This House Regrets The Glorification of Soldiers as Heroes

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Manya Gupta, WSDC 2019 Grand Final

Check the video here.


Opening

Fractured bones become fractured communities. When you can’t call out a soldier that sexually assaulted you in Iraq, can’t call out a general who may have ordered this as a war tactic

In a world where you think soldiers get everything right, that’s when everything starts to go wrong. Glorification of soldiers strikes at the most vulnerable.

We’re not willing to stand for that.

Stance

  1. Criteria of glorification
    1. Looking at soldiers as righteous and perfect
    2. Seeing them as heroic, brave, courageous unlike how you see other professions of people working hard
    3. Seeing as embodiment of nation, people you talk about when discuss what country means to you, the face of it
      Looks like massive award ceremonies, military parades, posters saying “serve your nation, this is how you save us all”
  2. Debate about narrative. Glorification is about simplification.
    Opposition can’t have a narrative that says some soldiers are glorified, some soldiers are not.
    Glorification is about a blanket narrative of what individuals in society believe and their instinctive response when hearing the name of a soldier
  3. Prop alternative is respect. The same kind of respect for a doctor working long hours in the ER, but you don’t glorify them. The same kind of respect for teachers and firefighters.

This isn’t a debate about whether soldiers deserve this or not. This is a debate about what the impacts of glorification are, on soldiers, on the wider society, on the most vulnerable.

Signpost

Three arguments from Prop.

  1. Worsening military tactics
  2. This hurts current and prospective soldiers
  3. Why this leads to toxic nationalism that worsens politics

Argument #1: Worsening military tactics

We’re going to talk about three different interventions in this argument.

  1. Humanitarian interventions
    • Notice that these are the only interventions that actually need people on the ground. Why is that the case? In order to deliver aid, in order to bring food packages, to rescue people from burning buildings, humanitarian interventions need soldiers on the ground.
    • In a world where soldiers are your heroes, when soldiers are the most important people in that country, one soldier from your nation can’t be weighed against black or brown people from around the developing world.
    • These kinds of interventions become much less likely. When images of bodybags become much more powerful for people, e.g. in Mogadishu, the intervention resulted in soldiers being hurt, the US stopped going to Rwanda.
    • The only kind of interventions that crucially need soldiers on the ground are the kind of interventions we decrease massively.
  2. Interventions in self-interest
    • Note these interventions don’t require people. You can act in your military self-interest by doing things like carrying out drone strikes in Syria. These are not interventions for which you need boots on the ground.
    • These interventions become more likely at the point soldiers, and in extension the military is glorified, as an actor which can do no wrong.
    • But even if in these kind of interventions, which are rarer but do occur anyways, if you do send soldiers, they act with more impunity.
    • They see themselves as people who cannot be hurt. When you go back to your nation, no matter what you do, flags will wait for you, people will be proud of you no matter what.
    • When you’re going to be seen as a hero no matter what you do, it’s easier for you to sexually assault someone. Easier for you to carry out a war crime. Easier for you to shoot someone without having to think twice about it, considering that you know no one will say anything. You’re still going to be the hero. You’re still going to be the soldier that was fighting for that country.
    • All of this means soldiers, in the interventions that they do, become more likely to act in ways which are damaging to people on the ground.
  3. Military action as a result of nationalistic fervor becomes worse
    • g. in a border skirmish between Eritrea and Ethiopia, if a few soldiers are hurt, retaliations become much more likely, in a way which is damaging to people on the ground.
    • What this means is that glorification leads to the worst in war.

On Prop we recognize there are different kinds of wars, but the glorification of soldiers hurts each and every kind.

Argument #2: Why this hurts soldiers

  • Most soldiers in SQ are the kind of people that are poor, uneducated.
  • Not necessarily people who think this is an option which is the best for them economically, but the kind of people who are coerced by governments under the saying that this is the only way to serve their community.

POI: What is the counterfactual when you don’t glorify them?

It’s likely to be respect, the same that we have for many other people of different professions that serve community function, but are seen as heroes.

Alright then. On hurting soldiers.

  • This glorification increases the ability of governments to coerce individuals in a few ways.
    • Increasing recruitment. When there is more political capital for increasing the number of soldiers, when you see these people as heroes and the only way to protect yourself, countries in themselves, want more and more soldiers.
    • More posters saying “join the military to save the country”. More and more people being pushed into joining the military, even though they had other options, like working at a local school or construction. All of these are going to be better than the military.
    • Family and community, because of seeing military parades, are forced into believing this is the only way their sons can bring glory to that nation.
  • Here’s why that’s bad. The military is in itself a bad employer and will always be so.
    • You have to do things like kill people. This isn’t something you need to do in any other profession. Being a soldier is difficult.
      We assume the next speaker is going to tell you more about the difficulties soldiers go through.
      That’s exactly why we don’t want more and more people, especially the most vulnerable, having to enter this industry in the first place.
    • Military get to justify incredibly harmful practices by saying this is training for the future. Even if your training means you’re living in terrible beds, you’re not getting fed properly, this is what wars are like. Don’t worry. That’ll be fine.
      Militaries often get away with terrible conditions.
  • We recognize that militaries are a necessary evil. That is not a reason to coerce more and more people into joining this institution, especially if they wouldn’t have chosen so otherwise.
    • But the glorification of soldiers also makes militaries much worse, because they get less and less accountable in a way which hurts these very soldiers themselves. It is harder for you as an individual soldier to call out abuses in the military to say, “This general did something damaging to me, I haven’t received proper food for a month,” at the point that soldiers are glorified.
      g. We’ve seen this in countries like India, when individual soldiers have spoken against military structures, but because of the glorification of soldiers, which often concentrates at the top, they are the ones who are punished in the first place. “If you are truly heroes, how dare you protest? If you are heroes, you shouldn’t bring shame to the institution of the military.”
    • This also allows the military to do things like set up independent structures, independent military tribunals, which means more people in the military get hurt. E.g. women in the military becoming less able to do things like report sexual assault.

Ending

The glorification of soldiers strikes at the most vulnerable. We oppose that.


Disclaimer

The transcript above is just a subjective interpretation of the author. It might not reflect the whole substantive of the original speaker