War and National Cults of Sacrifice

In my last post, I discussed my perspective that those who choose to risk their lives defending their liberty in the military are neither serving others nor sacrificing. The trade of one value for a higher value is not a sacrifice. As mentioned, this does not apply to conscripted soldiers who, by definition, are in a state of involuntary servitude and, if killed, were sacrificed against their will.

Let us suppose for a moment that you have angered a biker gang. And they are coming to your house at midnight to beat you up and possibly kill you. Do you have the right to go to your neighbor’s house and roust him from his bed at gunpoint and force him to fight for you? Of course not. That is called kidnapping. And your right does not change in this regard even if the stated intention of the gang is to burn down the whole neighborhood. You have no right to force your neighbor to risk his life on your behalf or even on his own. Legitimate government derives its legitimate authority from the authority its citizens would have in a state of no government. It no more has the authority to kidnap its citizens and force them to fight than you do.

But what happens when liberty-loving soldiers are tasked to fight a war that, in fact, has little or nothing to do with defending their liberty? Arguably, this has been the case for many, if not most, of the wars undertaken by the United States. I would propose that in a free country, each citizen is under no obligation to risk his life for a value which he does not hold to be higher than the value of his own life. I would also suggest that there are very few such values possible to a rational person.

In order to fight such wars, whether aggressive or at the behest of special interests, nations develop cultures of national service and cults of sacrifice. They then build upon these ideas to convince, to coerce, to shame, or, if necessary, to compel citizens to risk their lives for causes which, if rationally and individually evaluated, would be worth less to those citizens than their own lives. Some nations have excelled at this more than others but none are so inherently contradictory than a nation supposedly dedicated to liberty sacrificing some of its citizens against their will.

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