Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Praxis: On the necessity of training. Copy this, cut it out, and tape it in the upper right corner of your bathroom mirror where you encounter your lovely face every morning. "A people who had to fight to become independent must not relinquish this independence without fighting."

Henri Guisan, commander-in-chief of the Swiss army and militia during WWII, inspects the troops.
A people who had to fight to become independent must not relinquish this independence without fighting. Those who are cowards and renounce their freedom will not find the strength to gain it back under more favorable circumstances. Those who are brave never think that a war is hopeless. Being brave is not only a matter of an individual's courage when he faces danger but to the same extent a matter of the expertise that he has gained through hard work, pain, and sacrifices to boost his self-confidence. We must acquire this expertise by working constantly and consistently. We lack combat experience. Hence, we shall hold our own against a battle-tried opponent only if we learn what is relevant from developments (in the war abroad) and then apply our insights with extensive training. -- Lieutenant General Herbert Constam, "Instructions on Combat Tactics," January 1941. Quoted in Stephen Halbrook's The Swiss and the Nazis, page 151.


Anonymous said...

The Alamo is not a place, it is a state of mind. It is also the beginning of the road that ends at San Jacinto.


Jimmy the Saint said...

@Rurik: Actually, the Alamo was the end of the road for all of its defenders. It's easy to exhort fighting to the last man when you're not there. (Not accusing you of doing so, just pointing out that politicians and speechifiers tend to be more enamored of last stands than the participants - witness the US troops on Bataan/Corregidor, for example. They felt far more betrayed than honored to be a part of such a "noble sacrifice".)

rexxhead said...

+1 Rurik; -1 Jimmy.

On the 21 April following, the memory of the Alamo urged a rag-tag band of militia to overcome a force twice their size.

Sometimes a loss can be a win.


Anonymous said...

It would be useful to note that the Swiss general officers gave a standing order that any junior officer which suggested surrender was to be immediately shot.

Surrender is NOT an option to a free people.

Jimmy the Saint said...

@rexxhead: "Sometimes a loss can be a win."

Yes, sometimes. If you get incredibly lucky. Of course, the historical instances where that happened are famous precisely because they are so rare. Should you ever find yourself at a last stand, you're far more likely to be a martyr to futility than the inspiration that leads your cause to victory.