combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2006

Prevailing Cost

Over time, as technology has improved and engineering has become a science, the strategic emphasis of war has migrated from spirituality to fortification and weaponry. Although evinced earlier, this tendency was clearly exemplified in World War One, when matched forces checked opposing maneuvers, and trench warfare proliferated. A strategic stalemate of armaments led to an exploitative inspiration of revised tactics, from conventional to infiltrational, as an expression of rededicated spirit. The determinant rule seems to be that whenever all other factors are equal, one should depend upon moral force or will power to carry the impetus ... except that no armies are ever equal. Even when stymied, some evolutionary or revolutionary progress will alter the balance, some maneuver will create an opportunity, some intelligence will reveal an unsuspected lacuna. The tactical contrasts between Scandinavians attacking Russian tanks with Puukko knives and Moro tribesmen assailing Leathernecks with kris swords, between Indochinese peasants assaulting American artillery with bangalore torpedoes and Slavic hussars charging Nazi armor, cannot be rationalized by the dictum to waste ordnance or matériel instead of lives. Employing helicopters to demoralize tenacious resistance couldn't subdue barefoot guerrillas who would rather retaliate with crossbows than repudiate their objectives. Between the battles of Waterloo and the Somme, the front enlarged, combat time expanded, weapons multiplied, and accuracy increased, with a concomitant increase in casualties. More supplies, improved weapons, and increased discipline cannot alleviate bad strategy nor compensate for weak leadership; but every device and engine becomes a lethal weapon in the arsenal of dedicated troops. Tactics change with redefinition, because availability often creates need, and utility justifies expansion. Whenever recon teams operate outside artillery fans, and secrecy inhibits close air-support, then ground encounters must be avoided, or the contact broken and the enemy out-run, because the rules of engagement must fit the available resources. Our hubris never reconciled the power/spirit dichotomy; so we believed that a helicopter army would always prevail over a crossbow people, and we could not believe that a crossbow people could long resist a helicopter army. The question is not how can they resist?, but what must be done to prevail over their resistance?. Spirit transforms the battlefield, and transmutes civilization ... leaving the dispossessed demoralized by their destroyed assumptions, their shattered treasures, their wrecked institutions. When the cause is right, the price will be paid ... if not with hot blood and cold steel, then in whatever coinage the national treasury reserves, in whatever value the populace preserves. The persistent onslaught of blunted esteem against unshielded rapacity is a fight lost by moral bankruptcy, regardless of its proclamations or praises, tallies or trophies, acquisitions or awards. History has shown that war and peace are not counterbalanced reciprocals, with one repaying the debts of the other, because the accounts for war are always unbalanced, like all economies, but in favor of carnage.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.

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C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones