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40 VI Under What Conditions Real Combatants Are Made and How the Fighting of Our Own Days, in Order to Be Done Well, Requires Them to Be More Resolute Than in Ancient Combat Allow us to repeat now what we said at the beginning of this study. Man does not enter battle to fight, but for victory. He does all he can to avoid the first and secure the second. The continued perfection of all the instruments of war has no other purpose than the annihilation of the enemy. Absolute bravery, which does not refuse combat even on unequal terms, trusting only in God or destiny, is not natural in man. It is the result of moral culture, and it is infinitely rare because in the face of danger the animal instinct of self-preservation always gains the upper hand. Man calculates his chances, and with what errors, we are about to see. Under What Conditions Real Combatants Are Made 41 Man has a horror of death. Among the elite souls, a great sense of duty that only they can understand and can obey, is supreme. But the mass always recoils at the sight of the phantom. Discipline aims at dominating that horror by a still greater one, that of punishment or disgrace. But always there comes an instant when natural horror overwhelms discipline and the fighter takes flight. “Stop, stop, only a few minutes, an instant more, and you are the victor—you are not even wounded—if you turn back you are dead!” He does not hear, he can no longer hear. He is gorged with fear. How many armies have sworn to conquer or perish? How many have kept their oaths? Oaths of sheep to stand against wolves. History records, not armies, but resolute souls who have fought to the death. The devotion of Thermopylae is therefore justly immortal. In real combat, the serious, rough combat that we know now, to have any chance of success, it is not sufficient to have an army composed of valiant men like the Gauls or the Germans. The army needs, and we provide, leaders with the firmness and decision of command that arises from habit and complete faith in their unquestioned right of command by tradition, law, and society. We add good weapons, methods of fighting in concert with these weapons and those of the enemy and that do not overwhelm the physical and morale capacities of man. We add further a rational division that permits the direction and employment of every effort down to the last man. We animate with passion, a violent desire for independence, a religious fanaticism, national pride, a love of glory, a madness to possess. We add a severe discipline that permits no one to escape fighting, that commands solidarity from top to bottom, among all the parts, among the commanders, between the commanders and the soldiers, among the soldiers. Do we then have a steady army? Not yet. Solidarity, that first and supreme power of armies, is ordained, it is true, by severe laws of discipline and powerful passion. But an order is not enough. A surveillance from which no one can escape enforces discipline; it guarantees solidarity against failure in the face of dangers, those that we know and can feel, which is the point at which to exert the greatest moral pressure to persist and to advance above all. This watchful eye exists in all groups of men who know each other well and who understand their duty to one another. It is necessary then that a wise organization requires at the outset that the same leaders and the same soldiers form combat groups so that the leaders and comrades in peace are the leaders and comrades in war. The habit of 42 Chapter VI living together, obeying the same leaders commanding the same men, sharing hardships and amusements, cooperating in the execution of movements and warlike maneuvers, forge a unity, a sense of craft, a feeling, and, in a word, the intelligence of solidarity: the duty to submit, to impose discipline, and the impossibility to escape from it. And now confidence appears. It is not that the enthusiastic and mindless confidence of tumultuous armies that races up to the danger point and evaporates quickly, giving way to a contrary sentiment, which sees treason everywhere. Instead, it is that intimate confidence, firm and conscious, that does not lose itself in the moment of action and that alone makes true combatants. Now we...


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