I'm reading "Devil's Guard" right now which is fascinating. The book is supposedly based on a true story about an ex-Eastern Front S.S. commando who fled Europe after Germany surrendered. He then joined the French Foreign Legion and was then stationed and fought in Indochina.
The whole book is fascinating. Everyone except the British come out looking pretty bad. Germany looks brutal, France looks incompetent, America looks naive, and all the Communist forces get portrayed as bankrupt in all ways. The book has some definite rings of truth, but also of some exaggeration or outright fabrication. Some of it probably accurately describes what happened after WWII, where other parts are fantastically exaggerated.
I did like one particular exchange. The German officer was offered some Nationalist Chinese advisors to help him make some battleplans, but he wasn't sharing much information with them. One of the Chinese officers, Major Kwang, notices this and talks to him about it, saying that he can be trusted and wants to help. The reply -
"We have been around here for a long time, Major Kwang. We have outlived the average life expectancy of the Legionaires, and I think we are still around because we took nothing for granted - never!"
The major smiled politely. "Then you regard every stranger guilty until proven innocent?"
"We regard only one thing, Major - our own survival factors," I said. "We learned that a long time ago: to think, to plan, to calculate, to evaluate and act - everything related to survival factors. Friendship, relations, rank, sentiments are all only of secondary importance. We are living on borrowed time and abiding by the law of probability, which is the only law we carefully observe. Had we done otherwise, we would now be dead heroes instead of surviving experts. For that's what we really are, Major Kwang: neither invincible daredevils nor supermen nor heroes - only survival experts. But survival is the most important thing in any war."
"We are living on borrowed time and abiding by the law of probability, which is the only law we carefully observe. Had we done otherwise, we would now be dead heroes instead of surviving experts."
Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman's "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" is a fascinating work. It's required reading for much of the American military officers and law enforcement personnel. There's many counter-intuitive points in there, including that the vast majority (approximately 80%) of soldiers during the American Civil War and World War II never actually fired with the intent of hitting the enemy.
This paragraph stood out to me -
[In Dr. Jerome Frank's] Sanity and Survival in the Nuclear Age, […] he points out that civil wars are usually more bloody, prolonged, and unrestrained than other types of war. And Peter Watson, in War on the Mind, points out that "deviant behavior by members of our own group is perceived as more disturbing and produces stronger retaliation than that of others with whom we are less involved." We need only look at the intensity of aggression between different Christian factions in Europe across the centuries, or the infighting between the major Islamic sects in the Middle East, or the conflict between Leninist, Maoist, and Trotskyist Communists, or the horror in Rwanda and other African tribal battles, to confirm this fact.
I haven't been writing travel stories recently, but since I've been through so many different cities in the past month, I figure I should share a few little notes on each, just in case you're heading through one of them soon.
I just can't get into Beijing. It's not a bad city, but it's sprawling, smoggy, and a little bit faceless. This time I stayed in the hutongs (alleys), which was pretty interesting. Forbidden city is really neat, but the park right behind it is at least as interesting. Climb to the top for a great view. The only reasonably healthy restaurant we found was Saveurs de Coree, a Korean restaurant. Everything was pretty pricey, except for the bibimbap set meal that comes with little Korean appetizers, fried tofu with onions, bibimbap, and cinnamon tea. Not perfectly healthy, but the best I came across.