Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More on "Christmas Bombings"

Today is Wednesday, 6 January 2010.

There are two books by the military historian John Keegan that everyone should read: The Face of Battle, providing an excellent portrait of what it was like to be in combat at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, and The Mask of Command, an exploration of military leadership.

In the latter, Keegan demonstrates that one of the central problems of military leadership is the physical location of the top commander: at the front always? at the front sometimes? at the front never?

For centuries, the correct answer was “always”: the supreme commander was required to face the same possibilities of capture, wounding, and death as the most junior soldier. However, as the size of armies increased and the technologies of butchery “progressed”, the answer became “sometimes” and then “never”. The latter removed all “moral hazard” to the person of the top commanders, and enabled and encouraged them to treat the lives of their soldiers as worth less than dirt. (Cf., for example, the massive casualties of attrition warfare in the American Civil War and the trenches of The Great War.)

I find this ethically repugnant and unacceptable. All of those engaged in the direction of war, whether political or military leaderships, should put their lives as completely at hazard as the most junior soldier. Perhaps those leaderships would be less likely to go to war if they knew the bullet could so easily seek them out.

And what of the masses in quasi-democratic regimes such as the USA/USE? Had the American “civilians” who slobbered for the deaths of millions in Indochina and Iraq, for example, known they could be as easily found out by bullets or bombs, would they have been so eager to force others to kill and die?

Alas, it would take an unlikely revolution in the ethics of the masses and their masters for all to put their monies and lives where their mouths are. Most likely, humanity will persist in its present mad course until it destroys itself, and perhaps all life on the planet.

This, to me, is keeping it real.


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