By Dr. Richard A. Gabriel
Author, No More Heroes: Madness and Psychiatry in War
A. Gabriel was Professor of Politics and History and Director of
Advanced Courses in the Department of National Security and Strategy at
the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania before retiring to
write full-time. Dr. Gabriel held faculty positions at the University
of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and was a
tenured full professor at St. Anselm College before assuming the post
at the Army War College. He has taught graduate and undergraduate
courses, and has served as a consultant for the House and Senate Armed
Services Committees. He has held the visiting chair in Ethics and
Humanities at the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia, and
currently teaches ethics, humanities and leadership in the MBA program
at Daniel Webster College. More about Dr. Gabriel following this Afterword
Lewis Perdue's fascinating new book, Perfect Killer, is the first attempt in the popular literature to bring to the attention of the public a major problem facing modern armies, particularly, the U.S. army now committed to combat in Iraq.
The intensity of modern war, especially the close urban combat in which the American Army now finds itself engaged, produces high levels of stress and fear which cause most soldiers (more than 80%!) not to fire their weapons as they seek to avoid the natural human revulsion to killing another human being. Over time, prolonged fear and the revulsion to killing produce high levels of psychiatric casualties that threaten to cripple combat efficiency. The military's response has been to seek chemical means to solve the problem. These attempts, and the threats they pose to the soldier's humanity, are the important subjects treated in Perdue's book as he attempts to bring these issues to the attention of the American public.
The idea of trying to control the soldier's fear through chemical means so that he may kill more efficiently is very old indeed, beginning at least two thousand years before Rome when the Koyak and Wiros tribes of Central Russia perfected a powerful amphetamine drug from the Amanita Muscaria mushroom which rendered the soldier highly resistant to pain and exhaustion even as it stimulated him to greater physical endurance. In the Thirteenth Century the Crusaders fought a band of Moslem warriors known as the hashhashin, so called because they used hashish prior to battle to reduce fear and control pain. The Spanish conquistador, Juan Pizzaro, fought Inca warriors whose resistance to pain and fear was increased by chewing the coca leaf from which cocaine is derived. From its earliest days the British navy has given its sailors rum before and after battle, and the Russian army in both World Wars provided their soldiers with a number of chemical compounds derived from plants (valeriana) to improve their fighting ability. During the Vietnam War, American soldiers routinely used marijuana, alcohol, and hard drugs like heroin to help them overcome the fear and stress of battle.
But what modern armies have in mind far surpasses anything tried in the past. Biology and chemistry have combined in the modern age to produce the science of biochemistry. Armed with this new knowledge, the military research establishments of the United States, Russia, and Israel have set for themselves the task of abolishing fear in the soldier to make him a more efficient killing machine. The next revolution in military power will occur not in weapons technology, but in biochemistry that will make it possible for soldiers to better endure the conditions of modern war. If the search is successful, and it almost inevitably will be, the fear of killing and death will be banished and with it will go man's humanity and his soul. The chemical soldier will become a terrifying reality.
The advent of the chemical solider will change not only the nature and intensity of warfare, but the psychological nature of man himself. A chemical compound that prevents the onset of anxiety while leaving the individual mentally alert will produce a new kind of human being, one who would retain the cognitive elements of his emotions but would be unable to feel emotion. All emotions, not just fear, are based in anxiety. Remove the onset of anxiety, and the interaction between cognitive and physiological aspects of human emotion vanish. And with them what we know as the soul would be destroyed. We are left with a genuine sociopathic personality induced by chemical means. The sociopathic personality is one who clearly knows what he is doing to another person but cannot feel or appreciate the consequences of his action upon another person. Such personalities often cannot prevent themselves from acting even though they know (but cannot feel) what the consequences of their actions might be. They are unable to display loyalty to others, are grossly selfish, are unable to feel guilt or remorse or appreciate the consequences of their actions. The sociopathic personality functions only on the cognitive plane of his emotions and is incapable of human empathy. The chemical soldier will be a true sociopath.
Abolishing fear and the natural revulsion humans have to killing other humans will change the nature of man and war, and it will be achieved simply by increasing the "human potential" of the combat soldier. Frightened and revulsed soldiers don't kill very well. Studies have shown that little more than 15 to 20 percent of soldiers will fire their weapons at other soldiers. But if the chemical means of controlling fear and revulsion to killing succeed in, say only seventy five percent of the cases, then the killing capacity of soldiers under fire will increase by 400 percent! The killing efficiency of crew served weapons will also increase. The number of psychiatric cases will be diminished greatly but at the cost of exponentially increasing the number of dead and wounded on all sides.
In a war of chemical soldiers military units, once engaged, will be unable to disengage. In earlier battles, both sides absorbed as much death as they could until fear and exhaustion broke one side's spirit, at which point one side ran or surrendered. Fear and revulsion put real limits on the ability of units to attack and defend. But the chemical soldier will fight without fear and revulsion to limit the killing. Battles once joined will proceed until one side has been entirely killed or wounded. Without fear and empathy to stop or at least limit the carnage, battles will be fought to the death because there will no longer be any human reason to stop them. The battle of annihilation, once rare, will become the norm.
Without fear, revulsion, and psychiatric collapse to force soldiers to surrender, units will resist to the last man. This will force the attackers to kill all the defenders, or vice versa, in a sterile exercise in military slaughter. The defenders will be unable to surrender and the attackers unable to offer surrender, for the reasons for surrender--fear of death, overwhelming revulsion at the carnage, or psychiatric collapse--will no longer arise in the chemically altered personalities of the soldiers involved. The empathy of human for human will have vanished and with it the need to spare even the wounded.
For the chemical soldiers traditional military virtues will have neither function nor meaning. Qualities such as courage, bravery, endurance, and sacrifice for others have meaning only in human terms. Heroes are those who can endure or control fear beyond the limits usually expected of sane men. Brave men are those who conquer fear. Sacrifice for one's comrades can only have meaning when one fears death and accepts it because it will permit others to live. But if fear is eliminated by chemical means, there will be nothing over which the soldier can triumph. The standards of normal sane men will be eroded, and soldiers will no longer die for anything understandable or meaningful in human terms. They will simply die, and even their own comrades will be incapable of mourning their deaths.
The moral paradox of the chemical soldier is that in order for him to function effectively on the modern battlefield he must be psychically reconstituted to become what we have traditionally defined as mentally ill! He must be chemically made over into a sociopathic personality in the true clinical sense of the term. The battlefields of the future will witness a clash of truly ignorant armies, armies ignorant of their own emotions and even of the reasons for which they fight. Battle itself will be incomprehensible in normal human terms. Once the chemical genie is out of the bottle, the full range of human mental and physical potentialities become subjects for further chemical manipulation. The search to improve the military potential of the human being will further press the limits of humanity itself. Such "human potential engineering" is already a partial reality and the necessary technical knowledge increases every day. Faceless, if well-meaning, military medical researchers press the limits of their discipline with little or no regard for the consequences. We may be rushing headlong into a long, dark chemical night from which there is no return unless the American public, the press, and opinion makers are made aware of the problem and decide to stop it. Lewis Perdue's, The Perfect Killer, is one way in which large numbers of the American people can be made aware of the problem.
DR. RICHARD A. GABRIEL
Dr. Gabriel is the author of thirty-six books and 58 articles on various subjects in political science, ancient history, military history, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, ethics, philosophy, and the history of theology. A number of his works have been translated into other languages and others have been used as primary sources for television programs produced by the Public Broadcasting Company. Dr. Gabriel's work has also been featured in a number of made-for-television videos shown on Discovery, The Learning Channel, and The History Channel.
Among his books are a number of definitive works. A History Of Military Medicine (2 vols, 1992), is the first comprehensive work on the subject yet published; Crisis in Command, the first major critique of American battle performance in Vietnam (1978); The New Red Legions (2 vols., 1980) and The Mind of the Soviet Fighting Man (1984), the first studies of the Soviet soldier based on interview data; To Serve With Honor (1981), the first treatise on military ethics written by an American in this century and used as a basic work in U.S. and foreign services senior leadership schools; Soviet Military Psychiatry (1985), the first work on the subject published in the West; and Operation Peace For Galilee: The Israeli-PLO War in Lebanon (1984), the first military analysis of that conflict and generally regarded as the definitive work on the subject.
Professor Gabriel has held positions at the Brookings Institution, the Army Intelligence School, the Center for the Study of Intelligence at the CIA, and at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Department of Combat Psychiatry, in Washington. Dr. Gabriel is a frequent lecturer to the academic, governmental, and military establishments of Canada, the United States, West Germany, China, and Israel. He has testified before the U.S. Senate, and been interviewed on CBS, NBC, CNN, and ABC national news programs, the Today show, Crossfire, Nightline, and 60 Minutes. Dr. Gabriel is a consultant to NBC and 60 Minutes for various news stories, and edits for two publishers, Hill and Wang and Greenwood-Press, where he edits his own series of political and historical books.
Among Dr. Gabriel's most recent works are The Great Battles of Antiquity (1994), A Short History of War (1992), From Sumer To Rome: The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies (1991), The Culture of War (1990), The Painful Field: The Pyschiatric Dimension of Modern War (1988), The Great Captains of Antiquity (2000), and Gods of Our Fathers: The Memory of Egypt in Judaism and Christianity (2001), and Great Armies of Antiquity (2002) Dr. Gabriel is also the author of three novels, Warrior Pharaoh (2000), Sebastian's Cross (2001), and The Lion of the Sun (2003). His most recent books are The Military History of Ancient Israel (2003), Subotai The Valiant: Genghis Khan's Greatest General (2004), and Ancient Empires at War (3 vols.) (2004).