WAR AND STOICISMJames McCormick
at Chicago Boyz
has a tour de force post up "Sherman — Stoic Warriors
"; an essay-review of Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy behind the Military Mind
by Dr. Nancy Sherman
of Georgetown University. An excerpt:"For many months, I’ve been grabbing “Stoic Warriors” filled with resolve to finish it and write up a summary. Ethics professor Nancy Sherman reviews the principles of Greco-Roman Stoicism and discusses whether this ancient philosophical tradition can offer something to the modern American military. I’ve had a long-standing interest in military matters and Roman culture. I’ve read a recent academic attempt to resurrect Stoicism as a serious modern philosophy. So I ordered Stoic Warriors with great anticipation, moments after seeing its publication announcement on Amazon. This should be a compelling read, I thought. Yet within minutes of first picking up “Stoic Warriors,” my mind would wander and I inevitably found something more urgent to do. Such as write reviews of forty other books. The cycle of try-and-fail repeated many times, despite the book’s solid writing and apt anecdotes.
It’s not the topic nor the subject matter of the book that has delayed this review. And it’s not the writing style nor any lack of author sincerity. It was instead the underlying set of cultural values that the author brings to the area of military affairs. Since Vietnam, it seems, soldiers are subject to standards above and beyond that of civil society. At least one portion of Americans wants its military victories without guilt and without mess. It wants perfection.
Trauma, error, and mismanagement that is ignored or mocked in prisons, ERs, animal shelters, slaughterhouses, slums, X-Games competitions, football fields, and obstetrics wards is now treated very differently when it involves the military. So does capital “S” stoicism have something to offer American soldiers placed under this unique and hypocritical spotlight by postmodern American culture?
No. I think it’s fair to say that the author, in the final assessment, believes nothing can console soldiers … except ceasing to be soldiers. Soldiering turned into some sort of physically-fit bureaucracy that does nothing useful militarily has a much better prospect of fulfilling its moral mandate.
My opinion, thoroughly amateur, is that ignoring (or underplaying) the mental and physical suffering of warriors (and their enemies) is an essential talent for any successful nation. That the Western world appears to be the first culture unilaterally abandoning that talent is rather amazing. So I see problems ahead.
How she reached her conclusion and how I reached mine, is the subject of a very long blog post"
Indeed, I am still in mid-read. Pour yourself something strong and dive in
Labels: academia, book, chicago boyz, culture, diplomatic history, james mccormick, military, philosophy, stoic, warriors