Fighting Monks - SAS & Special Ops Troops

Different from standard troops, the members of military groups such as the SAS, Delta and a few others do have a code of conduct that might well be compared to “fighting monks.”

[quote]Fighting monks
(Canada needs more enterprise and moral rectitude)
David Warren, Western Standard (Canada), November 28, 2005

If enterprise and moral rectitude are what defines militarism these days, then we need more of it


I don’t think I have to explain to readers of this magazine why a country would want to have military forces. It’s one of those things you either get or don’t, and as I’ve noticed from reading The Globe and Mail, if you don’t get it, arguments aren’t going to help you.

The guys who do the fighting do not choose the war. I would have thought this an elementary observation, but it is lost on a large section of the voting public. The idea that “militarism” is a great evil is received without reflection in institutions of higher learning. Which is true enough, if you have the fondest idea what the word “militarism” might mean.

Over the last several years, writing for dailies about the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns, and other fronts in the international war against Islamic fanaticism, I have had the honour to be in touch with more soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines than ever since I was a very young man in Cambodia and Vietnam. Through the miracle of e-mail, I have sometimes found myself exchanging notes with, for example, a U.S. marine near the action during the battle for Fallujah.

What has most impressed me, especially in communication with members of the more elite fighting forces, is their real enterprise and moral rectitude–qualities seldom encountered in “civil society,” or even, these days, in religious orders. My thought being, if this is militarism, we could use more.

Consider what I recently learned from a gentleman in Iraq, who had been working in a mission with Britain’s Special Air Services. Did you know that . . .

– The original model for the SAS was the Artists’ Rifles, formed in 1859. These were young London artists (literally) who volunteered to give the British Army some capabilities a little more imaginative than what they then had, in light of such problems as the Indian Mutiny.

– The concept of “hearts and minds” (as in, “winning their . . .”) was devised by the SAS as an integral part of the fight against the Communists in Malaya in the early 1950s. The idea was, since they needed the help of the aboriginals of the Malayan jungle and hill country as trackers and to teach them local survival techniques, why not play nice with them? Core concept: always treat your allies’ women as if they were poison, and never mess with one. (What a brilliant place to start!)

– Before every SAS operation, the troop (generally, four patrols of four men each) holds a “Chinese parliament,” in which they review their commander’s plan of action, and the fallback plans, and anyone may offer criticism and suggestions, without risk of reprisal from that CO.

– This is possible because, like the Israeli army, the SAS cultivates freedom from class and rank distinction. They are all trained to respond to “developments” without orders.

If a patrol is fired on, they will instantly disperse into positions where they can kill the enemy without risk of hitting one another. (And they do, invariably, kill the enemy.)

– In each patrol of four, you have a signals expert, a demolitions expert, a medical expert, and a languages expert. Yet each of the four will have cross-training in the other specialties.

– The SAS also cultivates freedom from what members conventionally call “bullshit” (example: keeping your kit neat and tidy beyond the requirements of good order and hygiene).

– An intrinsic part of the SAS creed is moral, and extends to their “private lives” (so far as they have anything resembling one). They boot out people who behave contrary to Christian norms, anywhere, anytime. They consider themselves to be, in effect, “fighting monks.”

That last phrase was my informant’s, not mine. But I think it opens the door on a world nearly lost; on human capabilities that are needed for any civilization to survive. The ancient Spartans had a whole society built on SAS principles. That we don’t want, but we do desperately need such “special forces.”[/quote]
reproduced in whole as this is a ‘register’ site.

In the Malaysian jungles in the 50’s they didn’t have air support or medivac- guess they needed a good plan. These SAS guys later trained US Spec Ops in Vietnam in the early period, too bad the SAS didn’t rub off more on the way things were fought.

Interesting that he suggests a need for a stoic warrior monk to counterbalance the Islamic religious fanatic- like a new Knights Templar.
They already call the west “crusaders”, I wonder if the future will bring us a new Anti-Islamic groups as it happened in Lebanon, and the situation between the UDL and IRA in No. Ireland.

Interesting article. My friends and I have actually discussed this topic in the past.

I might get flamed for this and it might be abit off topic but Andy McNabb and Richard Marchinko wrote a few interesting books that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Andy McNabs books were pretty good, but only for entertainment purposes. I think most of the content was dressed up for dramtic effect.

Richard Marchenko’s books were, too.

I loved how he glossed over his being thrown out for some wee little misunderstanding . . . which according to other sources I’ve seen was that he ordered enough training grenades to supply the military for the next hundred years, in exchange for a well-paying job at the manufacturer after his impending retirement. :smiley:

Not to defend Marchenko but he glossed over everything in his books. His writting style is hilarious. He writes like the brute he is.

For an inside look at Australian SAS ops in Vietnam, read Terry O’Farrell’s 'Behind Enemy Lines. In 1990 the then Captain O’Farrell was my Senior Instructor whilst undergoing selection for the SAS reinforcement wing. Like most of the guys that had been around a while, he had that ‘fighting Monk’ vibe about him. It’s a great descrption of SF soldiers, and one that helps to dispel the bullshit gung ho image that is so inaccurate. The article correctly states that although ranks are acknowledged and due respect is given, rank and class distinction is unnecessary.
Interestingly, SAS troops wear no visible rank whilst on ops and are on a 1st name basis with each other.

Glad to see the tone of this discussion. For some, this can be an interesting comparison - One who dedicates their life to one of religious seperation and One who dedicates their life to following the path of an elite professional soldier. Both are all consuming and require a committment beyond the norm.

A number former/retired troopies from the Regiment and from the US Spec Ops teams find their way into lives of social seperation, i.e., seminary life or rural living in their retirement/seperation from service time. “Warrior Monks” of today?..lol. I don’t know, but its something I’ve seen quite a few times. Maybe its the karma wheel. Maybe its paying back real or imagined dues.
Marchenko is the real deal, and a damn good salesman. For him, this has been a good combination. He did have a well-deserved reputation for training like you fight. And it did his teams well. But it p.o’ed the REMF’s who had to sign off on his ammo req’s.

A founder of ST 6. He deserves alittle respect.

According to a cousin who got out of the seals 2yrs ago - no one talks to Marchenko if he shows up at a reunion.

Ya cuz indirectly he spilled the beans. That’s a big No-No.