Friday, June 1, 2012

Freedom + Military = A Bad (American) Syllogism

I'm a bit late posting this since Memorial Day was this past Monday, but I haven't been around a computer for a week. Over the holiday weekend I heard and read a lot of pro-military / pro-America / pro-freedom signs, songs, conversations and it all got me thinking: the link between America's freedom and America's military is an illogical syllogism.* The popular syllogism goes like this: "America is a free country" + "America has a strong military" = "America's freedom is derived through its military." In common parlance it goes like this: "If it were not for America's military personnel, America would not have its freedom." But this is an unfounded syllogism.
  This opinion blindly assumes that military force is the one and only route to freedom.This is accomplished by making a rhetorical connection between freedom and military activity. But there is no way to prove this. The conclusion that America's military beget its freedom is a total assumption. 

        Not only does this illogical syllogism look backward on history and say, "This is how it happened and therefore it is the only way it could have happened," it also projects into the future and says, "Freedom is only possible in this way." This is simply tunnel vision and does not imagine alternative (and more realistic) means for obtaining freedom.

        If we were living just after the Revolutionary War in 1776, then maybe we could claim that the military led to freedom (the military of America, France, and Spain, I might add). But we're not. When is the last time that the every day freedom of American life has been threatened? (9/11 did not threaten the American way of life nor America's Constitutional freedom; it was a one-time event of terrorism that was [brilliantly] spun into the illogical rhetoric I am addressing here)

        Saying that America's freedom is a direct result of America's military is like saying that Ohio State's education of its 60,000 students is a direct result of the hard work of its football team. It sounds great, but it's really not true. The education of OSU students is the result of teachers, administration, and the students themselves. Like OSU, America's freedom is the result of lawmakers, law-enforcers, infrastructure laborers, its citizens, et. al.

        All in all, the entire "military = freedom" ethos in the U.S.A. is based on nothing more than a presupposition. It is an assumption that we keep telling ourselves over and over and over because we want to believe it. Ultimately, I think that this bad syllogism is propagated simply because we want to give meaning to the tragic deaths of our fellow countrymen/women - which is truly what Memorial Day is all about. But to attach the freedom that Americans enjoy to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers is not the answer.  Propagating a myth is not the answer - for it will only lead to more unnecessary deaths. The real answer and truly honorable way to memorialize our military is to expose the myth of this bad syllogism and realize that America does not require military force to experience its freedom.

* A syllogism is a logical argument, usually containing an "A" then a "B" then a logical inference, "C."


  1. I agree with your basic argument here, but you are also advancing a counter-argument which is equally based on assumption and which may or may not be true. (I.e., you assert that the deaths of military personnel are "unnecessary.") The fact that argument A (military might is the source of American freedom) is not true does not make opposing argument B (military might is not the source of American freedom) true.

  2. Thanks, Dani. Yeah, you're right that the counter argument I offer is also based somewhat on an assumption. There is indeed no way to PROVE that American military does not contribute to the freedom of America. Nevertheless, if I had the time and resources, I think I could construct a substantial argument that America's freedom is the direct result of things/people other than the military. (Yes, I realize that last sentence is still an assumption!) In the final analysis, I guess "freedom" is a difficult concept to quantify and prove. Yet, the little I know of political philosophy supports that freedom is the result of social contracts, laws, and such (rather than military on foreign soil). Thanks, Dani, for commenting and sharing your wisdom. I agree with you and this was a fairly hasty post. Peace!

  3. I found your argument based on false syllogism to be ingenious, Joshua. Though Dani makes a valid point, I believe your argument is still well constructed and valid: we have too often not given the real foundations of freedom in political and social contract etc. their due, and, I will add, that has contributed to an irrational defense of outlandish military spending, as well as a trigger happy presidency. Ironically, the excessive reesources spent on our military undermines the programs that those funds could supply for shoring up the real pillars of democracy via the fulfillment of social contract through opportunities to vigorously address solutions to poverty, healthcare and weaknesses in public education.