General Robert E. Lee stated that an effective commander must love his men, but he must also be prepared to order the destruction of the very thin that he loves. That is not just prose. This paradox captures the essence of combat leadership. It is the heart of the art of command. On a conscious level, most commanders comprehend that burden, but the question remains: Are we mentally and emotionally prepared for such demands? Before the first shot is fired, the leader must look squarely in the mirror and gather the moral strength necessary to order his men into harm's way, to see them killed and maimed, to look into the eyes of the wounded and upon the faces of the dead, yet not lose his fighting spirit. Moreover, the true test is to look oneself in the mirror AFTER young men who trusted their commander are killed and maimed, and do it all over again without losing the will to violently close with the enemy. Such force of will requires supreme mental toughness and strong "emotional shock absorbers" to rebound from these devastating blows while maintaining one's convictions. It requires enormous grit to weather such anguish and not detach oneself from the deep feelings of affinity and love for one's men. The commander who severs that link forfeits the vital buttress of brotherhood formed in shared danger and sacrifice that binds him to his men and makes war bearable. He will soon find himself alone, increasingly drawing from his "well of fortitude" until the bucket comes up dry and his will shatters. Once this happens, the commander ceases to inspire and lead; his unit becomes a formless mass of souls bereft of the sense of shame that enables men to bear war's horror yet persevere with honor. He becomes a mere spectator to the slaughter of his men. In short, the art of command is about winning the love of one's men, and then some day having to use that love to have them willingly risk terrible injury or death and violently take the lives of others. The skill and respect necessary to apply this art must be nurtured in peacetime through study of the human psyche both in combat and through vicarious experience. The passion to command is embodied in the commander's willpower, his love for his men, and personal aggressiveness in battle. The love for his men is what allows a commander to apply and maintain his will power, and the conviction and aggressiveness to close with the enemy. He must be able to literally and figuratively look himself in the mirror each day of combat and know he has earnestly applied himself and had nurtured a passion for command. With a melancholy rigor he must apply himself in the serious study of warfare, its affects on those who fight, and earn the moral authority that grows from leading in the "zone of aimed fire." I will always harbor doubts over my efforts prior to and during combat, whether or not my personal preparation and leadership was all it could be. For the rest of my life -- each time I look in the mirror I will be acutely reminded of my shortcomings, and a piece of my heart will chip away, for in the shadows of my eyes I will see their faces, staring back at me -- for the rest of my life. -- COL B.P. McCoy, USMC, The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership, pp. 77-78.We stand today upon a precipice, staring at a ghastly possible future rushing at us from across a deep chasm -- angry portents and dark clouds, behind which may gallop the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- the grim reapers of civil war. The liberty, lives and futures of our children and grandchildren likely rest upon how we conduct ourselves NOW. We must prepare ourselves to stand the coming storm without losing sight of why we are so determined, as the Founders were -- to risk everything to be free. In doing so we must not become the very monster we purport to fight. We must remain human in an inhuman time. We must remember who we are. We must love.
Wikipedia defines love thusly:
Love is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. In religious context, love is not just a virtue, but the basis for all being ("God is love"), and the foundation for all divine law (Golden Rule).In his magnificent novel of the Spartans at Thermopylae, Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield, through the character of Dienekes -- considered by his fellow soldiers to be the bravest of them all -- explores the question, "What is the antithesis of fear?"
"All my life," Dienekes began, "one question has haunted me. What is the opposite of fear? . . . To call it aphobia, fearlessness, is without meaning. This is just a name, thesis expressed as antithesis. To call the opposite of fear fearlessness is to say nothing. I want to know its true obverse, as day of night and heaven of earth." "Expressed as a positive," Ariston ventured. "Exactly! . . . How does one conquer fear of death, that most primordial of terrors, which resides in our very blood, as in all life, beast as well as men? . . . Dogs in a pack find courage to take on a lion. Each hound knows his place. He fears the dog ranked above and feeds off the fear of the dog below. Fear conquers fear. This is how we Spartans do it, counterpoising to fear of death a greater fear: that of dishonor. Of exclusion from the pack. . . But is that courage? Is not acting out of fear of dishonor still, in essence, acting out of fear?" Alexandros asked what he was seeking. "Something nobler. A higher form of the mystery. Pure. Infallible."Later, Dienekes answers his own question:
A messenger appeared, summoning Dienekes to Leonidas’ council. My master motioned me to accompany him. Something had changed within him; I could sense it as we picked our way among the network of trails that crisscrossed the camps of the allies. “Do you remember the night, Xeo, when we sat with Ariston and Alexandros and spoke of fear and its opposite?” I said I did. “I have the answer to my question. Our friends the merchant and the Scythian have given it to me.” His glance took in the fires of the camp, the nations of the allies clustered in their units, and their officers, whom we could see, like us approaching from all quarters the king’s fire, ready to respond to his needs and receive his instructions. “The opposite of fear,” Dienekes said, “is love.”Another of my favorite novels, Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer, tells the story of Sam Damon, an up-from-the-ranks Army officer, and his lifelong struggle with his nemesis, a well-connected, polished careerist officer named Courtney Massengale. Damon first encounters Massengale in France in 1918 when the staff officer gets lost and on his way to a forward command post and runs into some enlisted men of Damon's company which has just come out of the line. Massengale is irritated that he is not being shown what he believes to be proper respect.
"You people come to attention!" . . . In the stillness, Raebyrne's voice cane very clearly, drawling, "Fer Crahst sake . . ." "That's enough! You people had better learn some military courtesy," the Captain said. "Discipline is entirely too lax up here. When an officer asks a question he expects to be answered in a smart and respectful manner. " . . . It's his voice, Damon thought, watching, his voice. It was incisive enough, it was pitched neither too high nor too low -- but something about it was wrong; it lacked -- it lacked human vibrancy. Faintly metallic, disembodied, it was like a field order translated into sound; it had no flaws.Damon's career intertwines with Massengale's for forty plus years. The crisis comes when Massengale is appointed Damon's corps commander with the task of invading one of the Philippine Islands in 1944. Massengale, who has never before held a field command, has crafted a plan for the assault that is over complicated and likely to fail, with Damon's division likely to take the brunt of it. Damon writes in his personal field diary:
I have such a black feeling about this op. Can't shake it. He's trying just too damn much. Audacity, downright gambling, sure -- but in the right place, for the right reasons. . . . So why all the fancy footwork? . . . He hates my guts. There it is. He hates my very guts and I despise and fear him. Not HIM actually -- more what he will do, what he is capable of. . . There is something terrible inside him, in his soul. He talks about the big picture and command problems and knowledge of terrain but all that has nothing to do with it -- it's this other thing that slips along just under the surface. I keep coming back to that moment in the wrecked courtyard near St. Durance. He doesn't feel -- he doesn't LOVE MAN. Yes. Old homo mensura, with his prehensile claws and splayed feet, with his nobility and greed and hope and vanity and wonder, his immense possibilities. People. The gut bent over at the sink trying to work the sludge out of his knuckles with solvent, and his wife's at the stove with her hair in curlers, shushing the kids over the booming racket of the radio. Her face catches the light in a certain way, or that tender, dreamy look comes over it aa she watches the baby, and the guy at the sink straightens and moves up behind her and steals a kiss, and she laughs, fussing a little because she's still wet and soapy -- and then turns and hugs him in the middle of the kitchen floor, with the kids squabbling over the toys and the radio yammering away . . . All the men and girls with their dreaqms and derelictions, their quarrels and reconciliations, wrenched away from those intimate things now, those naked things, snatched up and flung harshly into jungles, mountains, burning desert sands for the preservation of this way of life we believe in so passionately -- and which has so many glorious things about it that the simple contemplation of it, late on a hot, still night like this one, between the jungle and the sea, 10,000 miles from home, can move you almost to tears. . . But Massengale doesn't see any of this. He can't love that guy at the sink, trying to work the grease out of his knuckles. And because he can't love him he himself is only half a man.This is our strength, this love. It is what differentiates us in the "country class" (as we have been called by Angelo Codevilla) from the ruling class. In order to have the hubris to think that you have the right to order people around, to tyrannize them, you cannot love them, only yourself.
Yet there are those of us -- or at least those who claim to be us -- who have this same lack. This same incapacity to love, to make love the basis for our struggle to preserve our liberty and that of our posterity.
A man who fights for liberty, without being motivated by the love of others, the love of country, the love of God, is engaging in a selfish, commercial transaction. And, I might add, will likely fail in the attempt and become the beast he seeks to destroy.
He will fight only until he gets what he wants and makes the most inconstant of allies.
Such a man will not stand up into a hail of machine gun fire and suicidally close with a bunker full of screaming enemies who are busy killing his friends. He will not roll onto to a grenade to save his buddy in the same foxhole. He will be selfishly happy to watch you do it, of course. He will later say that this is intelligent pragmatism.
Likewise, such a man is unfit to lead other men, for he will fail them, he will sell them out, and his failures of judgment, made because they are not motivated by love, will be fatal to the cause of liberty.
Such men are evident today, in our movement to reclaim the Founders' Republic. How many times have you heard the call to begin firing now, the impatience with waiting until the conflict is forced upon us? Such men have neither heart nor head, for who, being motivated by love, would want to bring about ghastly civil war BEFORE it was forced him, with all the inevitable killing of and cruelty to innocents that that entails? And who, knowing how unprepared we all are for such a conflict, would not want to make use of one more day, one more hour, to organize, train and prepare? Only someone who does not, who cannot love.
For a man who loves is reluctant to war, is patient with the irritations and fears of waiting, simply because he knows its costs.
Such men without love in their hearts engender in others a feeling of despair, of inevitable defeat. Not loving enough, they take counsel of their fears and it spreads around to others like a debilitating oil slick.
Yet we can and will win, even if we wait to respond until we can wait no longer. A real leader of liberty-minded individuals, motivated by love yet wide-wake to the dangers, will lead by exuding resolve but also calmness, confidence and optimism. He must be intelligent, he must be dedicated, he must share the dangers and the sacrifice, but above all he must be motivated by love -- love of family, love of country, love of humanity and love of God.
Anyone who tells you differently is selling something, and the name of that something is defeat.