Today, I had the pleasure of reading “The Man Who Would be King,” by Rudyard Kipling. It is the story of two friends who sought their fortune by creating an empire for themselves in Northeast Afghanistan during the Victorian era. It is related to the narrator by the surviving friend, after the whole house of cards of would-be sovereignty has come crashing down. There’s a very interesting parable about pride goingeth
before a fall, women being your downfall, the head that wears the crown being heavy, etc. What I find interesting was the two friends’ incredibly simple plan to carve out a nation for themselves:
“We shall go to those parts and say to any king we find … ‘you want to vanquish your foes?’ and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then we will subvert that king and seize his throne and establish a dynasty.”
Indeed, in the estimation of the two friends,
“…in any place where they fight a man who knows how to drill men can always be a king”
It makes perfect sense; while all armies are in theory bound to some sort of nation or head of state, in practice people are likely to feel a greater sense of loyalty to the tangible authority whom they see every day. Its why coups tend to be pulled off by senior ranking mlitary officers.
Air force officers for example…
…oh those rascally flyboys.
When someone turns the combat training of their dependants/vassals/subjects over to someone else, they are implicitly making that someone else a de facto parent or authority. Who hasn’t seen an army movie where the drill sgt. tells the green recruits something to the effect of “You want your mama? Too bad; I’m your mama now!” While (even sarcastically) masquerading as the one who gave them life can itself have a powerful psychological effect on the troops by commanding obedience, a father/son dynamic naturally develops on its own from the master/student one. It kind of puts into perspective the generous offers of NATO countries to train and mentor third-world (read: Afghan) personnel. While nominally we are trying to empower fledgling nations by training their armies and police forces, perhaps such mentoring is well-intentioned subversion
(to say nothing of the quality of government there and whether or not it should be subverted).
I am not going to labour this point because it was simply an interesting idea I chanced upon, but I will list a few points worth consideration:
-anyone who who has studied any form of martial art or any variation of that martial art is fiercely loyal to that school or style
“SHOTOKAN KARATE FTW!!”
-Luke Skywalker was warned about straying toward the dark side (i.e. learning from the emperor) in any small measure because then he would be in the emperor’s pocket
-Daniel-san probably would have killed someone had Mr. Miyagi commanded it
-Maximus had a bunch of legions loyal to him in Gladiator who were willing to back him up in a coup
-I just re-watched The Expendables last night and the army of Vilena is pretty much in the pocket of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Eric Roberts throughout the movie after the latter provided them military training
I think that’ll suffice for examples. I realize my argument isn’t airtight and that I am drifting between discussing individuals, armies and nations, but hopefully you can see the underlying point I am driving at here. Often proving your point of view outright is less important than presenting an intriguing idea; the latter presupposes discussion.