Monday, June 04, 2007

Road Warriors

Valhalla, 17th c. depiction

In this proud land we grew up strong

We were wanted all along

I was taught to fight, taught to win

I never thought I could fail

Don't Give Up, Peter Gabriel

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine.
It is only those who have neither fired a shot
nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded
who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell

--William Tecumseh Sherman

The pain of war cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath

--Battle of Evermore, Led Zeppelin

Max: I'm just here for the gasoline

--Mad Max II, The Road Warrior (1981)


Definition of ''
warrior'' :

''A man engaged in or experienced in warfare, and especially in primitive warfare or the close-combat typical of ancient or medieval times. A person of demonstrate courage, fortitude, zeal or pugnacity. An advocate of war.''--Webster's 3rd International Dictionary

''A person habitually engaged in combat. In tribal societies, warriors often form a caste or class of their own. In feudalism, the vassals essentially form a military or warrior class, even if in actual warfare; peasants may be called to fight, as well. In some societies, warfare may be so central that the entire people may be considered warriors.''

Lately the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pace and all his little warrior buddies invoke rhetoric of the warrior as a U.S. military value. In addition, the Walter Reed Army Hospital has a new name--the Wounded Warrior Facility. Wrap that around your tongue--Wounded Warrior. It almost makes your pecker hard just saying it. (And for an old soldier, that's quite a feat in itself.)

Now, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, Geronimo--those were warriors. Warriors always fulfilled a need in primitive societies to protect the non-warriors. As such, they stood apart from the general society and occupied a place of honor, and were treated with awe and respect. These men lived only to fight and die so that the tribe could survive. That was then.

This is now. A soldier is a needed, and should be respected, vocation. Soldiers fight, kill and/or die, and possibly are severely wounded performing their function. This is when they must fight

I wore crossed rifles in time of war and never, ever, in my wildest imagination considered myself a warrior.

I volunteered for the regular Army, the Airborne, the Infantry, Ranger and Special Forces. I further volunteered for RVN, but never did I consider myself a warrior. I did these things because they were necessary, and not because the warrior battle cry beckoned.

All reasonable soldiers fight reluctantly, and those that revel in war are indeed material for serious abnormal psychological studies.

Soldiers are representatives of a society and reflect the values of that society. Warriors stand apart and adopt values separate and deviant from the general population. Most citizens are fearful of actual combat veterans--indeed warriors would provoke an even greater discomfort.

So why is the Department of Defense creating a new climate that embraces warrior values? Every true hero hates killing and violence, but for a warrior it is just another day at the office.

Have we transitioned in our society from a citizen Army to a professional volunteer force, into a warrior class?

Soldiers do not torture. What about warriors? Think Geronimo. Think Apache. Think capture. Is this the appropriate U.S. response to the terror threat?

Let's slip over to the Wounded Warrior Center at Walter Reed. Generally these personnel are so FUBAR'd that they will never return to active duty service. After stabilization, they will be dumped on the Department of Veterans Affairs and will never be soldiers again. So how are they served by being called ''Wounded Warriors''?

Hell, the VA won't even address you by your rank if you are retired or medically retired.

Question: ''What do you call a wounded warrior once the DVA inherits them?
Answer: ''Mister.''

So where do wounded warriors go? To the civilian VA. It would serve their successful transition to accustom them to this fact before they get shocked by reality.

Our society does not need warriors, nor do we need a warrior class or culture. What we need are soldiers sharing the values of liberty and justice for all. That does not mean killing everybody who disagrees with or resists our all-encompassing love.

Calling military personnel warriors is another way of justifying repeated frequent useless combat tours and forced separation from families. On a more insidious level, it is a way to acclimate a society to the permanent emplacement of a warrior caste in their midst.

More subversive yet: Warriors are made to fight and die. He may be mourned, but it will be for fulfilling his destiny. Like Odin's warriors, he will be feted at Valhalla where crossed swords serve as roof beams. So, the loss of a warrior will not be felt as deeply on a human level as he is already separated from society by virtue of his designation. He deals in death, so he has one foot in the grave already.

Warriors are impervious to hardship; soldiers aren't.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

excellent analysis. there are some, like john robb, who have been saying that with the shift to an all volunteer force the emphasis on warrior culture has brought about a degradation of the soldier (and especially the citizen soldier) ethic.

the warrior caste of the apache was broken down into different "societies" (for lack of a better term). each warrior group had its own niche in battle and in tribal life. since the final surrender of geronimo the focus of the warrior societies has been more ceremonial and social than actual warfare. but, we do remember our root meanings.

because i grew up in a warrior's culture i instinctively saw and knew the differences that had to be understood and observed while serving as a soldier. you drew them out very well.

especially though, on the atrocities of the apache wars in arizona, there were plenty of those on all sides. plenty. in some place the past is not only not forgotten it is only barely the past.

Monday, June 4, 2007 at 10:30:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I sit on the porch rockin' and ponderin' on these dark times we're in, it seems to me that words like "warrior", "hero", "leader", "martyr" -- all these words that are bandied about so easy and so often -- are part of the "dumbing down" of us all. Somebody who wants us to think their way believes that only stories in the starkest black-and-white, high contrast versions get thru to us. At other times, it seems to me that the intention is to have us dredge up powerful images from some deep human well...it's been a while but some old German or Swiss psychiatrist had names for 'em...those deep shapes and names.

Looks like to me, whatever the mechanics of the thing is of how it works, those words and images are used on purpose and for one thing: to manipulate us into believin' there's no grays, no in-betweens, no maybe-right-maybe-wrong situations. We Are Right and They Are Wrong. Period. Then somehow Orwell's 1985 comes to mind. It can make you feel The Fear, man.


Monday, June 4, 2007 at 12:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

minstrel boy,

I am well versed in the Wounded Knee scenario. I've written variously about the wrongheadedness of this war, especially when our own people are in dire need.

Help Americans first, and especially our first Americans, since we took the whole ball of wax from them. I am glad to have you as a reader

Monday, June 4, 2007 at 12:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Yeah, it is preying on deep archetypes, and certainly does seem bent upon dredging up primitive fears.

The dumbing down of our society is a distressing trend. If you can wire people's mind so that run around like trolley cars on only a few lines, monitoring them isn't too difficult.

They certainly won't see what on the other side of the tracks, what might dilute the B & W of their existence.

Monday, June 4, 2007 at 12:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CAFKIA said...

I like what you said Ranger but, I disagree with it, sort of.

The warrior is, in my not so humble opinion, not necessarily a killer. (S)He is not even necessarily a fighter in the violence/pugilistic sense. I deem a warrior as one who sees a need and fills it. Without regard to how their actions might play on the nightly news or history books, they act. I think it was Sun Tzu who said "the warrior acts. The fool reacts." Martin Luther King, Jesus as described in the bible, Ghandi and other men and women of peace give up none of their warrior status for their refusal to embrace violence. That simply was not the need that they saw as needing filled.

You are correct that the warrior stands apart. That almost has to mean that they are a culture unto themselves. The rules of others do not apply when they deem an action necessary.

Warriordom is in my view, a destination. As such, one may be near or far from it but still be on the path. Violence is but one tool in a vast array of options available to the true warrior. Just as a mechanic may chose for their own reason a rachet and socket, a combination wrench, an adjustable wrench or perhaps an air impact, the choice of tool must be up to the warrior. Their reasons for choosing such might never be disclosed or understood. That doesn't make them wrong or right. It simply means that the warrior does what they will.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 8:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thank you for your provocative comment. Mostly, I will defer until Jim is here to hear what he has to say on the matter.

For me, I will ask if you arguing for the warrior ethos as being a stance of conviction which anyone might hold. I am thinking that is why you use the mechanic example--he is a ''warrior'' for good auto safety, like Public Radio's ''Click and Clack,'' maybe?

If so, you are taking warrior as a metaphor, and we were being quite literal. A U.S. Army soldier is a soldier performing a function. He bears arms to serve his duty and honor his country. He is not on a crusade, nor is he a member of a warrior caste.

We oppose the term ''warrior'' because it imputes an aggressive stance which is not necessary--nor even preferable--for a U.S. soldier to hold.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 11:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


The way the current leadership is using warrior is an excuse to apply violence, and that is where I have a problem.

Being a soldier implies you still bear the right and responsibility to think. A warrior is not restricted by such niceties.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 2:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous cafkia said...

I speak very specifically of those who stand willing and ready to do that which needs to be done as being warriors. A robot can do as told. That does not make it a warrior.

That this administration misuses words like they misuse soldiers is not news either. They have a fundamental lack of capacity to understand the warrior ethos as I see it.

A soldier/sailor/airman/marine can indeed be a warrior but, a uniform surely does NOT confer such status. It is a decision and attitude. The warrior will willingly die if that will do what needs to be done. But, if passing out chocolate and comforting a young rape victim is what needs to be done, then that is what they will do. The warrior analyzes and decides on a course of action. The soldier follows lawful orders. They are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually inclusive.

You are correct in that except for the identification of an order as lawful or not, the soldier does as told. You are correct that this (mis)administration uses the word as an excuse for violence and frequently, misdirected violence.

My belief is that in an ideal world, we would have a nation of warriors. We would all stand ready to do as necessary violent, peaceful, or thoughtful. Instead, some stand ready to commit violence at a moments notice and others stand ready to watch survivor and American Idol. Others of course, stand ready to steal money and power from those being entertained.

Cie la vie


Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 3:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thanks for the further comments.

I believe you are arguing for a just and ethical society, where we follow the Kennedy dictate (''Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.'')

Sounds reasonable to me. Our point is simply, we do not need a separate, samurai class of Americans.

Obviously, as a soldier, I am not arguing for weakness, nor pacifism in the face of aggression. But the obverse of the latter part of that statement does not constitute nobility nor a warrior ethos.

Agression toward the wrong players, as in pre-emptive Iraqi invasion, is just plain wrong.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 5:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I may be wrong but I think the use of the term warrior as a replacement for soldier started with Hackworth's bio "About Face" which was subtitled "The Odyssey of an American Warrior". Its been years since I read it, but my recollection is that Hackworth was dismayed at the rise (post-WW II) of the ticket punching, political.ly sensitive, university-trained military officer and sought to counter that "ideal" with the single word "warrior". However, I think he meant it like you mean "soldier" or better yet "citizen soldier." The Athenian model versus the Spartan. I also think you hit the nail on the head with your observation that today's "Warrior-Culture" provides both the "excuse to apply violence" (your words) and the excuse to accept the warrior's death, pain, disfigurement, etc... - afterall, they're trained professionals and they volunteered! (my words) Definitions get so cluttered and confused these days (officially condoned and promoted confusion I'd venture), it can be difficult to think through the fog to the heart of a matter. You (and your second-in-command) are very good at that. Also, hats off to anon. for the insightful observations about "dumbing us down." GSJ

P.S. Enjoyed our lunchtime meeting!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 8:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I'll defer to Jim on Hackworth's bio, as I haven't read it.

Athenian model, y'say. You mean those pansy, artistic, philosophical sorts? Oh no, it seems like we have no need of such things in the New Sparta.

Schools are doing away with art and music programs, as funds are short, and we must coach them on how to pass the basic competency tests so that No Child Will Be Left Behind when Johnny Goes Marching Off to War.

The militarization starts early, with cops posted at the entryways and now tasked with dealing with disciplinary problems. Officer Friendlies, dontcha know.

Glad there are folks like you in the world; a person can like their guns, but still keep their wits about them! Must have something to do with good hearing protection. . .

It was a pleasure meeting with you, also.

--No. 2

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 9:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, you folks have turned this into an excellent discussion. I kept having this feeling that I'd read something awhile back about "soldiers" and "warriors" and finally the other night, thinking about what was being said here, it came to me. There's this Retired Marine Colonel named T.X. Hammes who wrote a book a few years back named "The Sling and The Stone" which talks about the evolution of war tactics. You won't agree with everything he sez, I don't think but he talks about the difference between soldiers and warriors this a-way (page 41):

Now [in the 21st century] we are fighting warrior or clan societies. The difference between a soldier and a warrior is essential. Soldiers are disciplined members of a specific profession...they are under the control of a political entity and do not have specific...benefits from continuing to fight....In contrast, a warrior society thrives on and exists for war. Often the young warrior has everything to lose (except his life) if he stops fighting....As a member of a fighting clan, he has prestige and income. They combine to give him access to money, food, property and women. If he puts his weapon down, he loses that prestige and income -- and with them everything else. Although the risk of death from fighting is always present, it is actually less than the risk of death from starvation if he stops fighting."

He goes on to use Somalia as an example. Now he seems to me to be one of them "clash of civilizations" types and kinda looks down his nose a little bit at you if you're not American and "civilized" but...that's the distinction he makes between one and t'other for what it's worth.


Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 2:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thank you for the excerpt. It is a caveat for America not to transition back into the clan/warrior ethos if we wish to maintain our egalitarianism.

I think that trait is still within humans--the desire to affiliate with one's own; therefore, we are all members of little tribes, in a sense. And if you cleave to, you also cleave from something else.

As with everything, it comes down to economics. The warrior is invested in warring, but the soldier should not be.

It is absurd for our military to take on the warring tribes in Iraq. One team is playing checkers, the other, chess. There need not be a clash of civilizations if we could accept the right of others to live as they choose.

GWB seems to have wedded the proselytizing call of his faith to governmental systems.

People don't like having governments shoved down their throats any more than they like being accosted on the street by however well-intentioned missionaries.

Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 3:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thanks for this addition, which amplifies my point wonderfully.

You and I share the same disconnect re. his analysis of America as being the paragon of civilized values. We give good lip service to the value, though.

Friday, June 8, 2007 at 8:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


The Hackworth comments have to be taken in a historical sense.

The Army has always been a ticket-punching agency, and always will be. For example, look at the officer corps in the Civil War; by and large political appointees supervised by West Point professional soldiers.

The ROTC program was instituted at the university level to eliminate the need for politically appointed officers. Therefore the university-trained officers were seen as the solution, and not the problem.

Friday, June 8, 2007 at 8:44:00 AM GMT-5  

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