The Art of Slaughter; a Different Way to Understand War

In order to understand war, a brief history of individuals that shaped the way the art of slaughter is conducted must be mentioned.

War has, arguably, always been a part of human existence (Life feeds on life), and one of the oldest military documents in written history (compared to religious or civil), is Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”  Written in 500 B.C., it may come after Chinese and Egyptian cultures, but this document is one of the oldest devoted to military concepts.  Sun Tzu says, “The art of war is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account when seeking to determine the conditions of obtaining the field” (Roots of Strategy).  The main factors include:

  1. Moral Law: people in complete accord with their ruler, follow regardless of their lives.
  2. Heaven: night and day, cold and heat, time and seasons
  3. Earth: distances, security, open ground, passages
  4. Commander: virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness
  5. Method and Discipline: putting army in proper subdivisions, promotions, maintenance of roads for supply travel, and military expenses
  • Note: The use of Fire must be mentioned, though it is not a constant, it is a factor that must be taken into account

Another man, who is regarded as one of the greatest Western military minds, revolutionized the way warfare was fought, even to date.  Napoleon Bonaparte fought more battles than Alexander of Macedonia, the Carthaginian conqueror Hannibal, and the thrice denied emperor of Rome Julius Caesar, combined.  Napoleon redefined tactics by:

  1. Creating a standstill on the battle line after approaching in columns instead of  approaching on row.
  2.  Quickly move small guerilla forces to the flanks of the enemy and engage, creating the illusion the flanks were being overrun.
  3. Bombard the standstill on the battle line with precise artillery strikes, separating the line in two and causing confusion in the ranks (as well as delaying reinforcements from countering).
  4. Send in infantry en masse immediately after artillery barrage to close, engage, and destroy the enemy.
  5. Troops would feed off the land going to the battlefield, instead of having a long supply train that is a logistical nightmare and can be attacked.

Sun Tzu was one of the first to write a military document that would be carried and revamped in time, and Napoleon revolutionized the actual way combat is fought, but the first to engage in war, that history tells us, was Lucifer, the Lightbringer/Morningstar.

In John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” he portrays Lucifer as a charismatic leader who rallies a third of the Angels to storm the Gates of Heaven and usher in a new era of peace.  Lines are drawn in the sand and sides were forced to be made, as in every war, but ultimately Lucifer was crushed by Michael and his archangels, by which Hell is created to smite many of thefallen angels.  Milton was the first Orthodox Christian to portray Lucifer as charismatic, which caused a major uproar in 1667 when the Catholic Church’s power and influence was near global.  Milton’s book portrayed that Lucifer may not have been completely wrong in his actions, hence, the phrase was coined, “It is better to rule in hell than serve in Heaven.”

Lucifer, the Lightbringer, has a similar story in most ancient cultures.  It is the tempter that tempts with forbidden “something,” usually of which is knowledge.  In Greek mythos it is Hephaestus that brings fire to man and is struck down.  In other cultures, Norse and Egyptian, knowledge is only gained through sacrifice.  And war is a terrible outcome of heated argument between huge egos, historically over either who is right or the Other.

Herbert Hoover said, “Older men declare wars, but it is the youth that must fight and die,” John Wayne said, “Courage is being scarred to death, but saddling up anyway,” and Robert E. Lee noticed, “It is well that war is terrible, or we get too fond of it.”

Philosophy, or the love of wisdom, was introduced to the Western world through Pythagoras, and continued on by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Heraclitus, the Sophists and Pluralists, and the Milesian School.   It can be argued that true genius in the art of combat must understand all aspects of combat, which without peace there can be no war, without love there can be no hate, without yin there is no yang.   As quoted by Ender’s Wiggins in “Ender’s Game,” written by Orson Scott Card, “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then, in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”

Bruce Lee is an example of a philosophical warrior.  In “The Warrior Within,” Lee explains how you can used a form of self-defense to better understand and flourish your life.  Lee’s stories and ideas have had profound meaning in ways someone could understand the philosophy of combat.

“The phenomenon of the moon in the water is likened to human experience.  The water is the subject and the moon is the object.  When there is no water, there is no moon in the water, and likewise when there is no moon.  But when the moon rises the water does not wait to receive its image, and when even the tiniest drop of water is poured out the moon does not wait to cast its reflection.  The moon does not intend to cast its reflection and the water does not reflect its image on purpose.  The event is caused as much by the water as by the moon, and as the water manifests the brightness of the moon, the moon manifests the clarity of the water.  Everything does have a real relationship.” (The Warrior Within)

Lee’s profound philosophies also include:

  • Gung Fu is practiced not only for health and self-protection but for cultivation of the mind as well.  Gung Fu was used by priests and Chinese monks as a philosophy, or way of thinking, in which the ideals of giving WITH adversity, to bend slightly and then spring up stronger than before.  The qualities of patience and profiting from one’s mistakes are part of the discipline of Gung Fu.
  • It was obvious to the master from the start of the conversation that the professor was not so much interested in learning about Zen as he was in impressing the master with his own opinion and knowledge.  As the Zen teacher explained, the learned man would frequently interrupt with remarks.  Finally, The teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea.  He poured the cup full, then kept pouring until the cup overfilled.  “Enough,” cried the learned man, once more interrupting.  “The cup is overfill,, no more will go in.”  “Indeed, I see,” answered the teacher, “like this cup, you are full of your own opinions and speculations.  If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste of my tea?” (The Warrior Within)

On the extreme side of understanding peace in order to understand war, Dag Hammerskjold, a two-time Nobel peace prize winner for his writings, lived through two world wars and wrote many contemplations about war and why we as a society fight.  One of his writings goes:

  • “You told yourself you would accept the decision of fate.  But you lost your nerve when you discovered what this would require of you; then you realized how attached you still were to the world which has made you what you were, but which you would now have to leave behind.  It felt like an amputation, a “little death,” and you even listened to those voices which insinuated that you were deceiving yourself out of ambition.  You will have to give up everything.  Why, then, weep at this little death?  Take it to you quickly, with a smile die this death, and become free to go further, one with your task, whole in your duty of the moment.” (Markings)

Now that there is a broad spectrum of how to think about the art of war (mind you, John Stuart Mills Harm Principle, coming soon, is an in-depth conversation all by itself), can an argument be made that we have progressed through ages of how to slaughter and/or control another better.  And is that all war is, the struggle against being either slaughtered or controlled?  What ever the reason, as well, if force necessarily needs to be used, then the Fourth Estates shaping of the information needs to be as objective as possible.  And the desire for this is for another discussion another day, Peace, Be Kind, and Get Knowned.


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