Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Post: Military Writers Teach Far More Than Strategy (Part One)

Hadrian's column, Rome
After a short, unavoidable delay, April’s Guest Post is ready. However, it cannot be posted all at once, so instead I will be posting a new section at 9:00 AM PST on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday until it is complete.

Wednesday will be reserved for the regular Wordsmith at Work days. I hope these posts on the history of military writers will be edifying to those who are interested, and if you’re not, feel free to come back on Wednesday or next week.

For now, this is Part One of Four. Enjoy.

There is much made today of military men who write. They are criticized and reviled at all levels. And yet, it is the memoirs and written accounts made by military men which have given us the clearest history of the world.

It is an odd dichotomy of our human existence that these who have caused chaos in greater way than any others provide the most illustrative and concise knowledge of how people from their time lived and thought and believed and acted. We may wish to decry them, for personal, moral or philosophical reasons, but theirs is the records we have and it behooves us to study them diligently.

Anciently, Caesar wrote his commentaries on the Gaelic war, providing insight on Roman politics, diplomacy, and social interaction. The knowledge and foresight which he provides is still used not only by historians but social analysts, professors and students to expand their knowledge, for history and humans are cyclic in nature.

There is a pattern which all nations follow. One could easily draw comparisons between the Italian city-states' evolution over the centuries and the rise of the American republic, right down to our current use and employment of mercenaries (we may wish to label them as Private Military Contractors, but let us be honest, we know what they are).

Certainly we may hope that we do not share their fate (American politicians do not help matters at all, for they understand history and power far less than their Italian antecedents).

Thucydides’ landmark analysis of the Peloponnesian War delved not simply into the tactics of Hoplite phalanxes brutally smashing into each other, nor Trireme galleys ramming and burning and crashing across the Aegean Sea; but the political landscape of ancient Greece and the conditions which led to the war that ravaged it for two decades, ruined Athens and  drained the whole nation of life.

The Anabasis by Xenophon provides us with glimpses of Persia prior to Alexander the Great. His account of those ten thousand mercenaries marching out of hostile territory and returning to their homes has been mimicked and used as the basis for hundreds more stories. Homer did not set out to tell the Siege of Troy, for he states clearly: I sing the wrath of Achilles. He wasn’t detailing a great historical saga, but rather the personal rise and fall of one man, through which we gain the entire Trojan War.

Word of the Day: Dichotomy (noun), a separation of different or contradictory things.

After spending 19 years a virtual prisoner in the People's Republic of California, Jonathan LaForce escaped, spending two blissful years serving as a missionary for his church in Dallas Texas. Upon completion of this assignment though, he returned to California and found himself once again impoverished, despite working as a security guard at the SixFlags Theme Park.

Refusing to remain in this state and having nothing to tie him down, he enlisted in the Marines. Three years later, with deployments to the Orient and Afghanistan as an artilleryman in the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, he spends his time running riot in his truck all over the island of Hawaii while destroying what little hearing he has left with bagpipes and classic 80s rock.

A Guide to The Modern Military Writer

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