Are we still warriors?

In send-offs for the Gulf War and this one, service persons and families are crying and blubbering all over the place. People in military uniforms whining: “I didn’t think I’d really have to do this.”

Anti-war demonstrators decry the certainty of injury and death which have always defined war, with no real regard to the pros and cons of THIS one.

‘Iraqi Freedom’ command (allegedly) plans to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties despite the Iraqi military using civilian clothes and buildings to ambush our troops.

FOX trots out three wounded soldiers, two of which complain about how it sucks and they want to go back home.

On the other hand…

The Marine on FOX (the third guy) wants to get back in the fight

My nephew being shipped off in the 4th ID is eager to take up the sword and go to battle (while the rest of the family and I are left here cryin and blubberin).

These are just a few examples, but I really wonder if this country were threatened by invasion (peaceful or not), do we have the fortitude to repell it? Or would we feebly give up so as not to suffer anything that remotely appears to be a negative experience or to avoid hurting the invaders’ feelings?

Are we still warriors? If so, for what?

You raise a very interesting question. My thoughts as they come out:

Our culture doesn’t value the “strong, silent type” the way it once did. It is now acceptable for men to whine, where years ago, they would have been jeered at as “sissies”, “pansies”, etc. Actually, whining is ENCOURAGED in some circumstances… nobody gets on TV by keeping his mouth shut and getting on with the job.

I think the average American is so far removed from physical hardship and violence that we have lost our perspective on these matters. A lack of historical knowledge probably contributes, as well. We don’t realize that up-close-and-personal violence has been part of the human experience for many thousands of years, and is not likely to go away any time soon.

Because of this odd perspective, some of us are actually able to “seriously” consider such concepts as “war without casualties”, because we now see war as some sort of abstraction, like colored pins stuck in a map. We don’t neccessarily understand a battle is ALL about people getting seriously hurt until one side gives up or is destroyed. When you “think” in this fashion, it’s easy to sit back and say “Oh, by the way, Sarge… don’t shoot anybody.”

I’m amazed at the military people who are so incredibly short-sighted as to not realize, upon signing up, that the military’s core business is to kill people and break things. As nearly as I can figure, it’s some combination of simple stupidity and a kind of intense self-centeredness: “Other people may have to go to war, but not me! The world bends itself to my whims, right?” This type of self-centeredness seems to be turning up a lot more than it used to, in all areas of society.

I can’t complain too much about the anti-war protesters, because at least they have a consistent position: they hate war. They hate the idea of people getting their body parts blown off for reasons that are often pretty stupid.

Granted, they apparently fail to grasp the concept of “lesser of two evils”, but there ARE people in the world who abhor violence above all else, and would consider “peace at any price” to BE the lesser evil.

As you point out, some people display the more old-fashioned give-me-a-gun-and-point-me-at-‘em attitude. I think this is part of human nature, and still exists in more people than you might think. The media, after all, love to show people crying. The folks who see their soldier son off at the depot with the words "Bring us back a couple of ragheads’ ears, boy!" aren’t going to turn up on CNN. :slight_smile:

Outside the major cities, which the mass media would have you believe are the whole of America, there are millions of people who still think like the Americans who tamed the frontier, won World War 2, etc. Remember the Bush-Gore voting map, showing which districts voted which way? Look for these folks in the “Bush” areas.

In the event of an actual march-ashore-on-the-beaches, drop-from-the-sky-on-parachutes INVASION, I’m inclined to think that plenty of Americans would fight vigorously. Granted, many (especially younger people and urban dwellers) would just sit around being appalled and waiting for someone to come along and fix things for them, but I know quite a few who’d rush down to the landing site, looking to collect a few scalps!

On a related note, how would you like to invade, say, south-central Los Angeles? People who would destroy their own neighborhoods to protest the Rodney King verdict are NOT your best bet for giving up quietly! :slight_smile:

And, of course, almost anyone will fight if the threat is personal enough. It’s a rare man (I hope!) who will stand by passively and let the invading soldiers rape his wife, because he doesn’t want to “sink to their level” or “invalidate their worldview” or some such malarky.

Actually, our biggest obstacle in such a situation would probably be our own government! I just can’t see any politician of recent times (except possibly Jesse Ventura) going on TV and saying “The enemy is everywhere! My fellow Americans… FIRE AT WILL!!” Instead, the government would take it’s typical “return to your homes and wait” attitude, and would waste a lot of effort trying to restrain the fighting Americans.

I’m at a loss to picture your “peaceful” invasion, so I’ll have to let that one go.

Well said Vlad. And welcome to the Straight Dope.

As a former U.S. Army M-1 Abrams tanker, I knew when I raised my hand and swore my oath in 1986 that there was a possibility, however remote, that I may have to fire the main gun of my tank at another human being and kill them (even if they were in another tank). I never deluded myself with false notions that “it can never happen.”

When my unit was alerted for deployment to the middle east in August of 1990, too many of our soldiers at Ft, Hood, which had a high concentration of 2-year enlistees, whined that they had “just joined for the college money.” This attitude of denial infuriated me to no end.

But these young men rose to the challenge, and altogether were a pretty damned good bunch of people to have to go to war with.

Overall, Americans are pragmatists. When crunch-time is upon us, silly notions, wishfull thinking, and socio-politically engineered modes of thought disappear as our core pragmatism re-asserts itself. You don’t generally see this in the news, though; as said, the media doesn’t focus on those who endure quietly.

Instead, we hear only of the rabble-rousers and campus protesters who have the luxury of criticizing someone else’s efforts and hardships from the relative safety and security of academia and wealth-provided insulation. We hear so much of this (due to excessive and lopsided media coverage) that we begin to think that this is actually the norm.

It is not.

J. Average Citizen may have their doubts about this war, but since we are in the thick of it, they have shut up, and are ready to put up. They support our government, our President and our men and women out there in harm’s way. Not out of any sense of “My Country, Right Or Wrong.” But out of the pragmatic idea that we all need to be pulling together.

Because every voice of dissent only emboldens the Iraqi resistance, with the notion that if they can drag this out long enough, political dissent and partisanship will weaken our political leadership and force a negotiated settlement favorable to Sadam Hussein.

And if we drag this out long enough the body count, ours and theirs, will only climb higher. This is an injustice (bordering on treason, IMHO) to not only our service members, but to the people of Iraq as well.

The American people, overall, are more than tough enough to endure what must be endured.

We’re warriors as much as we ever were.

Every war, ever, has had people in it who didn’t want to be there; who just wanted to be home. Who wouldn’t? Do you expect people to enjoy getting shot at? Do you want wounded people to be all enthusiastic about being wounded? Yay, I’m in great pain! Wait till I tell the folks back home!

Every war, leaders have had to talk their countries into by claiming that victory was sure, that it wouldn’t take long, that it wouldn’t do much damage. “We’ll only kill the people that we absolutely have to.” We’ve gotten into so many messes that way, that you’d think humanity in general would have developed an immunity to these arguments. But we haven’t; we forget about that last “lightning quick” war, and its consequences, and get all wound up for war again.

Every kid who’s signing up right now is all gung ho about it. How many of them do you think will piss themselves when they’re under fire? How many do you think will have the composure, under that kind of pressure, to fire back? How many, when they’re thousands of miles away from their homes, vulnerable and terrified, will curse the day they signed up? And how many of those will pick up their weapons, and go into the next battle, and maybe do better that time?

Fear isn’t weakness. When you’re in danger, fear is the only reasonable reaction. Heinlein said it well: "Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.) "

As to war protestors not being aware of the particulars of this war, and protesting on general principles, as a protestor I think I’m very aware of the particulars of this war. And I’m not convinced that it’s in our best interest, or that we’ve got the diplomatic skills to leave the situation in Iraq any better than we found it, whether we win the military phase of the occupation or not. Disagreeing with the prevailing opinion doesn’t mean I’m uninformed; it may very well indicate the opposite.

The media loves people who cry- thats why you see that on TV. The stotic types don’t make for good footage, and those eager to go fight aren’t PC enough for TV. I am in ROTC myself, and just earlier today I had a couple Marines in the unit who were complaining about the war-they were active duty, and they feel disapointed that they won’t get any combat experience, but are stuck over here. :slight_smile: I think Americans are as about as tough as ever - remember, even in the Civil War we had a lot of protesters and such.

I say, we are no longer warriors.

We are soldiers, instead.

Warrior, from
One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.
One who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict: neighborhood warriors fighting against developers.

Soldier, from
One who serves in an army.
An enlisted person or a noncommissioned officer.
An active, loyal, or militant follower of an organization.

There’s a clear difference, and it is a difference that dates back to the greek tortise formation, and that is professionalism.

We are not heroes, seeking glory for ourselves. We work together to accomplish tasks and perform duties. It is fairly darn effective, too.

A soldier can complain all he wants, can want to go back home… but, generally speaking, give him a legal order, and he’ll follow it. Because he knows, no matter how much it sucks, it’s what he signed up to do.

There is another difference, too. A warrior doesn’t work for someone else - or for a group. They fight for themselves, in the end. They fight because they want glory, riches, or some cause important to them personally.

Soldiers fight for a people. They fight together. Soldiers fight as a team. They aren’t there to win accolades or honors. They just want to win and go home again.

And soldiers almost always win out against warriors.

Actually in my experience the opposite is true. The people who would fight and put their lives on the line to protect their neighborhoods would be the last people to torch them.

Mass vandalism and looting is a crime of opportunity allowed by the anonymity of the crowd. IF those people who rioted in LA thought they would be held responsible for their actions, they would have sat at home and watched the riots on TV.

To the OP I have always felt it was about responsibility. In and out of the millitary we all choose to accept or refuse responsibility for what needs to be done.

We as a society have focused on placing the blame for violence on a criminal. That if we just hand over our wallets the bad man won’t hurt us, and that by fighting for something precious to us we are little better than the thug who wanted to take it away.

IMHO we are not warriors in the millitary sense. Warriors require passion and drive that we as a society do not have in sufficent quantities. Our society is driven by profit and individual benefit. Wars are expensive and require immense sacrifices, this is an alien concept to much of our population.

Our warriors are in the boardrooms and brokerage houses. Their suits of armor are corporations, their weapons, proprietary information. I don’t say this to belittle or demean big business. Its just what we have come to value on a day to day basis. We don’t depend on the sword of our feudal lord anymore, but on the stability of his business.

Drach, 127th Inventory Division.

's funny, I opened this thread out of curiosity. You don’t hear the term “warrior” too often these days. I do know one, though.

I know a guy who says things like “I was born 100 years too late.” A guy to whom honor means something. He truly has a warrior’s attitude. When something threatens him or his family, he says “I know I’ve got to keep my warrior at bay. Be civilized, reasonable. But when something puts my family in harm’s way, I want to kill it.”

I betcha he’s not alone, either.

I know plenty of people like that too.

Incredibly enough, there are more than a few people who at least say that they would. I could probably find examples in some of the gun control threads on this very board. (They generally don’t seem to have a problem with hiring someone - a policeman - to use force for them though.) :rolleyes:

Gotta chime in here. Unlike most of the responses here, I’m against this war. And I have to comment on some of this . . .

True enough about us being pragmatists; what you don’t understand is that some of us don’t think it’s “crunch time” yet, because we haven’t seen anything about how we’re directly threatened by Iraq. All we’ve gotten is abstract warnings about WMD that may or may not exist from a dissembling, calculating administration that. . . well, suffice it to say I don’t think too highly of them.

Horsecrap. So anti-war protests get covered on TV; so do pro-war protests. And in my opinion, pro-war folks are even more insulated and ignorant of the world beyond our borders as anti-war types; just look at how many Americans think Saddam was behind 9/11.

It’s not “every voice of dissent” that’s emboldening Iraqi resistance. Maybe it’s the large numbers of expat Iraqis who reportedly are trying to get back into the country to repel the foriegn invaders (I say “reportedly” because I don’t can’t come up with a cite beyond other posts here on the SMDB; if it’s not true, I withdraw the assertion). If our democracy (and its leaders) can’t conjure up the will to finish this conflict, then maybe–just maybe–the conflict wasn’t worth fighting.


Why is it the responsibility of the anti-war side to silence their constitutionally guaranteed right to speak out against the war? Why can’t it be the responsibility of those for the war to not send our troops halfway across the world at great expense to put them in harm’s way unless there is unanimous domestic agreement that the war is indeed a just and correct battle?

Hey, I’m a fairly typical 34-year-old guy, with a wife and an 11-month-old son whom I love more than anything else in this world. I’m not afraid to call “bullshit” on my (more or less) elected leaders at any time. I think any American who is doesn’t deserve the right to live here.

But I also know that if my country was attacked–I mean, directly attacked, on a Pearl Harbor-type scale–by a foe that we could identify and target, I’d say “Go get 'em, boys.” 9/11 qualifies. I supported what we did in Afghanistan, and so did most of the world.

And I also know that if the bad guys invaded this country, you’re goddamn right I’d pick up a gun for the first time since Boy Scout camp and say, “Point me at 'em.”

I’m not too afraid that we’ve lost our warrior spirit. We haven’t seen it because we haven’t needed it too often. Some people don’t understand that it’s motivated by a love of this country’s freedom and prosperity, not by a love of whichever is the current administration.

Wow, what awesome replies. Thanks y’all.

To straighten the record, I was trying to avoid yet another thread on the why/why nots of the present conflict.

And I did not intend to criticize, bash, or direct fire to all anti-war demonstrators (hence the omission of the word ‘all’ in the OP). However, since the subject was brought up - I don’t respect the “peace at all cost” conviction inasmuch as “all costs” would include death - the only real peace.

Also, it’s true I didn’t consult a dictionary before using the term ‘warrior’, but my intent agrees pretty well with the definition in the replies - the passionate fighter who risks his own life or limb for the overriding aim of vanquishing an opponent. Fear may or may not be present, but cowardice negativism are banished. Meaning no disrespect, a soldier fights between bitches and moans and is most satisfied with the part of victory that equates to getting to go home.

In this sense, and from the posts, perhaps we’ve never been a warrior nation (particularly in the 20th century), but just dang good, resolute fighters.

As to the “peaceful invasion”, this probably needs to be in another thread, but I think I see trouble on the southwest flank.

By the way, Tank, my nephew is the other Black Knight (ring knocker). I don’t know the technical terms, but he described his duty as scouting and directing artillery and air cover for infantry. … and thank you for your service.

So, basically, Joe and Willie of Bill Maudlin versus Conan and He-Man.

I’m betting on Joe.