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realitycheck44

Dying For Your Country

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While watching the presidential debates the other night, I heard both George W. Bush and John Kerry refer to sacrificing oneself for one's country a very noble thing to do (as John Kerry put it, "the most noble thing one can do"). Until reading Ayn Rand, I would have agreed. Now, however, I realize that in dying for ones country you would be the means to an end for other people. As Rand said, "Every man is an end in himself, not a means to an end for others." Thus sacrificing your life for your country, or sacrificing your life for your neighbor’s right to live free, is amoral.

However, this country, and the principle of capitalism for that matter, would not exist today if people were not willing to defend it. The most common argument used is that dying for an idea that you truly believe in is a higher good that sitting idle while that idea is stripped away. But what higher good is there than your right to live?

In Iraq's case, they are not a direct threat to freedom in the United States right now. Iraq could become a threat, but not at the moment. So our troops dying over there are not fighting to save their freedom, they are fighting to save future generation’s freedom. And they are fighting to make another country free. Would Ayn Rand (who grew up in a communist state and completely embraced the love of freedom) say that our soldiers are behaving amorally?

Zak

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First, don't put words in Ayn Rand's mouth. Quoting her is fine, but you are projecting your thoughts into her when you say "Would Ayn Rand still say that our soldiers are behaving amorally."

Perhaps you should rephrase your question.

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Thus sacrificing your life for your country, or sacrificing your life for your neighbor’s right to live free, is amoral.

One thing you may be overlooking is that joining the Army and going to fight a war does not necessarily equal sacrificing one's life for his country. There are people who value what this country stands for and they are willing to join the service and fight to keep our country the way it is. Along the way they received training and equipment in the hopes that these things will help keep them alive so they can enjoy the fruits of their efforts after they get out of the service. I doubt very seriously many guys are joining the military with dreams of diving on that handgrenade to save his platoon mates. :D Thus, a risk accepted when one joins the military is that the situation may arise that may cost them their life, but not that they wish to seek that situation.

Now if presidents want to put some spin on that and call it "sacrificing" oneself, well hey, this is an election year and they were both former military personnel. What do you expect? B)

I parallel this with the idea of joining a police force. I did not join the police force in the hopes that one day I could go down in a blaze of gunfire while saving a schoolbus full of children. But I accepted as a duty that I would try my best to save those kids in the most tactically safe manner as I am capable of if the situation presents itself. I have no desire to sacrifice myself like a lamb for the masses.

VES

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Edit noted.

I think that as RationalCop said military and police are willing to expose themselves to risk in the pursuit of a career that they value. They're not there to sacrifice their lives. Note also that in the U.S., pursuing a career or spending time in the police force or military is consistant with rational values. It's part of their work to occasionally enforce some actions that wouldn't pass the Objectivist test.

Think of it this way. Ayn Rand enjoyed the show "The Untouchables" because it was about people who were passionate about enforcing justice and the rule of law. It just so happened that the primary law in question (abolition) was a misguided one. People in the military should be judged similarly. The best ones are in there to promote their values, but occasionally some missions may be questionable. But a military person passionate about his work wouldn't and shouldn't quit over every mistake of presidential or other leadership, as long as it wan't an outright evil choice, such as say, fighting jointly with the Chinese army to defeat the Taiwanese army. They're not there for the purpose of dying or sacrificing themselves to anything, and the risks they take are generally for the sake of their overall values, not the specific mission they're on.

I think a proper tribute to a fallen soldier is something to the effect of:

"he risked and lost his life fighting to protect and promote America's distinctive values" And I think this can be true even if the specific battle or war this soldier was involved in was misguided or altruistic.

I happened to think that Bush's formulation about soldiers sacrificing their lives for the country and of the American military serving some oft-repeated "duty" to the world, was disgusting.

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While watching the presidential debates the other night, I heard both George W. Bush and John Kerry refer to sacrificing oneself for one's country a very noble thing to do (as John Kerry put it, "the most noble thing one can do"). Until reading Ayn Rand, I would have agreed. Now, however, I realize that in dying for ones country you would be the means to an end for other people. As Rand said, "Every man is an end in himself, not a means to an end for others." Thus sacrificing your life for your country, or sacrificing your life for your neighbor’s right to live free, is amoral....

Zak

You ought to read Ayn Rand's speech to West Point graduates. I think the speech was published in Philosophy: who needs it.

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Recall Patton's words: "No man ever won the war by dying for his country. He won the war by making the other bastard die for his country." Soldiers do not generally self-sacrifice or even act with the intent of dying, even though they do die. Sometimes, you just can't make the other bastard die for his country.

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I should probably say something in this thread, given my previous responses on the subject, and the meaning of my sig.

In realitycheck's your original post, there are a bunch of distinctly separate issues rolled up into one question. For example,

I heard both George W. Bush and John Kerry refer to sacrificing oneself for one's country a very noble thing to do (as John Kerry put it, "the most noble thing one can do").
Issue #1 - what is the moral status of trading one's life for a decreased threat to one's country?

Now, however, I realize that in dying for ones country you would be the means to an end for other people.
Issue #2 - Is "dying for one's country" solely a means to an end for other people, or is there anything else in it, specifically for the person doing the dying?

Thus sacrificing your life for your country, or sacrificing your life for your neighbor’s right to live free, is amoral.
Issue #3 - If doing something without a selfish desire is wrong, then why would dying for a country that one has no selfish desire in protecting be amoral (i.e. outside the realm of moral evaluation)?

However, this country [...] would not exist today if people were not willing to defend it. [...] Dying for an idea that you truly believe in is a higher good that sitting idle while that idea is stripped away.
Issue #4 - Is death of a country's citizens sometimes necessary for that country's increased self-defense or offense capabilities (in the context when its survival is at stake)?

But what higher good is there than your right to live?
Issue #5 - Does issue #4 entail giving up one's right to live?

So, although the implied subject of this thread is only Issue #1, other issues are packaged in together, with some of them, such as #5, being only peripherally connected to the primary topic. It's late here so I will try and post more some time later, but for now it would be nice if realitycheck indicated which of these issues is primary for him discuss.

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Recall Patton's words: "No man ever won the war by dying for his country. He won the war by making the other bastard die for his country." Soldiers do not generally self-sacrifice or even act with the intent of dying, even though they do die. Sometimes, you just can't make the other bastard die for his country.

That is a great quote. I was thinking of that reading through this thread too.

VES

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Recall Patton's words: "No man ever won the war by dying for his country. He won the war by making the other bastard die for his country." Soldiers do not generally self-sacrifice or even act with the intent of dying, even though they do die. Sometimes, you just can't make the other bastard die for his country.

This really is a great quote. I haven't done any research on Patton (besides watching the movie) and he's a little before my time. Great explaination, too. I actually was more focused on Issues 2 and 3 made by Free Capitalist. I understand the issue now. I was reading your responses and it just kinda hit me. I suppose I was caught up in the political rhetoric- specifically with the word "sacrifice". I think I understand now.

Zak

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I recommend that people grappling with this issue go to this thread: The Worst Evil

The standard of good is life qua man, the life of freedom required for a man to live. Any truly selfish person would rather die than live like an animal. Of course, not everyone has the kind of bravery required to take the next step and actually risk death to defend America, which is why we honor those who do.

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Sorry if this is repetitive, but my newbie self needs a clarification: So...if you are sarcificing yourself (lets face it, maybe you dont hope to, but you sacrifice a lot for these types of jobs) for the good of others, but in doing so you are upholding your own moral values, then it doesn't go against the "I will never live for the sake of any man" rule?

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To sacrifice is to trade something of a greater value for that of a lesser value. Thus, if you give away your child in exchange for some ice cream, you have traded a greater value for a lesser value.

Now of course, this all depends upon what type of value system you have-a system that can only be determined by you.

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