The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
Table of Contents
Series Editor’s Preface
In Battle Exhortation: The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership, Keith Yellin considers the history and the generic features of speech addressed by commanders to troops about to go into battle. Yellin, a former United States Marine Corps captain with a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Iowa, brings together an unusual range of learning and experience, which he puts to excellent use in this analysis of a mode of address that has gone largely without ...
In some endeavors fidelity is the expectation. To stand faithfully beside another may be difficult, but it is one’s obligation, one’s duty. This project by contrast has taught me more about generosity. To give generously of one’s resources when there is neither obligation nor personal advantage is beyond expectation. Only as the beneficiary of such generosity have I been able to produce ...
A familiar practice is so pervasive, in civilian and military life alike, that we take it for granted. Troops about to go into harm’s way expect to hear from their commander. Athletes about to begin or resume play expect to be addressed by their coach. Employees anxious about their own or their employer’s future expect to be told what the future holds. Political enthusiasts...
1. Bracing for Combat
Speeches alone do not compel men to fight or fight well. Xenophon rightly observed, “There is no exhortation so noble that it will in a single day make good those who are not good when they hear it. It could not make good bowmen, unless they had previously practiced with care, nor spearmen, nor knights.” There are innumerable sources of combat motivation: previous...
In order to observe the prominence of battle exhortation in our culture and to start noting its conventions, let us examine four exemplars. The first three are classics, which cultivate the appeals of battlefield fraternity and the exceptional commander: exhortations by Plutarch’s Spartan mother, Shakespeare’s Henry V, and George C. Scott’s Patton. The fourth, a parody by Bill...
Certain tensions are necessary for battlefield enterprise. They are tonics within a difficult environment that otherwise can leave military units to dis-integrate, revolt, rampage, or sit idly by. These tensions are not synonymous with the many indoctrinating topics we observed in the previous chapter,although topics contribute to them. Neither do these tensions characterize the...
The tensions discussed in the previous chapter are inherent to the battlefield and influenced quite personally by the exhorting commander. Broadening our focus, let us now consider how environmental and audience concerns affect the discourse. To enable greater depth of treatment, I choose an era and place most familiar: U.S. battle exhortation from the past two generations....
At the start I alluded to the pervasive use of battle exhortation, in civilian as well as military life, and chose to focus on theory and practice within martial settings. Even in its primary context, the battlefield, however, the genre has not been a popular object of study. Morally, it can be regarded as suspect, this advocacy of fighting, this talk. Practically, it is sometimes deemed affected ...