Killing in war has, and will continue to be a subject of fierce moral debate, both for those who have served in combat, and those who have not. In his op-ed “How We Learned To Kill,” former Marine infantry officer Timothy Kudo offers a perspective that is neither wholly for, nor wholly against killing, but almost clinical. His writing is forceful, direct, and neither vilifies nor romanticizes the act of killing in war.
With blunt candor, he recounts ordering his Marines to shoot and kill suspected improvised explosive emplacers. When he writes about the killing of two unarmed civilians who approached his Marines during a firefight, he is remorseful without being apologetic. Kudo doesn’t shy away from the morally gray when he writes about the desire to give the order to kill.
“Before killing the first time there’s a reluctance that tempers the desire to know whether you are capable of doing it,” writes Kudo. “It is not unlike teenagers longing to lose their virginity but also wanting to wait for the right time to do it. But once killing loses its mystique, it no longer becomes a tool of last resort.”