Originally published in 2013.
I jumped back into Mass Effect today to play the Citadel DLC and was inspired by some of the things in this interview between a journalist and Admiral David Anderson. I’ve pulled out the parts I found the most interesting.
Whoever wrote this is spot on. For all of the military training we have, things often come down to instincts. Thousands of years of warfare there for us to study, to inform our training, but instinct is still the thing that sits there at the unforgiving minute, the last hundred yards.
And isn’t that the truth concerning the terrible burden of leadership? How horrible is it that we ask our military leaders to choose the mission over the men, and to carry that cross for the rest of their lives?
But then, is war not terrible? I love how Admiral Anderson makes that final statement. To me, it is a critique on war, and a warning to avoid it at all costs, because there truly are no winners, just better-off losers.
Journalist: Does the program make the man, or do you think you were born for this?
It is a bit of both I suppose. Every soldier reaches a point in their career, sometimes more than once, when they are asked to give more than they ever thought they could. That moment is the test. I’ve seen men and women almost sure to fail, persevere long past the point of breaking. That experience changes them. Others, with all the gifts and abilities, fail in that moment. Sometimes they pick themselves up and carry on, sometimes, they’re just done.
Journalist: Do you trust your intuition? Do you follow your heart or your mind?
No, I suppose if I were to be honest, I do trust my instincts. The problem is… war isn’t orderly. And the enemy is never predictable. Even the most experienced veteran is going to find themselves in situations they haven’t trained for. In those instances – and there is more than I’d like to admit – your instincts are the only thing keeping you alive. That, and the men and women you’re fighting aside.
Journalist: But soldiers are only as good as their leader, isn’t that true?
Yeah, a good leader can make an ‘ok’ squad great. And a bad leader, well, war tends to make examples of them.
Journalist: What makes a good leader then?
Hm… a good leader is someone who values the life of his men over the success of the mission, but understands that sometimes, the cost of failing a mission is higher than the cost of losing those men.
Journalist: That’s a terrible line to have to walk.
Yes it is. But war is a terrible thing.