“The state is unbreakable, for it is held aloft by the people”
We return to Piktus, and begin to see the consequences of decisions and events taking place elsewhere.
Written by: Rupert August
Performed by: Shelley Anderson
“The state is unbreakable, for it is held aloft by the people”
We return to Piktus, and begin to see the consequences of decisions and events taking place elsewhere.
Written by: Rupert August
Performed by: Shelley Anderson
One of the core ideas of geo-economics as an evolving discipline is the promotion, and nurturing of certain skills and competencies which can further economics and geopolitical interests down the line. This also has significant military implications in a way that has been casually observed elsewhere, but deserves more specific attention as a factor of grand strategy. Not only this, but the interplay between fostering skills in a military capacity also creates opportunities for the civilian economy – showing a close relationship generally between these two entities.
One of the most clear places where this relationship appears is during the Second World War. Despite overestimations as the extent of such – this war was indeed a highly mechanised one, with large maneuvers by motorised formations playing decisive roles in numerous battles. Therefore, both in the case of maintaining these frontline vehicles, and the logistics vehicles behind them, a great deal of skill is needed. These skills can and will be taught through official channels, but the availability of these skills will then be restricted to those who are expected to use them most frequently. However, in an industrialised society, the skills of maintaining a motor vehicle will be more generally proliferated at random, which can have a strategic and operational effect in war. This is because although major faults will still require attention centrally, more minor issues may be resolved at a more local level with greater regularity, or with less experienced units.
As a hypothetical example; a freshly assembled motorised unit is advancing on a position in preparation to support an attack, but a breakdown occurs as a result of something as simple as a flat tire. The likelihood of resolving this issue changes with the level of industrialisation present in the country from which these soldiers are drawn. In the case of the US or Britain, there is a higher likelihood (due to greater industrialisation, and in particular, larger automotive industries) of the skills to resolve this problem as it arises with minimal time lost – compared to Japan, the Soviet Union, or Germany, which were all more agrarian in structure. After it is realised how simple the problem is to resolve, the driver will likely learn what is required, but the baseline competence level in this area is not readily available coming straight from the civilian world. This will have a host of downstream effects, from unexpected troop shortages during this particular attack, to increased strain on the maintenance support services tasked with keeping these vehicles running (and using their time on tasks which they are vastly overqualified for). In the extreme, it can also have the effect of providing a more well-rounded working knowledge of mechanical maintenance, rather than the application of drill. This could be one of the factors in the success of damage control efforts conducted by the US Navy, particularly in the case of the USS Yorktown – which was present at the Battle of Midway largely due to effective damage control. In this same battle, the IJN carrier Akagi was lost, in part due to insufficient damage control, which may have benefited from greater access to a wide breadth of mechanical skills which were less available to Japan at the time.
Of course, here the focus has been on the skills availability, but there are more obvious benefits in these same examples, relating to raw industrial capacity – which meant that the ability to produce these vehicle in the first instance was greater, as were the supplemental industries which could produce all of the physical capital and tooling necessary to increase production rapidly.
It is also worth noting however, that in some cases, the presence of skills and capabilities can preclude access to others. For example, in this same example of the Second World War, more agrarian economies tended to produce more skill with the handling of livestock, and of particular relevance – draught horses. At the time, even the most industrialised economies will have still had sizable contingents which could handle and care for these animals effectively – in the modern day this will not be the case. If the use of draught animals for logistics networks became necessary, modern western populations would not have the same amount of baseline and readily available experience to get the most out of the animals and care for them properly.
In a similar regard, competence with firearms, in much of Europe particularly, is less of a widely maintained skillset than in the past or compared to the US. This has been a result of both cultural and legal factors, but the end result is that the US population exhibits a significantly greater baseline competence with firearms than do their European counterparts. Not only this but the physical capital is also more readily available to service these firearms, and even to produce ammunition – which will drastically shorten the timeline of any required increase in production in a case where this becomes necessary. Furthermore, due to domestic demand and financial support of these industries, a much greater level of capacity is maintained in peacetime, with a clientele that retain non-political (albeit consumer, rather than strictly military-based) priorities which can drive innovation and effective competition. This is contrasted against the European markets, which have largely become a set of national (and sometime international) monopolies. Likely this has been a result of the need to remain competitive and profitable in a near-monopsony market. As previously stated, this has the effect of ensuring that a new US soldier will have a greater average level of competence in this area, compared to their international counterparts – with clear military (and by extension, geopolitical) implications.
To take another facet of this skills issue: the lack of an ability to maintain or reward certain exceptional skills domestically – can be disastrous for the geopolitical position of a country. This ranges from the minor examples of Swedish merchants being drawn into the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), to the catastrophes of individuals like the Transilvanian cannon-maker Orban (or Urban) offering his services to Byzantium – only to be refused and find himself in the service of the Ottoman sultan – building the cannons that will end Byzantium’s existence as a polity. Likewise, the example of Christopher Columbus who, despite being a Ligurian of the Italian merchant republic of Genoa, ended up in the service of the Spanish – trying to undermine the mediterrenean leg of the silk road which had made his home so prosperous.
Finally, although difficult to predict by so many degrees of removal, the creation of national champion companies can have significant downstream consequences for a country’s geopolitical position. The poster child for this is the English East India Company which; thanks to its domestic monopoly position on the highly lucrative East India trade — was able to expand in ways that were so capital intensive and risk-laden that they would be near impossible under different circumstances. The vertical integration strategy of the EEC quickly came to strengthen England, and later Britain’s geopolitical position by extensively patronising her shipbuilding industry, while also being able to maintain this fleet in peacetime (thus granting access to the fleet during war) and pioneering several technological developments in this area – notably the first metal-hulled warship the ‘Nemesis’ (which was not, in fact, a Royal Navy Warship). The actions of the EEC at land were perhaps even more extensive – performing much of the work in the acquisition of the Indian subcontinent within the empire, and with very little attention or money required by the British government, excepting once the company’s holdings were transferred to the British government as it became insolvent. On the contrary to the acquisition of India being a draining exercise, it provided a training ground for many officers, statesmen, and merchants, who could spend a time in the employ of the EEC before taking on the more honourable national service, most notably in the case of the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. No one could have predicted it when the charter was first established, but thanks to the margins and capital available, the EEC was able to explode the size of the navy, naval construction capacity, and supporting industries, bring a subcontinent definitively within the British sphere, and; provided a ready source of skills, capital, and even an army to the service of the British government which was used to open markets, and expand the opportunities available to British exporters – thus further driving British economic power.
“They have no respect for anything up there, not rank, nor skill, as long as the mob is on your side, you’ll be fine…”
Our first outing to Piktus, the west-most constituent realm of the Amethyst Empire. Things are calm there, relatively speaking, for now…
Written by Rupert August
Performed by Kurtz.
Sound FX provided by: https://www.zapsplat.com
Alone I stand; among the great and old,
Towering heights and finest sights untold.
The depth of carved inscriptions glow a hew
Of echoes found of knowledge sown but left
Fallow when none would care to reap, bereft
Of their once mighty claim or yet – perhaps;
The mighty will of these descendants: lapsed.
And yet, these towers, raised up to the gods,
Project the wisdom of an age, a nod
To all who care to see and understand
Or heed their call: a roundly felt command.
Those who did are lost, they who might, are far.
And so I trace a hand across the stone,
So close and yet deep in the unknown,
My fingers clasp at knowledge found, and yet,
The truth is shrouded ‘neath a lone regret.
Of lost language and a way to convey.
But even as the words are rent from rock,
And pulled as though they’re held by key and lock,
I know there lives no wisdom there, for while
I may unpack the signs, there is no style,
No thought, nor mind – a loss to endless time.
The death and thus ideas lost of those,
Who gave this stone a skin, ‘tis they who know,
While here – a mere creation left, to grant
Insight anew, never to know or plant
In fresher minds while sure of what they thought.
A solitary tear for every thread,
In hopeless want of more, and extant dread,
Of what may yet await me and my kin
Even while they stream down my face in vain,
In thankless, careless shadows of judgement.
To those about me; ignorant of cost,
Do they know that all is clearly lost?
Can they ever know the pain – or will they
Drown in canny schemes until the final day.
When all that’s left is ash beneath the stone.
These faces know no grief or empathy
But ignorance is blameless while they see
No thing beyond their eyes and ears, and so
Put signs upon their sight and claim they know
The feelings, thoughts, and knowledge held in kind.
These signs, these symbols held in kind, aloof,
Eternally they wear the mask of truth,
But can no sooner peer beneath
The veil – than change these laws with mere belief.
Behind the veil they stay – ‘neath lock and key.
And while we may yet touch the truth beneath,
It hides amongst the fog in lofty keeps,
Deliberately elusive of our gaze,
Unless it is mere man that crafts the maze.
It matters not, for blind – we shall remain.
Behind high walls; in wait the truth doth lie,
But even when they’re scaled, it will pass by
Without you ever knowing where it hid,
And so you’ll plant your flag to make your bid,
And hope your company is wise and true.
A wise detective you may be with tools
And expertise to match, but you’re the fool
If you attempt to peer into the mind
To see what’s held beyond the flaws of sign.
Or worse, to look into infinity.
You may convince the masses of your truth,
But know that it will stand up proud, aloof,
And rise beyond your small desires and wants,
For though you kneel beneath the sacred font,
Your god is silent – but his judgement: swift.
From atop your perch you’ll fall and wonder,
How it was your bond was split asunder,
By whom you were betrayed, for what, and why,
And as a humble seer of truth you’ll die,
Still blind to where the truth did hide that day.
Enough of your demise and fall; ‘tis they,
The men who went before – who’ll have their say,
Their glyphs and signs – though murky to decrypt,
Might yield the grandest tale, behind the script
That I, as humble seer of truth – will find.
Scribbles sheath the stone, and still elude me,
Their rocky etchings grin with teethy glee,
Betrayed by dancing satyrs with their pipes,
Who play a rhythm oft and true – to strike,
A reader with their music on the air.
I see the notes in play across the sky,
They sing a song of once titanic rise,
Atop the shoulders; great, of heroes found
In times of strife – who brought from out the ground,
A splend’rous age of virtue and plenty.
These men who held the bellicose masses
Close to hand and heart but knew how to dress
Their words in elegant delights and thus,
United man in common cause to truss,
The walls of empire, kin and kith – for me.
I: the sage; beyond the age they fought
To make their own, beyond the goods they bought
And sold, beyond the trifles, wants and needs,
Beyond the petty rivalries and greed:
See the ghost of what was once a mighty will.
Their relics carry through the ages past,
But all will fade to dust and then at last,
The signs will lie beside the minds they crave.
“The only difference between a palace and a prison is who pays the guards.
Life inside is cheap all the same.”
The second exploration of the Amethyst Empire, this time as viewed from the very top.
Written by Rupert August
Voiced by Alicia Jones
Of all of the historical oddities, one of the more fascinating is the similarity of the Tsarist ‘Okhrana’ secret police, to the early Bolshevik ‘Cheka’. This is odd both because the government of the early Soviet Union – with Lenin in particular disdaining the Okhrana, and; by the nature of the two opposing ideologies, one would not expect them to take such direct inspiration, nor for there to be a continuity of methods or personnel inspired by Tsarist loyalty. Where did this continuity come from therefore? Being that the Okhrana methods are far from the only viable ones – as shown by the divergent development of British, French, American, and German intelligence services. There is one major difference however – that the actions, and in particular the terror inflicted by the Okhrana in totality, were less significant as a part of the state than the Cheka and their ‘Red Terror’.
To take the earlier question then: there are two ways in which an organisation can maintain and continue an organisational memory – and thus the practices and norms which we seem to see carried over between the Okhrana and the Cheka. These would be through personal transmission, or through emulation. Under normal circumstances; personal transmission is preferred, as it allows a much greater scope of information to be conveyed, not least through the correction of misunderstandings, and the ensuring of a total rather than partial understanding. The lack of this personal connection is often enough to kill an organisational memory outright, if the tradition is held in sufficient regard to disallow new interpretations of the foundations, (perhaps even unwritten foundations,) thus meaning that the available scope of action will be limited to reactions according to a pre-set ‘script’. There is the other possibility however, for the interpretations to be used as the basis of a new organisational memory atop the base of the previous one. Thereby creating a new tradition inspired by the old. This is the mould, it seems, that shaped the early Cheka.
Even with this being the case, there is the matter of how this reformulation was generated. In other words; which basis was set, and informed by what?
The options are as follows:
The formerly dissident leaders projected their own perceptions of the organisation onto the new organisation.
The response to a threat to the regime remained the same, but the perceived number of threats to the regime increased.
The propensities of individuals involved in the organisation changed, such that more severe reprisals was considered desirable or acceptable for external reasons.
These will be discussed in turn, however there is much more to discuss in regards to the first point, so that will take centre stage.
The Cheka inherited much of the paperwork and written material – both internal and external – of the Okhrana but not so many of the staff due to major ideological differences. It is worth noting that some stayed on, but only those whose position within the organisation was either invaluable (as was the case with Ivan Zybin, head of cryptanalysis under both the Tsar and Lenin), or purely administrative. The similarity of decisions on tactics and strategy therefore, are derived more from the continuity of training manuals, some of which continued to be used from the Okhrana, through the Cheka, and into its successor organisations into the 1990s. This is not the only element however, as those materials could only form the basis of the new organisation, which would have to be augmented by the people inhabiting the new positions of power – thus putting their own stamp on the pseudo-new organisation. It is at this point that more fuzzy elements like perception can begin to play a part – because the reputation of the Okhrana in particular, was always much more substantial than its actual capabilities.
There are however, a select group of people who would know with significant clarity what the harshest edge of the Okhrana, and by extension the Tsarist state could be: the revolutionary dissidents, with the Bolsheviks among them. In this context then, those later tasked with remaking the intelligence apparatus, without the use of the staff who determined how existing capabilities were to be used; had a skewed perspective on what the appropriate methods of dealing with perceived dissidents were to be. Being that many of them had experienced siberian internal exile, they would be less hesitant about using it – albeit under worse conditions than the comparable laxity of Tsarist internal exile.
If this were to be extrapolated as a rule into other areas, then we would expect to see organisations founded under similar pretenses of emulation of perceptions rather than substance. An imperfect example of this can be found in the ancient Kardaka – the Acheimenid Persian copy of the Greek Hoplites. Their unimpressive record is perhaps testament to the misunderstanding of what lent the Hoplites their effectiveness – be that equipment (which seems not to have been copied fully, with helmets and body armour being potentially foregone), or the training, morale, and cultural elements which made much of the difference when Hoplites were fighting other Hoplites. The weaponry, shield, and method of fighting seem to have been copied, which would form much of the impression of the effectiveness of the Hoplites when witnessed on the battlefield on the opposing side – but not the training which took place beforehand, nor the cultural impetus that strengthened their morale. Another imperfect example might be the creation of the South Sea Company, which took on many of the exterior characteristics of the East Indian Company founded earlier, but lacked the fundamental basis which lent the latter strength as a profitable and relatively stable company, which created the famous bubble. This example is imperfect because there is good reason to believe that the purpose of the company was not to be a trading company, but instead a financial entity, wearing the clothes of a trading company to lend it an undue reputation. There may well be more appropriate examples which I am unaware of, so I would encourage you, the reader, to give them if you know of any, as most such emulations occur through a personnel transfer – not simply copying a reputation or impression.
There is not much to say in the case of the second point: the Bolshevik movement was quite small prior to its successful coup of the Provisional Government, and faced a great deal of opposition from every sector of the political spectrum. This is in contrast to the Tsar, who could rely on the united support of the political right, and often that of the liberal near-left for almost all of his reign (though notably it is when this support evaporated that he acquiesced to the demands being made of him, both in 1905 and 1917). Ergo the amount of dissidents posing a threat to the regime was much greater during the tenure of the Cheka, and so many more dissidents had to be treated with the same severity as the most hardened revolutionaries under the tenure of the Okhrana. This does not fully explain the phenomenon however, as the Cheka either had a much lower threshold for execution than the Okhrana, or were more liberal with the actual application of it. The Chekist Gleb Bokii claimed 800 executions in Petrograd alone during the official six week ‘Red Terror’, with the casualty total being somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 according to lists in official outlets. whereas in the period 1876 to 1912 under Tsarist rule, 3,767 were executed under military juridictions, (though some were for crimes unrelated to political activity) and 12 under civilian codes (all of which were for attempted assassination of the Tsar – one of which being Lenin’s brother). There is clearly a fairly significant discrepancy here, and when we take a look at the later history of the Cheka beyond its immediate succession from the Okhrana, and on to the Cheka’s own successors, it only gets more bloody until de-stalinisation (though not much less repressive).
This leads into the other possibility then; that the people tasked with filling the decision-making roles in the Okhrana were more personally moral than those who later replaced them in the Cheka. This is not something that strongly comes through however, based on the sources I have seen. The head of the Cheka for the period we are concerned with: Dzerzhinsky appears ideologically committed and capable of killing personally, but not sadistic or vicious in the way that his successors such as Yezhov, and Beria were. Meanwhile, although the Okhrana did not have a separate head, instead functioning under the portfolio of the Minister of the Interior, local commanders seem to have had some amount of autonomy. Figures such as Zubatov seem to have been personable enough to win over leftists during interrogations, and hold a genuine regard for the welfare of the poor. Meanwhile at the top level, people like Von Plehve were willing to turn a blind eye to things like anti-jewish violence as a means of achieving policy objectives – particularly Russification.
While the caveat must again be made that I am limited by the information I have to hand; it seems we are left with a question mark as to why this continuity seems to exist. It could be that the Cheka was formed based on the impressions of those who had suffered under the Okhrana. It could be that the methods used are the optimal or most logical for running a Russian secret police organisation, or simply that they lacked the time to develop new methods, and so used the ones that they had access to through the documentation and manuals that were available. The ideologies themselves may have something to do with the difference in severity however, as the overt rejection of religion, and thus consequences in the afterlife present in Bolshevism, compared to the state Orthadox Christianity of the Tsarist regime. This does seem to have, at the micro level created some differences in conduct, comparing people like Zubatov or Gapon to Dzerzhinsky, and observing their different versions of how best to help the working man. The former two dealt in empathy and practical measures, while the latter dealt with abstractions of the working man and a revolutionary class war, and thus all of the spilled blood deemed necessary.
RAWSON, D. (1984). THE DEATH PENALTY IN LATE TSARIST RUSSIA: AN INVESTIGATION OF JUDICIAL PROCEDURES. Russian History, 11(1), 29-52. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/24652643
Ward, A. (2014) “The Okhrana and the Cheka: Continuity and Change” College of Arts and Sciences of Ohio University https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ohiou1398772391 Accessed July 24, 2020.
Sources on the Red Terror:
Sources on Individuals:
Tidmarsh, Kyril. “The Zubatov Idea.” American Slavic and East European Review, vol. 19, no. 3, 1960, pp. 335–346. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3001003. Accessed 23 July 2020.
Life on the island Saulus is hard. Where relations of blood are shallow against the needs of the island.
Life on the island of Conflus is harder. Where dreams and hopes go to die.
The first in a series of explorations into the many corners of the known world.
Written and performed by Rupert August
Wisdom begins with honesty,
So see, you must face and
Brace yourself for the fruit
Of your fleeting defeat.
Not so because you need
Note it down to learn. But
Because your return
cannot be spurned.
Taste the dirt, and savour it well,
Time will tell your story
All the more when Triumph
Finds you fit to sit
And feast at his right hand,
But only for a day
Then cast away
Until you’ve earned it once again.
Feel the blood trickle down your face,
And mix it with your fickle sweat,
Know the sting of mercy’s debt,
And promise to repay.
You will be broken,
Drowned in decay
But you will endure.
A friendly hand will lend you strength
While you’re too weak to stand,
Clasp it, keep it,
Know the man who –
Through duty, love, and
Fidelity from above,
Will give your tree
New and mighty roots.
When finally within your keep,
Where daughters wail and mothers weep
To no avail, as you
While true to aim
And form anew,
Will not part, nor
Draw a breath
Content, until your triumph.
Those solitary steps will churn
The spirits and turn the heads
Of all whose limits kept
Them tethered to the ground,
But like a sounding horn
Your stride will drive
Into the hearts
Of progeny untold.
Each scar whose story tells of blows
And cuts when struck upon
The righteous path bygone,
Will school on parry, dodge,
And counter-harry, strike
On lowly pest
To rest and calm,
But little more.
Your ascent will bring both fear and joy,
For toying with the life they’d live,
Will deprive of reason
For their eternal drive
To quench the tended,
Cracked and mended
Within your breast.
Triumph’s tang upon the palat,
Will linger just a moment,
Even while it’s not at hand
But grand within your mind.
As friendship finds its match,
Their company will lapse.
And so you’ll find the foe
Is now alone.
You’ll know the peak is near at hand,
By the pecking of their beaks, and grand
Vistas unrolled across
A limitless expanse.
Entranced at last,
The highest mount
Will yet humble,
Atop the world your hall is found,
Companionship in troubled times
And enmity divined
All are thusly paid in kind,
And thus Triumphant
So you rise
Conqueror of all,
Beneath a sacred sky.
At some point during World War One (I cannot say for sure when, based on my reading), the German ace Ernst Udet encountered French ace Georges Guynemer in a duel. During the eight minute spat, despite finding the frenchman in his sights, Udet could not fire – for his gun had jammed. Upon passing him, and seeing the german struggle with his weapon, Guynemer raised his hand to wave, and then set off towards his own lines.
In World War two, during early December 1941 in the North African theatre, the Special Air Service were mounting their second raid on Axis airfields to cripple their airpower. The unit’s objectives were to destroy equipment and aircraft, however after a series of early setback en route, Robert ‘Paddy’ Mayne was left in charge of the detachment in a position to complete their objectives. In the process of doing so, he came upon a tent full of Italian and German personnel, enjoying some kind of party – and proceeded to gun them down.
In the macro view, and often according to commanders, incidents like the latter are much preferable, due to the fact that in these cases, the pilots are harder to replace than the planes, and thus inhibit the enemy’s war effort more greatly than the loss of aircraft – as intended by David Sterling (commander of the SAS). An ace like Ernst Udet is even more irreplaceable, yet there is a nobility in the action of Guynemer, and a certain barbarity to those of Mayne (though he did possess other warrior virtues).
If there is to be some form of civilised, perhaps even noble war, then instances like this ought to reveal some of those repugnant and inspiring elements.
The framing of this is important then, and likely the most contentious element. It arises in my view; from the scope of options available which demand an act of will, and can then be informed by virtue to create a noble act. The capacity must be there to make either choice, but the decision is made to pursue the more noble, rather than that which is more barbaric. It cannot remove the threat of pain, struggle, and death, else it would cease to be war, and would instead become a kind of sport. Elements of this are embodied in what we popularly understand as chivalry, but there are elements which escape the popular consciousness which need to be addressed – particularly in the modern day.
The axioms of noble war are as follows then:
Under slightly different pretenses, many of these cross-over with the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, but unlike in that instance, what is proposed above is more a statement of universal ideals to be strived for, not a multilateral treaty with enforcement mechanisms. Clearly however, if all of these were to be applied, then war would appear as something completely different, and more like a game or a sport – waged on a huge scale. These points should instead be taken as a form of guidance towards an ideal – one which maintains the primacy of the struggle, and the urgency of the goal. There is, however, little expectation of these ideals being met in the majority of situations. The necessities of victory will always work counter to the ennobling impulse, as an enemy slaughtered can neither aid the enemy cause further, nor put strain on one’s own logistics network. So too is the pressure of technology towards ever more distant and riskless killing, thus far culminating in drone strikes, nuclear weaponry, and the deliberate use of tactics which expose civilians to danger. This would necessitate that, in order to be effective, they would have to be practiced by organisations or individuals which have a slightly more distant relationship to the state utilising them. This may go some way towards explaining why examples of this are found where they are.
Before examples are further discussed, it is also worth noting that there are some additional downsides which may hinder the long-term applicability of such principles:
All of these were evident in the later stages of Italian Condottiere, or Condotta warfare, albeit often for different reasons than pursuing noble warfare. In their final iteration, their armies were largely composed of cavalry, at times focused more on maneuvering, pomp, and negotiations over combat (much to the frustration of their employers), and were reluctant to adopt the new technologies over the older prestigious methods. Consequently they were largely swept aside by successive French, Spanish, and German armies who conducted themselves more practically.
There is an additional consideration however, as this mindset has often been adopted in the context of a more select group to whom certain expectations apply, but all others are to be treated as fodder. This may seem comparably inapplicable for modern times due to prevalence of egalitarian attitudes but in traditional societies this is not the case. The knights of medieval Europe, the Samurai of feudal Japan, and the officers of later European-style warfare in particular, but likely others as well exhibited this phenomenon. In all of these instances, a select group of warriors are treated as the primary battlefield entity to be respected and captured, while the rest of the soldiery are to be slaughtered at will. There had been instances where these rules had been transgressed due to battlefield requirements, such as during the battle of Agincourt where the English killed the captive French knights for fear of being unable to keep them hostage under the pressure of a second attack which never came. Likewise during the American Revolutionary war, later in the war there were instances of officers being targeted specifically by riflemen and sharpshooters – a trend which was continued during the American civil war, and reached its disgraceful peak during the world wars, wherein officers were suffering casualties at up to twice the rate of the enlisted men. The criticism may be raised that this is more a factor of development of technology which allowed officers to be directly targeted – and it is a valid one, it seems to miss something about the conduct of post-30 years war, pre-napoleonic war conduct. Here warfare became elitist, officer centric, and relatively limited in scope – contrary to the mass mobilisation of later wars, and totalising scope of prior reformation-era wars. Once again, this only applies to those considered peers, and definitively not to those considered savages – where effectiveness ruled.
As previously stated, it may be raised that these stipulations, if achieved; would sanitise war to such an extent that it becomes more like a dangerous sport. This is true, and vital to avert, because to do so would be to deprive war of its primacy in the realm of experience, and its nature as the extreme pole of recourse and conduct. There would need to be invented a further state beyond war which would replace it as the point of total freedom, for both the state and the warrior. Perhaps for that reason it is not to be considered a universal, but the realm of a particular warrior caste or type, not necessarily identified formally, but one which has a de facto conception of itself as a separate group qualitatively. The presence of the more vulgar type however, is necessary – because it maintains the stakes as being the highest possible, and prevents (as previously stated) the whole affair descending into sport. In addition, while the intentional murder of a man (another warrior in particular) is a vulgar act if it can be avoided, to give one’s life in service of a higher purpose or calling is a great and noble thing. To be deprived of this ability is a significant blow to the ability of any martial tradition to generate meaningful heroes, and to maintain its own mythos and ethic of service.
This contrast was amply noted by Ernst Junger during his recollected experiences of the First World War in his work: “Storm of Steel”. He notes the contrast between his warrior spirit which encourages the kind of civility and chivalry discussed here, as well as a commitment to higher virtues of honour and duty, but this is ever more as the war continues – conflicted with the expectations of the Prussian system of officer training to emphasis the subservience to effectiveness and efficiency of prosecuting the war, regardless of what actions this may entail. Despite the final triumph of his warrior ethic, along the way he is privy to and active in the downward spiralling of his men from respectable gentlemen to bloodthirsty savages, engaging in the slaughter of a valourous but defeated enemy on numerous occasions.
A modern version of this elitist phenomenon may be appearing in the utilisation of unmanned and robotic implements of war. These are thus far outside of the realm of person-hood, and therefore could form the supplemental material which is vital to a warrior, but as readily discardable as the serf would have been thought of in the past. In such cases, once the warrior has been disarmed of his robotic force multipliers, he can be forced to surrender honourably. This is the most amenable method to current sensibilities, but I would suggest more ideally that the 18th century method is preferable overall: the officers are to maintain a strict gentlemanly ethic – schooled in the art of proper warfare developing on the positional theory of strategic theorists like Antoine-Henri Jomini, but aimed at minimising the need for applied force in the case of mastery. Meanwhile the ranks are filled by volunteers and outcasts – unwilling or unable to take part in polite society, and so instead existing on the peripheries of it, enjoying all of the danger and freedom that comes with it. Should these gentlemen-warriors be able to exert some amount of power over which wars are conducted and how, they would cease to require a frenzied appeal to the lowest impulses of democratic mass mobilisation warfare, and could instead be waged on a more limited basis. In such an environment, the above suggested idealised codes of conduct might be able to thrive, but even if a mass mobilisation is required – as would likely be the case if two major powers were to come to blows over a matter of vital national importance; even then the established cadres of warriors can impart their ethic and discipline onto the men they lead, despite these men themselves not being immersed in it. Let us hope then that such a situation does not once again last long enough that it can hollow out the warrior class to such an extent that such ethics are near forgotten.
A beast now prowls the land, one whose name we knew,
But time has made us blind to wiley tricks,
And theived the guile of ages past – to sew
A fate befitting servile folk – now fixed.
But ears unblocked may hear a warning yet,
Above the churning gears: its gnashing teeth.
So sound the horn before the ink is set,
A better life may yet be bequeathed.
Beware the call of wealth, of mirth, of hearth,
It sings a web of cheery lies, but all
Eventually come to see the dark
It cradles where a heart was made a thrall.
To whom, you ask, was love thus bound? In name
And deed it acts as greed, but even if
It was a beast of night, covet the blame,
For though it was invited in,
Its prey are set adrift.
It captures, binds, and holds the passions close
Of those who give it gifts, but only hike
Its nails that reach into the sky and smoke
The souls of men within its mighty pipes.
It blights the land, offends the eye, and claims:
Design be better than a sacred canvas.
But even here it lies, for there is found the dame,
To impetuous man, who thinks that… alas…
He thinks to dominate his fate, and yet,
Would sacrifice a glacier for one sip
Of water offered now. Cement will set
But man cannot wait for patience’s gifts.
Instead his chase is downward bound, in search
Of greater pleasures and delights, to which
The beast will rub his hands, upon his perch,
If only man’s fealty he will now switch.
So cross the threshold of his knuckles foul,
And find his promise met not by reward,
But ever greater want. They’ll see no crown,
Nor how they’re led to curse their faithful ward.
Atop his palm they’ll stand, beneath the dirt
And muck, so witness not his presence, nor
His blight upon the soil, that once: unburnt,
Had seeded life and virtue – once, no more.
Even faustus knew a name to curse, yet,
They who feel the yoke and pyre of beast anew,
Have no such brief reprieve, they owe a debt,
Or so they think, until the graver debt is due.