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Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies


AJDSS Volume 1 Issue 1

The Achilles effect and preventing armies from becoming mobs

Christopher Smith

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In a progressive society, military regimentation is an anachronism. It implies things considered by some to be pejorative such as imposed discipline, unthinking obedience and conformity. It invokes images of stereotypical military practice such as marching, saluting and fastidious grooming. Regimentation is the antithesis of the contemporary zeitgeist and some people believe it is contrary to important battlefield traits like cunning, creativity and initiative.

However, this article proposes that war is more than just a struggle between two armed groups; it is also a struggle between restraint and abandon, conscientiousness and recklessness, order and disorder. It contends the first and most important battle for an army is a battle for self-control and abnegation. It proposes that the combination of organisational traits commonly known as military regimentation play an essential role in winning this battle. Regimentation is therefore not some quaint perversion of the military mind; it is a necessary vaccine against the tendency for war's violent nature to overcome the inhibitions of civilised soldiers, causing them to succumb to primitive impulses and become mobs - or what Brigadier Chris Smith describes as the Achilles effect.

This article has been peer reviewed





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