Soldiers are Emotional About their Ranks: Make No Mistake to Compare Military ranks with Civil Designation
Indian army soldier Saleem Miyan (R) and his colleagues salute during a wreath-laying ceremony for Navdeep Singh, an army officer who was killed in Srinagar August 21, 2011.
Job of a military commander is to lead soldiers into battle with utmost commitment and focus by an authority bestowed in him by an order of the head of the state. Logic often fails to motivate men in the face of death, thus, the task of a commander is to blind the logic by evoking emotions. A good commander will always assemble his men and throw them to the wolf. But when he does so, he too lead his group deep into enemy territory leading from the front. Before men went for surgical strike they all wrote the last letter before crossing over the LOC to be delivered to their next of keen if some of them did not return. Robert Greene wrote in his book 33 Strategies of War, that best way to motivate men is not through reasons, but through emotions. Manipulation of emotion is the art of military leadership.
Humans are defensive by nature, logic make them meek, because if soldiers start reasoning the outcome of their actions during war, they will never be able to fight a war. Logically it is foolish and absurd to run up a hill when the guns are blazing from top with no place to take cover. Yet soldiers do it every time they are asked to do so fully knowing the outcome of such acts. It is all about fogging logic by emotions. Soldiers fight under the influence of emotions but the leaders lead them by logic and reasoning. A tactical commander is not blinded by emotions, he knows what he is asking his men to do and what price he would pay. Lt Anuj Nayyer knew before going to his final assault that he will not return back, yet he went with a smile. It is the rank that makes a military leader do what a normal human being will never do.
Emotion is most essential aspect of soldiering, and the attachment and attraction of a solider to his rank is infectious and fatal. That is why he carries his rank to grave and retains it till eternity. Ask a soldier how has he got his first stripe and his answer will be by blood and sweat. Thus he guards his rank with great degree of pride and self-respect. He feels it insulting when someone starts comparing his rank to a clerk, or a section officer of even to a secretary in the government. It is contemptuous and insulting. Ask Special Forces how they earn the dagger with wings. His reply would be by mortgaging his life for the nation. To go where no human can go, to do what no human can do and survive where no human has ever survived. Those who do not understand what it takes to be a soldier, they may consider soldiering as another government job, but try and live that life for one day and your head will bow in respect. There is lot of pain, sacrifices, physical rigors and mental stress that a soldier is put through during peace and war. There is a streak of ruthlessness in a soldier and his leader, but before they are ruthless with the enemy they have to subject themselves with ruthlessness.
Naik Hanamanthappa survived for six days under 35 feet of snow. It was the ultimate human endeavour. But remember his Commanding Officer did not leave the site till he dug every mortal remains of his men in minus 35C degree without proper shelter without adequate food and under constant threat to lives of his men and his own. It was the ruthless leader in him that led from the front in a life threatening environment. Can he be compared to any other government employee how high and mighty he may be? One can’t even imagine any other government official performing such act.
A soldier fights along the border and LoC because adversary challenges his authority on the territorial jurisdiction entrusted to him by his superior military authority. His task is to ensure territorial integrity and no loss of territory is acceptable during peace and war. When his authority is challenged he does not wait for the orders, rather he acts. His authority comes from his rank that forces him to act against his enemy even if it means war.
A civilian bureaucrat is often defined by designation and military by rank. Designation means label, name, title and description. Whereas military ranks mean order, level, status and authority. Military leaders command the territory, men and resources at their disposal by their word of command. Whereas bureaucrats only can lay restrictions through proxy and suggest pros and cons. Military commander’s word is an authority and he does not issue an order in writing to his men to go to war. In the recent case of surgical strike, no written orders were issued by Special Forces commanders to their men to cross LoC when they all knew the risk to their lives. Men were briefed and orders issued by word of mouth. The men trusted the wisdom of their commanders because of the rank and authority they held. Whereas if a bureaucrat has to get a job done even if it has zero risk to life, he has to issue a government order.
It may appear to be a non-issue for political leadership or bureaucrats to compare military ranks with civilian counterparts, but it is sacrosanct for a soldier. The difference is that when a soldier salutes his superior it means “sir I am ready to carry out your command” and an officer returns the salute by acknowledging that “I will lead you till last breath”. That is why an old soldier never saluted a civilian irrespective of his position because a civilian cannot lead a soldier to war. Comparing a rank with civilian designation is blasphemy but bigger crime is downgrading the ranks. If a soldier and military commander start behaving like a government servant, the army and the nation are doomed. No nation can afford their army to behave like a government organization because government is run by rules and wars are fought by defying rules and conventions. That is why military ranks have sanctity and military accruements are prohibited to be sued even by police. Government of India has committed cardinal mistakes of firstly comparing military ranks with that of civilian counterparts and second is that military personnel’s have been placed under police officer in NSG where the police officers have no idea of command of military personnel’s that too special forces.
The day elitism is destroyed among the soldiers, that day nation is rendered insecure. It is the greatest disservice a political leader or bureaucrat can do to the nation. A visionary political leader of a nation surrounded by inimical forces would never distract his army by causing imbalance in emotional equilibrium of men and tempering with their pride and status. Any force in a state attempting to erode the morale of army especially at a time when there is war like situation along the borders/ LOC is an act of high treason. Military leaders can’t be unsettled and distracted from the main task at hand. Those who attempt to do so are furthering the cause of enemy. We as a nation must remember that Xenophon had said in (Circa 430-355) “whichever army goes into battle stronger in soul and morale, their enemy generally cannot withstand them”. Thus political leaders must prevent endeavours of those who wish to weaken the morale and spirit of the soldier.
Brig Narender Kumar is an Infantry Officer with close to 15 years’ experience in counter insurgency and anti-terrorism operations having served in Sri Lanka (Operation PAWAN) J&K and North East. He has been part of UN Mission in North Africa and had a tenure in Indian Training Team in a foreign country. He has served as Brigade Major in Western Theatre, Col Administration of a Division and Brig General Staff of an Area responsible for Northern Border. Commanded a Rashtriya Rifles battalion in J&K and Assam Rifles Sector in North East.