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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
"Modern generals never fight now"

squire
Valinor


Jun 17 2013, 2:47am


Views: 150
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"Modern generals never fight now" [In reply to] Can't Post

I never know what to say when today's generals are criticized, whether implicitly or explicitly, for not risking their lives on the front line or in combat zones. The best single answer is that at some point in military history, the generals who stayed in the rear and commanded from a distance began to win battles against other armies led heroically from the front by charismatic champions. In other words, leading from behind works in modern conditions, and leading from the front doesn't.

In World War I in particular, the generals acquired a bad reputation, not so much for not going over the top, as for not really putting themselves in their men's places when considering the conditions and tactics of long-term strategic siege warfare. A fine French dinner with ones staff in a lavish chateau contrasted poorly with cold hash eaten in the rain in a muddy trench under shellfire. But even in that war, and certainly in more recent ones, different generals have shown a wide range of abilities for empathizing with the field troops and gaining their loyalty by leading through example and through experience, if not through a facility with small arms.

I agree that "self-defense" seems to excuse warfare, but the term defeated itself as soon as everyone realized that societies mobilize better when told they are "defending" the nation. If I remember, we in the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2013 to defend ourselves from a future attack with 'weapons of mass destruction'; Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to defend the Empire from being sucked dry by Western sanctions; etc., etc.

As noted already, Tolkien exhibits a fundamental ambiguity about war, but not quite along the same lines as you. I don't think he gives a hoot about strategy, as such, with its emphasis on logistics, numbers, and economics. I think he admired the heroism and self-sacrifice that war brings out in many soldiers, but he hated the waste and futility that is inherent in a soldier's death. Of course, one soldier's heroism often equals the other soldier's death. To avoid getting trapped into writing heroic myths in a relativistic world, he (as you note) invented anonymous, inhuman, or even non-human enemies against which his heroes' heroism can be tested.

That's become a characteristic of modern fantasy. I think in a way that's one of the reasons that fantasy as a genre is not always respected by readers and critics who have acquired for better or worse a more relativistic perspective on modern warfare and, by extension, even ancient warfare. I recently read a book explaining that the Mongols and the Huns were misunderstood, were oppressed by the surrounding civilizations of China, India, and the West - and were, in fact, just defending themselves when they slaughtered entire cities and laid waste to 'civilization', retaliating for the same crimes previously committed against their cities and their peoples. Huh, I thought. Once again, everything I was taught in school is wrong.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Subject User Time
Silmarillion Discussion 2013, Chapter 18: Of The Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:08am
    Tolkien's personal and literary experiences of war, and their influence on this chapter noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:15am
        Heroic myths Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 1:21pm
            Written for the ear! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 5:37pm
                Hear, hear CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:37pm
                I agree... elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:45pm
        large scale Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 5:51pm
            Soldiers and wooden blocks noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 6:01pm
                The two faces of war CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:51pm
                    "Modern generals never fight now" squire Send a private message to squire Jun 17 2013, 2:47am
                        "He uses others as his weapons" noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 17 2013, 11:47am
                            England has such picky, arcane rules for kingship CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:13pm
                            Another reason for "safe" generals CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:18pm
                            The tragedy of Denethor FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 18 2013, 1:31pm
                                I think some of this depends on the particular situation. Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Jun 18 2013, 1:40pm
                                Generalship by walking around noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 2:00pm
                                    the suicides of fingolfin and denethor Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 2:26pm
                                        Denethor fan! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 3:06pm
                                            so the grima thing... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 5:09pm
                                                Yes, I do give it away in my Facebook entries CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 5:18pm
                                            a little denethor trivia Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 6:13pm
                                                LOL and LOL some more // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 7:14pm
                                                    is it... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 7:16pm
                                                        No, he's much redeemed in my eyes. Especially because of the coupons. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 7:21pm
                                                            lol! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 7:22pm
                                                            btw Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 8:03pm
                                                Question on the senior menu... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 19 2013, 12:24am
                                                    you know what's dangerous? Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 12:52am
                                        regarding "poof" Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 3:52pm
                                            I don't believe anyone could believe you're intolerant. :) // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 5:02pm
                                                hope not : ) Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 5:27pm
                                                    Uruk High? That's the school for orcs…? // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 8:40pm
                                                        indeed Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:50pm
                                                            I'm also avoiding imagining Uruk High's cheerleaders... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 7:32am
                                                        I thought it was a drug reference CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 12:14am
                                                second that!// telain Send a private message to telain Jun 19 2013, 10:05pm
                                                    ah, Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:11pm
                                                        BLT? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 11:25pm
                                                            sounds delish! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 11:43pm
                                                                Troll fare CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 12:44pm
                                                                    i think i see the problem... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 3:17pm
                                                            Hungry after a long day CG? Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 12:17am
                                                        yummy! telain Send a private message to telain Jun 20 2013, 5:54pm
                                        Interesting compare/contrast! A further one - how about Fingolfin c.f. Frodo? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 4:48pm
                                            fingolfin and frodo Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:24pm
                                                Fingolfin & Frodo - great contrast - so much depends on motivation noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 9:26am
                                                    Very interesting tie-in to Tuchman's book! // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 12:08pm
                                        Maybe more like Theoden? FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 18 2013, 4:49pm
                                            love theoden! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 3:50pm
                                                Now you've got me thinking... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 20 2013, 7:07pm
                                                    heya : ) Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 7:16pm
                                                        Yes, as our Silmarillion discussion progresses CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 7:43pm
                                                            nobody Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 7:46pm
                                                                Manwe and choices Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 8:47pm
                                                                    Manwe's choice CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 10:01pm
                                                                        Oh no - don't tell me Manwe has read my footer...// Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 10:14pm
                                    Good point about the mourning and despair. Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Jun 18 2013, 2:32pm
                        Yes, it's amazing how aggressive the US "Department of Defense" can be. CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:38pm
            "No plan survives contact with the enemy." Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Jun 19 2013, 9:58pm
                ha! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:05pm
        Thanks for the summary NoWiz elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:19pm
    Fingolfin's single combat noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:16am
        Finglofin Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 1:08pm
        acting upon the rage of sorrow Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 6:02pm
            Exceptionally well put here Telpemairo! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 12:25am
                thank-eee Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 17 2013, 2:31am
        Pathos and Turgon CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:46pm
            Excellent and touching point CG Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 6:15pm
        more thoughts on Fingolfin telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 12:40am
        Better late than never Lothwen Send a private message to Lothwen Jun 21 2013, 9:01am
            Facing Sauron as an improvement cf facing Morgoth noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 21 2013, 9:39am
    Call not to the gods.... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:19am
        no real realization yet Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 6:13pm
        Huh, don't get me started on the Valar! elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:34pm
            The Valar don't know fear... telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 2:03pm
                perhaps that's part of the problem Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:13pm
        East calling West CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 9:00pm
            Calling for help Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 9:10pm
                That must be it, Brethil CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 10:06pm
            If it comes to that... elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 10:08pm
        More on calling for help Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 5:02pm
            what if... telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 1:45pm
                Makes it more heroic if so - and a bit on Thorondor Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 18 2013, 2:32pm
                    The Valar aren't coming! The Eagles aren't coming! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 3:28pm
                        well put telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 4:22pm
                        Indomitable spirit noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 5:27pm
    Eagles and matters of fate and doom noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:20am
        More on eagles Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 18 2013, 2:44pm
    Under-energetic allies? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 10:08am
        Hey, the Orcs aren't in MY living room, why should I care? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:20pm
    oh and... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 17 2013, 2:29am
    All of the postings to this thread - AWESOME ltnjmy Send a private message to ltnjmy Jun 19 2013, 9:04pm
        Thanks Itnjmy! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 9:21pm
        yes, but... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:03pm
        Good to see you Itnjmy! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 19 2013, 11:56pm
        Thanks for the compliments, Itnjmy. We always appreciate your feedback and are glad you enjoy the discussion. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 5:37pm
    Some selected points from the 2009 read-through noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 23 2013, 10:15am

 
 
 

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