Military and Police

Angry Army Officer Has a Point Made Throughout History: Take Care of Soldiers and Their Families

In discussing the difficulty of recruiting a new generation of army reservists, the blogger called Angry Army Officer said that the Army must focus on better benefits for those struggling with civilian careers and family amidst deployments. He justified this by saying, “I know: people should just join for love of country. But let’s be honest: it’s a lot easier to love your country if your family is being taken care of and you’re financially secure.”

I’ve been making an effort to broaden my knowledge beyond just Sun-Tzu, and I found a good number of quotes from classical Chinese theory that make a similar point. Most of the analysis from Sun-Tzu stresses the importance of cold calculations. But many other writers focused on a concern for the well-being of soldiers and pointed out how that care often made fighters more effective. Here are several of the quotes from military writers who lived and wrote around the same time as Sun-Tzu:

“If you encourage them with fundamental pleasures, they will die for their native places… If you importune them with family relationships, they will die for the ancestral graves… If you honor them with feasts, they will die for food and drink… If you have them dwell in tranquility, they will die in the urgency of defense.” (Sun Bin, Ralph Sawyer trans., “Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare” [Military Methods], Westview Press, 1995, 132.)

“Within the army you must have soldiers with the courage of tigers, the strength to easily lift tripods, and the fleetness of barbarian horses… If you are generous to their parents, wives, and children; encourage them with rewards…these strong soldiers, when in formation, will solidly hold their positions for a long time.” (Wuzi, Ralph Sawyer trans., “The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China,” Westview Press, 1993, 211.)

“If in the spring and summer the men go out to the southern fields, and in the fall and winter the women work at weaving cloth, the people will not be impoverished. Today, when their short, coarse clothing does not even cover their bodies nor the dregs of win and husks of grain fill their stomachs, the foundation of government has been lost.” (Wei Liaozi, “Seven Classics,” 260.)

The eye of command and calculation is important, but making an investment in the soldier’s well-being can pay dividends as well. In competition with civilian sectors and with the demands of deployment, it makes even more sense in this case. The military would do well to remember that taking care of their soldiers and providing for their families is often just as important as the equipment they have and missions on which they deploy.

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Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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