The Killing Fields

Chief Executive (U.S.), December 1997 | Go to article overview

The Killing Fields


This issue features one of the most unusual roundtable discussions since we started them in 1985. "No Trumpets, No Drums" gathers 16 CEOs and presidents who served in the military during the war in southeast Asia to share what the experience taught them about leadership. While the discussion remained centered on pragmatic lessons transferable to running a business today, politics hovered discreetly in the background. All participants have visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washingtonand one finds it "difficult to get close to it"-and feel in deeply personal terms the loss of the 56,146 people whose names are etched in the black granite. The morality of the conflict for most was not at issue-several participants volunteered for a second tour. The futility of a conflict that ultimately lost the support of civilians at home is another matter. As for the future, Adm. "Zap" Zlatoper of Sanchez Computer pointed out that the fall of Soviet Communism greatly reduces the growth of wars since, "democracies tend not to go to war with one another."

Yet war isn't the primary cause of what has made the 20th Century so lethal. At least 170 million people and perhaps as many as 360 million have been murdered by their own governments-more than four times the 42 million deaths from civil and international wars this century, according to Gerald Scully, a public choice economist at the University of Texas at Dallas, who has studied the economic consequences of murder by nations either by demicide, which is mass killing without respect to race, religion, or ethnicity, or by genocide, which is. …

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