Monday, June 16, 2008

John Keegan on the perils of power

The truly humble flee power, even when it is thrust upon them. Generalship is bad for people. As anyone intimate with military society knows only too well, the most reasonable of men suffuse with pomposity when stars touch their shoulders. Because ‘general’ is a word which literature uses to include in the same stable Alexander the Great and the dimmest Pentagon pen-pusher, perfectly well-balanced colonels begin to demand the deference due to the Diadochi when promotion carries them to the next step in rank. And military society, that last surviving model of the courts of heroic war leaders, regularly does them the favour of indulging their fantasies.

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