Sunday, February 06, 2005

Marquette and the Snipers -- Moral Philosophers or Liberal Weenies?

When Marquette University faced a firestorm of media controversy this past Wednesday, they were finally forced to offer a public explanation for their censorship of the College Republicans’ fundraiser supporting the “Adopt A Sniper” program.

The explanation they finally settled on focused on one single bit of merchandise sold by the sniper support organization: a “bracelet” with the inscription “1 Shot 1 Kill No Remorse I Decide.”

In fact, it was not a bracelet at all, but a set of dog tags. The fact that Marquette bureaucrats don’t know the difference is terribly revealing of the mentalities of the people involved. If there were actually veterans among the people who were faced with this decision, it might have turned out very differently.

But let’s take that phrase apart.

1 Shot 1 Kill

Snipers aspire to shoot accurately. Apparently, if they spewed rounds all around the countryside that would be alright with Marquette. But they aspire to -- and usually do -- hit the person they are shooting at.

Ironically, Catholic Just War Theory has always been concerned with the principle of “discrimination.” When one wages war, one must try to kill only combatants, and limit harm to innocent noncombatants. On this issue, Snipers fare far better than (say) B-1 bomber crews, or even ground troops engaged in tough house-to-house fighting.

No Remorse

Apparently, if snipers all went whining to therapists as soon as their tours of duty were up, Marquette would like them fine. But the motto is “no remorse.” If one’s actions are in fact moral, one should feel no remorse. Snipers have every right to accept the necessity and tactical legitimacy of what they do.

I Decide

The simple tactical reality is that Snipers do decide whom to shoot. That’s just the way it works. Marquette somehow wants to interpret this as a macho claim that “I can kill anybody I want.” But to do so is to demean the humanity and the professionalism of American snipers, who in fact pride themselves on their ability to take out high-value targets – an enemy sniper, or mortar crew, or terrorist waiting to ambush American troops.

Marquette’s attitude toward the snipers isn’t the result of taking Catholic moral philosophy seriously. It’s the result of the cultural biases of people who don’t particularly like or identify with this nation’s soldiers, people who oppose the war in Iraq, and who don’t much like Republicans either.


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