מדוע אדם חופשי נלחם
מאת: סגן אלוף (מארינס) סקוט ד. מק'דונלד | 25 ביולי 2015
בועידת OCON שנערכה בצפון קרולינה בתחילת יולי נחגג יום העצמאות ב-4 ביולי, בין הדוברים באירוע היה סגן אלוף מק'דונלד, קצין במארינס האמריקאי שעלה לדוכן במדי א' מעוטרי אותות וקרא את נאומו "מדוע אדם חופשי נלחם".
בפתיחת הדברים ציין "לעיתים קרובות אני נשאל מדוע אדם בעל נטייה חזקה לעיסוק בפילוסופיה ולחיים האקדמאיים מצטרף לחיל הנחתים. מדוע איש כתיבה מניח את קולמוסו על מנת להניף חרב?
יחד עם זאת שמדובר בשאלה מעניינת, היא מחטיאה את המטרה. שאלה יסודית, מעניינת, ורלוונטית יותר ביום זה היא: מה מניע אינדיוידואל בחברה שהיא ברובה חופשית – כלומר שבה בדרך כלל לא מופעלת כפייה – להתנדב ולקבל מגבלות מסויימות על חירותו ולהעמיד את חייו בסכנה. מדוע, בתמצית, אדם חופשי נלחם?"
קוראי אנכי מוזמנים לקרוא את הנאום המלא באנגלית.
“Why a Free Man Fights”
LtCol Scott D. McDonald
Prepared for OCON 2015, 4 July 2015
DISCLAIMER: All opinions expressed in this presentation are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, or the United States Marine Corps.
I am often asked why someone with a penchant for philosophy and an academic life joins the Marine Corps. Why, some ask, does a scribe lower his pen to pick up the sword?
While this is an interesting question, it misses the point. A more, fundamental, interesting, and, on this day, relevant question is: what motivates an individual in a largely free society–one which is by and large free of coercion–to volunteer to accept some limits on his freedom and put his life at risk. Why, in short, does a free man fight?
Historically, there have always been those who are compelled by invaders or oppressors to raise arms in self-defense, but their motivation is obvious and contemporary with the need for it. Free or not, their circumstances demanded a choice between fighting, fleeing, death, or something worse.
Additionally, throughout human history, men who have not faced fear of death, dismemberment, or misappropriation of their property have chosen warfare as a vocation. Their goals in doing so, however, were not those that would be chosen by men in a free society–by men who had a concept of individual rights. Warriors throughout the ages have been opportunists who fought for treasure, power, or lust. Pirates loot wealth on the high seas and upstart princes conquer neighbors to enhance their wealth, strength, and prestige. These warriors take value created by others and defend nothing except their ability to steal and destroy.
The dawn of the American Republic, however, introduced a new concept in warfare. Today it may seem commonplace to speak of a colony fighting to be free, but while oppressed peoples certainly rebelled against their overlords, in 1775 when 77 men stood on the Lexington Common and defied the British Red Coats it was novel for a group of men to demand that their rights be recognized and their liberty protected.
And so after more than a decade of warfare and debate on what form this new nation should take, a nation of free men, protected by law, and united by the ideal that man’s rights were inviolable was born and began to prosper. They lived for their own happiness, for their own prosperity, with the understanding that the sanctity of their rights, as protected by their interest in The Republic, was the enabler of their fortune.
As was common, the founders chose an oath to be administered to the President, which was extended by Congress to all federal officials, including the military. Unlike the oaths of other countries, which swear allegiance to a state or a sovereign, that oath promises to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” the document painstakingly designed to protect individuals from the inappropriate execution of government power. The officers of her military were to serve the document that enshrined freedom, not the state it created, nor the President who led it.
In fact, these early Americans were wary of standing armies because history had taught them that armies—heretofore consisting of little more than brigands—were a danger to their rights and prosperity. Their goal was to remove the authority of government to take from its citizens and saw no need for armies that they viewed as thugs devoted to rape and pillage.
Not thirty years into the life of our republic, however, President Thomas Jefferson became aware that the security of the rights and property of Americans was being threatened by forces abroad. Specifically, pirates operating out of the north coast of Africa were taking the lives and property of Americans for ransom. The old nations of Europe, whose militaries were often little different from pirates in their conduct, handled such disturbances with weak protests and large ransom payments.
The young nation devoted to liberty refused—as it had in its birth—to be cowed by force into accepting limitations on the liberties of its citizens. It chose instead, to meet force with force. And though this first expeditionary campaign was halting and poorly coordinated at first, it was ultimately successful at stopping what were known as the Barbary Pirates. The young republic accomplished this by taking the fight to them, retaking what they had stolen, and destroying their capacity to commit further violations of our rights.
What the young republic learned from this episode was that the selective application of military power abroad is sometimes necessary and effective in order to carry out the government’s legitimate function of protecting the rights of its citizens.
In short, because there are people abroad who insist on dealing with us not as men, but as beasts, it is necessary to maintain a capability to respond to such force, just as we maintain a police capability to protect us from such violations at home.
To maintain this capability, some men within our country must be willing to put their life at risk. Indeed, those who choose a military career voluntarily give up a few of those rights maintained by the rest of the country they protect. Why would a rational man do this?
Contrary to contemporary rhetoric, we freemen who choose the profession of arms are not altruists who sacrifice our rights so that others may share them. We are not defenders of international opinion or the lives of the weak.
We, the men who volunteered to defend our constitution and the way of life that it protects, march to the sound of the guns, not because we are bloodthirsty, but because we do not recognize blood as a valid currency. We don our armor not because we fear death, but because we love our lives.
Free men do not seek war, but when those who would deny us our freedom make war, we join battle willing, ready, and committed to defending those rights, without which our lives would be unlivable. We sally forth with rifles raised not to take the unearned, but because we have tasted the fruits that our own liberty produces and refuse to live without them. We fight not because freedom, per se, is good, but because it is ours.
In the American Republic, this concept of the free individual, empowered to live his life, for its own sake won protection for the first time. The combination of the recognition of the individual as the basis of value and a system of law designed to protect him enabled the men of the young republic to embark upon the greatest expansion of material wealth and human happiness the world has ever known.
Today, when a young American picks up his rucksack, shoulders his rifle, and boards a transport bound for a far-off war, he does not abandon this country of plenty. He does not give up a system that ensures his right to create and enjoy the fruits of his liberty. To the contrary, it is exactly this world that he and other free men have built that he carries with him, that motivates him to succeed, and drives his desire to return home to all that he values.
In short, a free man fights to protect all that is important to his life–to maintaining, sustaining, and protecting it. Unlike pirates or princes who loot values from others, the freeman fights for the values he already has. And one thing that the American fighting man values more than any warrior who has come before or since is the liberty that American intellectuals and soldiers have worked so hard to husband for 240 years.
You have no doubt heard our brave young Americans praised for their sacrifice. This unfortunate bromide is embedded in popular parlance and repeated without reflection. Allow me to convey a more appropriate context:
I have stood on the field of battle with dirty and weary Marines. Most were young and few had devoted years to studying philosophy, or even to examining the moral code that their parents had taught them. Yet when I talked to my Marines about their lives and their motivations, their responses were telling. Over a meal pulled out of a vacuum-sealed bag they never spoke of sacrifice. Over card games played on a milk crate they spoke not of pillage. When in a harsh environment and inclined to think of better things, they all named values. Some named the new truck they would buy with the income they had saved. Some named the new career they would embark on. Some named the sweetheart they had decided to marry. Some named no more than leaving the Marine Corps and wearing their facial hair the way they wanted to.
Did you notice the refrain, a commonality that went unmentioned, yet was implicit in every value? Not only did they all think about how they would exercise their liberty, they are doing so in ways that are uniquely American, in that they were enabled by the ideals that underpin our republic. Yes, these were everyday goals that might seem unimpressive to most today, but they were made possible by either the liberty to choose one’s own life that was enshrined for the first time in our Constitution, or economically feasible only due to the economic dynamism unleashed by our commitment to leave man free to exercise his liberty, to use his resources, to pursue his values. And I am here to reassure you, that your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines understand this. They may not be philosophers, but they know that they are fighting for the ideals embodied in our founding documents and they know those ideals have value to them as individuals.
And this is why I fight: because the life that I choose to live, the life that I value, can only be lived as long as my rights are protected. Because my values can only be achieved and maintained if I am free from coercion. The only existent political system with a chance of making that happen is embodied by the Constitution of the United States. And like those 77 men on the Lexington common, like 56 men who signed a principled statement of liberty 239 years ago today, and like millions of free men for the last 240 years, for that ideal, I fight.