Viewing a single comment thread. View all comments

autonomous_hippopotamus wrote

Being an effective military leader requires one to kill without hesitation or conscience, as well as handing out corporal punishment to ones own soldiers.

Any text on statecraft from Sun Tzu to the Indian Arthashatra, from the classic Greek and Roman writers to Machiavelli, pretty much everyone agrees that certain level of inhuman ruthlessness is a requirement for an effective military leader. This is as true with Caesor or Ghangis Kahn as with Makhno -- who personally supervised to execution of Anti-Semites and Counter Revolutionaries. Sun Tzu makes it explicit that one of the greatest flaws of a miitary commander is too much concern for loss of life or casualties.

We can talk about anti-authoritarian methods to organizing armed struggle, but even in the most federated libertarian militia you're going to need to recognize that war means ruthless violence without remorse, and often the best soldiers (and especially the best commanders) are amoral people with no conscience.


therealmidnite wrote

I had a much longer reply typed out before this site decided to kill it, so I'm just going to give you the short version - before accusing people of "amorality" or deciding what activities actually require said "amorality" (with nothing but baseless assumptions about what "amorality" actually means in the real world), perhaps it's best to actually know something about "amorality" in the first place? Because I've pored over every line in the various translations of "The Art Of War" far more than any other book - and I have yet to find one line in it that can be described as "amoral" (with the possible exception of some of the "notes" added by different observers throughout the centuries, of course).


autonomous_hippopotamus wrote

Please don't hesitate to make lengthy responses. I don't :)

On 'amorality' i don't think amorality is particularly bad in every context. considering a lot of morality is religious bullsit, I hope that point doesn't need elaboration. But i mean here amorality in the sense of being able to kill without remorse or do things that in any other context would be considered a grave crime. It's extremely difficult for most people to consciously kill anyone, under any context--this is why military training involves so much indoctrination--even in the u.s. military most soldiers don't shoot to kill during combat. Most people puke or have some violent reaction the first time they kill another person and are haunted by guilt for the rest of their lives. A military leader must make decisions that kill thousands of people, this requires an extreme level of callousness.

The Art of War is one of my favorite books as well. but i disagree. It might not seem like it because the text is written in an abstract tone (common to military literature) but Sun Tzu advocates some pretty monstrous things.

For example, Sun Tzu says when you are behind enemy lines you should "forage" from the enemy. Does he mean you should pick from your enemies' blueberry bushes? Yes, and also you should rob the local farmers and loot their food supplies, or even burn the fields and store houses, in the process killing or leaving innocent people to starve.

Sun Tzu says we should avoid strong targets and attack the enemies weak points. Weak points also include what today are called 'soft targets' i.e. civilians, civil infrastructure etc. This is not unique to Sun Tzu, this is the logic of armed struggle.

Sun Tzu says one of the "dangerous faults which may affect a general" are "over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble."

What does that mean? It means that the general should be not be concerned with casualties outside of the strategy goal. Human life has no value as such. If 70% your people die in an attack which achieves a strategic goal, then it was worth it. An effective general does not let casualties effect them emotionally. Causalities, whether military or civilian, are secondary to the overall strategic objective: victory. In military logic, things like freedom, happiness, consent, etc. mean nothing, Human life is disposable, something to be gambled with. The end always justifies the means ( and for Sun Tzu the end is the preservation and expansion of rule of a monarch.)

And of course, Sun Tzu's whole thesis is about Deception--deceiving not only the enemy, but your own men or even the general public, creating an intricate networks of spies, spreading fake information, etc. Espionage is a science of applied amorality. Sun Tzu even advocates the use of the "Doomed Spy" who is a poor sap who is fed false information, then put in a situation where they will be captured and then tortured or possibly killed in order to mislead the enemy.

So idk The Art of War is pretty amoral imo


retiredaccount wrote

Being an effective military leader requires one to kill without hesitation or conscience, as well as handing out corporal punishment to ones own soldiers.

Not at all. Nestor Makhno was able to lead; the only direct punishment he ever granted was to the worst of scum, those who hurt civilians and lead pogroms but for the mostpart the army was run with only minimal discipline and maximum horizontal organization, with Makhno's role being only the strategy being implemented on a large scale, with everything else being on a smaller scale lead by many, many officers and their own divisions and brigades and such, all effective themselves. Being an effective commander doesn't require any of that except the will to kill without hesitation; and I am willing to say there is no need to hesitate. Makhno, who's writings I have read many times, had both strong morals and a conscience that held him hard. He found no reason not to kill the foreign imperialists of the Germans, the racist forces of Deniikin, or the Free Cossacks known for themselves implementing pogroms routinely. And I can't imagine a reason not to either, my own conscience and morals tell me they are just as scum as they sound.


autonomous_hippopotamus wrote

None of those things -- assuming Makhno was a great as you seem to think he was -- disprove my point. Makhno indeed strongly discouraged antisemitism in his ranks, while there was rampant anti-semitism in among ukranians and other people's in the region, the anarchists were militantly opposed to this. Makhno was no Saint, but as far as guerilla leaders go was no tyrant either, But my point is, what separates him (and other military leaders) from regular people is a certain ruthlessness, a moral certainty that allows one to kill or assault without hesitation or regret, that most people simply do not have.

I think it's best not to romanticize Makno or war in general, the idea you can engage in armed conflict without also comitting some act of brutality in the process seems incredibly naive to me. When military leaders talk about morals, they have a very different morality than what most people have, any u.s. general or jihadist will explain their acts in extremely moral terms why their actions are absolutely right: they position themselves as a kind of super-moral agent. Anarchists are often no different than any fanatic in this regard, if you believe your violence will bring about the liberation of all humanity you can rationalize some pretty monstrous things.

Just saying everyone that Makhno killed are scum and deserved to die is really a cop-out, a move to avoid the ethical question here. This is common to all military logic: the dehumanization of the enemy. If you look at the armies makno faught -- either Russians; red or white, or the forieng fighters from Germany or elsewhere, a large percent if not majority of them were conscripts: it was not their choice to be there, a conscript fights against their will. You can't just say they were scum who deserved to die. As individuals they may have been descent people. Hell, many of the red army that drove were working class revolutionaries maybe anarchists at one point.

Makhno's older comrades in the early 1900s engaged in a campaign of terrorist bombings hroughout Russia: bombing private residencies and bourgous cafes. I'm sure you're not defending that, as it was not only morally dubious but strategically a disaster for the movement. If you were to defend that you would also have to defend bombing gentrifying businesses today. But many anarchists have defended that, then and now, it is end result of a kind of absolutist moralizing where you deny the humanity of whole groups of people.