The Archetypes of Combat and Faith

August 25, 2007

The Loneliness of the Military Historian
by Margaret Atwood

Confess: It’s My Profession/
that alarms you./
This is why few people ask me to dinner,/
though lord knows I don’t go out of my way/
to be scary.

quoted from Why Study War?, by Victor Davis Hanson.

I am a military historian by coincidence with my profession of military officer. When people of the chattering classes ask me of my trade or profession, the conversation invariably stops, leading to an awkward silence.

I once told my mother of this phenomenon, and she said she understood, saying it was related to the way conversations stop when someone asks a pastor/priest/monk/nun of what they do.

Indeed, I read a book in university called The Warrior and The Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, by John Milton Cooper, Jr. The author made a point of discussing the essential sameness in ethos, but differences in action regarding Wilson and TR, and uses the archetypes of the warrior and the priest to make that point.

Thomas PM Barnett also wrote a short article some time back titled Monks of War, discussing the breed of soldier represented by LtGen Mattis and GEN Petraeus. So, again, the archetypes of warrior and religionist are crossed.

So, I apparently have a kinship with religious leaders.

But why do people find the religious and the warriors to be so unapproachable?