Assignment 30A: "Assault Rifleman"

(To Andrea Sapori)

My father was a very wise man. Among the things he decided to explain to me, one is still part of the rules I follow today: you don't go around armed if you are not willing to use a weapon, and using a weapon involves the possibility of killing. It is a fact that must be accepted as a rule. Something of extreme importance and enormous responsibility.

I saw personnel from our armed forces going on patrol as one goes for a walk in the center on a Saturday afternoon. Young boys, who had not understood the burden of the service they had been called to carry out, perhaps because none of their superiors had bothered to explain it to them.
Yet, if you think about it, it is the very essence, the raison d'être, the absolute dogma of what it means to be a soldier: arm themselves to defend their homeland.

I understood that in Italy this simple concept, an unavoidable fact in other nations, is not very clear to us. In the last 80 years or so, we have enjoyed a certain amount of luck: apart from a few missions peace keeping e peace enforcement, where our soldiers have suffered losses, we have not been involved in high or medium intensity conflicts. We can say that our war was internal, fought against mafias and terrorism, not without our civil and military police forces paying a heavy price in blood, and we are talking about thousands of victims.

However, if we take into consideration the possibility of having to fight a war, to keep faith with an alliance or to defend vital interests for our country, the specter of suffering losses in the order of tens or hundreds of soldiers, even in a very short time, seems unbearable to us, if not even inconceivable. But even very recent history teaches us that we may be forced to review our attitude in ruthlessly practical terms.

Continuing to use Article 11 of the Constitution as a shield will do no good. May the day never come when events can no longer be controlled with words! It will be dramatic chaos.

We are not, not even remotely, ready for an eventuality of this kind. And it is something that does not only concern the civilians of this nation: even our military, in my opinion, are not mentally ready to conceptualize the war as a purely physical, of friction, a human clash direct.

Obviously I'm not talking about special forces, fighter pilots or the crew of a submarine or ship, but about those masses of light and mechanized infantry who, willingly or unwillingly, they always end up determining the outcome of the battle, defending and/or attacking the enemy, occupying its territory or liberating one's own.

We have forgotten that war involves death, one's own and that of others, as a matter of principle and, as humanly unbecoming as it may be, this risks costing us dearly, leading to defeat even before having fought a battle or a war which, historically and unfortunately, are inevitable.

Il moral and psychological collapse caused by seeing dozens of coffins disembark from a plane every day for weeks or months, risks being a very powerful, strategic weapon in the hands of the enemy. And I'm afraid this is a well-known fact about us.

Our soldiers are absolutely capable of keeping up with those of any other nation and, I am sure, they would have the fighting and sacrificial spirit necessary to defend the homeland.
Provided that, from the outset, they are put in a position to know without false do-goodism and hypocrisy what might await them, and to take responsibility and reason for it.

They need competent officers who motivate them by example. They need the best in quality and quantity that our nation can reasonably offer them in terms of equipment. And above all they must know that they have their people at their side, without ifs, buts or buts: doubt, in combat, kills more than bullets or bombs!

The peace mission or safe streets mentality it is not suitable for a soldier, who can also take it for a short period, but not be influenced by it. The soldier trains, prepares and equips himself to fight.

Let politicians understand this quickly and come to terms with it, once and for all.

Photo: Defense Online