Page 2 of 7 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast
Results 21 to 40 of 132

Thread: How soldiers deal with the job of killing

  1. #21
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Rank is generally a stabilizer but not always. There are also examples of Officers ordering, suggesting or implying such actions are acceptable. Or recall the notorious example of young LT Calley at My Lai in Viet Nam who participated in the shootings and whose Platoon Sergeant tried unsuccessfully to stop him and the men (personally, I'd have buttstroked the LT but that's just me... )
    I suggest just as officer training should cater for a worst case scenario so should (senior) NCO training cater for a situation when the officer loses it.

    Buttstroke seems like the correct response under those circumstances to me. But that is when he has already crossed the line, you want to jerk his chain before he does though. I suggest the trick is to know when things are starting to come to the boil and defuse it then. I am reminded of the classic sergeant comment of "leave this to me Sir, I'll take it from here... while you report in by radio".

    My experience tells me that a fatal combination is created when you end up with captures/wounded in a contact where you have taken casualties. A should have known better (for the officer and the sergeant) example was own forces took a casualty who was CASEVACED and a capture was put with the call-sign who had taken the casualty for the ride home as they had a spare seat now. Comes over the radio that the troopie did not make it. According to the corporal shortly thereafter the capture attempted to escape from the chopper flying at 80 knots at tree top level and disappeared into the trees.

    Also the two recent courts-marshall of the Brits reported in the press relating to "assualt" of prisoners involved these prisoners being guarded by troopies from the contact (or being accessible to them) in which he was taken captive when recovered to base. The moral of that story is that even if you get a cook to guard him you need to put some distance between the capture and the troopies who bagged him. Officers and sergeants should be taught this stuff.

    Here's a "what would you do" question for an officers or Snr NCOs course:

    "Your platoon responds to support a call-sign reporting a contact. They report they have pulled back but can't account for one troopie. With the arrival of the choppers the enemy breaks contact and your platoon sweeps forward to locate the missing troopie. You find the body stripped of kit and mutilated (genitals removed) and with the amount of blood from the wound it was probably done when he was still alive. One of your troopies recognises the dead troopie as a friend from school days who he grew up with. At the same time your flank section/squad reports successful contact with enemy with a mix of enemy kills and captures."
    What must you as platoon commander/platoon sergeant anticipate in terms of possible reprisal actions and how would you act to prevent the situation getting out of control?

    Note: actual situation, mutilation post mortem (due to lack of bleeding), the company despite numerous contacts produced no captured enemy (on that day nor) for about the next month.
    Last edited by JMA; 06-27-2011 at 07:44 AM.

  2. #22
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I agree BTW, with your 5% and think the percentage who can kill without hesitation and no enjoyment is really about 80 and of those at least 50%, probably most, will suffer little to no remorse or psychological damage. I suspect the total of those severely traumatized by actually killing is smaller than the number traumatized by seeing death and destruction but who have not killed or had to do so as I believe that action seems to perform a balancing act of sorts on the old psyche. I also believe both numbers combined will in truth average less than 10% of troops committed (METT-TC dependent, as always, obviously intensity of combat and / or length of time committed will have an effect... ).
    Good, we agree on the 5% and I guess the give-a-way is their "eyes". You can see it in their eyes.

    Again among this 5% there are there is a scale (from 1-10) from the nut case psychopath through to those who get a mild buzz from killing. The "mild buzz" troopies can be tolerated.

    Yes, know of a doctor (Brit) who had to deal with a flood of very badly wounded soldiers and has never quite got over it. Then there was the pilot who arrived to carry out a BDA (bomb damage assessment) and just could not handle seeing the bits and pieces (bodyparts) lying around. The (18-19 year old) troopies seemed to take it in their stride.

    A total of those who are traumatised by killing or witnessing the destruction and those who enjoy it being under 10%, I agree.

    My war was a series of skirmishes rather than one or two really heavy set piece battles. "Throwing the dice" almost daily for months on end kind of wore one down but nowhere as traumatic as a Stalingrad or Okinawa. Maybe that's why the vast majority came through unscathed psychologically.

    I'd like, BTW, to know how much of that 'psychological damage' is induced by those who think there just must be some there and keep probing or pushing until some erupts...
    Yes, there seems to be an increasing assumption that if you have been in combat you must be screwed up to some extent. I'll agree with them only when they start to dish out healthy disability payments and pensions

    (Those guesstimates are applicable to a generation now past, in or approaching their 60s but I suspect that the numbers are valid for the current generations as well.)
    Agreed

  3. #23
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default Afghanistan: The Battle for Helmand

    Yesterday's part (2 of 3) Afghanistan: The Battle for Helmand by Mark Urban was aired on BBC2.
    Can be found here in three segments:

    1 of 3

    2 of 3

    3 of 3

    enjoy

  4. #24
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default BBC series : Our War

    Here are the other two in the Our War series:

    Our War : The Invisible Enemy

    This clown (who filmed this) gives officers a bad name.

    Our War: Caught in the Crossfire

    Interesting comments on RoE

  5. #25
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default Grossman

    Finally got around to Section 1 of Grossman's book.

    Grossman completes the first section as follows:

    There can be no doubt that this resistance to killing one’s fellow man is there and that it exists as a result of a powerful combination of instinctive, rational, environmental, hereditary, cultural, and social factors.
    Well yes, but does this resistance actually translate into refusing to kill under any circumstances?

    There is surely a scale into which all people fall in this regard?

    Say from a '10' where he will actively seek out opportunities to kill (the psychopath) to the '0' who will rather die himself than kill a human.

    Its (IMHO) a bit like sex where the first attempt is hesitant/tentative/uncertain but it gets easier with experience.

    So the statement in Grossman's book is meaningless other than to record that there will be a small percentage of soldiers who resist killing to the extent that they place their own life and those of their comrades at risk. I suggest that the majority of these will find a way to get themselves out of a combat role and thus avoid such a scenario developing.

    There are of course a number of "inputs" which help to reduce this resistance to kill. For example the demonisation of the enemy through race/tribal/religious based propaganda and/or through the actions of the enemy (typically atrocities) to the extent where soldiers begin to believe that to kill them would be doing a service to humanity.

    I will skip the non-firer aspect as this has been tainted by the SLA Marshall controversy.

  6. #26
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,020

    Default Hello South Africa,

    You might want to take a look at Lonnie Athens (Wiki - brief and incomplete outline of his theory of violence) - focused first on his research of violent criminals in American prisons. His general conclusion is that, to understand violence, experience is a more important factor than logic, ideology or genetics.

    Athens' theory has been considered by Richard Rhodes - generally in Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist (a brief review of Rhodes' book - but explaining Athens' four stages in a nutshell); and specifically with respect to the SS Einsatzgruppen (in one chapter of Masters of Death).

    In both books, Rhodes concludes:

    "He now firmly resolves to attack people physically with the serious intention of gravely harming or even killing them for the slightest or no provocation whatsoever. . . . He has suddenly been emboldened and made venomous at the same time. . . . The subject is ready to attack people physically with the serious intention of gravely harming or killing them with minimal or less than minimal provocation on their part." Says Rhodes, "that is, he is ready to become an ultraviolent criminal."
    That is a valid comment re: genocides, serial killers, multiple killers and the "mind of the murderer" in general. As to genocides and Athens' theory, see Dimensions of Genocide: The Circumplex Model Meets Violentization Theory, by Mark A. Winton (2008, case study of Rwanda).

    The bottom line is that Athens' theory generally holds up (although as Winton points out, it is non-exclusive and ties in with other approaches - including some of Grossman[*]) with respect to "bad guys".

    However, if it is truly a "general theory", it should also hold up for "good guys" - with adjustments in terminology. Athens gets into that in Violent Encounters: Violent Engagements, Skirmishes, and Tiffs (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2005), in his Conclusion:

    CONCLUSION

    The interaction between perpetrators and victims when violent crimes are either attempted or completed can be best understood if it is seen as arising during social acts—activities that require the voluntary or involuntary participation of at least two parties for their completion. With the obvious exception of suicide, all violent crimes constitute social acts because there must be at least two parties for them to be committed—a perpetrator and a victim. Lawful violent acts constitute social acts just as much as unlawful violent acts do. In the cases of excused and justifiable homicides, as well as excused and justifiable batteries, there must also be at least two parties—a perpetrator and a victim. The same is also true in intergroup violent criminal and noncriminal violent action, except that in this case, the victims and perpetrators are collectivities rather than individuals. In collective social acts, it is groups rather than individuals who perform the separate roles, communicate through their spokespersons, assume each others’ attitudes, and try to work out a congruent social object or plan of action for carrying out the larger social act in which they are the acting agents (Blumer 1966, 540; 1969, 52, 55-56; 1981, 148).

    As in the case of individual social acts, there are two kinds of collective social acts: cooperative and conflictive. Unlike in cooperative social acts, in conflictive ones, the acting agents, no matter whether they are individuals or groups, cannot form a congruent social object or plan of action because they cannot agree on who should perform the superordinate and subordinate roles in carrying out the social act. Unsurprisingly, violent encounters do not arise during individual or collective cooperative social acts but instead during conflictive ones. It may be speculated that the violent encounters that emerge during either individual or collective conflictive social acts fall into the same three basic subtypes that differ in terms of the number of the five stages of a violence encounter that are completed: (1) role claiming, (2) role rejection, (3) role sparring, (4) role enforcement, and (5) role determination. During a violence engagement, all five stages must be completed; during violent skirmishes, only the first four of these stages must be completed; and during violent tiffs, only the first three must be completed. Thus, despite the differences in legal status between lawful and unlawful violence and between individual and collective acting units, the grounded theory of violent criminal social acts that individuals perpetrate described here could be potentially applied to violent social acts that are both lawful and unlawful and that both groups and individuals perpetrate and, thereby, to all violent social action.

    Before this extrapolation can be safely made, however, appropriate amendments would undoubtedly have to be made to the theory. Any general theory of violent social actswould have to take into account the added complexity that an increase in scale in the social act’s acting units would introduce into the proposed explanation (Blumer 1981, 148-149). Undoubtedly, the nature and size of the groups involved in a dominance encounter could significantly affect the actual social practices at work during the different stages.

    As Blumer (1959, 129-30) pointedly observes, large and small groups must utilize different social mechanisms to perform their roles or “mobilize for action” in social acts:

    “A. . . reflection of the collective factor in the case of large groups is the organization on which they must rely when mobilizing for action. A small group uses confined, simple and direct machinery. Corporate action in a large group requires the articulation of more units which are also likely to be more diverse, more removed from each other, and related through bridging links. . . . The mobilization of this extended, diversified, and indirectly connected organization requires forms of leadership, coordination, and control which again differ from those in small groups.”
    Of course, a general theory of violent social action also could not ignore the state’s approval or disapproval of the use of violence. Obviously, this is a factor that could also significantly affect both individual and collective acting units’ performance of their roles in violent social acts. Thus, future research would be needed to determine the exact nature of the amendments that would need to be made in each of the stages through which violent engagements, skirmishes, and tiffs pass to accommodate all violent social acts rather than only the criminal ones that individuals commit.
    --------------------------
    [*] I've read both of Grossman's books (On Combat and On Killing) - many parts of them more than once, since they obviously relate to actions that are in some cases "war crimes" and in other cases not. I believe Athens' theory is consistent with much of Gerossman's factual material - and also ties in with current training theories and practices for military and police.

    Regards

    Mike

  7. #27
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    You might want to take a look at Lonnie Athens (Wiki - brief and incomplete outline of his theory of violence) - focused first on his research of violent criminals in American prisons. His general conclusion is that, to understand violence, experience is a more important factor than logic, ideology or genetics.

    Athens' theory has been considered by Richard Rhodes - generally in Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist (a brief review of Rhodes' book - but explaining Athens' four stages in a nutshell); and specifically with respect to the SS Einsatzgruppen (in one chapter of Masters of Death).

    In both books, Rhodes concludes:

    That is a valid comment re: genocides, serial killers, multiple killers and the "mind of the murderer" in general. As to genocides and Athens' theory, see Dimensions of Genocide: The Circumplex Model Meets Violentization Theory, by Mark A. Winton (2008, case study of Rwanda).

    The bottom line is that Athens' theory generally holds up (although as Winton points out, it is non-exclusive and ties in with other approaches - including some of Grossman[*]) with respect to "bad guys".

    However, if it is truly a "general theory", it should also hold up for "good guys" - with adjustments in terminology. Athens gets into that in Violent Encounters: Violent Engagements, Skirmishes, and Tiffs (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2005), in his Conclusion:

    --------------------------
    [*] I've read both of Grossman's books (On Combat and On Killing) - many parts of them more than once, since they obviously relate to actions that are in some cases "war crimes" and in other cases not. I believe Athens' theory is consistent with much of Gerossman's factual material - and also ties in with current training theories and practices for military and police.

    Regards

    Mike
    Thanks for posting that as I had not looked at the matter from that direction before. That being from the direction of those entering the service having already killed or needing little provocation to unleash vicious violence (and here I speak of gang members and the like). In a war time situation these people may in fact be drawn to the military in the hope of finding themselves in a position to kill (this would include your average psychopath). These people tend to gravitate towards each other and when they achieve critical mass it is perhaps when the atrocities and massacres happen. (Grossman believes they tend to gravitate to Special Forces).

    It would be helpful if these people could be identified in advance (during recruit training) and either got rid of or consciously keep separate. (I must speak to those I served with who were involved with recruit training in this regard).

    My approach had been from the point of departure of a middle class boy who grew up in a very non-violent environment and assumed that the vast majority would need some conditioning and motivation to kill in combat. I am correct in that but ignored the dangerous minority who need very little if any provocation to kill. So thank you or adding another dimension to my thinking on this.

    Back to Grossman and Section One of his book.

    I remain in disagreement with his position that the majority of soldiers will either be non-firers in combat and/or refuse to kill the enemy and as such do not believe that this should be taught as the default position to officer cadets.

    I said in post earlier post that killing becomes easier with repetition and notice the following in your Athen's source:

    "Prisoner Jean-Baptiste described his first kill.
    The crowd had grown. I seized the machete, I struck a first blow. When I
    saw the blood bubble up, I jumped back a step. Someone blocked me from
    behind and shoved me forward by both elbows. I closed my eyes in the
    brouhaha and I delivered a second blow like the first. It was done, people
    approved, they were satisfied and moved away. I drew back…Later on we
    got used to killing without so much dodging around. (Hatzfeld, 2003, p.
    23)"

    and

    " The killers described becoming crueler with time. They also described that
    there were no negative consequences for killing and that there might be
    negative consequences for failing to kill."
    It is the second part that worries me. I noted the clinical lack of emotion in the killing process among the troopies (some 18-19 year olds) with the repetition. Scary... the more I think about it.
    Last edited by JMA; 07-29-2011 at 07:19 AM.

  8. #28
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,020

    Default Good point ...

    that ties in more with the separate Grossman-Athens, etc., discussion:

    from JMA
    Well this would bring us onto another point and that is the apparent requirement a nation and its military has to have a military which is cerebral and socially well-behaved yet can be unleashed at a moments notice to inflict unspeakable violence on an enemy and immediately thereafter return to the default position as if nothing has happened.
    From a conversation with Cavguy a couple of years ago (in response to my question, which was generated by a comment from Ken White on shifting violence levels[*]):

    from Cavguy

    Originally Posted by jmm99
    Whether a soldier doing COIN for a year has less killer instinct than one doing CONV for a year is outside my experience. I'm being observational of possible issues and disconnects - not judgmental.
    I would argue that there is no loss of "killer instinct" from performing COIN missions based off of my personal experiences and observations.

    My unit in OIF 1 spent a year in an area of virtually no contact in SE Baghdad. On April 4, 2004, the Sadr uprising began, and overnight formerly peaceful Shia areas became free-fire zones. My Armor BN (and many others) were thrown into instant high intensity urban combat. For an overview of what happened in Sadr City that day, you can read Martha Radditz's account here. The company commander's account of the assault into Sadr City and my BN CDR's account of the following two months in Najaf are in the ARMOR COIN issue. (Sadr City: The Armor Pure Assault in Urban Terrain by Captain John C. Moore & Task Force Iron Dukes Campaign for Najaf by Lieutenant Colonel Pat White)

    The men instantly "flipped switches". No retraining on the "killer instinct" was needed. It doesn't take much of a switch to shoot back at those shooting at you.

    Same observation over 15 months in the second tour. I have never seen anyone need retraining on "killer instinct" in today's military. The reverse, however, is not true to the same level. Learning to switch it on and off is the challenge when you have to return to "soft".

    Tactical proficiency between HIC and COIN missions is a different matter, but I haven't sensed a psychological one.
    -----------------------
    [*] Ken's original comment related more to training for low intensity vs high intensity - so, any "disconnect" between what Niel said above and what Ken said, may be more apparent than real:

    from Ken
    The downshift to COIN will come with excess violence in the COIN role but it can be done quickly with good well trained leadership who know the basics so that excess violence need not last nearly as long as it did in the downshift in Iraq in some units -- the good ones adapted fairly rapidly. I'd also point out we are and have long been remiss in the basics, so the leadership gets an Attaboy for doing good job qith less than ideal material.

    Upshifting, on the other hand requires developing the habit of violence which takes a bit -- it can be done, just takes longer. Thus, to me adapting (nominally at the leader and commander levels) is only part of the problem. Training and inculcating the killer instinct in all the troops is a necessary change and it is more than an adaptation, it is a philosophical and practical change of significant impact and importance. Required also almost always will be a tedious refresher in critical combat skill not require or used in COIN efforts.
    and Ken's response to Cavguy's comment:

    People who need people...

    Originally Posted by Cavguy
    ...The reverse, however, is not true to the same level. Learning to switch it on and off is the challenge when you have to return to "soft".
    My observation is that varies with people. The "Kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" types will use any excuse to pop a cap...

    There is a gear down pause and hiccup, no question but firm leadership can usually handle it. However, my observation has also been -- and folks who are out there now confirm it's still a big problem -- that the small arms fire discipline in the US Army (and the Marines) is, uh, less than stellar. That contributes to shifting problems both ways. It's because we don't train 'em well in IET.

    Though that may be changing, the use of Outcome Based Training in Basic and at OSUT is producing better trained, more capable and disciplined shooters so we may get rid of a problem that's been around in US forces since WW II.
    Leaving aside psychopaths, sociopaths and the "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" group, what is the nature of the "switch" that allows folks (normally of a non-virulent disposition) to engage in a high level of violence, but under both constraints and restraints so that their violence is defined within limits and can be switched off ?

    These "normal" folks have to be able to operate (at the least) at as high a level of violence as the psychopaths, sociopaths and the "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" group - since they have to expect the latter will make up the OPFOR in at least some situations.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-30-2011 at 06:44 PM. Reason: Copied from the 'Breaker Morant Appeal' thread at JMA's request 30/7/11

  9. #29
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,020

    Default The "normal kid"

    from JMA
    My approach had been from the point of departure of a middle class boy who grew up in a very non-violent environment and assumed that the vast majority would need some conditioning and motivation to kill in combat. I am correct in that but ignored the dangerous minority who need very little if any provocation to kill. So thank you for adding another dimension to my thinking on this.
    I'd like the dimension (of Athens-Grossman) to be expanded so as to consider not only the psychopaths, sociopaths and the "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" group, but also the "normal kid" who becomes capable of the same or even higher level of violence than the folks who commit "war crimes" (tying into this post).

    In connection with that, Grossman, in "On Combat", has some interesting factual material in Section Three, Chapter One (starting at p.125) "Killing Machines: The Impact of a Handful of True Warriors". He starts with "Commando" Kelly and includes Audie Murphy; but the statistics for Allied and German fighter pilots show much more quantitatively that a relatively small percentage of pilots racked up a very large number of kills.

    I'd not be surprised at that result if we were talking about hunting. In any decent sample of hunters, one or more will stand out on a consistent basis for a larger percentage of kills than the others. As to combat, I've no experience to judge. I'd suspect that the "normal kid" (who becomes an "Audie Murphy") has learned somewhere along the line to reject a subordinate role and to achieve a superordinate role by taking on the "playground bully" - reaching at least Athens' third stage in violence development.

    Athens gets into that (where the "victim" reacts with dominating violence), to some extent, in Violent Encounters: Violent Engagements, Skirmishes, and Tiffs (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2005) (pdf pp.19-40 spell out Athens' construct).

    If so, that "normal kid" could become one of Grossman's "sheepdogs", who has to be able to take on wolves; and is a "killing machine", but for societally-acceptable reasons and within societally-acceptable limits.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 07-29-2011 at 03:48 PM.

  10. #30
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    3,195

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    In connection with that, Grossman, in "On Combat", has some interesting factual material in Section Three, Chapter One (starting at p.125) "Killing Machines: The Impact of a Handful of True Warriors". He starts with "Commando" Kelly and includes Audie Murphy; but the statistics for Allied and German fighter pilots show much more quantitatively that a relatively small percentage of pilots racked up a very large number of kills.
    Of course one must also understand that in many cases fighter pilot tactics were designed to effectively "feed" targets to those superior performers. In this I'm referring to the US practice of having wingmen mainly concerned with keeping lead's backside clear. German tactics were slightly different, but still scaled toward protecting the lead pilot.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  11. #31
    Council Member
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    4,020

    Default Can't present pro or con re: WWII fighter tactics ....

    that's well outside of any expertise I have.

    Grossman, in "On Killing" (p.182), offers this "tease bit" - the context is his discussion of the statistic (apparently from Gwynne Dyer) that 1% of Army Air Corps fighter pilots had 40% of the kills:

    Several senior U.S. Air Force officers have told me that when the U.S. Air Force tried to preselect fighter pilots after World War II, the only common denominator they could find among their World War II aces was that they had been involved in a lot of fights as children.
    That piece of hearsay upon hearsay is, of course, consistent with Athens' construct in Violent Encounters. I looked briefly for an AF source, but came up empty.

    BTW: Accepting what you say as fact ("feeding" the enemy to selected pilots), two questions: (1) what % of kills came from "feeding" vs individual hunting; and (2) the selected shooters were selected by what criteria ?

    More broadly, is the same phenom observed in infantry combat ?

    Regards

    Mike

  12. #32
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Berkshire County, Mass.
    Posts
    896

    Default

    Would any light be thrown on the issues under discussion here by looking at HRT-type units and the individuals working within them? Correct me if I am wrong, but I assume that the mix of ability and willingness to unblinkingly kill in the context of a situation where the very purpose is to save the lives of most of the individuals involved must bring certain things to the fore in a pronounced if not necessarily unique fashion.
    Last edited by ganulv; 07-30-2011 at 01:47 AM. Reason: wording
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  13. #33
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Would any light be thrown on the issues under discussion here by looking at HRT-type units and the individuals working within them? Correct me if I am wrong, but I assume that the mix of ability and willingness to unblinkingly kill in the context of a situation where the very purpose is to save the lives of most of the individuals involved must bring certain things to the fore in a pronounced if not necessarily unique fashion.
    IMHO these guys have a more difficult juggling act (meaning switching on and off) than most soldiers have who go off to war for a period then come back home. These guys do it on an almost daily basis.

    In addition their actions need to be more controlled and selective to avoid collateral damage. Adds to the level of stress I'm sure. I couldn't do that stuff. In my war you didn't want to get caught in front of an RLI or SAS assault line (sweep line as we called it) as if anything moved it got "smoked" (don't you just love that American expression).

    Why I say this because is because when contact is made that tight spring gets to unwind (for soldiers) but for the police and SWAT etc they can virtually never just "let rip". Their coiled spring remain tight all the time (until they put their weapons back in the armoury).

    So these guys have to go home in the evening after a "busy day at the office" and switch off and revert to husband and daddy mode most often without time to "chill out" (as they call it nowdays).

    I wonder what the divorce rate in these units is?
    Last edited by JMA; 07-30-2011 at 09:17 AM.

  14. #34
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    1,007

    Default

    Israeli snipers in the Al-Aqsa intifada:
    killing, humanity and lived experience

    NETA BAR & EYAL BEN-ARI

    This article is an analysis of Israeli military snipers who served
    during the Al-Aqsa intifada. It takes issue with the scholarly consensus that, for
    such acts to take place, perpetrators have to somehow dehumanise their
    enemies. Based on interviews with 30 individuals, it shows that snipers do not
    always need to dehumanise their targets and that they experience killing in
    conflicting ways, both as pleasurable and as disturbing.
    The snipers
    simultaneously deploy distancing mechanisms aimed at dehumanising enemies
    and constantly recognise their basic humanity. The article ends on a cautionary
    note: violence should not be seen as only belonging to the realm of the
    pathological. Rather we must be aware of rules of legitimate violence, the
    culturally specific ideology of violence at work in specific cases. This kind of
    ideology may ‘humanse’ enemies but still classify them as opponents against
    which violence may be legitimately used.
    http://lib.ruppin.ac.il/multimedia/PDF/25258.pdf

  15. #35
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kaur View Post
    Israeli snipers in the Al-Aqsa intifada:
    killing, humanity and lived experience

    NETA BAR & EYAL BEN-ARI

    http://lib.ruppin.ac.il/multimedia/PDF/25258.pdf
    This is an important contribution, thank you for posting it.

    I agree that snipers are a special category. I have noted that they tend to relate more to how their 'kills' are made rather than the mere number. (This seems to differ from the old days when snipers (in the main) used to go after specific individuals.)

    One hears of the weapon used, what ammo, what range, (very important to snipers) wind and light conditions etc etc. Then of course a 'Quigley' is really something to brag about. Who gets killed in the end is less of an issue.

    But, yes, all their kills are deliberate in the cross-hairs shots. I assume that must have some psychological impact (as in the case study would the crying and wailing of mothers/wives/children as they recover the body).

    How does one explain the cognitive dissonance?

    Partly because it is normal to have some of that. Despite what was going on inside in my day (30 odd years ago) it was manly to say things like 'the only pain I feel is the recoil of the weapon in my shoulder'. Internally perhaps many had some conflicts (which few if any would admit too).

    Also because it is now expected that soldiers should not express any pleasure in killing. It is expected soldiers should be expected to express regret at having to kill another human being. So perhaps these interviews should be very carefully structured (and I am not saying these weren't) to try to filter out when soldiers say what they think they need to say (rather than what they may really feel.

    But how to keep the snipers focussed?

    The danger is (like with other soldiers) that they may become a little fatigued (by repetition) and maybe pass on a potential kill or aim to wound rather than kill etc etc.

    I glean from the study that acts of terrorism that may be prevented through killing these armed men is a motivation. Good to issue them with notebooks with graphic photos of bombed Israeli buses on the inside covers.

    In my day the enemy provided a regular supply of such motivation. See the Elim Massacre article in Time magazine of 1978 and from the Rhodesian Ministry of Information during which both the 5 and 4 year old girls were also raped before being murdered.

    Show me this photo (and others of that massacre) any day and even now I tend to have an significant emotional response:



    Once you understand what is going on in the minds of (in this case) your snipers you are able to 'manage' them better and perhaps even improve your selection criteria.

    I wonder how much time is spent on 'motivation' of snipers? Seems to me they more than most soldiers need their batteries charged every so often.
    Last edited by JMA; 08-23-2011 at 07:19 AM.

  16. #36
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    11,075

    Default Killing for their Country: A New Look at “Killology”

    Killing for their Country: A New Look at “Killology”

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

  17. #37
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    I read Joanna Bourke's book (http://www.amazon.com/Intimate-Histo...9151474&sr=8-3) a while back, when I was a rather unimpressive and clueless cadet (in saying that, not much has changed...). I had read Grossman's On Killing immediately prior, and wanted more. My memory might be playing tricks on me, but I wouldn't bother reading it again. It had it some interest value but was very academic in argument and writing - it was very heavy on the old footnotes. If you can get yourself a copy easily a few hours scanning the book would do it justice. Some chapters might jump out, but a cover-to-cover read probably wouldn't be required.

    One alternative I would suggest is J Glenn Gray's The Warrior - Reflections of Men in Battle (http://www.amazon.com/Warriors-Refle...9151855&sr=1-1). It's more an autobiography than a Grossman-like article (which is a good thing, IMHO) and thus is simply one man's perspective. It has some great sections you could use as discussion points or as quotes in lectures.

    Ardent du Picq's work is supposed to be an interesting addition to the subject, too - I've had it on my kindle for a while now but haven't gotten round to reading it. I got my cope as a free e-book download (not linking here as I'm not sure about copyright rules - a google search will get it for you, though).
    It is noted that Chris jM sometime after this post found a peach of a Kiwi document. This from a post on the blog.

    After SLAM released his controversial findings, one of NZ's Brigadiers from North Africa and Italy, Howard Kippenberger, conducted a review using the resources available to him as one of the head-sheds of the War History Branch. The resulting document, which I'll link to below, didn't substantiate SLAMs or subsequently Grossman's theory of combat reluctance.
    Link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/26351328/Document-50
    This was also discussed on SWC a while back: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...nberger&page=2
    This is certainly the best document on this matter I have read and was produced (in 1949) before verbose authors and pseudo-intellectual wannabe academics (without combat experience) got hold of the subject and turned it into a circus. Good on the Kiwis!

    I would quote two passages from this excellent document as follows:

    The infantryman must therefore be taught from the start that his job is to kill, and must be encouraged to develop confidence in himself and his weapon to that end. His collective training must be made as realistic as possible, so that he will be prepared for the noises and mental strains of battle, and will go on with his job of killing when he meets enemy fire. Provided that such training is properly planned by officers who understand these human factors and take account of the national temperament, individual treatment should not be necessary. (In battle, individual treatment will frequently be required.) The infantryman, having been given every opportunity to anticipate and overcome his own mental reactions in battle must be taught to regard the enemy as his human, personal enemy, and to act aggressively to exterminate him.

    ‘We left good evidence of no hesitation to kill on the field at the Minq'ar Qaim breakthrough.’
    and...

    It is also fair to say that at the war's end the infantry soldier who played his full part emerged strengthened and enlivened by the experience of battle. Above all, he knew the true meaning and true value of comradeship. Fostered by unity of purpose, the team spirit of the New Zealand battalions was a force of great power, rarely encountered in other walks of life. The sense of comradeship and mutual reliance was new in degree to those who found themselves in the team, and in itself was enough to submerge much of the uncertainty and unpleasantness of war.
    In addition the recent book by Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn) 'What it is like to go to war' at last provides a view on all these combat subjects - killing, violence, loyalty, heroism - from a man who has seen combat is a welcome counter balance to the gigabytes of speculative stuff produced by non-combatants and academics.

    The down sides being the section on the almost uniquely American post (any) war 'guilt-tripping' and his slide into substance abuse and mental issues (the former probably leading to the latter rather than as a result of one tour in Vietnam).
    Last edited by JMA; 01-21-2012 at 12:25 PM.

  18. #38
    Banned
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Durban, South Africa
    Posts
    3,902

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    In addition the recent book by Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn) 'What it is like to go to war' at last provides a view on all these combat subjects - killing, violence, loyalty, heroism - from a man who has seen combat is a welcome counter balance to the gigabytes of speculative stuff produced by non-combatants and academics.
    Marlantes: 'What it is like to go to war', Chapter 2: Killing

    His opening statement is:

    Killing someone without splitting oneself from the feelings that the act engenders requires an effort of supreme consciousness that, quite frankly, is beyond most humans.
    Not quite. He does not explain 'splitting' nor provides no definition of these 'feelings' nor the data to support the 'most'.

    I have no personal feelings nor have I heard anyone I know express difficulty in dealing with having killed an enemy in a clean kill during a face to face engagement. (By clean kill I exclude the execution of a wounded enemy or prisoners - which I am prepared to accept could lead to pangs of conscience or worse.)

    I have no scientifically collected data either but I suggest that as there are many thousands of soldiers and marines who have been exposed to close combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan from whom the definitive data can be collected. The first question they should be asked is whether they have read Grossman.

    The Kiwi doc of 1949 states:

    The average New Zealander on entering the Army has an aversion to killing a fellow man. This aversion will be partially overcome during the training period when he learns to fire automatically at enemy figure targets, and to use his longer range weapons with technical accuracy. This the aversion will survive into battle. Once he comes under fire, however, and especially when he has seen his comrades wounded or killed by enemy fire, it will be submerged by a desire to kill the enemy, if only to save himself. In hot blood, the average infantryman will kill without hesitation and without subsequent misgivings.
    I have asked Chris jM if he can find the supporting data of this report to see how they arrived at this. I hope he can find it.

    Back to Marlantes.

    He has flashbacks and nightmares over a NVA soldier into whose eyes he looked before the NVA soldier was killed either by him or his radio operator - he is not sure. OK so he is having problems over the death of an enemy soldier he is not certain he killed. This is IMHO a little weird.

    I wonder what sort of (if any) psychological testing formed part of the selection process Marlantes passed through en route to becoming a Marine officer. My gut feel tells me that the problem is personal and maybe ... just maybe ... he is projecting his 'issues' onto to 'most humans' because after-all he is a normal person right?

  19. #39
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Posts
    3,039

    Default

    You won't find the answer in a book, each individual and each situation can be a bit different. I have been disturbed, disinterested and excited depending on the mood and the context of the fight. I have seen others rejoice in it, and knew one soldier so disturbed by killing someone he eventually killed himself. I think the situation in a COIN/Stability situation is more complex than when you're involved in a battle, based on your interaction with the local community. When innocents you're trying protect are killed in a firefight with hostiles you're trying to kill, that can have a negative effect emotionally. Maybe that isn't what we're talking about here, but it is something that needs to be considered.

    There is probably a sociological aspect to killing in combat that may point to norms, but ultimately it comes down to each individual's psychological make up, and how he judges each situation. I recall reading an article about a SF team Sergeant a few years back discussing the incident where he killed an insurgent in hand to hand combat and he was very concerned that his son would find out what he did. I can't speak for how he felt, but obviously he was a mature and moral individual who strived to teach and model values for his son, while in the same situation a 19 marine may rejoice and post pictures on the internet if he had them. It just depends on the person. I am happy to see some of the academic studies criticized, because they sure as heck didn't match up with my experiences.

  20. #40
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    12,343

    Default 'What it is like to go to war': links & note

    JMA posted a week ago this short paragraph:
    In addition the recent book by Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn) 'What it is like to go to war' at last provides a view on all these combat subjects - killing, violence, loyalty, heroism - from a man who has seen combat is a welcome counter balance to the gigabytes of speculative stuff produced by non-combatants and academics.
    Link to Amazon UK, with four reviews:http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Like-Wa...7777808&sr=1-1

    Link to Amazon.com, with 108 reviews:http://www.amazon.com/What-Like-Go-W...pr_product_top

    Moderator's Note

    If the discussion on the book accelerates I shall create a new thread.
    davidbfpo

Similar Threads

  1. Dealing with Haditha
    By SWJED in forum Historians
    Replies: 163
    Last Post: 05-25-2018, 06:53 PM
  2. Replies: 22
    Last Post: 05-19-2009, 09:46 PM
  3. Virtual war helps US soldiers deal with trauma
    By Tc2642 in forum The Whole News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-19-2007, 01:22 PM
  4. Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War
    By SWJED in forum Equipment & Capabilities
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-14-2006, 05:05 PM

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •