Killing People by the Military in a Military Unit

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Discuss how members of a military unit could openly bring themselves to commit murder against some individuals and not feel any sense of deviance or criminal wrongdoing for the act. Be sure to include ideas from the work of Stanley Milgram in your answer. Many view murder as the malicious taking of human life. Murder during wartime in which one armed service member takes the life of an opposing armed service member is justified by military orders and beliefs. Of course, it is not always so clear. The rules of war are ever changing.

The inspiration for social scientist Stanley Milgram’s work was the acts of Nazis during World War II. His experiments showed how obeying authority could supersede the thoughts of personal conscience. His experiments on obedience showed subjects appearing to inflict electrical shocks to another person on the instruction of an authority figure. The results of the experiment were that repeatedly people were willing continually to administer the shocks for no personal gain or loss, on the instruction of an authority figure.

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Milgram also worked with Solomon Asch on understanding conformity. Two theories developed. The first is the theory of conformism, which explores the central correlation between an individual and the group to which they belong. It names the group is the individual’s model for behavior. The second concept is the agentic state theory. The agentic theory is that the subject comes to see himself or herself as an instrument of another person or an institution. They stop feeling responsible for their actions. Once that happens the person is obedient.

In attempting to answer the question, “how members of a military unit could openly bring themselves to commit murder against some individuals and not feel any sense of deviance or criminal wrongdoing for the act,” I thought it would be beneficial to conduct some short interviews with some members of the military. I interviewed seven men. All opted to be identified by military branch, rank, and job only. Some of the responses I received are below. A Navy yeoman makes a description that illustrates both the theory of conformism and to a lesser extent the agentic theory.

He states, “It’s a sense of obligation. When u sign up u promise to protect and serve. ” After thinking for a moment, he adds, “for those who have participated in war there are many psychological issues involved. That’s why they go through debriefing. ” “You demonize the enemy,” said an Engineman 3rd class in the U. S. Navy, who “saw live fire. ” He continues, “It turns into a survival of the fittest situation when you are on the battle field. Them or you. You’re not killing out of anger or cause you want to but because you have to survive,” a sentiment that was repeated by other interviewees.

A marine sergeant said this, “my job over there was mortuary affairs; I had to pick up the remains of the dead people. In the marines, they teach you all types of survival techniques and it’s up to you to apply them in any terrain. As I saw my fellow soldiers blown up, shot up, it’s like a sense of survival that you get. Rather it be them than you in that black body bag. It’s not that you enjoy killing, but it’s your job and you going to do whatever it takes to get back home to your family. The Iraqis don’t care if they take you or your whole platoon out. So it’s best to get the upper hand on them. An interesting response came from a Navy Boatswain’s Mate and SEAL. “The premise of taking life of someone is a different feeling in a person. I know from my own life experiences that some of the lives I have taken in combat where warranted. There are a lot of people in the world that hate you for the flag on your uniform or the religion that one practices. Then there are those people that I still have a hard time getting over. There was this time that my team were in a small town in a country that has been in the news and we were handing out chocolate to the kids and a mother was putting a linen coat on her son and sent him our way.

As he was running to us, his coat flew open and there was a C4 vest on under it. To protect my team and the civilians I drew on him pulled the trigger and shot him in the head then I saw his mother reach for a device to detonate the device and I shot her as well. The boy was all of 6 or 7 years of age. ” He concludes, “You know I still have nightmares about that day. There is a growing number of vets that are coming home that might not be wounded like I was, but they have PTSD like I have. Just because you don’t see scars doesn’t mean they are not wounded. In conclusion, members of the military are able to take lives without feeling deviant for several reasons. The conformism theory is part of it. The military is a large subculture with a large idioculture. They share common beliefs. In their culture, it is not wrong or even extremely uncommon to have taken a life in combat. The agentic state theory is also part of the reason. The soldiers are following orders. Most of those interviewed mentioned doing a job. They do not feel responsible partly because someone else is deciding what they do. Bibliography Basirico, L. A. , Cashion, B. G. & Eshleman, J. R. (2009). Introduction to sociology (4th ed. ). Redding, CA: BVT Pub. Miller, H. (n. d. ). Stanley Milgram. Psychology History. Retrieved November 10, 2011, from www. muskingum. edu/~psych/psycweb/history/milgram. htm Stanley Milgram. (n. d. ). FSU Faculty/Staff Personal Page Web Server Index. Retrieved November 11, 2011, from http://faculty. frostburg. edu/mbradley/psyography/stanleymilgram. html Stanley Milgram: His Life and Work. (n. d. ). Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. Retrieved November 11, 2011, from http://www. mtholyoke. edu/~apkokot/MilgramBio. htm

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