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The Unit I.6-10

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On the price of national security

The new man’s wife is shocked in the beginning to see how much the warriors’ wives insist on welcoming her – they want to do good for her whether she wants it or not. She does not want it, she even wants to live off-base, because she suspects what closeness to war means. This woman, married with children, did not marry war. She wants what Americans & democrats tend to want. She cannot have it.

All these wives pay a price for loving their men. The life of quiet ease that peacetime democracy enjoys, even in wartime, is never offered them. They love men whose great virtues are indeed worth love, but these men attract not only spirited women, but also the army. The two must compete for the men; the men will serve two masters, so to speak, because love of woman & love of country are different.

By degrees, we see the civilian equivalent of military sacrifice; the harshness of duty is revealed in the actions of the wives, because they have to serve as well. Aside from the works of wife & mother, they also have to maintain secrecy & to live with their secrets & privacy constantly invaded by the army. Men who rise to prominence are inherently suspicious. Had they chosen to be nobodies living private lives, the government would not harass them & suspect their loyalty continuously.

The new man is now part of the unit. We see them go through their work with that terrifying combination of calm & speed that announces warriors. It is disturbing to see how able & willing they are to kill anything that stands in their way. Their way of life always has people standing in their way. All Christian virtue seems weak & deluded in comparison.

One of the men is offered leadership of his own unit; his team leader tells him it may be time to move on; the man refuses & continues to serve. There is an argument hidden in the works of war. These men must trust each other & see in each other what is choiceworthy for a man. The actions that reveal the military virtues are a guide for the men who admire them, who can come to embody them.

We have said already that accomplishing missions somehow never ends with a happy end; that is true of war as such; war is never over; but this creates a distinction between the mind of the unit & the mind that rules the army. At the tactical level where the unit operates coherently, knowing friend & enemy is possible. Survival requires knowing this accurately. Beyond the tactical level, the martial virtues fall below excellence.