Soldier v. Warrior

No, it’s not a new video game or action movie. It’s a transition in the basic philosophy of the U.S. military.

Until 2003, the U.S. Army had the following “Soldier’s Creed”:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a member of the United States Army — a protector of the greatest nation on earth.
Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation it is sworn to guard.
I am proud of my own organization. I will do all I can to make it the finest unit in the Army.
I will be loyal to those under whom I serve. I will do my full part to carry out orders and instructions given to me or my unit.
As a soldier, I realize that I am a member of a time-honored profession–that I am doing my share to keep alive the principles of freedom for which my country stands.
No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything, for pleasure, profit, or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit, or my country.
I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions disgraceful to themselves and to the uniform.
I am proud of my country and its flag.
I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent, for I am an American Soldier.

In 2003 a new “Warrior’s Creed” was adopted to replace the old “Soldier’s Creed”:

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,
Trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

I see a not-so-subtle shift in the desired mindset of Army personnel. The Army calls it a “Warrior Ethos” which is represented by the lines “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

I see a problem with this, encapsulated in the transition from the word “soldier” to the word “warrior.” To me a solider is a duty-bound citizen, reluctantly defending his people (perhaps a romanticized view). A warrior is a killing-machine, a mercenary.

I don’t know what demanded this official change in the Army. I don’t know if the Army saw too many soldiers thinking for themselves and questioning superiors and their motives. But it’s disturbing to me that the people who are risking the most to defend the principles for which America stands are having those same principles denied them to an inordinate degree. I know that a military must be organized and disciplined, otherwise it would not be as effective in killing and destroying as it must be to fulfill its raison d’être. But there must be other ways to command discipline.

I think the new warrior ethos in the military repudiates humility and moral purpose, a consciousness that must accompany a soldier if he is not to go crazy as his conscience rebels against his duty. I think this is part of the reason we see more depression, suicides, PTSD, etc. in soldiers returning from Iraq than we did in those who returned from WWII.

I’m not a very good Christian Anarchist in that I think that war is occasionally (rarely) justifiable. But if my sons have to go to war some day, I want them to go as soldiers, not as warriors.


Dustin says:

Soldier, warrior, whatever. It’s a marketing scheme at best. The boots on the ground tend to be 18-22 years old, not typically the ones with the ability to think critically about the conflicts that they are engaged in. That’s what the officer corp is for.

As for the Iraq/WWII comparison, I believe that is more a product of the type of battles we fight today versus 60-some years ago. Our opponent is no longer a nation from which we can expect compliance to the rules of war. Different wars, not “soldier” vs. “warrior,” are what bring our troops home with more issues.

Then again, perhaps we had similar rates of depression, et al after WWII and it’s just a better media that highlights all of these issues today.

Centrist says:

Dustin, thanks for your comment. Part of it reinforces the twisted nature of the situation. Bringing “marketing” into a decision that should be based on morality, duty, love of country, an appreciation for life and death, and a personal decision on what’s worth killing for cheapens the military. Is it just another opportunistic American corporation doing what it must to stay afloat?

And the fact that we don’t expect our 18-22 year-olds with the power to kill in their hands to think scares me. So the military is using glitzy, romanticized marketing to attract people who won’t think and question? Do we as Americans want this?

I agree that the battle where the enemy doesn’t wear a uniform is more prone to cause psychological problems. But I also think that beyond that, trying to dehumanize a human opponent messes with the fundamental moorings of mind and spirit.

“Doctor, my eyes / Cannot see the sky / Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry?”

Centrist says:

One more comment on this: did no one proofread this Warrior’s Creed? “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States….” Am I deploying the enemies? Or am I only engaging and destroying them? Or is engage being used as an intransitive verb here? How about “”I stand ready to deploy and to engage and destroy the enemies of the United States….”

Just a bur under the saddle of a grammar policeman.

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