How could something so violent and callous happen?

The details suggest that while the military put strict rules in place to protect civilians, the Special Operations task force repeatedly used other rules to skirt them. The military teams counting casualties rarely had the time, resources or incentive to do accurate work. And troops rarely faced repercussions when they caused civilian deaths, [such as the deaths of 80 Syrian women and children].

How the U.S. Hid an Airstrike That Killed Dozens of Civilians in Syria, New York Times, November 13, 2021

I mean, that there is the stuff of Clausewitz, you know, the famed military strategist also known as the God of War…

In his masterpiece, On War (1832), Clausewitz had warned against the “kind-hearted” fiction that a nation could wage a war “without too much bloodshed.” Not only was it useless, but morally reforming war could exacerbate its evil. “Mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst.” Treating the carnage in war as a sin for which to atone or—worse—a blemish on the most beautiful activity in life was something like a moral error. “It would be futile—even wrong—to try to shut one’s eyes to what war really is from sheer distress at its brutality,” Clausewitz explained. Concerns about how gory and gruesome the commitments to intensity could become were petty. “The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously,” he allowed, “but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity.” As he observed, “Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.”

“I Would Not Take Prisoners.” Tolstoy’s Case Against Making War Humane, Literary Hub, September 10, 2021

Maybe such violence and callousness in the U. S. military is because its 1.3 million or so members are influenced by the violent and callous rhetoric and examples of our societal leaders just as much as anyone else…

Obviously Trump comes to mind with all his many, many examples of violent rhetoric and of his openly endorsing police brutality and of his pardoning convicted war criminals and of course of his incitement of a resurrection against our government.

But if we are going to lay blame on our political leaders for our violent and callous national temperament, then we must hold our cultural leaders equally accountable…

Obviously Travis Scott comes to mind for his incitement of fights and riots and, most recently, deadly stampedes.

Certainly, these are issues for consideration when considering the cause behind such violent and callous behavior by all spectrums of our prism-like society, but so are the violent movies and video games we watch and play, not to mention the violent books we read…

But if we are going to blame external violent and callous influences, which I’m not sure I agree we should be doing, for our violent and callous societal behavior, then where does the excuse of influence end and the responsibility for personal behavior begin?

I don’t know the answer to that, except in my mind it should begin as soon as is viably possible, focusing more on the external influences during the early development years, particularly the influences that poverty, crime, and mental health issues have on childhood development.

Nothing new there. And even if we were to raise all today’s children to be compassionate and ethical, we’re still left with the violent and callous reality of now.

When dealing with such abnormal and illegal misanthropic behavior, it’s obvious to me that our societal organizations that hold the legal monopoly on violence — our military and police forces, for example — should be held to a much higher standard of ethical behavior and face a much stiffer penalty when unethical behavior is committed.

I sure would like to take a look at what our military and police cadets are being taught today at their service schools regarding ethics and codes of conduct.

I have some idea, but it’s almost been 20 years since I was on active duty so I’m sure times have changed.

But while education in ethics and codes of conduct for our magistrates of violence is surely important and must continue, nothing in my mind is as important as the education and examples one receives in the formative childhood years.

For it is then our brains get stuffed with the stuff we base our lives on for the rest of our lives…

Such stuff as our prejudices and stereotypes and how to love and how to hate…

You know, the near indelible and indestructible stuff that one university freshman course in ethics can ne’er overcome.


3 thoughts on “How could something so violent and callous happen?”

    • Hello, my friend. Obviously we could break it down to legalities and intent, but in the end I guess it’s just semantics because it is all terrorizing and tragic and seemingly hopeless and, sadly, just comes down to which side of the blast one is on to distinguish whether the act was one committed by a terrorist or a freedom fighter.


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