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Caius Maxentius

Psychology of Legionnaries

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In order to make soldiers more efficient on the battlefield they are now dehumanised in a more subtle manner than simple bullying and shouting as was sufficient in prior ages. The problem is that modern western soldiers are not de-conditioned on release.

Well, this veteran is disagreeing with you. I was in the airborne infantry, unit was in the triangle of death. I don't recall any systematic brutality being taught to us outside of classic troop moving proceedures. We did have a certain emphasis with encouraging guys to be assertive when grabbing and holding people down, but really can't say we were trained to be brutal. Quite the opposite, lots of safeguards were put in place to prevent it, SOP regulations on getting insurgents from the battle to detention, and not allowing same soldiers into the detention center. Medical access was available in a moment's notice, and they had the means to complain and file a complaint, and we wouldn't begrudge them that.


Our martial arts was US Army Combative, which emphasizes wrestling over kicking or punching. I've seen guys go full throttle by the book for hours doing it. It's not designed to defeat a opponent as much as to hold them down so your support can arrive and capture them.



There are psychological crutches. I kept reaching for my rifle every time I left my room for years after, when I was out.... I had no rifle. Whenever I walked, I felt the phantom pains of a gun in my arms.


Of all the messed up vets Ive seen, and I've seen a lot, none suffered from this brutality you mentioned. Many had asocial issues, or alcohol and substance issues, family issues (never heard of abuse, but sure that was in the mix for some, its a taboo subject).


Who it is being dehumanized, I don't know. Modern infantry tactics emphasizes conscious awareness of your actions in a firefight. You don't always get it right, and that's understandable, but we try hard to do so. A competent military unit doesn't go around pushing civilians around, smacking them and spitting on them, calling them weak like some stupid Nietzschean, bloating up a pathetic superiority complex. That's just lame. We have 50 years of winning their hearts and minds theory behind us, and a facade from WW2 of a Liberator Complex, be it right or wrong in reality, is very much right in most soldier's heads.


You get your basic cultural contradictions, such a meme driven racism, everyone has heard of "Sand Niggers" but its never said to the population, and is said usually in a Beavis & Butthead style. Those same guys usually can be seen doing some pretty decent things as well.


I'm not claiming this to be a trait of just Americans, or even a unique virtue of democracy or our culture. I think it stems from the current Tactical Synthesis. Troops have a limited amount of ammo (so can't endlessly butcher), prefer the humvee to running amok, prefer the base to the humvee, and the barracks back home to the warzone. Everything is being watched on multiple tiers.... from other units via satellite computer programs, satellite imaging, battalion and brigade (and who knows above) is listening to the radio talk, every mission has concrete objectives and time tables. Planning from beginning to end is accounted for, and how to react to impossible situations.


It kills the motivation to act on negative impulse. Likewise, a absurd level of authority has been given to even unit commanders to get rid of suspected soldiers prone to fraking, killing their officers. It's to the point people making legitimate complaints can get sent away.


This doesn't stop everything. I recall for example, my battalions scout unit was repeatedly placed in a position where their cover was blown during the day, and they had to kill people who can across them (I emphasize, this was the triangle of death in 2007). This has philosophically been debated prior to it on a national level, inside and outside the military, and in SF training. We never came to a balanced conclusion culturally. The scouts were trained to a SF level, were in a arctic airborne infantry unit with ample access to Ranger and SF veterans. Same circumstance. Central command decided to make a political example of them for having to kill to keep their position secret. They needed a PR campaign to show the Iraqis they care, and fabricated a case against them. It was morally wrong for JAG to do this, as I pointed out before, we philosophically were out on a limb long before the Iraq war came along in regards as what to do, and have been quite public about it. But it shows you the level of intentionality the military goes to enforce humanization of soldiers.


When I look at the Chinese Army, I see they are specifically mimicking the US system. India Britain's system. A AK-47 isn't much different from western weapons. A uparmored humvee with a gunner standing in the back isn't much different from a humvee. Airforces drop a variety of potential bombs, but the trend will be increasingly towards smart, exact explosives.


I don't think the trend internationally will be towards roaming, independent units left up to their own devices. It will be centralized control, seeking to minimize any negating fluctuations that jeopardizes the image of the unit, or produces needless friction between the military and the civilian population. Doing otherwise is a great way to encourage active resistance, including full blown guerilla movements, and a needless list of skilled personal.


Showing off your war wounds has nothing to do with this topic. Ive been gone for a few months from this site duking it out with a Nietzschean faction on a philosophy site, who were obsessed with sexual politics (cause they are secretly gay or something, I dunno). I had to give my military background and show off my beard just to show I was unimpeachable a man. Wasn't my intention setting out, but they questioned everyone like in the inquisition on the Roman concept of Vir, which is a nasty paraphilia in and of itself (Catallus) when you have to emphasize it to cover up. I had to show my credentials to show them otherwise, and end that tangent of the debate.


I'm sure this Roman you speak of had to do likewise, showing that his ideas may differ, but he can't be declared unpatriotic for having a different opinion. For Gods sake, look.... I was even wounded in defence of my society.


It's a excellent retort.


Some military formations, and technologies, force close quarters melee combat. Brutality is emphasized. The US doesn't encourage this, as we don't have to. So its not a inherent component of military training, unit consciousness, or inherent even in the use of military force. However, it is inherent in kinds of close quarters melee fighting. You can expect soldiers used to fighting from a disrance, to be less brutal. Doesn't mean they will be, but there is selective pressures to lead to this conformity over time. Doesn't make them less effective. Does make the transition period awkward, as some parts of the military lag, while others get ahead of themselves in their miscarriage of justice (JAG).

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Disagree all you want. The psychological conditioning is part of modern training and a known problem for veterans. that's not my invention - it's been written about, and for that matter, television documentaries aired with plenty more experience of this sort of thing than I, and further, some of that testimony was American. I'm sorry you don't feel happy about the way your society treated you after the battle was done, but you're hardly unique in that. The same situation is common to human behaviour. Civilians don't mind a victory parade and a quiet slap on the back, but asked to treat veterans as special from that point wears very thin with them after a while. It's always been like that.

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As a veteran of over 30 years and multiple wars I will add my $0.02, for what it's worth.  I am speaking about SOF, infantry, combat arms primarily.

During firefights I have had to add times knock a newer soldier and let them know to use their sights, they were there for a reason.  Other soldiers were firing more slowly but almost always got an result from their fire.  It is a matter of training.

I agree with the points made about acculturation.  If a society approves of what a soldier does then there is less shock to a soldier when they must practice their profession.  Not just a blank "thank you for serving" but a deep societal approval of the profession of arms.  Also a personal knowledge of death whether it is from hunting, ranching, farming etc makes the early shocks of dealing and receiving death enables an easier acceptance of the role of the soldier.  After the early shock there is a period of useful life and then a person is "used up" until they can be removed from combat and recover.  What that useful life is varies by individual but training and acculturation both impact the lifespan.   

One other contributing factor was the high percentage of other veterans (especially before the Marian reforms) throughout society.  The existence of "veterans colonies" also helped of providing a veteran of others who could understand and appreciate what they experienced. 

Most soldiers do not suffer from PTSD, any combat veteran changes but that change is not necessarily a pathology.  The Legions had a society with a personal knowledge of death from a young age, a deep seated approval of the profession of arms, the Roman legion was the best trained army for its (and most) days and combat was episodic.  All these contributed to the veteran continuing his life.  



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Deep seated approval of military service? You might be shocked how little there was. For most, legion service was a guaranteed career for a couple of decades  in imperial times assuming nothing untoward happened (the vast majority never saw anything more violent than a tavern punch-up ). However, the regard of most people was that the legions were a necessary evil or a business opportunity. Living near soldiers was a dubious benefit for some considering they often appropriated whatever they felt like and there was no real legal address other than complaints to the legion command, which got you nowhere, or worse, beaten up once or twice - and very severely - by outraged soldiers whose perks you interfered with. This is attested to in the sources.

Note also that legion service was already beginning to become undesirable in the reign of Augustus. We have an account of a man punished for cutting off the thumbs of his sons so they would never serve, and Tiberius was asked to look into how many men were avoiding military service by hiding in rural slave barracks. The situation only got worse. By the end of his reign we have mutinies in Germania and Pannonia over conditions of service and the apparent withdrawal of normal retirement rights, caused by legion commanders who found it more cost effective to keep long serving veterans on the payroll by hook or by crook than waste time looking for raw recruits to replace them.

And of course it got worse still over the course of the imperial period. People cutting their thumbs became a scandal, a real issue, such that Constantine ruled men without thumbs were still capable of civic roles. Valentinian ordered them burned alive, and Theodosius recruited them anyway on the basis that two men without thumbs were as good as one fully able man.  By then recruitment was a corrupt affair with recruiters pocketing budgets and hiring cheaper migrants. Religion was making recruitment all the more difficult.

Edited by caldrail

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