Monday, August 23, 2004

LRC pick
On the abuse of the military
When David Calderwood was a child, he thought as a child.

So did I. Then I had a similar realization.

Years have passed and over that time my views of those sleek planes and the (mostly) guys that fly them have shifted. I now see something I didn’t see before. It isn’t about aerobatics or shiny blue paint, or traveling a thousand miles per hour or zooming in a vertical climb to the edge of space.

Those planes are simply killing machines, and the folks that fly them, no matter how skilled, dedicated, or bright, are puppets.

Like the carriers on which they ride, F/A-18’s are tools for delivering bombs and other ordnance onto places where other people live or work. If those people are working to attack Americans minding their own business at home, the pilots’ work would be honorable
[again, this is not a pacifist blog], but you don’t need to transport such complex weaponry halfway around the world to attack aggressors. After all, aggressors need some proximity to be a threat.

The other problem with being an operator of one of those sleek jets is that one is not an owner. Someone else tells you where to go and who to bomb, and the agreement you entered into says that you don’t get to say no, not if you want to go on playing with the toys. I think "puppet" is fairly apt.

So pilots have little option but to rationalize what they do as "good," and their military and civilian superiors who tell them who to kill as, "wise and well-informed." While we know this last is empirically false, humans have a tremendous capacity to lie to themselves when that’s the only bridge required to get them to what they want. In this case, pilots get to play with toys that are at the very top of the grownup-toy food chain. Like politicians and bureaucrats who love the power they wield, rationalizing any evil is a natural part of the human condition.

The Blue Angels perform thrilling feats of synchronized flight at airshows, but those games are basically just a circus to keep us enthralled. The purpose of those aircraft is to drop death from the air, no more and no less, and this power resides in the hands of people whose own interests create a murderous conflict of interest.

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