restricted access The Unhappy Warrior
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34 Historically Speaking March/April 2006 The Unhappy Warrior of the Future? A Forum IN OUR JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2006 ISSUE, LEADING MLItary historians and analysts debated the future of war in the 21st-century. Wefollow thatforum with anotherfocused on the human dimension, the warrior ofthefuture. Our lead essayist is Christopher Coker, professor of international relations at the London School ofEconomics and author ofThe Future of War: The Re-Enchantment ofWar in the Twenty-First Century (Blackwell, 2004). Hefears that though they will enhance the American military s war-fighting capabilities, the information and biotechnical revolutions will also destroy the warrior ethos and render warfare soulless. History offers profound insights on these matters , and we have asked Michael Evans, Peter S. Kindsvatter, and Brian Holden Reid to engage Coker s argument. The Unhappy Warrior Christopher Coker In the 1920s one of the greatest of American warriors, George Patton, wrote an article entitled "The Warrior Soul." In criticizing the German performance in the Great War he acknowledged that no other people had sought so diligently for prewar perfection . They had built and tested and adjusted their mighty war machine and became so engrossed "in the accuracy ofits bearings and the compression of its cylinders that they had neglected the battery"—that implausible something called the soul. Despite the physical impossibility of locating the soul, he believed that it could readily be discerned in the acts and thoughts of soldiers.1 Most know Patton from the 1970 film in which he was played to such telling effect by George C Scott. Its most famous line (one of the most famous lines ofany war movie ofthe past fifty years)—"God help me, I do love it so"—fed a suspicion that he loved war too much, which has blighted his reputation. But the public loved him. He was charismatic, heroic, and fiercely ambitious for himself and his men. Franklin Schaffner's film showed a man whose life was quite literally defined by war, by the spirit ofwishing either to conquer or perish with honor in the attempt. It shows a man who had he survived into peacetime would have been lost without an enemy to confront. Patton lived on the cusp of a technocratic era, one in which technology is an end, not a means to an end. The social order reflects this. The aristocracy from whose ranks warriors George Patton, 1943. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LCUSZ62 -25122]. have traditionally been drawn in all but the last century has been replaced in the Western world by a meritocratic class that is technocratic in its mentality and management ethos. In Europe this class derives no status, no profit , and certainly no self-esteem from war, which is why the Europeans are, to all intents and purposes, now out ofthe war business. In the United States politicians still derive selfesteem from war, but there is increasingly less place for the human factors in war, the play of chance and contingency. This attitude to war is far from inhumane. Indeed, there is a tendency to think that everything in life, including war, can be rendered more humane through technology. The machine penetrates our consciousness and governs our actions. It challenges the warrior 's thymos, his soul, his thinking heart. The whole point about Achilles is the mystery of his personality. Once you program the warrior, you remove the mystery, the unreachability of his inner life. Aldous Huxley, who was one of the first writers to glimpse such an age in his dystopian vision of the future, asked himself in the preface to Brave New World, written in 1946, why it contained no reference to nuclear fission . His old friend Robert Nichols had even written a successful play about the subject, and he himself had casually mentioned it in a novel published in the 1920s. So it seemed odd that the rockets and helicopters that appeared in his vision ofthe future should not have been powered by atomic reactors, and that there was no reference to the possibility of nuclear war. But the oversight could be explained, Huxley insisted, by his interest in the human senses. He was interested not so much in...