Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

By Christian G. Appy | Go to book overview
Save to active project

I should make it clear that while I have tried here. . . to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armiesface each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for our troops must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor. -- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 1967


7
A War for Nothing

For soldiers, war is a directly confronted reality, not a theoretical abstraction. Their primary concern is survival, not salvation. They value quick reaction over thoughtful reflection, and with good reason: in a war zone, philosophizing can be dangerous. A soldier pondering the meaning of his experience might not see the trip wire across the trail or the sapper crawling through the weeds, and the risks are psychological as well as physical. What happens to the mind of a soldier who constantly tabulates the dangers besetting him, or who cannot stop wondering whether he is fighting for a cause that is just or worthy of the sacrifices made and the lives lost? Those who dwell on such matters risk more than increased anxiety, doubt, frustration, and guilt; they court insanity. 1

Critical thought can also lead to various forms of dissent: desertion, rebellion, outright mutiny. Soldiers who question the meaning or purpose of the war they are ordered to fight might avoid combat, shirk their duties, or join with others to resist orders. However, dissent in the military has a high price. Even to question orders can lead to official reprimands and demotion in rank, and more serious challenges to authority risk court-martials and imprisonment. In addition to punishment, the military

-206-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 365

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?