Monday, May 21, 2012

What It Means To Be At War

To those who have written to ask why it's not a good time for an armed uprising:

    "What is combat, Christine?"
    "What is combat? How does it differ from other kinds of human interaction?"
    "Well, you're trying to hurt somebody."
    Louis cocked an eyebrow. "You're never trying to hurt somebody under other circumstances?"
    She thought it over. "Well, yeah."
    "So what's the difference?"
    "Well, you have to have an opponent."
    He waited in silence.
    "And he has to be trying to stop you."
    "From doing what?"
    "Whatever you're trying to do!" She was growing impatient.
    "And what are the rules?"
    "Um, do there have to be any?"
    He shook his head. "There have to be none."
    "You heard me. If it's combat, it has no rules, only objectives. That's really the defining characteristic."
    He went to a wooden rack across from his punching bag and lifted a large, gently curved sword from it. She had never seen him handle the thing before, and had wondered why he had it.
    "This is a medieval saber. A thousand years ago, it was one of the most potent weapons a man could carry. Moreover, possession was restricted by law. You had to be a member of the ruling class to own one legally."
    He swung the sword in a complex pattern that defeated her attempt to track it.
    "You can kill with one of these, if you have enough strength and skill. Of course, it's a little conspicuous, and it takes a lot more effort to use than most people would guess. Would you want to have to tote one around?"
    "And why is that?" He laid the tip of the saber in his left hand and held out the sword as if offering it to her.
    "Because there's better available. We have guns now."
    He nodded. "Yes, we do. And for quite a wide range of combat situations, a gun is a better weapon than a sword. In fact, there are a number of cases where bare hands are better than a sword, but that's beside the point for now. If you were in a combat situation, where you had this and your opponent had a gun, what could you do about it?"
    She looked hard at the old weapon. It had a certain antique beauty and simplicity, but she couldn't imagine ever wanting to wield it.
    "Not a lot. Try to take the gun away from him, maybe?"
    Louis snorted. "I hope you never have to do that, Chris. The odds are going to be on his side. But one thing you wouldn't do is to shout, 'Hey, that's not fair.' Right?"
    She laughed. "Silly man!"
    His face went dark. "I'm trying to make a very important point here, Chris. Combat means no rules. What he has is what you have to deal with, period. If you can't face his size, his skills, or his armament, you'd better be prepared to run."
    "Well, you know I can do that."
    He glowered. "I said prepared to run." His voice had acquired an edge she hadn't heard before. "Emotionally. You don't ever duke it out with someone who's got the edge. A lot of guys have been killed by pride and unwillingness to admit they're facing superior force. Chris, this might be the most important thing anyone will ever tell you. Do you understand?"

(From On Broken Wings)

If you think you're ready for that, you're almost certainly mistaken.


KG said...

But there's more than one way to run an armed uprising, Francis. And direct confrontation is probably the least sensible of them.
Carefully targeted sniping, however...

Francis W. Porretto said...

True, true. But the weakness here is organization. It wouldn't be impossible to organize a quasi-guerilla rebellion, but it would be close to impossible to coordinate it effectively while keeping the coordinating corps secret. That's a huge problem, as the coordinators would necessarily know enough to bring down everyone else involved in the action.

KG said...

Exactly. But I have some thoughts on how it could be done. We have to learn to move away from traditional ideas concerning organization and co-ordinated action.
Obviously, this isn't the place to explore that.

furball said...

Makes me want to read On Broken Wings again!

To those who haven't read them already, I strongly suggest you go to and check out Fran's trilogy - Chosen One, On Broken Wings and Shadow of a Sword. 99 cents each is a ridiculously low price for books that I almost guarantee you'll appreciate.

I put the writings of Francis Porretto right up there with Arnold Ahlert, Thomas Sowell and Jonah Goldberg as knowledgeable, truthful, important, provocative and satisfying (intellectually fun) to read.

Thanks again, Fran!

Moist von Lipwig said...

What the furry one said.
So when might your protagonists make a return Francis?

Francis W. Porretto said...

For the moment, MvL, I've put Christine, Malcolm, Stephen Sumner, and Father Ray on the back burned while I work on a sequel to Which Art In Hope and on another project, tentatively titled Polymath, about a fellow who'll prove extremely useful to the Sumner Administration. I can't predict when either will be finished, so watch this space!

Joan of Argghh! said...

No, now are we fat and lazy and full of fancy, but not meet for that awful, dirty task of taking back.

It was one thing, when we knew the price of the land on which we'd worked and bled and wrested a living from long before the King of England decided our fortunes were his. We took the land by dint of husbandry and toil and even war.

To take it again, even ideologically, from within our own illiterate populace is a task which few will have a stomach for.

And the best that the rest of the world has to offer, save Israel, is no match for our military and intelligence. You want to go sniping against that?

It's enough to make you want to make your last stand in Israel, the last free country on earth. Just to know that everyone near you is in the same foxhole and shooting outward with you seems a comfort of sorts.

In the fog of demagoguery here in the U.S., it's hard to trust anyone.

Anonymous said...

Only fools with martyr complexes attack strength.

Attack weakness.

Hit 'em where they ain't.

KG said...

"And the best that the rest of the world has to offer, save Israel, is no match for our military and intelligence. You want to go sniping against that?"
No. And there's no need to. The essential targets are not the military.

Anonymous said...

When the civil war began most people thought it would be over quickly. Young men eagerly joined both sides for the adventure. They had no idea what combat was and that they would die horribly or perhaps worse live horribly after suffering horrendous injuries in combat. No one who understands what combat or civil war or revolution means is eager for it. We MUST solve our problems Democratically and constitutionally.

KG said...

"We MUST solve our problems Democratically and constitutionally."
Yeah, that's worked really well over the last hundred years. The Supremes have made a mockery of the Constitution, and the ballot box...well, if you can't see why the ballot box is not working and is unlikely to work as intended any time soon then there's not much point in going through it chapter and verse.
I've seen war, up close and personal and there are worse things. Creeping slavery, for example.

Mark Alger said...

The simplest statement against armed conflict in an attempt to repair our present disaster is this:


Neither will the Republic. Think of a different way.


Anonymous said...

Kulaks don't survive when the Reds consolidate power.

Use instead this clip as counsel:

Anonymous said...

Kulaks don't survive when the Reds consolidate power.

Use this clip instead as counsel:

KG said...

Then you'd better get used to the idea of serfdom, for you and for your children.