A hard-core democratic socialist friend of mine linked me to this short, excellent piece, which has implications for a large number of FPR-relevant concerns, from maintaining (or resurrecting) a popular focus on the dignity of being the citizen, to questions of what it means to defend the “common good,” to the deepest philosophy over the nature of military virtue. An excerpt:

A subtle change has been happening right before the eyes of Americans. Our troops are being told they’re no longer primarily citizen-soldiers or citizen-airmen; they’re being told they’re warriors….[S]ome would say there’s nothing wrong with this. Our troops are at war. Don’t we want them to have a strong warrior ethos?

The historian (and retired citizen-airman) in me says “no,” and I’m supported in this by a surprising source: An American army pamphlet from World War II with the title “How the Jap Army Fights.” After praising the Japanese for their toughness and endurance, the pamphlet, citing a study by Robert Leurquin, makes the following point: “The Japanese is more of a warrior than a military man, and therein lies his weakness. The difference may be a subtle one, but it does exist: The essential quality of the warrior is bravery; that of the military man, discipline.”

In 1942, our army cited the “warring passion” of the Japanese as a weakness, one that inhibited their mastery of “the craft of arms.” Yet today, our army and air force extol the virtues of being a “warrior” to young recruits.

Food for thought…and not particularly pleasant food, at that.

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Russell Arben Fox grew up milking cows and bailing hay in Spokane Valley, WA, but now lives in Wichita, KS, where he runs the History & Politics and the Honors programs at Friends University, a small Christian liberal arts college. He aspires to write a book about the theory and practice of democracy, community, and environmental sustainability in small to mid-sized cities, like the one he has made his and his family's home; his scribblings pertaining to that and related subjects are collected at the Substack "Wichita and the Mittelpolitan." He also blogs--irregularly and usually at too-great a length--more broadly about politics, philosophy, religion, socialism, bicycling, books, farming, pop music, and whatever else strikes his fancy, at "In Medias Res."


  1. “The essential quality of the warrior is bravery; that of the military man, discipline.”

    Chesterton speaks of this and is decidedly for the warrior when critiquing the thought of Kipling in Heretics:

    “The fact is that what attracts Mr. Kipling to militarism is not the idea of courage, but the idea of discipline. There was far more courage to the square mile in the Middle Ages, when no king had a standing army, but every man had a bow or sword. But the fascination of the standing army upon Mr. Kipling is not courage, which scarcely interests him, but discipline, which is, when all is said and done, his primary theme. The modern army is not a miracle of courage; it has not enough opportunities, owing to the cowardice of everybody else. But it is really a miracle of organization, and that is the truly Kiplingite ideal. Kipling’s subject is not that valour which properly belongs to war, but that interdependence and efficiency which belongs quite as much to engineers, or sailors, or mules, or railway engines. And thus it is that when he writes of engineers, or sailors, or mules, or steam-engines, he writes at his best. The real poetry, the “true romance” which Mr. Kipling has taught, is the romance of the division of labour and the discipline of all the trades. He sings the arts of peace much more accurately than the arts of war. And his main contention is vital and valuable. Every thing is military in the sense that everything depends upon obedience. There is no perfectly epicurean corner; there is no perfectly irresponsible place. Everywhere men have made the way for us with sweat and submission. We may fling ourselves into a hammock in a fit of divine carelessness. But we are glad that the net-maker did not make the hammock in a fit of divine carelessness. We may jump upon a child’s rocking-horse for a joke. But we are glad that the carpenter did not leave the legs of it unglued for a joke. So far from having merely preached that a soldier cleaning his side-arm is to be adored because he is military, Kipling at his best and clearest has preached that the baker baking loaves and the tailor cutting coats is as military as anybody.”

    Which explains why engineering is such an important major at West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy.

  2. We visit many a disservice on those who serve. Using propaganda on them is only one of the offenses. Thank you for sharing this piece.

  3. Being a “citizen-sailor” myself, I am not concerned about the use of the word “warrior” to describe our uniformed men and women. It all depends on why the word is being applied. For the Japanese during WWII it was used to describe an attribute of their soldiers/sailors/airmen which the term can evoke…a type of ferocity. However, the reason our military is moving towards the use of this term is the increasing “jointness” of our military force. The Army/Navy/Airforce/Marines are working more closely together and also more guard/reserves being integrated as well. A single term is often necessary when working in this environment and the one word which captures each branch and type of service is “warrior.”

    To suggest that a warrior does not exhibit discipline is a very narrow, and in my opinion – questionable, definition of the word, which is not supported by popular use. In fact, a warrior without discipline is no warrior at all…he/she is a brute, a hack, and should not be awarded the term.

  4. They may be trained into warriors or simply conduct themselves as a “military man” but in this age of reducing expectations domestically, the most comprehensive definition of the american soldier is “mercenary”. They are the front line pawns for the Neo-Con, Neo-Liberal globalists and their utopian hair-brained schemes. Admiral Mullen asserts the Wikileaks executives have “blood on their hands”. Cheeky indeed but perhaps they do and they are joining a growing club. Today I learned that the Army is experiencing a suicide a day in its ranks. We’ve shorted the Republic and gone long on Empire and it is no wonder that we seem to be staring bankruptcy in the face. Empire, of course, is the original “non-verified” loan .

  5. My military experience was about 40 years ago. I was drafted into the U.S. Army in June of 1968. I wound up in recon, infantry, and eventually was running a ground surveillance radar at several remote fire bases. Being a “warrior” was not something most of us ever considered. The vast majority of my comrades in arms were also drafted. We considered ourselves to be draftees, and the more aware of us viewed our status as being that of expendable cannon fodder. Despite the past and current lies about the competence of our non-volunteer force, my experience was that even misfits like my humble self tended to be competent and effective.

    I extended my combat tour enough so that I was freed from servitude once I made it back to Oakland Army Base. Friends who did not do so got stuck in some really lousy duty, including one chap who wound up being a tracker dog decoy in the wilds of Ft. Benning. Blindly following orders was not part of the normal draftee mindset. There were generally accepted norms as to how much danger was allowable, and officers or lifers who violated these might have wound up in peril. Yet, I saw considerable courage exhibited by draftees, and many missions were accomplished, frequently by clever and non-standard tactics and actions.

    I suspect that the current effort by the military authorities to try to inculcate a sort of American Bushido, is an attempt to improve discipline and effect a mindset in the current troops that such effeminate niceties as the Geneva Convention, and the war crimes portions of the UCMJ are to be ignored. Real “warriors” are not spineless weenies. Such restrictions are only for losers. I believe that this sort of effort is a serious mistake.

  6. “Being a “citizen-sailor” myself, I am not concerned about the use of the word “warrior” to describe our uniformed men and women. It all depends on why the word is being applied.”

    Precisely. Why should we presume that what the military means by “warrior” today is the same thing which that pamphlet meant by the word 68 years ago? I’m not saying that the growth of the term “warrior” is necessarily irrelevant, but we’ll need a bit more than a linguistic connection to puzzle that out.

    Is there really a “warrior ethos” that’s different from the older American military ethos? If so, how exactly is it different, and in what ways are those differences good or bad?

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