On “Guardianship”


Another session of Blue Courage last night and more spirited discussion on the “Guardian vs. Warrior” thing.

The Soldier and the Citizen: Lessons from Plato and Aristotle, by John P. Hittinger, underscores why the nature of this current debate is bi-polar – in that the Guardian clearly was intended as a model for a military ethos and the training of the soldier class – warrior class if you will – while at the same time emphasizing the obvious intention to  see to it that:“an ethics of virtue is central to military ethics,” and that “we must tie military ethics to the fundamental issues of justice and the value of human life.”

Naturally, the adoption of the noble and viable military ethics of the soldier guardian for  police work has caused confusion in a culture that has at the very same time decried militarization and dismissed a – their – notional concept of Warrior Mindset.

Part of the disconnect perhaps lies here – quoted from The Soldier and the Citizen (emphasis mine):

“The education of guardians and the development courage poses a challenge to society at large, and to modern societies in particular. The formation of soul, the attachment to a particular country, the demand for personal sacrifice run counter to the principles and hopes of liberal enlightenment. Individual rights and desire for material satisfaction are overriding political goals; skepticism and doubt in the service of free thinking predominate in our education; we expect perpetual peace or a withering of the state.

George Grant poses a stark problematic:

If the avoidance of violent death is our highest end, why should anyone make sacrifices for the common good which entail that possibility? Why should anyone choose to be a soldier or policeman, if Lockian contractualism is the truth about justice? Yet such professions are necessary if any approximation to justice and consent are to be maintained. Within a contractualist belief, why should anyone care about the reign of justice more than their life?25

At first look, these considerations may lead us to consider that a military ethic is anachronistic. The modern account of justice seeks precisely to avoid the questions of metaphysics and hierarchy of good.26 In Hobbes and Locke there is an explicit denial of the existence of a noble good over and above the useful and pleasant.27 The contemporary account, while following a Hobbesian or Lockean contractualist account of justice remains silent about the good life. It posits a “thin theory of the good”: life, liberty and property are goods that anyone needs whatever their plan of life. Justice is viewed as a formal, procedural matter; it is minimalist and universal in scope. It presupposes an individualistic or atomistic view of man and society.28 The focus of such contemporary theories of justice is the autonomous or unencumbered self; its philosophical orientation is finally existentialist or therapeutic insofar as commitment is viewed as repressive. A distinction between a noble and base way of life, or between a better and best, is either declared unintelligible or judgmental. The point of all of this is that military ethics and courage cannot flourish in such a climate.

Some may say, so much the worse for military ethos; but this dilemma also points to the contradictions or shortcomings of the modern liberal moral position.”

(Citations in the original above)

It’s a good read. Vitally important for those serving with an interest in where this is going. These are critical questions at a critical time.


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