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The Vietnam War And The Ten Commandments

Vasily Vereshchagin. The Apotheosis of War.
Dulce bellum inexpertis.
(Vasily Vereshchagin. The Apotheosis of War. Source)

1) Introduction

Isn't it profoundly silly to talk about the Ten Commandments in the same sentence as the Vietnam War? Isn't war by definition bad? Even if just wars were possible, why mix in religion? How could military success depend on the Bible, and not just strategy, tactics, technology and money?

In this text, I'll assume the following:

- Just wars are at least theoretically possible (See among others CCC, #2309).

- The case of unjust wars is not dealt with here.

- The Ten Commandments are not purely a question of religion.

I'll therefore concentrate on explaining why I think military success depends on respect of the Ten Commandments (in addition to strategy, tactics, technology, money, etc).

2) Mechanical Termites

A "Mechanical Termite" is a soldier who doesn't respect the Seventh Commandment, by damaging Government property ("Thou shalt not steal" [Ex 20:15], and CCC, #2409).

Fundamentally, mechanical devices are easier to break than to fix or rebuild. Careless use or improper maintenance can make any mechanical device unusable (including weapons).

Even if 99% of soldiers in a unit respect Government property, a few Mechanical Termites can destroy equipment faster than any military logistics system can repair or replace them.

Just to give an idea, let's follow a Mechanical Termite for a few minutes. First, he leans his sniper rifle up against a wall (instead of making the effort of setting it down gently on the ground). The rifle falls, and damages the aiming scope. Then our termite pours himself some water out of the large platoon water container, but looses the washer from the cap (so the water will quietly drain out when the container tips in the truck later on). Then our termite gets into a truck and drives too fast over an obstacle, bending the suspension. As you can imagine, even a few Mechanical Termites can quickly destroy a whole army from the inside.

3) Racists

Racism is a form of idolatry, condemned by the First Commandment ("Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God" [Ex 20:2-5], and CCC, #2113).

One of the quickest and surest recipes for military failure is to assume the enemy is somehow intrinsically inferior. Once a group of soldiers begins to think that somehow their "race" is superior, then they start to believe the enemy is composed of "gooks" or "ragheads" (derogatory terms used by some soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq). And once you begin to underestimate the enemy, defeat is usually close behind.

4) Insolents

An army is not essentially a material being, but a moral being. To understand how a "moral being" is kept "alive", imagine a rowboat with a slightly leaky hull: the only thing that would keep that rowboat afloat would be constant bailing (scooping water out with a container). If you stop bailing, the whole thing will sink.

It's a bit the same thing for moral beings. They are kept alive by constant acts of the will by all of its members. In an army, this means soldiers must want to submit themselves to their Commander. They must want to participate in the realization of the Commander's war plan.

Disrespect for officers is condemned by the Fourth Commandment ("Honor thy Father and Mother" [Ex 20:12], CCC, #2239).

History students will probably be able to remember many examples of officers in Vietnam being not only despised, but even threatened by their own men. Once such a mentality takes hold of a military unit, the "rowboat" starts to sink.

5) Murderers

Only misinformed "pacifists" believe that all soldiers are murderers. But only misinformed warmongers believe that only enemy soldiers can commit murder. In fact, our soldiers can commit murder in many ways: by killing innocent civilians deliberately or because of carelessness, or by killing enemy soldiers who surrender, or my "mercy killing" seriously wounded persons, etc.

Murder is condemned by the Fifth Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill" [Ex 20:13], and CCC, #2312-2314).

No army can oppress a whole people forever. Sooner or later, if most civilians are against you, you will be driven out. And if you kill enough innocent civilians and disarmed enemy soldiers, you can quickly turn a whole country against you.

6) Liars

Lying is condemned by the Eigth Commandment ("thou shalt not bear false witness" [Ex 20:16], and CCC, #2494, etc.).

Soldiers (and their families back home) need to hear the truth about the current military situation (no matter how negative it is), as well as the truth concerning the political events which lead to the war they are asked to fight in. If the Government or the officers tell lies, the whole army will be quickly demoralized.

7) Sex Addicts

Pornography, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, etc., are all offenses against the Sixth Commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery" [Ex 20:14], and CCC, #2351-2359).

Before the invention of antibiotics, some historians say that some wars litterally had more casualties because of veneral diseases than actual combat. But even today, disrespect for the Sixth Commandment can cause great harm to any army.

To begin with, rape and prostitution will greatly contribute to turning the local civilians against you (see also #5 above). Adultery is an easy way to destroy the morale of families back home, which is in turn an excellent way of destroying the morale of the fathers of those families who are supposed to be fighting a war. But even pornography and masturbation will get you in military trouble. After all, chastity is all about self-mastery. To acquire chastity, you have to "fight against yourself", and win. And what happens if you're not your own master? Can you say: "Coward"? When the shooting starts, if you're not an expert at obeying your own orders, chances are you'll run away.

8) Conclusion

During the Vietnam war, the US military used many helicopters, mostly one called a "Huey". At the very top of the Huey, holding everything together, was a mechanical fastener, a big metal nut. Because of its importance, soldiers checked it regularly, to make sure it was tight and not cracked. Since failure of that nut meant a certain crash, many soldiers nicknamed it "The Jesus Nut".

In a way, even whole armies have a "Jesus Nut": it's the Ten Commandments. If your "Jesus Nut" fails, you will lose the war, every time.

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