“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering…” – Master Yoda

One thing I absolutely despise is the use of dehumanization towards an enemy. Dehumanizing an enemy has never helped men be any better at fighting or killing them. If anything it has made men worse at the task. It also can lead to mental scarring , e.g. the late onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Of course that is highly dependent of individual morality and philosophy. Dehumanization was has been a psychological practice used by soldiers since the beginning of time though. This is in part because it seems to be the most logical response to the situation by the uneducated. A healthy respect for the enemy not only makes the individual infinitely more dangerous in combat but gives them peace of mind when it comes to the act of killing. This is a little difficult for me to articulate and organize but please bare with me.

There must be no delusions in combat, clarity is the ultimate advantage. To achieve this enlightened state a thorough analytical study of the enemy must be undertaken by the individual. Researching the enemy gives you insight into the way they think culturally, existentially, and physically. This also solidifies them as a human being and not just a “thing” which is the first step. With this respect comes a greater level of awareness; where there was once complacency, there is now a healthy amount of caution in regards to the enemy’s abilities.

Through the efforts of analytical and critical thinking, an often profound among peers level of insight into the enemy is granted. Through this we can decipher their movements and decisions in the context of any given situation and this allows for the proper planning of reactionary contingencies or offensive maneuvers. By studying your enemy, you are far better equipped to combat him when the time comes. With enough insight, you can beat him on a psychological level which will negate the need for physical confrontation; although this is an extremely rare level of enlightenment and seldom seen employed successfully in modern conflict. Underestimate your enemy and it may be the last thing you ever do; I know it has cost many soldiers, commanders, and armies many times over throughout history.

Too often do we hear derogatory nicknames used for a group of enemies in war. Terms like rag-head, skinny, hajji, goat-fucker, any number of Asian variations, etc. are routinely used to disassociate an enemy from the human condition in the minds of soldiers. In doing so these men create a divide between them and their enemy. Not only is this blatantly racist, but this disassociation from the enemy can easily lead to later mental health issues.

Mental health issues occur later in the form of an almost “survivors guilt” and they occur when the person who lived realizes they were killing another human being and not just some “expletive.” This realization can be arrived at through many medians; new found religion, education, confrontation of mortality, etc. It is often a realization that forces the individual to re-visit many significant instances in their life. Killing is going to be at the top of that list because of its extremely intimate nature. At this point the individual will be forced to come to terms with their deeds and it may be an extreme shock to the system, so to speak.

Above all we must strive to respect the warrior, regardless of the collective. The individual who you meet in combat while representative of the entity you are attempting to confront (the Taliban, AQI, ISIS, whoever) is still only an individual. They are a warrior (despite their fucked up beliefs) come to meet you on the field of battle and should be treated as such because when we die prematurely none of it will matter. We kill our enemies to stop whatever it is the collective is doing that we stand against but that does not mean we need to take it personally (unless it is appropriate to do so). As professional warriors, we should be extremely grateful to the enemy. They afford us an opportunity to test our skill in battle (professional skill progression and advancement of self), achieve an enlightened understanding of self and the world (the existential and physical realms that make up our “universe”), and fight for what we believe in (personal philosophy attributed to positive mental health). They had the intestinal fortitude to meet us in combat knowing full well that the stakes at hand involved death but showed up regardless. For this, i am grateful to them and they are celebrated; this reverence creates peace of mind.

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Violence is an awful turn of events and often traumatizing out of sheer comprehension of the occurrence. The fact that we are killing and fighting each other as human beings is horrible; it would be glorious if it were different, however I also realize that conflict is human nature. So we must embrace it and take the ego out of violence if we are to succeed in whatever collective we find ourselves in. Death and especially killing are almost always viewed in a negative context socially and individually. This negativity comes from fear of the unknown and an impossibly one-sided plane of existence by human beings. It is natural and correct to view the acts in this manner but sometimes killing or event just combat/conflict is necessary and serves to better the physical situation. It is the warrior that truly understands the value of a human life and in turn, does not take it lightly.