Thursday, August 7, 2008

Soldier's Heart (2)

Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point
Elizabeth D. Samet
New York: Farrar, straus and Giroux

Ideas and Quotes for Discussion
“The ‘uses’ of literature [at West Point] have always been more difficult to evaluate, the metrics for cultural awareness, empathy or knowledge of the human condition being far less precise than the moon’s diameter or the number of gallons in the reservoir.”

“A glance at entrance examinations from the early twentieth century reveals the kind of knowledge required to enter West Point. Applicants in 1927 had to identify in a ‘correctly constructed sentence’ each of the following; Christopher Marlowe, Sir roger de Coverley, Elia, Cordelia, Tom Jones, Anthony Trollope, Modern Painters, George Meredith, Henry Esmond and John Silver. I wonder how many high school seniors could identify those names today.”

“I don’t consider myself a ‘non-thinking slasher’…and I don’t think Iraq is going to turn me into one.”

“It is also true, perhaps to a degree remarkable given institutional history, that my being a woman is immaterial to many of my colleagues—or so it seems to me. In my department, if an opinion has merit, if an idea can help us better to accomplish the mission, then it doesn’t matter from whom it comes. The only thing that matters is your investment in and commitment to that mission.”

“The American army prides itself on the soldier’s ability to recognize immoral or unlawful orders: ‘I was just doing what I was told’ isn’t a satisfactory excuse.”

“Many of the sociological studies on combat motivation conducted in the decades after World War II suggested that soldiers fight for their own survival and for that of their comrades but only rarely for causes and ideals.”

Judge Louis Brandeis: “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties…. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage t be the secret of liberty.”

Dan on the treatment of detainees: “My experience at least supports…[the] contention that the blame rests, rather on unclear policy and unclear or inappropriate guidance from higher up the chain…. My position now, after much reflection, is that we should be permitted to treat detainees in ways comparable to the ways we treat domestic criminals. If it is permitted in the domestic arena, it is probably okay with respect to detainees. If it is not permitted in the domestic arena, then we should not permit it towards detainees.”

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