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The military, also called the armed forces, are forces authorized to use deadly force, and weapons, to support the interests of the state and some or all of its citizens. The task of the military is usually defined as defense of the state and its citizens, and the prosecution of war against another state.

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  • Nay, number itself in armies importeth not much, where the people is of weak courage; for, as Virgil saith, "It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be."
    • Francis Bacon, "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates," The Essays or Counsels Civil & Moral of Francis Bacon, p. 129 (1905). Bacon quoted the words of Thyrsis in Virgil's Eclogue VII.
  • The British army has fought for the establishment of our nation, and on all these occasions it is known that the discipline which exists in that army has not destroyed its spirit. It is, thank God, what it was, still; and they will meet again with the same spirit when called on on a future occasion, and I hope and trust, whether men mean it or not, no man will be able to render a British soldier other than he is, one of the most respectable.
    • Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 55; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 15.
  • All Societies that maintain armies maintain the belief that some things are more valuable than life itself. Just What is so valued varies.
  • "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
  • "Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service."


  • A Serjeant is a soldier with a halbert, and a drummer is a soldier with a drum.
    • Thomas Denison, Lloyd v. Wooddall (1748), 1 Black. 30; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 15.


  • In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citzenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, farewell radio and television address to the American people, Washington, D.C., January 17, 1961. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960–61, p. 1038.
  • Some day there is going to be a man sitting in my present chair who has not been raised in the military services and who will have little understanding of where slashes in their estimates can be made with little or no damage. If that should happen while we still have the state of tension that now exists in the world, I shudder to think of what could happen in this country …
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, letter to Everett E. ("Swede") Hazlett, August 20, 1956.—William Bragg Ewald, Jr., Eisenhower the President, p. 248 (1981). Date of the letter provided by the Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas.


  • In the various states of society, armies are recruited from very different motives. Barbarians are urged by the love of war; the citizens of a free republic may be prompted by a principle of duty; the subjects, or at least the nobles, of a monarchy, are animated by a sentiment of honor; but the timid and luxurious inhabitants of a declining empire must be allured into the service by the hopes of profit, or compelled by the dread of punishment.
  • Meanwhile, the U.S. debt remains, as it has been since 1790, a war debt; the United States continues to spend more on its military than do all other nations on earth put together, and military expenditures are not only the basis of the government's industrial policy; they also take up such a huge proportion of the budget that by many estimations, were it not for them, the United States would not run a deficit at all.
  • The U.S. military, unlike any other, maintains a doctrine of global power projection: that it should have the ability, through roughly 800 overseas military bases, to intervene with deadly force absolutely anywhere on the planet. In a way, though, land forces are secondary; at least since World War II, the key to U.S. military doctrine has always been a reliance on air power. The United States has fought no war in which it did not control the skies, and it has relied on aerial bombardment far more systematically than any other military-in its recent occupation of Iraq, for instance, even going so far as to bomb residential neighborhoods of cities ostensibly under its own control. The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, drop bombs, with only a few hours' notice, at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet. No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very power that holds the entire world monetary system, organized around the dollar, together.


  • There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
    • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961), chapter 5, p. 46. A more succinct definition of Catch-22 comes from Jacob Brackman's review of the film, Catch-22: "If you're crazy, they have to take you out of combat, but the catch is you have to ask them, and if you're trying to get out of combat then you can't be crazy." Frederick Kiley and Walter McDonald, eds., A Catch-22 Casebook (1973), p. 363. The review originally appeared in Esquire (September 1970).
  • A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded. ... If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected. A military commander ... must resign or be rejected. If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God.


  • Dumb stupid animals to be used.
    • Henry Kissinger describing soldiers, as quoted in "The Final Days" by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in chapter 14. Page 194 in the paperback version (1995). Google Books link


  • I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.
    • Attributed to President Abraham Lincoln by General James B. Fry. Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln (1886), chapter 22, p. 393. This supposedly had been part of Lincoln's response to a young volunteer soldier who had come to Lincoln's office asking his help with a grievance. The story has been repeated in numerous books on Lincoln: Alexander K. McClure, "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories (1904), p. 162; Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln (1917), vol. 2, p. 153; and Caroline T. Harnsberger, The Lincoln Treasury (1950), p. 14.


  • In the United States… a handful of corporations centralize decisions and responsibilities that are relevant for military and political as well as economic developments of global significance. For nowadays the military and the political cannot be separated from economic considerations of power. We now live not in an economic order or a political order, but in a political economy that is closely linked with military institutions and decisions. This is obvious in the repeated “oil crisis” in the Middle East, or in the relevance of Southeast Asia and African resources for the Western powers…
  • What the main drift of the twentieth century has revealed is that the economy has become concentrated and incorporated in the great hierarchies, the military has become enlarged and decisive to the shape of the entire economic structure; and moreover the economic and the military have become structurally and deeply interrelated, as the economy has become a seemingly permanent war economy; and military men and policies have increasingly penetrated the corporate economy.
  • For the corporation executives, the military metaphysic often coincides with their interest in a stable and planned flow of profit; it enables them to have their risk underwritten by public money; it enables them reasonably to expect that they can exploit for private profit now and later, the risky research developments paid for by public money. It is, in brief, a mask of the subsidized capitalism from which they extract profit and upon which their power is based.


  • Everyone acknowledges that people come to the evidence with different preconceptions. But we can't go into these problems assuming that the civilian bias, which tends toward arms control, and the view that everyone is rational, is necessarily more appropriate than the military bias. That needs to be argued, not just assumed.
  • Every time the Secretary of Defense tries to get a hand on his many intelligence programs, we hear warnings about the dire consequences to liberty. When you look behind those warnings, what you really see is the CIA trying to preserve its perks.
  • The military mind tends to be conservative, realistic and historical. The civilian mind tends to be liberal, idealistic and Utopian. Journalists, obviously, are civilians, and they tend to distrust, and to suspect, the military’s motives.


  • Terrible as an army with banners.
    • Song of Solomon, VI. 4 and 10.


  • What other job lets you die for a living?


  • Enjoin this upon the Officers, and let them inculcate, and press home to the Soldiery, the Necessity of Order and Harmony among them, who are embark'd in one common Cause, and mutually contending for all that Freeman [sic] hold dear. I am persuaded, if the Officers will but exert themselves, these Animosities, this Disorder, will in a great Measure subside, and nothing being more essential to the Service than that it should, I am hopeful nothing on their Parts will be wanting to effect it.
    • George Washington, letter to Major General Philip Schuyler, July 17, 1776; reported in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 5 (1932), p. 290–91.
  • Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.
    • George Washington, general orders, July 6, 1777; reported in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, vol. 8 (1933), p. 359.
  • Really when I reflect upon the characters and attainments of some of the General Officers of this army, and consider that these are the persons on whom I am to rely to lead columns against the French Generals, and who are to carry my instructions into execution, I tremble; and, as Lord Chesterfield said of the Generals of his day, "I only hope that when the enemy reads the list of their names he trembles as I do."
    • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Torrens, August 29, 1810.—Antony Brett-James, Wellington at War, 1794–1815, p. 199 (1961). Lord Chesterfield's comment is Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Author unknown[edit]

  • With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.
    • Author unknown. Inscription on the memorial to the Seabees (U.S. Naval Construction Batallions), between Memorial Bridge and Arlington Cemetery. "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer." Motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, according to The Home Book of American Quotations, ed. Bruce Bohle, p. 35 (1967), which says that other branches of the service also used this slogan. Newsweek, March 8, 1943, p. 34, attributes this "cocky slogan" to the Army Air Forces. A higher comparative, "The impossible we do at once; the miraculous takes a little longer," was said to be the motto of the Army Service Forces. The New York Times (November 4, 1945), p. 2E, 6E. This echoes a remark attributed to Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, Louis XVI's minister of finance. Marie Antoinette asked him something in a tone that brooked no refusal, adding that perhaps it would be difficult. He replied, "If it is only difficult, it is done; if it is impossible, we shall see." J. F. Michaud, Biographie Universelle, vol. 6, p. 427.

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  1. Butler, Smedley D. (November 1935). "America's Armed Forces. 2. "In Time of Peace": The Army". Common Sense 4 (11): 8-12.