupation was accomplised, they should've stayed inside bases, at airports and other high value facilities, and only sent special forces out to high value targets, in actual surprize attack situations.

That is exactly the opposite of what a successful counter-insurgency operation requires, and replicates the worst tactics of Vietnam. Counter-insurgency must protect the people, who are the real targets of a propaganda and terror campaign aimed at compelling them to join in a general rebellion. When the U.S. finally switched to this classic strategy (which the troop level "surge" supported) Iraq was secured.

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That is exactly the opposite of what a successful counter-insurgency operation requires, and replicates the worst tactics of Vietnam. Counter-insurgency must protect the people, who are the real targets of a propaganda and terror campaign aimed at compelling them to join in a general rebellion. When the U.S. finally switched to this classic strategy (which the troop level "surge" supported) Iraq was secured.

Agreed, the same mistakes cost the Russians Afghanistan.

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