What Really Destroys Armies
Combat does not destroy armed forces; it merely hastens the process. The real killer is day-to-day wear and tear. Armies die by inches, not yards. Attrition is people and their equipment wearing out. Even in peacetime, up to 2 percent of combat aircraft can be lost to accidents and deterioration each year. In wartime, up to 50 percent of aircraft will be lost each year to noncombat wear and tear. Rarely more than 90 percent of armored vehicles will be in running condition at any one time. Those vehicles that are running will likely break down after going less than 500 kilometers. More important, people wear out, too. Without enough people to tend them, the machines wear out even faster….
Annually, disease and noncombat injuries often cause far more loss than the dangers of combat. Most major wars go on for years. Battles are relatively infrequent. As long as the troops are living in primitive field conditions, they are more prone to disease and injury. The annual loss rates in the wars of [the 20th] century, expressed in terms of average daily losses per 100,000 men, bear this out. Battle losses, killed and wounded but not prisoners, varied from a low of six per day in World War II theaters such as North Africa to over 200 Germans a day on the Soviet front. Soviet casualties were sometimes double the German rate. World War I had battles where the rate exceeded several thousand per day….
The World War I casualty rates, and the numerous mutinies they eventually caused, were not forgotten. The butchery of World War I made an impression, and the casualty rates were consistently lower in World War II. Since World War II, still more efforts have been made to protect the troops. Armored vehicles and protective gear have become more commonplace. Daily loss rates of 40 per 100,000, similar to the Western allies of World War II, can be expected in the future in a war between equally matched armies….
Non-battle casualties, primarily from disease and especially in tropical and winter conditions, regularly reach 200-500 men per day per 100,000 strength. Malaria alone can cause nearly 200 casualties a day. Another constant menace in populated areas is venereal disease, which can render ineffective as many as 40 men per day. Injuries often exceed battle losses. The troops tend to get careless in the combat zone. Vehicle and weapons accidents were so common in the past that they often reached 20 men per day per 100,000 troops….
It’s not unusual for armies to waste away to nothing without ever having come in contact with the enemy. Historically, natural causes have killed or disabled far more soldiers than combat. Many wars are won by the side best able to maintain the health of their troops. Perceptive military commanders have long recognized the substantial assistance of General Winter, Colonel Mud, and the carnage wrought by pestilence, poor climate, thirst, and starvation. An armed force may be an impressive sight. Yet people have to live. They must eat, sleep, and escape the elements. Disease and injury are ever present. Adequate medical care prevents minor afflictions from becoming major ones. More important is public sanitation. Many diseases thrive in careless accumulations of human waste. Public sanitation, even within an army on the move, eliminates the cause of most disease….
— How To Make War, pp. 517-20
The Dorestad Brooch. c. 800 C.E. Carolingian. Gold, garnet, glass, enamel, and pearls.
Found at the bottom of a well in the Netherlands in 1969!
On display at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden.
Necklace of Troy
Gold necklace with bulls’ heads and acorns, from Troy (Hellenistic period, 3rd century B.C.E.), Athens. National Archaeological Museum.
New Series: This. Is. Treasure.
Since 2021 I have been retweeting posts by Archaeology & Art, and others, of beautiful historical artifacts. I add hashtags for the various role-playing game “communities,” and the simple description “This. Is. Treasure.”, taken from the 1999 film The Mummy.
I have begun taking screenshots and tooting them on the Mastodon server dice.camp.
And now here, going forward.
The Temptation of Anakin Skywalker
[Palpatine] ticked his fingers one by one. “I have kept the secret of your marriage all these years. The slaughter at the Tusken camp, you shared with me. I was there when you executed Count Dooku. And I know where you got the power to defeat him. You see? You have never needed to pretend with me, the way you must with your Jedi comrades. Do you understand that you need never hide anything from me? That I accept you exactly as you are?”
He spread his hands as though offering a hug. “Share with me the truth. Your absolute truth. Let yourself out, Anakin.”
“I—” Anakin shook his head. How many times had he dreamed of not having to pretend to be the perfect Jedi? But what else could he be? “I wouldn’t even know how to begin.”
“It’s quite simple, in the end: tell me what you want.”
Anakin squinted up at him. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t.” The last of the sunset haloed his ice-white hair and threw his face into shadow. “You’ve been trained to never think about that. The Jedi never ask what you want. They simply tell you what you’re supposed to want. They never give you a choice at all. That’s why they take their students—their victims—at an age so young that choice is meaningless. By the time a Padawan is old enough to choose, he has been so indoctrinated—so brainwashed—that he is incapable of even considering the question. But you’re different, Anakin. You had a real life, outside the Jedi Temple. You can break through the fog of lies the Jedi have pumped into your brain. I ask you again: what do you want?”
“I still don’t understand.”
“I am offering you…anything,” Palpatine said. “Ask, and it is yours. A glass of water? It’s yours. A bag full of Corusca gems? Yours. Look out the window behind me, Anakin. Pick something, and it’s yours.”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“The time for jokes is past, Anakin. I have never been more serious.” Within the shadow that cloaked Palpatine’s face, Anakin could only just see the twin gleams of the Chancellor’s eyes. “Pick something. Anything.”
“All right…” Shrugging, frowning, still not understanding, Anakin looked out the window, looking for the most ridiculously expensive thing he could spot. “How about one of those new SoroSuub custom speeders—”
“Are you serious? You know how much one of those costs? You could practically outfit a battle cruiser—”
“Would you prefer a battle cruiser?”
Anakin went still. A cold void opened in his chest. In a small, cautious voice, he said, “How about the Senatorial Apartments?”
“A private apartment?”
Anakin shook his head, staring up at the twin gleams in the darkness on Palpatine’s face. “The whole building.”
Palpatine did not so much as blink. “Done.”
“It’s privately owned—”
“You can’t just—”
“Yes, I can. It’s yours. Is there anything else? Name it.”
Anakin gazed blankly out into the gathering darkness. Stars began to shimmer through the haze of twilight. A constellation he recognized hung above the spires of the Jedi Temple.
“All right,” Anakin said softly. “Corellia. I’ll take Corellia.”
“The planet, or the whole system?”
“I just—” He shook his head blankly. “I can’t figure out if you’re kidding, or completely insane.”
“I am neither, Anakin. I am trying to impress upon you a fundamental truth of our relationship. A fundamental truth of yourself.”
“What if I really wanted the Corellian system? The whole Five Brothers—all of it?”
“Then it would be yours. You can have the whole sector, if you like.” The twin gleams within the shadow sharpened. “Do you understand, now? I will give you anything you want.”
The concept left him dizzy. “What if I wanted—what if I went along with Padme and her friends? What if I want the war to end?”
“Would tomorrow be too soon?”
“How—” Anakin couldn’t seem to get his breath. “How can you do that?”
“Right now, we are only discussing what. How is a different issue; we’ll come to that presently.”
Anakin sank deeper into the chair while he let everything sink deeper into his brain. If only his head would stop spinning—why did Palpatine have to start all this now?
This would all be easier to comprehend if the nightmares of Padme didn’t keep screaming inside his head.
“And in exchange?” he asked, finally. “What do I have to do?”
“You have to do what you want.”
“What I want?”
“Yes, Anakin. Yes. Exactly that. Only that. Do the one thing that the Jedi fear most: make up your own mind. Follow your own conscience. Do what you think is right. I know that you have been longing for a life greater than that of an ordinary Jedi. Commit to that life. I know you burn for greater power than any Jedi can wield; give yourself permission to gain that power, and allow yourself license to use it. You have dreamed of leaving the Jedi Order, having a family of your own—one that is based on love, not on enforced rules of self-denial.”
“I—can’t…I can’t just…leave…”
“But you can.”
Anakin couldn’t breathe.
He couldn’t blink.
He sat frozen. Even thought was impossible.
“You can have every one of your dreams. Turn aside from the lies of the Jedi, and follow the truth of yourself. Leave them. Join me on the path of true power. Be my friend, Anakin. Be my student. My apprentice….”
— Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 15
The novelization truly redeems the film. Anakin is not a petulant man-child but a young man who is tormented by having seen too much war and having foreseen his wife’s death. Palpatine’s seduction occurs over years. This is the moment where the Lord of the Sith overtly tempts him.
While You Train Here, Listen
Xian:This is stone city. Where many ancient warriors come. While you train here, listen.Kurt:Listen to what?Xian:Just listen. With your mind, your heart, your whole being.
— “Kickboxer” (1989)
Self-protection of Body, Mind, and Spirit
The essence of all martial arts and military strategies is self-protection and the prevention of danger. Ninjutsu epitomizes the fullest concept of self-protection through martial training in that the ninja art deals with the protection of not only the physical body, but the mind and spirit as well. The way of the ninja is the way of enduring, surviving, and prevailing over all that would destroy one. More than merely delivering strikes and slashes, and deeper in significance than the simple out-witting of an enemy; ninjutsu is the way of attaining that which we need while making the world a better place. The skill of the ninja is the art of winning.
— Ninjitsu, p. 3
The author makes ninjitsu sound so appealing. Yet another grand master asserting his martial art is supreme. 🙂
The sidebar now has a blogroll of my own creation. I am still curating the list of blogs and how many to show (currently 10).
Trying to Win Wars by Half-Doing
Asked to give his verdict on the foreign policy of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh replied that: “Her Majesty did all by halves.” It was a fair criticism, but it was one which could be levelled against every European ruler at the time: against the kings of France and Spain, the German Protestant princes, even against the [Dutch] States General. None of them would or could put all their eggs in one basket. All of them tried to win their wars by “half-doing”. The casual character, the insouciance, of the Eighty Years’ War in particular stands out as one of its most important and most persistent traits.
Yet what alternative was there? Certainly the fate of the Netherlands was important to Spain, England, France and Germany, but was it more important than their commitments or ambitions elsewhere? Should England abandon her position in Ireland in order to support the Dutch; should Spain neglect the defence of the Mediterranean in order to suppress the revolt in the Low Countries? These were real choices, for no European state in the early modern period possessed sufficient resources to fight effectively in the Netherlands and also attain its political objectives elsewhere. The policies of the various major combatants in the Low Countries’ Wars must therefore be considered within the context of their overall foreign ambitions and overseas commitments; changes in one were normally linked with changes in the other; the course of the war was often affected by events far outside the Netherlands. From the very first, as we shall see, the Dutch Revolt was a problem which no government could tackle in isolation.
— The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, p. 231
The Dream of Taliesin
“There is a land,” he said, “a land shining with goodness where each man protects his brother’s dignity as readily as his own, where war and want have ceased and all tribes live under the same law of love and honor. It is a land bright with truth, where a man’s word is his pledge and falsehood is banished, where children sleep safe in their mothers’ arms and never know fear or pain.”
“It is a land where kings extend their hands in justice rather than reach for the sword; where mercy, kindness, and compassion flow like deep water, and men revere virtue, revere truth, revere beauty above comfort, pleasure, or selfish gain. A land where peace reigns in the hearts of men, where faith blazes like a beacon from every hill and love like a fire from every hearth; where the True God is worshipped and his ways acclaimed by all.”
“This is the Dream of Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain. If you would know this land, know this: it is the Kingdom of Summer, and its name is Avalon….”
— Avalon: the Return of King Arthur, Chapter 22
A King Expects To Be Followed
…[Red William] did not look back to see if the rest of them followed. A king learned to expect it.
— King’s Blood, Chapter 8
Captains Held Enormous Power Over Their Companies
Every captain in an early modern army held enormous power over the rank and file of his company. In absolute charge of discipline he could flog, fine, or otherwise humiliate his men whenever he chose; because he alone decided who should perform sentry guard and other onerous duties, the captain was free to victimize the men he disliked and excuse his friends…. [Without] interference from above, [a Spanish Empire] captain chose the two sergeants and eight corporals of his company (the cabos de escuadra or corporals were in charge of twenty-five men and received a wage-bonus of 3 escudos each per month), and he distributed at his pleasure 30 escudos of treasury bonus-pay among his men. As if this were not enough, the insolvency of the military treasury made the company captains into money-lenders and welfare-officers as well. Every company had a chest (caja) kept by the captain and used by him to advance subsistence wages (the socorro) to necessitous men when no money arrived from the treasury. The captains were also responsible for ransoming, re-arming, or re-horsing any of their men who had the misfortune to lose their liberty, their weapons, or their mounts. Naturally when the treasury did contrive to pay an [installment] of wages the captains expected to receive it first in order to deduct the sums already advanced “on account”. The scheme was excellent in principle, but it assumed that all captains were honest and scrupulous men. Of course they were not…. “The arrangements for paying the troops played right into the eager hands of the captains, who took full advantage of the generous opportunities afforded them.”
— The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, p. 160
Not All Recruits Were Base-born: the Gentleman-rankers
Not all recruits were destitute or base-born, however. The Army of Flanders, especially in the sixteenth century [C.E.], needed quality as well as quantity; men who excelled in single combat, in the “actions” of the war, were required as well as cannon-fodder for the great battles. Every captain therefore tried to enlist a number of gentlemen (particulares) to serve as common soldiers in his company, offering a bonus-pay (ventaja) to every gentleman who agreed to do so. Some of these volunteers would be the relatives of the captain, others would no doubt be poor gentry unable to gain a living in other ways (Spanish gentlemen were not supposed to demean themselves by manual labour or commercial transactions), others still would be aspiring noblemen who began their military service in the ranks and hoped before long to rise to a position of command.
Most army commanders set the highest value upon these gentleman-rankers. The duke of Alva, for example, was overjoyed to find that a large number of particulares had volunteered to serve in the Spanish infantry which he led to the Netherlands in 1567.
Soldiers of this calibre [wrote Alva] are the men who win victory in the “actions” and with whom the General establishes the requisite discipline among the troops. In our nation nothing is more important than to introduce gentlemen and men of substance into the infantry so that all is not left in the hands of labourers and lackeys.
Throughout the Eighty Years’ War the same sentiment was expressed in remarkably similar terms. As late as 1640, for example, a Netherlander—and a civilian at that—could write:
Gentleman-rankers…are the people who bear the brunt of the battles and sieges, as we have seen on many occasions, and who by their example oblige and enliven the rest of the soldiers (who have less sense of duty) to stand fast and fight with courage.
Service as a volunteer among the infantry was particularly popular among the Spanish gentry, but particulares were also to be found in considerable numbers in the ranks of other “nations”. The English units in the Army of Flanders, for example, regularly included Catesbys, Treshams and other members of the leading recusant gentry families—including Guy Fawkes. Not all these gentleman-rankers were poor. On one celebrated occasion the Emperor Charles V lent additional dignity to the military profession by himself taking up a pike and marching with his men; later, in the 1590s, the dukes of Osuna and Pastrana and the prince of Asculi, scions of the most illustrious houses of Spain, were all to be found serving as simple soldiers in the Army of Flanders. Naturally these volunteers, especially the nobles, aspired to an eventual position of command, but they first received an admirable apprenticeship and, in addition, their presence in the ranks helped to maintain morale and reduce insubordination. In this way the Spanish Habsburgs assembled armies which were supremely capable of victory without resort to any compulsion.
— The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, pp. 40-41
Any Troops Could Fight a Battle But It Requires Trained Veterans to Win a Skirmish
Although military historians have tended to confine their attention to the formal engagements of the war [in the Low Countries], to the sieges, battles and major manoeuvres, these events formed only the tip of the iceberg of military conflict. Beneath the interplay of the big battalions, at least until 1590 [C.E.], smaller parties of troops fought, intrigued and killed ceaselessly for the control of villages. Spain’s piecemeal reconquest of the areas in rebellion in the first phase of the war created a jagged “floating” frontier, running from one fortified town to another, from one village to the next. Until 1594 the frontier ran from Groningen in the north down to Liège and then westwards to the Flemish sea-coast. All along this invisible line hostile parties of troops conducted a gruelling war of skirmish and surprise. In this situation…war became a matter of “fights, encounters, skirmishes, ambushes, an occasional battle, minor sieges, assaults, escalades, captures and surprises of towns”. It resembled a series of uncoordinated guerilla conflicts rather than a single full-scale war.
These localized dog-fights, this guerre aux vaches, was a highly intensive and exhausting form of warfare. It called for troops with an unusually high degree of endurance and experience. In battles or mass manoeuvres a commander required from his men corporate discipline, good order, careful drilling in certain collective movements and above all stoicism under fire. By contrast, for the skirmish and surprise of guerilla fighting, discipline and unit-organization hardly mattered: the critical qualities were independent excellence and complete familiarity with weapons.
Sixteenth-century commanders and military commentators naturally realized that these different forms of warfare required different types of soldier: one for routine garrison duty and mass manoeuvres, the other for guerilla action. On the whole they agreed that it was more difficult to find troops who excelled in skirmish-and-surprise, in what the English called the “actions” of war. For that veterans were required. The duke of Alva always insisted that some trained troops were indispensable for success in the Low Countries’ Wars because “One cannot fight any ‘actions’ with other troops—unless it comes to a pitched battle where entire formations are engaged.” To the duke’s mind (and he had a lifetime of experience to draw on) any troops could fight a battle but it required trained veterans to win a skirmish.
— The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, pp. 12-13
Shall we say “adventurers?” 🙂
It Is Never Too Early to Teach a Future King
Some time in 1614 [C.E.] a complete set of toy soldiers, made of wood, was presented to the young prince of Spain, later King Philip IV. There were regiments and companies with their various banners, weapons and equipment, there were horses and cannon for the artillery, even the distinctive shops and tents of the armourers, sutlers and barbers who followed every army. Special materials were included for the construction of artificial lakes, forests and pontoon bridges, and there was a toy castle for the “army” to besiege. And this, the first child’s “war-game” known in Europe, was proudly described by its inventor in a special publication in Spanish and Latin. The toy was no less grandiose in intention than in execution: it was to give education as well as enjoyment. “This army will be no less useful than entertaining” the designer, one Alberto Struzzi, wrote to the prince. “From it one may observe the expenditure which is necessary if a King is to emerge victorious, and how if money (which is the sinews of war) fails, the prince’s intentions cannot be achieved.” Armies which are not paid invariably fall prey to disorders, desertion and defeat, warned the inventor.
The ultimate aim of this war-game was to make Prince Philip aware of the existence of the Spanish Netherlands and of the army which defended them. The prince’s splendid toy was in fact a perfect replica of the most famous army of the day, the Army of Flanders, maintained by Spain in the Low Countries since 1567. It was never too early to teach a future king of Spain that his power was underpinned largely by military strength and that his armies could function only for as long as they were paid.
— The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, pp. 3
Will You Give Me Your Prisoner, Or Must I Take Him?
[El Cid confronts the soldiers taking Prince Alfonso to the dungeons of Zamora.]El Cid:Will you give me your prisoner, or must I take him?Guard Leader:[incredulous] There are thirteen of us, and you are alone.El Cid:What you do is against God’s law. Were you thirteen times thirteen, I would not be alone!
— “El Cid” (1961)
That last line is a declaration of a D&D paladin, if there ever was one.
Vowed Himself to the Infernal Gods
Now that is patriotism.