War and Madness in History
To understand modern conventional war is to recognize a single indisputable fact: War is not only becoming more lethal in terms of its ability to kill and maim; it is far more destructive in its ability to drive soldiers mad. Indeed, as the warriors among us improve the technology of killing arithmetically, the power to drive combatants crazy, to debilitate them through fear and mental collapse, is growing at an even faster rate.
People today seem to have a tendency to regard the past as somehow more idyllic than it was and to endow it with the quality of a golden age in which many of the human problems we now face were somehow absent or not very important. Lt.-Col. L. H. Ingraham and Maj. Frederick Manning, both members of the staff of the Department of Military Psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, have written, "psychiatric battle casualties are a phenomenon new with 20th-century warfare." 1 Accounts of past battles so often seem to offer examples of individual heroism and courage and all too seldom recall acts of cowardice and fear. It is as if we were the first generation to question our ability to endure the horror of battle. At the very least military histories seem to simplify all aspects of battle, so that the complications attendant to modern war often seem absent or minimized in accounts of past wars. One result is to convey the impression that men who fought in earlier times were somehow different from those who will fight the battles of the future. This seems to be especially true of accounts of performance and endurance under fire. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fear and madness have been man's companions in war since the beginning of recorded history and, most probably, before that. There is clear evidence that men recognized very early that the ability to conquer fear was crucial to achieving victory over one's enemies. Xenephon, himself an experienced soldier and troop commander, wrote almost 2500 years ago,
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Publication information: Book title: The Painful Field:The Psychiatric Dimension of Modern War. Contributors: Richard A. Gabriel - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1988. Page number: 7.
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