Saturday, October 17, 2015

Can our President be a pacifist?

The other day, I posted this news article on Facebook about a potential policy change to the Selective Service.  There may come a day when women will have to register for the military "draft" system.   Personally, I don't think this is a bad idea.  Plenty of women have served in the military and if we absolutely have to have "selective service", I don't see why women shouldn't be called upon if men are.  However, I think the draft is overall a bad idea because not everyone is suitable for military service.  Bill would be the first to tell you that people who actually want to be in the military are the best candidates for service.  Those people are the safest to serve with because most of them are committed to the job and willing to do it right.

One of my Facebook friends commented that she thinks the President should be required to serve in the military before being elected.  I happen to agree with her because part of the president's job is to lead the military.  If part of what you're doing involves potentially sending people off to war, you should have some appreciation for what that will mean for them.  Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people who want to be President, military service is beneath them.  They are usually too busy in an ivory tower earning credentials or rubbing elbows with influential people who will get them votes.  So their minds aren't on the military or the men and women who are sent into harm's way.  They know little about military service, at least from a personal standpoint.

I have another friend who is a devoted pacifist.  She disagreed that presidents should have to serve in the military because "I think that would eliminate a lot of people who don't join the military because they value human life. And that would be a waste."

I was pretty dumbfounded by that statement.  Of course people in the military value human life!  In fact, I can't think of anyone who dislikes war more than the men and women who have to go to war.  But she continued...

"...some people don't join the military because they're pacifists. Those people obviously value human life and understand the value of human life but they aren't going to join an organization where they have to be willing to take a human life when ordered to."

Okay.... that's fine.  But how can you lead the military as President of the United States if you are a pacifist and are unable to join an organization where you might have to take a life?  Part of the President's job is to make tough decisions on military action, with help from military leaders, of course.  If you are unable to put people's lives in danger, hopefully for the common good, how can you be the President?

This was my last comment...

"I don't see how on earth a person could hope to be President if he or she is a pacifist not willing to take human lives. Unfortunately, that is part of the job. The President is the commander in chief of the entire military; therefore he or she has to be willing to lead the military. Moreover, I don't think anyone hates war more than people in the military."

I notice this morning that my Facebook friend has written this...

"I just had someone literally tell me: "If you don't like killing people then you aren't qualified to lead."

I can't even process a comment that... disturbing."

Now... I don't know if she was referencing our conversation.  If she was, I would like to point out that I'm being mis-referenced.  I said nothing at all about the President "liking killing".  That's like saying someone who is pro-choice "likes abortions".  What I am saying is that if you are the President of the United States, you must lead the military.  Sometimes the military is involved in work that involves killing.  It is what it is. 

The vast majority of people in the military do not enjoy killing or hurting people.  But it's part of the job.  And if you, as President, can't stomach the idea of leading them in that work if it might involve bloodshed, it's not likely that you will be a successful United States President.  That policy might work if you were leading a country like Switzerland, but it won't work for the United States because our country has too many enemies and there are too many people out there who hate the American way of life and want to see it destroyed.

A person who is a complete pacifist running the country is a nice idea; but it's not realistic.  Or, at least I don't think it is.  But just because I don't think it's realistic, that doesn't mean I think the United States President has to "like killing people".  In fact, I think a president who has actual military service might have more empathy and heart for those who do choose to don the uniform.  Maybe he or she will think more than twice about sending those people into a war zone if he or she has personal experience of being in one.

This particular Facebook friend has made a number of derogatory statements about the military.  When I have called her on them, she usually claims that she has military family members and she "supports the troops".  But then she makes comments about how the military is just about killing people.  That just isn't true.  In thirty years of service, my husband never once killed anyone.  In fact, much of his work is devoted to developing cooperations between militaries in other countries.  Yes, there are plenty of servicemembers who go to war and fight.  However, there are also people who work in areas that involve peacemaking and peacekeeping.  That is pretty much what my husband's work has been since our first tour in Germany back in 2007.

Moreover, there are other jobs that involve being willing to take human life.  What about police officers?  What about people who work for Central Intelligence Agency?   How about the people involved with executions?  Yes, that's right.  The government is full of jobs requiring people to be ready and able to kill if they have to.  Do these people enjoy their jobs?  I don't know.  I'd like to think that most of them like what they do.  I'd also like to think that killing people is a very minor part of their work.  But if the President is ultimately in charge of leading all these folks in government service who have to be ready to kill, then he or she can't be a pacifist.  At least not in my opinion.   


  1. I think it would be ideal if the military were to be led by a commander-in-chief who knew firsthand of the hardships of waging war, but I couldn't necessarily vote for a candidate on that qualification alone.

    I would hope that anyone who serves as president would see peace as the ideal, but a president who will not go to war no matter what the cause or provocation would not seem to be the answer to anything. I would think putting an outright pacifist in the job would be dangerous for all of us. While not every cause for which our nation has gone to war was necessarily just, I hate to think of how the Hitler fiasco might have ended up if the White House had been occupied by a complete and total pacifist.

    1. Yeah. You pretty much sum up how i feel. I don't like war. None of the military folks I know are fans of war. But it's part of the job.


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