War: The Lethal Custom by Gwynne Dyer

By Gwynne Dyer

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I was a bomber pilot a long time ago. I bombed Hamburg. Seventy thousand people died there when the air caught fire. Eighty thousand or so died at Dresden. And if you want to talk about numbers, one hundred and twenty-three thousand died at Iwo Jima … and so the problem is war, not nuclear war. C. The essential soldier remains the same. Whether he was handling a sling-shot weapon on Hadrian’s Wall or whether he’s in a main battle tank today, he is essentially the same. Gen. Sir John Hackett The soldier was one of the first inventions of civilization, and he has changed remarkably little over the five thousand years or so that real armies have existed.

17 Everything army officers know about the nature of battle leads them toward the same conclusion: that it is an environment where nothing works reliably, and no plan or stratagem succeeds for very long. And everything that they know about human nature tells them that man is a frail and fallible creature who requires strong leadership and firm discipline in order to behave properly and function effectively in combat. This fundamental pessimism about the limits of heroism and idealism is central to the professional soldiers’ world, and on the outermost margins of human experience, where they must operate in combat, their assumptions about human nature are absolutely right.

But for this very reason they are an ideal case study in how basic training works: they draw their recruits from the most extravagantly individualistic civilian society in the world and turn them into elite combat soldiers in twelve weeks. ——— It’s easier if you catch them young.

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