From “A Journey That Ended in Anguish,” an article appearing today in the Los Angeles Times, written by T. Christian Miller, about a soldier who apparently committed suicide this past summer:
‘I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. Death before being dishonored any more.‘
— From a note found near Ted Westhusing’s body
“Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army‘s leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor. “
I’m not sure which is more problematic, a philosophy professor committing suicide or a military officer committing suicide. We could speculate that his education in philosophy contributed to his depression, or that his military idealization of honor contributed to it, or both. Apparently, both together didn’t help him.
Either way, I don’t accept the claim of “moral clarity” with regard to fighting in Iraq. Sometimes fighting seems to have a very clear moral quality, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we do it anyway. Does everything have to have a clear moral justification before we do it? Sometimes fighting is the right thing to do, whether it’s justified by moral reasoning or not. Sometimes our feelings of revulsion overwhelm our ideals, and fighting doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore.
I think Westhusing’s story is a lesson for all the armchair philosophers who don’t know anything about war. I’m talking about both the chickenhawks and the liberal antiwar activists. Y’all don’t know what you would do if you’ve never been there, so maybe you should stop and think before you beat on each other. Maybe you’re both wrong, like a couple of spoiled children arguing over something that doesn’t belong to either one.