As a starting point, here's his thesis:
What is the virtue difference (in WWII) between a Nazi volunteer soldier, a Soviet volunteer soldier, and a American volunteer soldier?It's a thoughtful post, and you should read the whole thing in its entirety. My point of disagreement comes from first premises: Aretae is focused on the individuals, and I'm focused on the societies. He sums it up here:
I would assert that it's fairly obviously none. All three are doing what they believe to be right, which is to defend (?!?) their country.
As a universalist, I categorically reject the affiliationist argument (They're MY team, and right/wrong have nothing to do with it). However, that's the only path I see to not celebrating Nazi soldiers equivalently to American ones.I don't think that this is true. While I am not really temperamentally suited to the rigorous logical proof that is Aretae's stock in trade, my argument really boils down to this: social organization matters.
Consider a society. It consists not just of the individuals, but in their interactions. How they interact is critically important to not just their own success and happiness, but to the long term success of the society in general. This topic is toxic in Politically Correct circles like the Academy, but unless we deal with it head on, there are questions that simply cannot be answered.
For example, why was Western Europe the first to industrialize? Nobody in 1000 AD would have predicted that Europe would come to dominate the globe; even in 1500 AD the smart money would still have bet on China or India. By 1700, it was all over but the shouting, and by 1870 the sun never set on the British Empire.
Remember, in the 1400s while Prince Henry sent his tiny Caravels tentatively down the west coast of Africa, the Ming Dynasty sent huge treasure fleets all the way to Mogadishu. Nobody with a brain would have picked Europe for world domination. And yet then the Chinese fleets were gone, as if they had never been. Why?
How come India - perhaps the wealthiest land on earth in the 1600s - why did they not send armies and fleets with advanced weapons to subject Europe, rather than the other way around? Scholars claim that the sub continent was divided, but so was Europe. So why did the tipping point arrive in Europe, and not India?
And why did the fledgling American Republic become the world's strongest power by 1900? Starting from literally nothing in the 17th century, it came to dominate Europe by the early 20th. Why?
Today's Academy is so caught up in feel-good multi-culturalism ("Everyone's a winner!") that not only can these questions not be answered, but they cannot even be asked except by old, tenured professors who are a hold over from the days when the lamp of learning burned brightly.
The answer is, of course, that social organization matters. Societies that give more freedom to their members do better. Europe did this better than China or India, and the results showed. Northern Europe did this better than Southern, and the results showed. Britain did it better than anyone, and that's where the Industrial Revolution started - not in London, the seat of the Realm, but in villages like Manchester and Birmingham and the Black Country of the west. Precocious young America did it better than Britain, and so leadership lept the Pond, taking firm root in the soil of the New World.
So what does this have to do with Aretae's question about Nazi vs. Soviet vs. GI soldiers? On the surface, nothing. All soldiers fight for their families, their homes, their society. But that's not what the Nazi society did, or the Soviets after them. Germany invaded most of Europe, acting as an Imperial power. Subject nations were plundered - directly or indirectly (via trading relationships) to support the Reich. After the Great Patriotic War, the Soviets established their own Empire in Eastern Europe, plundering the subject nations - more crudely than the Nazis, if that can be believed - to support International Socialism as directed from the Kremlin.
It's quite a long way from defending hearth and home to the SS in Sant' Anna or Guards Tank Divisions in the Prague Spring. While the record of American military engagements is not unbesmirched, there's nothing that compares in the long history of our Armed Forces with what we saw in 1939-1945, or from 1945-1989.
And to my point regarding Aretae's question, this is no accident. Social organization, the network of interactions and expectations of how those occur inform actions. Even assuming that most Germans weren't Nazis (they weren't, at least in any meaningful way) and most Russians weren't Soviet Communists (ditto), the expectations of German and Russian soldiers were simply different from those of American soldiers. The Intentional is Extensional.
And so, from a predictive perspective, "My team" does not explain or anticipate how different societies will engage in military adventures. Smart Munitions are a uniquely American approach to warfare: the Soviets were happy to flatten Grozny, and while it's been a while since we've seen German military adventures, they were the ones that pioneered the blitz at Guernica.
While America has been accused of being an empire, it's a ridiculous charge that has been pretty much demolished. For the rest who are unconvinced - bitterly clinging to their anti-American ideology, we might say - let me just say that the last time I gassed up, I paid $3.81 a gallon. If this was a war for oil, I want my oil.
I guess that this post puts my libertarian credentials at risk. I do think that societies do better when they maximize the space for their individual citizens to do what they want. I think that we do that decently well here, although not as well as we used to. The alternatives that do better seem generally smaller and localized, and reliant on a more peaceful world order than history has shown in the past - in other words, they are flowers blooming in the Pax Americana. The interesting question is whether they could continue to thrive if America withdrew from the world stage, as many libertarians would like.
Because then you'd see American soldiers replaced with those from other societies. History suggests that it would be unlikely to be an upgrade. That's a discussion for another day.