Sunday, June 30, 2013

Old Blood & Guts! General Patton's Battle Lessons For Citizen Activists

My favorite hero from World War II has always been General George S. Patton, Jr., Old Blood and Guts. The 1970 movie Patton popularized a version of the “Patton speech” he would give to his Third Army troops in Europe. Patton gave the speeches to motivate his men and brace them for battle. In his book Patton, Montgomery, Rommel: Masters of War, British military historian Terry Brighton declared it, “the greatest motivational speech of the war and perhaps of all time, exceeding (in its morale boosting effect if not as literature) the words Shakespeare gave King Henry V at Agincourt.”

General Patton began his speech,
Men, all this stuff you hear about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of bulls**t. Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big-league ball players and the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Battle is the most significant competition in which a man can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base. 
Do Americans love to fight? Do we love the sting and clash of battle? Some do, not all. However, I believe Patton’s words resonate with more of us than we think.

Recall Rand Paul’s stand against the Obama Administration’s domestic drone strike policy. Paul’s filibuster was nearly 13 hours long. Remember how so many of us were invigorated by this one man who stood up in defiance against a system that couldn’t even concede that government drones would not be used to attack American citizens? “Stand with Rand!” was the rallying cry. Sen. Paul greatly enhanced his prospects for 2016 because people can say, “Here is a man who stands on principle and will fight for us.”

King David is remembered for many things but his best-known triumph is arguably his defeat of the Philistine’s champion, Goliath. David was Rocky 3,000 years before Sylvester Stallone! Sometimes one person has to rise and set the example before the rest of us get our courage up. David crystallized for hundreds of years to come the example of a man who will rise and fight when no one else would fight. David’s example stirs something within us even today.

There are three lessons engaged citizens who are standing and fighting can learn from military battle and apply to the ideological, moral and spiritual, and political struggles we face each day.

Refining. Patton mentions our first lesson: “Battle… brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base.” Engaging in a collective effort toward a common goal can be a powerful way to bring out the best in everyone. Throwing yourself into the work of the mission has the effect of focusing the heart and mind. Superfluous matters begin to fade into the background.

The apostle Paul, who frequently used military and athletic metaphors, insisted: “We must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us.”

With liberty under attack at every turn, we have ample opportunity to allow the refining effect of battle to strengthen us. We can use struggle to bring out the best in us and remove all that is corrupt (base).

Situational Awareness. The importance of situational awareness was drilled into us when I served as a "Scope Dope" on-board the AWACS platform. Author N. Moray describes SA as, “keeping track of what is going on around you in a complex, dynamic environment.” Tunnel vision can have serious consequences when you’re responsible for identifying a mass of radar data traveling at various speeds, altitudes, and directions.

Situational awareness has application beyond military practice. We can create an information niche for ourselves from the multitude of sources available to us today. These outlets provide us with tremendous advantages but a downside can be the tendency to create a bubble around us.

It might feel good to give a thumbs-up to a constant stream of like-minded status updates but we need to intentionally step out of our echo chambers. This can assist us in not only maintaining well-rounded perspectives but also help us to empathize with those who see things differently than we do.

Lessons Learned. It’s been said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. After every mission, our crew would meet up to debrief, which included a time to share “lessons learned,” both good and bad. These were recorded so other crews could learn for the future.

Unexpected events occur and sometimes we just mess up. We need to learn from our mistakes and share our experiences with others so we can all improve. One of the greatest failures of the American people today is a failure to learn the lessons of history and so we repeat mistakes, misadventures, and defeats of the past. 

Contrary to Patton’s observation, many American Christians and conservatives do not love to fight. However, battles have been thrust upon us whether we have chosen them or not. We will not be left alone to live our lives as we see fit according to conscience, contrary to the wishful thinking of some. May we listen to the Pattons of our day so that we might be energized and fortified for the battles we face.

This article originally appeared at

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