Leave No Man Behind

From the original article on September 22, 2021. Author: Diomedes Appreciator.

In Homeric warfare the bodies of fallen heroes are retrieved by their comrades often at great risk to themselves. The poem is replete with promachos fighting to strip the armor of a slain enemy and to mutilate his corpse, or conversely to spare their own from the same fate.

This is the origin of the American army’s leave no man behind ethos. American troops will incur great casualties to retrieve the bodies of fallen comrades. It is quite simply a matter of Honor. A warrior is heartened knowing he is esteemed even after he falls.

I was in Iraq in 2006, 10th Mountain soldiers were captured and mutilated and it unleashed a cold fury in us. It steeled our resolve, we conducted raids nonstop for weeks on end and not a man faltered.

Contrast this with the behavior of the bureaucrats who manage our imperial decline. What personal risk would they incur to save you from the baying of the mob? Will they utter even a word in your defense?

Homeric society was organized into local groups, packs of men if you will. There was little compulsion in these packs, leaders rely instead on their reputation as fighting men to give weight to their decisions. Constant demonstrations of their worth were called for and exhibited.

These Basileus, war leaders, were not as secure as later kings and should not be thought of as kings at all. Their authority depended entirely on mutual obligation. I defend you, you defend me. They had to constantly prove themselves on the battlefield and during negotiations.

There was no political system in place to transfer power besides Honor, reputation and personal achievement. Imagine a world where the bureaucrats restricting you had to take personal bodily risk with every decision they made.

Take the horsemen defending the border from the Haitians. The image is magnificent, powerful men on horseback driving their foes before them. Those images harken back to a time when such things were done, Heroes faced their enemies without a need to preen and moralize.

These images produced not praise but outrage from the very people who undoubtably dispatched them to the river in the first place. At the very top of the American establishment the court eunuchs stumbled over themselves to denounce the actions of their own men.

This sort of perfidy would be unheard of in a warband. A leader first had to be a fighter himself, eliminating the sort of smug detachment from action we see today. But more importantly he was nothing without his men. What kind of man would fight under the direction of a coward?

In book 17 of the Iliad we see Glaucus berating Hector as a coward and unfit to lead for abandoning the body of Sarpedon, a foreign ally of the Trojans to the ravages of the Greeks.

Hector, you've wiped your allies from your mind! And, all for you, Hector, far from their loved ones, far from native land they bleed their lives away. But you won't lift a hand to fight beside them.

Contrast this with Menalaus and Ajax fighting to retrieve Patroclus’s body. Neither man can bear the shame that would follow them in life leaving behind the body of their brother, and so they risk joining Patroclus in painful death to keep his from being denied its proper honor.

To the young 10th Mountain soldiers dismounting their black hawks night after night in the face of pressure plates, s-vests, small arms fire nothing could sway them from the pursuit of their fallen brothers.

Sarpedon had previously referred to Glaucus as a soldier’s soldier. A real fighting man. This is why he calls out Hector, the prince of Troy, without regard for his rank. What does rank mean next to a man’s Honor?

What hope has the common soldier in your ranks to be saved by you, Hector, you heart of iron?—if you could quit Sarpedon, your guest and friend-in-arms...

What does it take for a man to abandon his brother? This is precisely why we struggle today, because we found too many reasons to do so?

Menelaus and Ajax are answerable to their men.

In this we have widened the gap yet again between the man of war, and the man of the city.

What response did the establishment Generals give to men critical of their leadership failures in the GWOT? Many of whom bled under their commands. What did these pompous asses suffer for their failures?

Such behavior is unthinkable for the Basileus, for the leader of honorable men. Failure and dishonor always have very real consequences for such a man.

Are you a Man? Do you pursue Arete? Excellence? Who then will you bleed for? More lying suits? That is all this system could ever produce. Think about that when next they ask you to sally forth in their defense.

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