Humanity and Iron Discipline

Therefore soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

On the plane ride to Afghanistan I was skimming through the Art of War when I came across that line. Humanity and Iron Discipline popped out to me, and I was struck by how those two ideas juxtapose. My platoon sergeant was sitting next to me and I showed him the line.

He pulled out an ear plug and yelled to me over the roar of the C-17’s engines, “You’re Humanity, sir. I’m Iron Discipline.”

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