Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

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Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby Luke » Thu Dec 02, 2010 4:42 pm

I have never been in the military, and I have no interest in joining the military, but I have always admired the physical and mental skills of elite soldiers.

I know that Buddhism will generally say that being in the military is a negative thing, but I think there are some ethical jobs within the military (generally, the medical and rescue jobs).

One that comes to my mind is the US Air Force Pararescue unit. They are basically a unit of highly-trained medics with some special operations training.

Their motto sounds quite Buddhist:
It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Sta ... Pararescue

On the pararescue.com website their mission goals are said to be the following:
* Emergency medical treatment to save lives
* Search and Rescue operations
* Recovery of downed aircrews and aerospace hardware
* NASA Space Shuttle Launch Rescue Support
* Special Tactics in support of Interservice Special Operations

http://www.pararescue.com/overview.aspx

One of these mission goals which I think may sometimes be unethical is "recovery of aerospace hardware." If these men sometimes have to kill people to recover components from downed classified aircraft, then that doesn't seem ethical. However, I'm not too familiar with this military unit, so I'm only speculating. Their primary mission does seem to be rescuing people, however.

Also, "special tactics in support of Interservice Special Operations" might sometimes mean fighting like a soldier, so the job also has its downsides from an ethical standpoint, but I think it's far more ethical than a 100% combat job. These guys often save people who would not have been saved otherwise.

Edit:
Anyway, which military jobs do you think are less unethical than the others?
Last edited by Luke on Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Chaz » Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:16 pm

Luke wrote:Anyway, what do you think are the most ethical jobs in the military?



Chaplains and medics.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby plwk » Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:18 pm

Don't forget the good ole janitor...
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Luke » Sat Dec 04, 2010 10:41 pm

plwk wrote:Don't forget the good ole janitor...

...or the cooks!
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However, the military certainly isn't vegetarian, so it's possible that sometimes a military cook may have to do butcher-like things, so perhaps that would create bad karma.

Make cakes not war!
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http://www.army.mod.uk/news/22589.aspx
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Dec 04, 2010 10:47 pm

No offense to the poster but one comment brought up some memories of music of years ago...



I have no offense also to those who do military service, certainly it is needed in many circumstances of life.
I am certainly glad however I do not have to so participate, and advocate against participation if one may avoid such circumstance. It is quite a unfortunate circumstance to be in.

Personally I'd advoate for the intelligence services. Like PFC Bradley Manning in this age of empire one person may make a significant difference in things if not nationally locally, globally.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Luke » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:56 am

ronnewmexico wrote:Personally I'd advoate for the intelligence services. Like PFC Bradley Manning in this age of empire one person may make a significant difference in things if not nationally locally, globally.

But intelligence officers usually interrogate prisoners and may use torture on them (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.). I don't think it's possible for an ethical person to be an intelligence officer in the military over a long period of time. Most ethical people would probably quit the job once they see what's actually going on.

Psychological warfare is all about deception and that creates bad karma.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:08 am

Chaz wrote:
Luke wrote:Anyway, what do you think are the most ethical jobs in the military?



Chaplains and medics.



Regards "chaplains", it would seem at first that they are perhaps quite ethical, but I've heard too many stories of how these types end up being used for propaganda purposes, the kind of "God is on our side! God says to kill the enemy, for they are Evil!", to really believe this. In many ways, because this stance combines wrong views with the negative acts, it is even more pernicious.

It is interesting to note that although there are now Buddhist chaplains, the Buddha himself made Vinaya rules to prevent association of the bhiksu/nis with the army. Almost any association is suggestive of support and condoning of such a profession.

And for similar reasons, such as the Buddha disapproving of a bhiksu who told an executioner how to "kill quickly, with less pain" - which is still to condone the act of killing, this is why as a bhiksu, I shall refrain from commenting on "which are most ethical".

Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:28 am

To backround a bit...each military branch of the US had chaplins assigned to it in various capacities back in the day.
These chaplins had various nicknames in slang terminology within the services they represented.
The term sky pilot was most commonly used as the slang term for chaplin in the airforce.

As to intelligence services doing torture....I'd beg to differ. Involved perhaps, but each military branch in the US also has a intelligence division. These divisions are seperate from operations of the CIA and any other services which may employ torture and such to retrieve information.
Intelligence services of the military are mainly concerned with tactical operation influencial factors and things of that nature, not torture.

There are literally thousands upon thousands employeed as intellgence officers in varying capacities. The chance of one being involved in torture is probably about the same as any other officer in any other division being involved...very rare.

Spook operations under the behest of the CIA are not military intelligence officers nor do usually involve that aspect of government. The general military has rules of operation which prohibit torture though they may be ordered to do so, it is at the inspiration and direction of nonmilitary or CIA (to my personal opinion).

Those that performed torture at ABu Grab....ordinary soldiers, not intelligence officers.
Guantanamo, hard to say but a mix seems so with direction of operations by CIA not military intelligence.

To my again personal opinion...those that tortured now finding the way of things firmly against torture at present attempt by varying means to wipe the ass of torture and its evidence with the military. Though civilian inspired (Donald Rumsfield and others) and civilian directed(by civilian psychologists like as not) they claim it has military inspiration and direction. The american military for military purpose has always strongly advocated against torture. In a military sense it makes no sense. It makes sense only to civilian political idiots and the minions, those civiliarn incompetants, those of the CIA... like as not.. People who know nothing of wars but like to think they do.
Last edited by ronnewmexico on Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:35 am

Huifeng wrote:Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?


Venerable, if a military asked you to teach soldiers meditation and only meditation, would you accept the offer?

I was thinking about this recently and it poses an interesting ethical question.

On one hand they're people would could benefit from meditation and suffer less as a result, but on the other meditation being a neutral tool it could be used to train a person to be a more effective killer.

As a bhiksu, is there any regulation preventing you from accepting an invitation to teach soldiers meditation (but not dharma)?
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Dec 05, 2010 2:37 am

Huseng

This has already been done in certain special forces.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:46 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?


Venerable, if a military asked you to teach soldiers meditation and only meditation, would you accept the offer?

I was thinking about this recently and it poses an interesting ethical question.

On one hand they're people would could benefit from meditation and suffer less as a result, but on the other meditation being a neutral tool it could be used to train a person to be a more effective killer.

As a bhiksu, is there any regulation preventing you from accepting an invitation to teach soldiers meditation (but not dharma)?


Hi Jeff,

One of those big hypothetical "if" questions, but anyway! :smile:
Which "a military" would that be?

To me, there is no meditation outside of Dharma, because it is for the removal of afflictions.
Though it is always possible to teach without mention of "Buddhism", for sure.

Maybe I would take the opportunity, and teach them "exchange of self and others", so that they could see that all the justifications that they use to fight, "they are attacking our families, they are destroying our religion, they are evil and lie!", are precisely the same things that the so-called "enemy" is saying about them!

And then, chased by a bunch of MPs, quickly make my escape, never to be invited back again! :tongue:

Let's talk about right livelihood before we talk about right meditation. :smile:
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Luke » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:43 pm

Huifeng wrote:Maybe I would take the opportunity, and teach them "exchange of self and others", so that they could see that all the justifications that they use to fight, "they are attacking our families, they are destroying our religion, they are evil and lie!", are precisely the same things that the so-called "enemy" is saying about them!

I didn't know that "exchange of self and others" was a general Mahayana meditation. Previously, I thought it was only Tibetan Buddhists who did it. I've never heard it mentioned in any Zen books I've read.

Huifeng wrote:And then, chased by a bunch of MPs, quickly make my escape, never to be invited back again! :tongue:

Let's talk about right livelihood before we talk about right meditation. :smile:

Yay! Fight the power, Ven. Huifeng! :applause:
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Luke » Sun Dec 05, 2010 4:46 pm

Huifeng wrote:And for similar reasons, such as the Buddha disapproving of a bhiksu who told an executioner how to "kill quickly, with less pain" - which is still to condone the act of killing, this is why as a bhiksu, I shall refrain from commenting on "which are most ethical".

Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?

I understand, Ven. Huifeng.

Okay, then let's change the question to "Which military jobs are less unethical?"
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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby Nirveda » Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:46 am

Check out this movie: The Conscientious Objector

It's about Desmond Doss, a World War II vet who was the only C.O. to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in history. Out of religious principles, he refused to carry a weapon or kill, so he became a medic. He suffered all kinds of abuse for this choice, but he persisted and ended up gaining the respect and even saving the lives of many who derided him. He's a bodhisattva if I ever saw one.

http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Conscientious_Objector/70075527?trkid=2361637#height1341


Regarding chaplains in the military, part of their job is to provide counseling to soldiers who have any crisis of conscience in killing. The majority of soldiers are Christian (about 75% http://www.prb.org/pdf04/59.4AmericanMilitary.pdf), so many naturally have problems with "thou shalt not kill." A journalist named Dan Baum interviewed an Army chaplain and asked if there was any conflict between killing in combat and the Ten Commandments. The chaplain replied that the original Hebrew word used was ratzach, which translates as “murder,” not “killing.” The chaplain further added that "The Old Testament is full of killing and war." So this guy's job was to find a religious loophole to justify killing.

Baum, D. (2004). The price of valor. The New Yorker. July 12.
Read at: http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/library/valour.htm
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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby lukejmo » Sat May 21, 2011 10:37 am

I realize I'm a little late to this thread, but I'd just like to add some context to this discussion from a different point of departure. I'm a US Marine, having joined years before I found out about Buddhism. I have less than a year left on my contract and it looks like I won't have to deploy, fortunately. Obviously, that killing is against the precepts, period, is not something I'm debating. As ronnewmexico said, it's an unfortunate circumstance to be in.
ronnewmexico wrote:But intelligence officers usually interrogate prisoners and may use torture on them (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.). I don't think it's possible for an ethical person to be an intelligence officer in the military over a long period of time. Most ethical people would probably quit the job once they see what's actually going on.

Psychological warfare is all about deception and that creates bad karma.


Harsh interrogation methods and torture are generally considered to be poor methods of intelligence gathering. If you look at those particularly heinous examples you just mentioned, you'll find that the crimes at Abu Ghraib can mainly be attributed to a poor command climate that allowed military police to run wild (not intelligence, MP) and that a lot of the ridiculousness at Guantanamo has little to do with the military and a lot to do with civilian leadership. Waterboarding, etc. originated at the top with Rumsfeld and his crew, and while that doesn't justify those who carried it out, ultimately it came from Washington bureaucrats. Most intelligence activity is sitting in a room with no windows, staring at maps and listening in to radio signals.

Huifeng wrote:Regards "chaplains", it would seem at first that they are perhaps quite ethical, but I've heard too many stories of how these types end up being used for propaganda purposes, the kind of "God is on our side! God says to kill the enemy, for they are Evil!", to really believe this. In many ways, because this stance combines wrong views with the negative acts, it is even more pernicious.

It is interesting to note that although there are now Buddhist chaplains, the Buddha himself made Vinaya rules to prevent association of the bhiksu/nis with the army. Almost any association is suggestive of support and condoning of such a profession.

And for similar reasons, such as the Buddha disapproving of a bhiksu who told an executioner how to "kill quickly, with less pain" - which is still to condone the act of killing, this is why as a bhiksu, I shall refrain from commenting on "which are most ethical".

Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?


Ven. Huifeng, I'm curious, when/where exactly did you hear these stories? I'm sure there must have been a lot of that in the past, and of course many religious groups still encourage violence against their perceived enemies. But do you get the impression that this is common in modern professional militaries? I can say from my experience, never, not once, have I ever heard a chaplain encourage this kind of thinking. Chaplains aren't given a soapbox to rally the troops in the name of God, most of their work is dealing with personal issues and leading services for their respective faiths. I'm sure chaplains do get a lot of people questioning whether killing is justified, and I'm sure many if not most will talk about "just war" and such. But, in my personal experience, the chaplains I've talked to generally prefer to not "tell you what to think" and will approach the question with due humility.

Huseng wrote:
Venerable, if a military asked you to teach soldiers meditation and only meditation, would you accept the offer?

I was thinking about this recently and it poses an interesting ethical question.

On one hand they're people would could benefit from meditation and suffer less as a result, but on the other meditation being a neutral tool it could be used to train a person to be a more effective killer.

As a bhiksu, is there any regulation preventing you from accepting an invitation to teach soldiers meditation (but not dharma)?


I think this is an unrealistic distinction. In reality, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to do an introductory type lecture that emphasizes meditation anyway? You know, "So, here's how you sit, this is how you meditate in Buddhism, here's why Buddhists do what we do, 4NT, I have some literature on that table over there, any questions?" I'm no dharma teacher, so correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, if you got invited to talk to a bunch of gun store owners or something, would you rush in and start doing this gesture? :rules:

I can't imagine how meditation would make you a better killer. Combat effectiveness is something you develop in a team, through muscle memory. Combat training is all about developing split-second instincts, deep in that animal brain, not the prefrontal cortex. Also, your statement would imply that great yogins and meditation masters are the most effective combat force known to man. :P
Huifeng wrote:the justifications that they use to fight, "they are attacking our families, they are destroying our religion, they are evil and lie!", are precisely the same things that the so-called "enemy" is saying about them!


??? If you're saying that the military (US military in particular) is full of Islamophobia, that may have been true in 2003 or so. But, do you really think someone who spends 3 or 4 years working in Afghanistan and Iraq, training their forces, working alongside them, protecting their villages, will have such a naive understanding? Again, I'm not saying there isn't chauvinism in the military, but I think you're underestimating the ability of people to see the political reality they're mired in, pick up a newspaper, etc.

I'll just put it out there, I'm honestly thinking about becoming a chaplain in the future. I see a lot of decent, intelligent people in the military who are searching for answers, and for a way to balance their minds. I can only imagine that a military without good chaplains would be more violent and more prone to Abu Ghraib type events. So I guess you could say this post is me thinking out loud, against my own nagging doubts about chaplaincy, which are pretty much what you have all been saying.

So, please, dissuade me from chaplaincy! Tell me I'm wrong. :popcorn:
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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 21, 2011 1:25 pm

lukejmo wrote:
I can't imagine how meditation would make you a better killer.



It makes you more relaxed over all and better able to handle intense stress, for example, fire fights.

, your statement would imply that great yogins and meditation masters are the most effective combat force known to man.


Zen practice and Samurai culture in Japan were closely interlinked.



Huifeng wrote:
So, please, dissuade me from chaplaincy! Tell me I'm wrong. :popcorn:


The main point is whether you actually agree with the goals that a military force has in mind. From a Buddhist POV, if you do, you share in all the negative actions of the whole army. This is very well detailed in the karma chapter in the Abhidharmakoshabhasyam.

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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby Will » Sat May 21, 2011 5:38 pm

Direct killing is only done by a tiny percentage of the military. Even then, if the military mission is thought of as protective, or removing fear from non-combatants, then it is OK. If one glories in the blood of the enemy and oozes hatred for them, then much bad karma. But that attitude can be found among civilians - as much or more so than among the professional military.
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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat May 21, 2011 9:21 pm

Image

The U.S. Coast Guard has search and rescue as one of its primary missions.
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Re: Military jobs: Which are less unethical?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun May 22, 2011 2:02 am

Coast guards nice.
Keep in mind however depending upon political agenda in Wash they may be involved to differing degrees in the drug war.
Which many have moral objection to.

As regards meditation....calm mind meditation certainly has military application and to my knowledge already as of years ago found application in a military context. And perhaps, as mentioned,.... in the past being a tool of certain asian militaries and warriors.
MUshashi(the greatest japanese samuri) by some stories had relatedness to meditation and meditative capacity.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: The most ethical military jobs?

Postby Silent Bob » Sun May 22, 2011 2:30 am

Luke wrote:
ronnewmexico wrote:Personally I'd advoate for the intelligence services. Like PFC Bradley Manning in this age of empire one person may make a significant difference in things if not nationally locally, globally.

But intelligence officers usually interrogate prisoners and may use torture on them (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.). I don't think it's possible for an ethical person to be an intelligence officer in the military over a long period of time. Most ethical people would probably quit the job once they see what's actually going on.

Psychological warfare is all about deception and that creates bad karma.


This POV is stereotyped and entirely mistaken: in the distant past I spent 8 years working in both Psychological Operations and Intelligence and not only did I never torture anyone (though I might have enjoyed the fantasy of 'ringing up' some of my superiors), but PsyOps is considered a "force multiplier" and is intended to minimize casualties, friendly, opposition and civilian. Moreover, PsyOps doctrine has always been that truth is FAR more persuasive than deception and the facts will usually speak for themselves quite eloquently.

People with no first-hand experience of the military would do well to refrain from silly speculation about it.

Chris
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