The elite class or the dead class: Is the military an outgrowth of male competition and power?

My policy? Sir, I am a soldier. I do not have a policy.

French general Henri Giraud45

We think of top military brass as the bastion of male power. In the United States, as in France, the policy to create war is determined by the legislature, the policy of when to fight or negotiate is determined by the president, and both the president and the legislature are determined by the voters. The general is just the chauffeur. His job is to get us where we tell him to go.

The individual soldier is trained not in dominance but in subservience. Only after he proves his ability to take orders can he give orders. In fact, his training to give orders is created by his ability to take orders; his training in dominance is created by his subservience.

We think of the Japanese male as being the quintessential example of the dominant male. Yet Japanese males in World War II were trained in the way of the warrior. The way of the warrior was the way of subservience, the Japanese warrior was willing to die for the emperor and his ancestors; he was trained to believe there was no acceptable alternative to victory except death. The kamikaze fighter is but an outgrowth of the way of the warrior – the way of total slavery to "the Other.”

We often open our mouths about men’s competitiveness and close our eyes to men’s altruism. But in the military, a man sacrifices himself to a state and to the freedom of people he doesn’t know. Pretty altruistic. Yet the military is also competitive Men compete to serve. Or compete to be altruistic. In men’s lives, competition is often the pathway to altruism.