Considering there are conflicts going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and (sadly) a host of other places, I found this ceditra entry depressingly appropriate.
For February 12, 2010, my process for coming up with random items to write about (patent pending; my lips are sealed) providing me with his line from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:
The reason troops slay the enemy is because they are enraged.
-Waging War (Chapter 2), Line 16
Golly, and I always thought troops killed the enemy because they were told to, but it would appear that that opinion makes soldiers too much like mindless sheep, which, of course, they are not. The last thing that a military organization wants is automatons behind the trigger.
The example given as a footnote in my translation of Sun Tzu’s work (translated by Samuel B. Griffith, published by Oxford University Press in 1963) is that of a besieged desperate army. Spies from the defenders spread rumors among the attacking army that the defenders would be completely demoralized if the attackers would dig up the graves of the defenders’ relatives. The attackers do just this and this so enraged the defenders that they flow forth from the city, full of rage at the defilement of the ancestors, and defeat the attacking army.
Since most human cultures throughout time have it in their ethical system that killing is bad and that murder is not to be tolerated, there has to be some mechanism where the authorities sanction killing.
One way to do this, as seen in the footnote example above, is through emotional manipulation. If the government can agitate the populace enough to make them angry (the generic example of this manipulation is turning “us” against “them” for some perceived offense), then the population will approve the killing of “them”, the enemy.
Even in battle, people can be reluctant to kill another human so they need a really good reason. The best reason is the anger due to the belief that the other person is trying to kill you (the “kill of be killed” scenario). The worst examples are massacres (e.g., My Lai, Srebrenica , Rwanda ) where a group of people become so enraged that they kill and slaughter non-combatants.
So what is our natural state?
Are we beings made in God’s image who can be tricked into killing or are we animals who can be tricked into living together in peace?