combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 05 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2007

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a thousand meanings.
George Santayana (1920, 1956)

The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution.
Brent Scowcroft

When politicians say that they will bring the troops home, they will simply bring the war home!

Not every problem has a solution, but of the ones that are amenable, the best solution will not be known for a long time after the fix has been applied ... sometimes the problem recurs, and sometimes the answer is worse than the problem itself.

We were just about to stand up for ourselves and do this really brilliant thing that would've solved the problem when you did that really stupid thing that changed everything because you're so stupid and now we can't do anything to solve the problem, even though we're really quite brilliant ... and now it's too late and it's all YOUR fault!
anonymous parody of a diplomatic rationalization for the status quo

It has been said that there are three types of beings: ones that are too smart to play the game, ones that are too stupid to play the game, and that great mass of intraspecies normalcy that is willingly enticed, if not enslaved, into passionately and determinedly playing the game ... and it is considered a measure of advanced civilization that the supernormals and the subnormals are not exterminated, but merely marginalized. Mankind is so proud of its sophistication, of its tolerance, of its restraint in making a mediocre devastation, when either catastrophe or anti-catastrophe is possible.
paraphrase of John D. MacDonald

You can have my sword if you demand it; but there is one thing I do want you to put in that report to General Bragg – tell him that I will be in my coffin before I will fight again under your command.
Nathan Bedford Forrest [to Joe Wheeler]

He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them, and I will hold you personally responsible for any further indignities you endeavor to inflict upon me. You have threatened to arrest me for not obeying your orders promptly. I dare you to do it, and I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.
Nathan Bedford Forrest [to Braxton Bragg]

One of the useful things about military service is that it gets you acclimatized to having loud blustery men say rude things to you.
Neal Stephenson (1999)

War is only the social manifestation of an individual's indiscipline, most acutely represented by willful juveniles. To presume its resolution by rational intercession, by moral suasion, or by deliberative analysis is, like the inculcation of children, a waste of time and resources ... only superior power will check power, only greater force will forestall force, and only subtle craftsmanship will inhibit deception and subterfuge. Complaints and protests are only proof of incompetence or impotence, and exacerbate the situation. Adulthood is the only solution to infantilism.

Men make history and not the other way around.
Harry S. Truman [This Week (22 Feb 1959)]

War, empire, revenge ... scale them down and what did you have? ... anger, avarice, pride. History was only personal grievance writ large.
Christopher Reich

Have you ever thought about what history really is? An accounting of failure, iniquity, errors of judgement, character flaws, bloody cruelties, obscene missteps. Human beings are such low things.
Jonathan Kellerman

It doesn't have to be this way at all! Shooting will only make things worse. Fighting is a stupid, immoral, wasteful way of effecting change.
paraphrase of Ed Ruggero (1994)

Sometimes the storms of war are quelled ... and sometimes the people suffering these forces are quieted within themselves.

All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; so why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?

Art that imitates the rigor of science forgoes an infinite wealth of variables that pure nature, in its constancy and nobility, does not present, for if man is more limited in his capacities he is more interesting in his unpredictability. Art that accepts human limitations is empowered and enriched by the very discipline that the modernists ignore.
Mark Helprin

Art, applied or theoretical, is no longer about talent, nor about training or technique, but about compassion ... it's about sensitivity and sensation, intent and intellection, so anyone not a genius need not apply!

The deterrence of war is the primary objective of the armed forces.
Maxwell D. Taylor [The Uncertain Trumpet (1960)]

As a stark measly grail, the truth sometimes sounds better than it truly is.
paraphrase of Robert B. Parker

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy.
John F. Kerry (1 June 2006)

Weakness and ambivalence lead to war.
George H.W. Bush (18 Aug 1988)

There are only three forms of peace: when one is powerful enough to compel others to comply, when opposing powers are so equally matched that no one can dominate, and when everyone is too weak to impose upon any others. All aspire for impunity through dominance, even if their reign is intended to be benign or benevolent. Peace is always the open hand of the fist.

Victory is to he who fights the longest.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

All delays are dangerous in war.
John Dryden

It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
Douglas MacArthur

When you get into a war, you should win as quick as you can, because your losses become a function of the duration of the war .... Get everything you need and [then] win it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower [15 Mar 1968 press conference]

In war there is no substitute for victory.
Douglas MacArthur [19 Apr 1951 speech]

In war there is no second prize for the runner-up.
Omar N. Bradley [USA: In Military Review (Feb 1950)]

You know what this army is? It's McClellan's bodyguard.
Abraham Lincoln [comment during Grand Review of Union forces at Sharpsburg after 1862 battle at Antietam; opportunity for Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in Confederate territory]

If I cannot find a way, I will make one.
Hannibal Barca

If McClellan is not using the army, I should like to borrow it for a while.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, comment, April 9, 1862

So long as victory can be attained, stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness.
Chang Yu

If war cannot be avoided, it must be pursued and won. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.
Douglas MacArthur

You don't never go into a war half-assed, 'cause if you hang around assholes, you're gonna get shit on!
anonymous Marine

War is disasterous for everyone, no matter who wins, but it is always much worse for the losers.

There never was a good war or a bad peace.
Benjamin Franklin [letters to Sir Joseph Banks (27 July 1783) and Josiah Quincy (11 Sept 1783)]

They exalt peace after victory, which is like espousing rest after death!

To the victors belong the spoils.
William Marcy [25 Jan 1832 U.S. Senate speech]

Success in war, like charity in religion, covers a multitude of sins.
Charles James Napier

Too much success is not wholly desirable; an occasional beating is good for men – and nations.
Alfred Thayer Mahan [Life of Nelson (1897)]

Should the Red hordes continue to pour across the Yalu [River into Korea], it might not only render impossible the resumption of our offensive, but conceivably could eventuate in a movement in retrograde.
Douglas "El Supremo" MacArthur [cf: "We took one hell of a beating!" by Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell after reverses in the Burma campaign]

The more they take from you, the less vulnerable you are to them.

For authentic living, what is necessary is the resolute confrontation of death.
Martin Heidegger

A man's not finished when he's defeated; he's finished when he quits.
Richard M. Nixon (18 July 1969)

We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.
comment by Pogo, the cartoon possum drawn by Walt Kelly

If you have a bad strategy then no amount of good execution will save it.
Michael Mankins

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own tactics -- that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Sometimes I wondered if problems are necessary to feel truly alive — and if they don't come to us, we create them.
Lawrence Sanders

As had happened too often in the past, good intentions and a desire for peace were useless against cold steel and people willing to use it.
Harold Coyle (1987)

You can't say civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers [New York Times (23 Dec 1929)]

In the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence, and famine.
George Bernard Shaw [The Devil act 3 Man and Superman (1905)]

Great warriors, like great earthquakes, are principally remembered for the mischief they have done.
Christian Nestell Bovee

The gods of war take their toll without regard of race, creed, color, religion, or national origin.
D.J. Meador

Accursed be he that first invented war.
Christopher Marlowe

Weapons are tools of violence; all decent men detest them.
Lao-Tzu [Tao Te Ching]

Instead of building newer and larger weapons of mass destruction, I think mankind should try to get more use out of the ones we already have.
Jack Handey

It is the nation that has vision enough to seize a new weapon before war has taught its need that will win.
William "Billy" Mitchell (1924)

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Albert Einstein

No one won the last war, and no one will win the next.
Eleanor Roosevelt [5 Nov 1948 letter to Harry S. Truman]

The beginning of war is like the first days of peace: neither the world nor our hearts know they are there.
Jane Wagner

Two days of war will teach the enemy more than two years of negotiation ... but it's a terribly expensive lesson for both sides, so if we don't prepare for this application with rigorous study, then we forfeit our ability to be instructed by the best lessons of history.
paraphrase of Fred Thompson

Any nation may make war at any time, but no nation can stop a war at any time.
diplomatic maxim

It is very important to the peace of the world that we understand how wars begin. Unfortunately, most of our modern wars are too big for the average person to even begin to understand. They take place on five continents at once. One has to study geography for twenty years just to locate the battlefields. They involve hundreds of armies, thousands of officers, millions of soldiers, and the weapons are so complicated that even the generals do not understand how they work. The result is that we have been having more and more wars simply because the whole procedure is so complicated that peace-loving people give up trying to understand what is going on.
Lyman Cumberley (1996)

The dove follows the hawk as surely as the vulture follows the dove. A hawk is as much a harbinger of peace as it is of war, and a dove as much a harbinger of scavengery as of peace.

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.

In witnessing these hideous acts of brutality and destruction, he was confirmed in his opinion that mankind was the product of God's vilest process, and anyone who interfered in his inevitable extermination from this earth was a fool.
paraphrase of Rafael Sabatini (1922)

The history of things that didn't happen has never been written.
Henry Alfred Kissinger

Do nothing without advice; and when thou hast once done, repent not.
Ecclesiasticus 32:19 Bible

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Galaitans 6:7 Bible

They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
Hosea 8:7 Bible

History teaches that whenever you are indifferent to encroachment, and lose the will to resist aggression, then someone else who has the will to power, the fire in the belly, will take over what was yours ... he will dispossess you, despoil and dominate you, and make you pray for the release of death! ... because nobody gets any second chances to do it right.
paraphrase of Arthur D. "Bull" Simons

It is in the lovely lands where life is most difficult. The only places where one may live in peace, so far as I know, are arid desolations, where nothing grows and nothing is covetable.
Lloyd C. Douglas [The Robe (1942)]

How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.
Christiaan Huygens

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism .... Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron [fence, accessed by a guarded] gate. Those who had the [good] fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.
Emma Goldman

Humans are sufficiently conceited that we defend our integrity, our integument, our identity, by setting our proud substance apart from all other proud substances, and this ignoble act of essential preservation, once a necessary protection, has become a brutal hubris for which we should now be ashamed, not satisfied. Better, they say, to sacrifice ourselves, rather than right the wrongs ... better still, they aver, to have never been at all, so as to have spared all the intermediate devastations. This would be a better world without thee and thou, but only because of my superior intellect, my cosmic sensitivity, my suicidal spirit, they claim ... as they try to put me down with a will. I am not perfect, but this contention was born of the Devil, is spreading like a contagion across boundaries, and will only end with extinction ... racial, global, or otherwise. Let the battles reign. Peace awaits you in the grave.

Boundary: In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

There wouldn't be much to civilization without boundaries.
Jonathan Kellerman

Sometimes I think war is God's way of teaching us geography.
Paul Rodriguez

Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student. At least they can find Afghanistan.
A. Whitney Brown

It was the scene of an earlier war, but of course, there are very few places left that have not been battlefields.
Lyman Cumberley (1996)

Years of daily sorrow and bitter fighting vanished in an instant when we first saw you smiling soldiers, you young fresh faced liberators who'd come to our rescue. We can't tell you of the deep gratitude that we feel. The tongue is such a helpless thing when trying to express a heart drunken with happiness!
paraphrase of World War Two Luxembourg survivor addressing American soldiers

You can't appreciate home till you've left it, money till it's spent, your wife till she's joined a woman's club, nor Old Glory till you see it hanging on a broomstick on the shanty of a consul in a foreign town.
O. Henry [William Sydney Porter] ["The Fourth in Salvador" Roads of Destiny, (1909)]

compiled by Ed Staff

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