Alexander's Broken Army
This was an army that had never been defeated in battle. For twelve years, since the death of Phillip, when Alexander began to bring all of Greece under his control, they had marched from victory to victory.
There had been setbacks. A baggage train here, a scouting squad there, but whenever Alexander, aided by Ptolemy, Hephaestion, Parmenio (until he was executed), Black Cletus (until Alexander killed him in a drunken rage), and other commanders who would have been exceptional military minds in any age, but, together, under Alexander had formed a force that had never been defeated over twelve years of continuous warfare.
They had seen it all. They had seen the sythed warchariots of the Persians. They had seen a walled island city. They had seen war elephants, cataphracts, every manner of archer, slinger, swordsman, spearman and warrior the known world had to offer.
They had done all of this. Now, it was time to go home. Alexander's plan was to march further into India, to the Ganges, follow that to the sea and then sail to Babylon. The army wanted to stop.
(from ALEXANDER, by Theodore Ayrault Dodge)
The Macedonian soldiers had determined to proceed no farther. The had, through their officers, certain rights of protest. These they concluded to enforce. For three months, rain had incessantly fallen, and with it the moral tone of the troops. They were ragged: Their arms were worn out; of armor, there was scarcely any. They were not only unwilling, they were unfit.
Alexander addressed his troops. He reminded them that he had been there with them every step of the way. He stripped himself naked and showed them where he bore scars from every single weapon known to man. It was all to no avail. Unable to sway his troops he called for priests and sacrifices. The omens were taken and the interpretation was unfavorable. Alexander agreed to turn back at last.
Dateline right the fuck now:
George W. Bush cannot call upon any of Alexander's gifts. He has no scars from battle to show. He has no stories to share with soldiers over who saved whose life more times in battle. He has no moral authority or marshal imperitives to claim. He is a shrinking, shirking blame deflection machine. Soon, very soon, an army acknowledged to be without equal anywhere in the world will reach the same level as Alexander's. They will simply stop. Not because they are cowards, but because they can go no farther.
As technologically superior as they are, as well armed as they are, they are still men, with human limits. The soldiers on their third tours have already spent far more time on the front lines of conflict than any other soldiers in our history. We did have wars that lasted longer, but, during the Revolution for example, there was a distinct "campaigning season," and with the exception of only a few battles that were significant because they occured so wildly out of season, there were only four or five months of combat a year. In some cases there would be a year or more between battles. In Iraq, our young men and women are out there, in the middle of it, in the gunsights and bombsights of the enemy every minute of every day for stretches of fifteen months. Then they get a breather, of sorts, maybe break up the tedium of having to be in Iraq with a six to eight month trip to Afghanistan. This is quite simply, beyond the limits of human endurance.
I remember one horrible period of a little over thirty six hours where my unit, along with a battalion of marines were subjected to continuous shellings and assaults by combined NVA and VC forces right at the beginnings of the Tet offensives. We fought because we had no where to retreat. We fought because we had no alternative. At one point we were dodging mortar and rockets, running around our lines passing out ammunition and water containers that had been looted from the dead and those wounded so seriously they were unable to hold a place on the line anymore. I ran across a young buck sergeant who was losing it. This young man was incoherently sobbing and shouting gibberish curses. I tried to reach him. I grabbed him and called him by his rank, I was about to strike him when I was stopped by his Gunnery Sergeant. The Gunny was a man I trusted and respected, and he was directly in this man's chain of command. He put his arms around the young man protectively and admonished me saying "This boy is a good goddamned Marine. He's just had too much, that's all. We don't get to choose our breaking points. He found his. You leave him alone, he'll either snap out of it or not. A couple more assaults like the last one and it won't fucking matter even a little tiny bit. So you keep passing out gear, I'll try and form up some kind of fucking order. But leave this boy alone. He's a good Marine. He's just had too much. That's all."
I said "Ooorah Gunny." To the young sergeant I said "Sorry troop."
Pretty soon the military forces themselves will stop this fucking war. They will still be good soldiers, among the best in history. They will just have had too much.
Because he has never had any at all Bush will never see it coming. He'll find somebody else to blame. He always does.