a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
Know your enemy.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the
result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the
enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If
you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in
Sun-Tzu [ch 3 ax 18 The Art of War (ca490BC)]
Wherever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.
Ulysses S. Grant [1 Aug 1864 dispatch]
The enemy of my friend is my enemy; and the enemy of my enemy is
He [the war horse] paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his
strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear,
and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
Job 39:21-22 Bible
He [the war horse] saith among the trumpets, Ha
ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of
the captains, and the shouting.
Job 39:25 Bible
A good experience is a mistake you made that you
survived; but a bad experience is a mistake you
made that someone else was unable to survive.
Life always administers the test before it teaches the lesson.
An adventure is something you return home to tell about. If you
don't make it back, it's just an exotic funeral.
A warrior who does not conform to military discipline nor comply
with social conventions is not a soldier ... such an armed outlaw
is either an adventurer or a psychopath.
We are not naïve enough to ask for pure men; we ask merely
for men whose impurity does not conflict with the obligations of
Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
William Shakespeare [act 3 sc 2 ln 54-7 Richard II]
Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier,
or not having been at sea.
Samuel Johnson (10 April 1776)
[Veterans] feel disappointed, not about the 1914-1918 war but
about this [WWII] war. They liked that war, it was a nice war, a
real war, a regular war, a commenced war and an ended war. It was
a war, and veterans like a war to be a war. They do.
Gertrude Stein [Wars I Have Seen (1945)]
An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted
army cannot defeat the enemy.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong ["The United Front in Cultural Work"
(30 Oct 1944)]
To believe that you can live free of your cultural matrix is one
of the easiest fallacies, and has some of the worst consequences.
You are part of your group, whether you like it or not; and you
are bound by its customs.
Robert A. Heinlein [Beyond This Horizon (1942, 1948)]
I wanted to apologize [to you, the younger generation] for my
generation's failure to instill in you the values that our
parents instilled in us. In our rush to give you the material
goods we never had, we forgot to give you the values we did
It is open to a war resister to judge between the combatants and
wish success to the one who has justice on his side. By so
judging he is more likely to bring peace between the two than by
remaining a mere spectator.
Mohandas K. Gandhi [ch 241 vol 1 Non-Violence in Peace and
Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?
Numbers 32:6 Bible
I know when I meet those men of my generation who did serve in
Vietnam, I automatically feel less worthy than they are; yes,
less of a man, if you want to use that phrase. Those of us who
did not have to go to Vietnam may have felt, at the time, that we
were getting away with something; may have felt, at the time,
that we were the recipients of a particular piece of luck that
had value beyond price. But now, I think, we realize that by not
having had to go we lost forever the chance to learn certain
things about ourselves that only men who have been in war
together will ever truly know.
Bob Greene ["The I-missed-Vietnam Guilt"]
There are situations in life to which the only satisfactory
response is a physically violent one. If you don't make that
response, you continually relive the unresolved situation over
and over in your life.
Twenty years too late, America has discovered its Vietnam
veterans. Well intentioned souls now offer me their sympathy and
tell me how horrible it must have been. The fact is, it was fun.
Granted I was lucky enough to come back in one piece. And granted
that I was young, dumb, and wilder than a buck Indian. And
granted I may be looking back through rose colored glasses. But
it was great fun. It was so great I even went
back for a second helping. Think about it. Where else could you
divide your time between hunting the ultimate big
game and partying at the ville? Where
else could you sit on the side of a hill and watch an air strike
destroy a regimental base camp? Sure there were tough times, and
there were sad times, but Vietnam is the benchmark of all my
experiences. The remainder of my life has been spent hanging
around the military trying to recapture some of that old
time feeling. In combat I was a respected man among men.
I lived on life's edge, and did the most manly thing in the
world: I was a warrior in war. The only person you can discuss
these things with is another veteran. Only someone who has seen
combat can understand the deep fraternity of the
brotherhood of war. Only a veteran can know
about the thrill of the kill, and the terrible bitterness of
losing a friend who is closer to you than your own family.
R.B. Anderson [Parting Shot, Vietnam was Fun?
Contempt: The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too
formidable to safely be opposed.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
They can kill us, but they can't eat us. That's against the law!
Gil Doud and Jesse Hibbs [1955 film version of To Hell and
Back by Audie Murphy]
To me it seems that the consummation which has overtaken these
men shows us the meaning of manliness in its first revelation and
in its final proof. Some of them, no doubt, had their faults; but
what we ought to remember first is their gallant conduct against
the enemy in defense of their native land. They have blotted out
evil with good, and done more service to the commonwealth than
they ever did harm in their private lives. No one of these men
weakened because he wanted to go on enjoying his wealth; no one
put off the awful day in the hope that he might live to escape
his poverty and grow rich .... In the fighting, they thought it
more honorable to stand their ground and suffer death than to
give in and save their lives. So they fled from the reproaches of
men, abiding with life and limb the brunt of battle; and in a
small moment of time, the climax of their lives, a culmination of
glory, not of fear, were swept away from us.
Pericles [funeral oration memorializing the Athenian dead in the
Peloponnesian War recorded by Thucydides]
Naïve is a word that people who don't care about things use
to describe people who do.
Ethan Black [All the Dead Were Strangers]
The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
Calvin Coolidge [27 July 1920 speech]
The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve
in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly
proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars
were treated and appreciated by their nation.
To travel by water without fear of sea-serpents and dragons,
— this is the courage of the fisherman. To travel by land
without fear of the wild buffaloes and tigers, — this is
the courage of hunters. When bright blades cross, to look on
death as on life, — this is the courage of the warrior. To
know that failure is fate and that success is opportunity, and to
remain fearless in times of great danger, — this is the
courage of the Sage.
He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will
not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a
course is sure to meet with its proper return. Wherever a host is
stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great
armies there are sure to be bad years. A skilful (commander)
strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare (by
continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery. He
will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against being vain
or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes it as a
matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for
mastery. When things have attained their strong maturity they
become old. This may be said to be not in accordance with the
Tao: and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end.
Lao-Tzu ["Tao Te Ching" #30]
... it is a maxim in general not to suffer ourselves to be
dictated to by the enemy.
Karl von Clausewitz
We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.
Nathanael Greene [April 1781 letter after the Battle of Hobkirk's
Oppression that is clearly inexorable and invincible does not
give rise to revolt but to submission.
Will power is only the tensile strength of one's own disposition.
One cannot increase it by a single ounce.
Cesare Pavese [15 Jan 1938 entry The Burning Brand: Diaries
1935-1950 (1952; tr 1961)]
Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the
comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God's service,
when it is violating all His laws.
John Adams [2 Feb 1816 letter to Thomas Jefferson]
The war against Vietnam is only the ghastliest manifestation of
what I'd call imperial provincialism, which
afflicts America's whole culture — aware only of its own
history, insensible to everything which isn't part of the local
Stephen Vizinczey ["Condemned World, Literary Kingdom" (21 Sep
1968) in Truth and Lies in Literature (1986)]
If we ever pass out as a great nation, we ought to put on our
tombstone, 'America died of the delusion that she had
Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no
George Bancroft (1834)
Power intoxicates men. It is never voluntarily surrendered. It
must be taken from them.
James F. Byrnes (1956)
Nature in darkness groans
And men are bound to sullen contemplation in the night:
Restless they turn on beds of sorrow; in their inmost brain
Feeling the crushing wheels, they rise, they write the bitter
Of stern philosophy & knead the bread of knowledge with tears
Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath;
O my God,
Take the gentle path.
Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen,
hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who
have the Tao do not like to employ them. The superior man
ordinarily considers the left hand the most honourable place, but
in time of war the right hand. Those sharp weapons are
instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior
man; — he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity.
Calm and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is
to him undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to
delight in the slaughter of men; and he who delights in the
slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom. On occasions
of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position; on
occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in command of
the army has his place on the left; the general commanding in
chief has his on the right; — his place, that is, is
assigned to him as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed
multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief;
and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to
Lao-Tzu ["Tao Te Ching" #31]
Tyranny destroys or strengthens the individual; freedom enervates
him, until he becomes no more than a puppet. Man has more chances
of saving himself by hell than by paradise.
E.M. Cioran ["On the Verge of Existence" Anathemas and
For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this
mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and
shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things
which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he
Mark 11:23 Bible [and Matthew 21:21 Bible]
Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that
I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or
planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an
enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. Any
person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or
harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent,
and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that
has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of
mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world —
and will be confronted. And anyone in the world, including the
Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal
friend in the United States of America.
George Walker Bush [1 May 2003 speech from USS Abraham Lincoln]
The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man
remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his
brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the
ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful
dictate what they desire — they all conspire together. The
best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn
hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you.
Now is the time of their confusion. Do not trust a neighbor; put
no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace
be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a
daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against
her mother-in-law — a man's enemies are the members of his
Micah 7:2-6 NIV Bible
The real trouble with war (modern war) is that it gives no one a
chance to kill the right people.
Ezra Loomis Pound
The bloodthirsty hate the upright.
Proverbs 29:10 Bible
Preserve me from violent men, Who plan evil things in their
heart, and stir up wars continually.
Psalms 140:1-2 RSV Bible
When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to
be at peace with him.
Proverbs 16:7 Bible
I think it runs much deeper than mere anger. I think when
loneliness and fear drive a person too deep inside himself, faith
shrivels into hopelessness. I think when tenderness diminishes
and bitterness intensifies, rancor becomes a very sacred thing.
And I think when the need for some form of meaningful human
contact becomes an affliction, a soul can be tainted with
madness, and allow violence to rage forth as the only means of
genuine relief. A final grotesque expression of alienation that
evokes "feeling something" in the most immediate and brutal form.
The ghosts of my birth seem to agree with that. You read the
account of the Utica killings in the paper, and then move quickly
on to news about a train wreck in Iran, or a flood in Brazil, or
riots in India, or the NASDAQ figures for the week, and unless
you're from the town of Utica or in some way knew one of the
victims of the man who killed them, you forget all about it;
because you can't understand how a person, a normal enough
person, a person like you and me, could do such a horrible thing.
But he did; and others like him will; and all you can hope for is
not to be one of the victims. You pray you will be safe.
Gary A. Braunbeck ["Safe" (1999)]
An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
Viktor E. Frankl
Nothing can save us that is possible.
W.H. Auden ["For the Time Being"]
We live mainly by forms and patterns ... if the forms are bad, we
Walter Van Tilburg Clark
Never enter a war unless the exit is already known ... preventing
defeat is not equivalent to achieving victory.
If you can't call it 'war', then you can't call
its result 'victory' ... even though it was.
Wesley K. Clark [re: Bosnia (2000)]
In war there is no substitute for victory.
Douglas MacArthur [19 Apr 1951 speech to Congress]
Your system is not the only option the military has open to it;
but it's the only one that will work. I am the military, General.
The time of the uniformed thug is over. Now they're only useful
for posturing in front of cameras, or as pawns to be sacrificed
while people like me fight the real war. How could you ever
possibly understand what it is to be a soldier? Ah, the honor and
dignity of war. The courage it takes to fire missiles at helpless
villagers. The inestimable bravery it takes to bomb
technologically backward countries from the stratosphere. How
many children have you set on fire, Colonel? And how did it make
you feel to kill thousands with the touch of a button? ... the
stroke of a pen? Did it make you feel like God?
Kyle Mills ["Burn Factor" (2001)]
I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the
battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite
of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they
meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under
William Morris [ch 4 A Dream of John Ball
(1888); a religious leader of Wat Tyler's 1381 "Peasants'
If The Cause is tainted by doubt, the resulting hesitation may
cause defeat; but if the military sacrifices that enabled victory
are discovered to be protecting a Big Lie, then the mighty force
may just continue fighting until there is nothing left.
Never in the history of warfare have so many made so much for
such destructive purposes.
Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett [A War to Be Won:
Fighting the Second World War (2000)]
How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to
journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.
Karl Kraus (1918)
Historian — An unsuccessful novelist.
H.L. Mencken [A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)]
History repeats itself. Historians repeat each other.
History is the hidden battleground of present day politics, and
there is ever increasing pressure [for distortion] on the
concepts of historical truth and historical
Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives
dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse
them. Let them rest in obscurity and peace! Let my memory be left
in oblivion, my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times and
other men can do justice to my character.
Robert Emmet [19 Sep 1803 speech from the dock on the eve of his
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills; "The Critic as Artist"
I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
Psalms 120:7 Bible
I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
Winston L.S. Churchill
What we call heroism is that determined
endurance for one moment more than our enemy.
The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer
blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their
followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it
comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]
There is no home here. There is no security in your mansions or
your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double
beds. Understand this fact, and you will be free. Accept it, and
you will be happy.
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every
man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time
wherein men live without other security than what their own
strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal.
Security is like liberty in that many are the crimes that are
committed in its name.
Robert H. Jackson [dissent in U.S. v Shaughnessy
The bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self ... And
so at the cost of intensity he achieves his own preservation and
security. His harvest is a quiet mind which he prefers to being
possessed by God, as he prefers comfort to pleasure, convenience
to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to that deathly inner
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where
ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that
society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and
degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Frederick Douglass [April 1886 speech]
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little
temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin [11 Nov 1755 speech]
He that's secure is not safe.
Benjamin Franklin [Poor Richard's Almanack (Aug
The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man
who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones
which will give him no pain or trouble.
A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does
about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no
chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of
better men than himself.
John Stuart Mill
Men are afraid to rock the boat in which they hope to drift
safely through life's currents, when, actually, the boat is stuck
on a sandbar. They would be better off to rock the boat and try
to shake it loose, or, better still, jump in the water and swim
for the shore.
There is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals
that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and
the consequent loss of national self-respect and honor, beneath
which are shielded and defended a people's safety and greatness.
Stephen Grover Cleveland
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a
free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall
not be infringed.
Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution
Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is
man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress
has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills] ["The Soul of Man Under
Socialism" in Fortnightly Review (Feb 1891)]
A man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of
Henry David Thoreau
compiled by Ed Staff