Current Issue

Sept.14, 2011

Vol. 112, No. 1

Winning hearts in wartime

In response to: Women to women

Published on September14, 2011

A laudatory locomotive to Lt. Zoe Bedell, a U.S. Marine who is disciplined, dedicated, and devoted to duty; yet as a military officer she is assigned a fool’s errand by her government to win hearts and minds in other nations. Lethal destruction is the mission of the military. Herodotus, Thucydides, Sun-Tzu, and von Clausewitz all made that clear years ago. Winning hearts and minds builds spirit, and the goal of lethal destruction is to break spirit. The two are fundamentally incompatible.

Lt. Bedell merits kudos and commendation for her sense of mission, but her superiors, her command, and her government (however inadvertently) handicapped her from the outset by the very medium of her message.

The mission is indeed laudatory and critical, but the article repeated the point that the success of the Female Engagement Teams (FETs) of the Marine Corps “is not something that’s going to happen in a few years.” We cheat ourselves, as a nation and a culture, by not investing commensurate resources to the FET concept — but on a diplomatic/strategic scale, instead of the military/tactical scale it is limited to now.

Under a paradigm shift of policy, we might even reverse millennia of the patriarchal pattern of mortal contest and institute instead a more matriarchal model of nurturing cooperation that could well minimize the role of inevitable war in human culture. I will not hold my breath, but the seeds of it all are right there in this article. I wish continuing success to Lt. Bedell and the small, but prescient, ray of hope her tour of duty represents for us all, including the child not yet born of our children’s children.

Rocky Semmes ’79
Alexandria, Va.

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