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.
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.”
“What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war; something heroic that will speak to man as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved to be incompatible.”
COL (Ret) Ralph Puckett mentioned this idea in his talk to IBOLC students a couple of weeks ago. I forget what sparked him bringing it up, because it didn’t sound like it was something he always mentioned. It’s an interesting idea, the “moral equivalent of war.” The idea that war is is something universal that does something to people that draws them to it again and again. That it provides people with something they seek. Why do people join the military or seek out that excitement? There is some part of it that is about crawling out the edge to see what is there. Can you really experience that anywhere else?
As far as I can tell, no one has discovered the moral equivalent of war, yet.