Western Rifle Shooters Association

Do not give in to Evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it

Friday, April 22, 2011

More From Colonel Cooper

In a recent paper, we listed a number of reasons for which men fight. One reader took exception to us in that we did not list liberty as a primary motive. As in all philosophic discussion, much depends upon semantics, so I suppose the first thing to do here is to define "liberty" so that we can examine our position. In my view, liberty is that condition which exists when men make their own laws, either directly or indirectly, and are protected from bureaucracy or despotism by unbreakable rules.

Now then, I have fought through a couple wars and a larger number of fighting situations and I have never yet encountered a man who felt that he was fighting for liberty. That doesn't mean that this cannot be a motive, but I did not list it because it seemed so very unlikely to me. I think we could say that the colonists at Bunker Hill were indeed fighting for liberty. I think the Boers in South Africa were fighting for liberty, but I don't see anyone doing it now. Singhalese are not fighting for liberty. The Iranians are not fighting for liberty. The Somalis are not fighting for liberty. The Serbians are not fighting for liberty. Moreover, no American I ran across in the Pacific war nor in Korea felt he was fighting for liberty, and I don't think that anybody on either side in the Vietnamese affair thought that he was.

Thus it is that I do not regard the idea of liberty as a primary motivating force in man's history of combat.

I did leave out one major consideration and I will hasten to insert it now. That motive is hatred. Hatred is a big one, and it appears more often than the rabbit people would like to admit. In my own limited experience in the Pacific war, hatred was the primary motivating emotion of the American forces.

-- LtCol John Dean "Jeff" Cooper, USMC (retired)
May 10, 1920 - September 25, 2006


Blogger tjbbpgobIII said...

Amen to that, Col. Cooper. It wasn't until after IaDrang that most of us in the 1st Calvary Div. really began to hate the North Vietnamese soldier. Prisoners were a hard commidity to come by after that little fracus.

April 22, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

"In my view, liberty is that condition which exists when men make their own laws..."

That's not liberty. It applies equally well to majoritarian oppression.

Liberty is the condition that exists when men are free of coercion or constraint in all matters that don't involve the use of force, intimidation, or fraud against equally innocent others.

I'll give the man some credit, though. He did try to qualify it:

"...and are protected from bureaucracy or despotism by unbreakable rules."

If that leading "and" is to be taken seriously, the question reduces to what those protective "unbreakable rules" must be -- and the would-be despots among us answer that question quite differently from how a lover of freedom would.

Pondering Col. Cooper's statement yields insight into why most revolutions against oppressors produce regimes as oppressive or worse.

April 22, 2011 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for these posts.

I had the good fortune to have a conversation with Col. Cooper some time back. We spoke for about an hour, covering a large range of topics, yet nothing he said was trivial.

He was often criticized for being dogmatic and arrogant. This was not my impression of the man, though I can see how others might reach that conclusion. To me, Cooper seemed to be thoughtful, confident and above all competent in word and deed.

At the end of our conversation, those many years ago, he repeated a bit of advice he'd given elsewhere: If it's worth knowing, write it down.

Memories change and fade with the passage of time. Events, concepts and principles are lost and forgotten if entrusted to recollection alone, often never to be discovered again. Though I never attended a class or lecture from Cooper, I learned a great deal from him on that long-past afternoon.

April 22, 2011 at 9:39 PM  
Anonymous aughtsix said...

I would give a precious lot to have had the opportunity to know and converse with Jeff Cooper, and even more had I the wit to use that time wisely.


April 23, 2011 at 5:55 AM  

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