Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with what appears to be a crazy mixed up world. We have all been brought up to believe that it is wrong to kill. Most of us are Christians and have the fifth commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” firmly embedded in our minds. Most of us find the idea of war to be abhorrent. But most of us also realise that there have been occasions in history when good people have been unable to prevent war and have been confronted with the stark choice of fighting back or surrendering our freedom.
For that reason it is important to maintain a well trained and professional defence force. The irony, and the moral dilemma, of this is that for an army to be good at what it must do it is necessary to enlist people who are motivated to do what must be done. It means that we will have soldiers who want to fight. It means that you can’t escape the cruel logic that an army must have operational experience to maintain its capabilities. There is no substitute for experience. It also means that we as a society must be prepared to put those people in harm's way.
The report that Australian soldiers are ashamed to wear the uniform because they are not being sent on offensive operations is a sign of the strange times in which we live. Australians don’t want to see body bags coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we also want to have pride in the achievements of our men and women in uniform. It seems that our infantry forces have been trained for war, sent to a war zone, and then told to sit on the sideline, while others do the actual fighting. It’s the kind of paradox which seems to have some of our soldiers asking why they are there at all.
Strangely that’s the same question that many Australians are also asking, but in a totally different context.