Beyond the Hero Syndrome
Why initial accounts of the bin Laden raid had a familiar-sounding spin
With apologies to the authors of the Old Testament, the popular myths of war heroes could well have started with the sacking of Troy, as recorded by Homer circa 850 BC. But in the telling of the Greek poets, heroes weren’t exactly winners. The higher they went, the deeper they fell. However, sometime between then and the mid-twentieth century, the tragedy that clung like a gray ghost to military heroes in the Western tradition withered away. Today there’s hardly an ironic note, much less a tragic one, to be found in accounts of the so-called war on terror.
Counterinsurgency does not lend itself to Homeric heroes. Even when Julius Caesar paraded Vercingetorix, the captured leader of the Gauls, through Rome in a victory celebration, everybody knew something bad was going to happen. In today’s counter-insurgency
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