Shooting to kill – how many men can do this?

August 19, 2019

something that we get told reasonably often is that a lot of troops almost never fire their weapons only a small proportion will even fire them in the general direction of the enemy and sometimes our people ask me is this true is there any basis to this well yes actually there is a basis for this in 1947 just after World War Two there was quite a large that he carried out in the United States a general interviewed very very large numbers of troops who had been involved in the war and from what he discovered he concluded that fewer than a quarter of troops ever fired their weapons in the general direction of the enemy when they were in position to do so so it’s not that they didn’t they couldn’t see the enemy that they weren’t in a position that they were support troops miles behind the line and that’s why they didn’t fight it no the troops at the front in a position to shoot at the enemy didn’t most of the time and another figure that tear was discovered was that one percent of fighter pilots accounted for 50% of fighter pilot kills in the American army Air Force and the other 99 percent of pilots downed the other 50% of enemy kills so it seems that modern armies were very reliant on a very very small number of people who were doing almost all the actual killing of the enemy bit and how many people actually shot to kill well it seems that about 2% actually shot to kill not just in the general direction of the enemy but put deliberately and knowingly put their sights right on that guy and shot with the intention of killing him now there are many other instances of this that have been recorded so Frances in the American Civil War there are incidents of people reporting paralysis of the trigger hand they just couldn’t bring themselves to fire their weapon in World War one German troops referred to trigger finger frostbite which is I imagined the same sort of phenomenon and there have been a number of tests done in the musketry period to see just how effective muskets are and the battlefield and test results were rather different there been many of these I’ve read of several others one those carried out in the seventeen hundreds in Prussia and what they did is they got I think it was a battalion a battalion of troops and they March this battalion of troops up to the sort of range you would normally engage an enemy and they had a sheet of cloth a white sheet of cloth that was the height of a man and the width of a battalion pegged out vertically in a field and they said right everyone fire one round at that so first row kneel and fire bang first load volley and second row bang kneel third row and so forth until everyone had fired one shot and then they counted the hulls and from this they calculated how many hits they would expect to get over target that that size and the answer was about 500 about 500 hits from one round from all the men in the battalion so how did this compare with what they were actually getting under battlefield conditions well on the battlefield conditions they were scoring three three hits not 500 really a huge difference now how do you explain this enormous difference well one is of course smoke for instance so when the enemy fires when you fire there’s a lot of smoke around the targets more obscured that would make a difference sometimes but not a huge difference necessarily all right well clearly it’s more difficult to aim your weapon calmly and accurately if there’s stuff coming at you the other way I mean the sheet wasn’t firing at these guys but you know the guys in battle they’re they’re much more scared they’re being put off by what the enemy is doing yeah yeah that would explain it too but maybe a greater explanation is that those men didn’t want to kill anyone those men were like the majority in World War two who didn’t really want to harm the enemy now muskets are extremely loud and they they shout so if you’ve got this this big shouty stick in your head and you could just say to those people go away boom and you don’t even look and you perhaps subconsciously aim high although you aim to miss and and it seems that’s what what’s happening nobody wanted to kill anyone it was all too horrible could those people over there just please go away look look look you’re in huge amount of danger look at all these guns going off at you why don’t you just run away not many men make good snipers obviously one of the reasons is that not everyone can shoot as well as you need to be able to shoot to be a good sniper but in fact I’m told that about half of recruits with decent amount of training can be trained to be good enough shot to be a sniper so the marksmanship limitation is not the main explanation what another explanation is that you need to have a lot of personal initiative because you can’t have officers telling you exactly what targets to shoot all the time and telling you where to hide and when to relocate and so forth you got it look after yourself pick your own targets and your own locations and move under your own initiative a lot so yes that’s another reason that many men don’t make good snipers but perhaps the greatest reason that most men do not make good snipers is that most men find it near impossible to kill someone who’s not threatening them so they UI a sniper look through a scope oh I’ve got someone yeah yeah yeah he’s having a shave I was talking no oh yeah there’s the other guy yeah they’re laughing they’re having a joke about something whoa headshot very very very few men can do that the guy wasn’t threatening me why should i why should I shoot him and this would would occur again again and again in actual war so for instance in World War one there are a number of incidents where a small group of soldiers would come across a small group of the enemy unexpectedly so they’re walking along they’ve all got their rifles and then suddenly whoa although the Krauts Oh Crowley and they start yelling insults at each other and so forth and oh they’re giving some backup right and they’ll put down their rifles to find him to throw down as a stone they start throwing stones and clods of Earth on each other and how do we saw them off hey yeah that’s show them yeah where’s my other areas and they walked off it didn’t occur to them to shoot each other because that’s not a normal man’s first instinct or person I’ll shoot him dead really Oh a rival group of people I’ll posture and show that you know that we’re not afraid of them and perhaps will you escalate it a little bit throwing a few stones just to make sure that you know they’re not to try anything seriously dangerous and then we both go on our way and nobody gets hurt actually how humans behave most of the time that’s actually how animals behave almost all of the time to animals posture they make a show a display of bravado they try to intimidate they try to shout down the opposition without actually fighting to the death when two deer are competing for the access to the dose to father the next generation they will bellow at each other sometimes for hours and if that doesn’t work they might sometimes come to blows but even then it’s a ritual fight think the lock antlers antlers have evolved to minimize deer casualties and they just sort of have a a ritualized pushing match and then the one who loses backs off and the other one lets him go there’s no point in trying to to escalate things further a while ago I was in Redding and I videoed these two pigeons fighting and I marveled that they fought and fought and fought and fought I’ve watched over the whole video because it goes on for absolutely ages and they never do any harm and you think what what come on you’re in the position they just pack him in the eye pack him in the eye you got this sharp beak right next to his eye Peck him in the eye boom you could be a matter of half a second form you could do it but you can see that that’s they’re not really trying to peck each other in the eye they’re just sort of saying I’ll Peck you in the eye I’ll Peck you in the eye on I’m threatening to on-topic you mean yeah I watch it mate after a while one flew away but then the gathered his bravery but I say he I think they’re males and flew back and have another go other than eventually they’re parted company and neither was hurt that’s how normal animals compete with others of their own species and humans are animals and that’s how we do it too now you’ve probably heard of him ler you know world war two black uniform yeah I don’t want to make a video about him though so in summary not a nice chap and probably indirectly responsible for a very very large number of deaths he found that he just couldn’t bear to watch executions just couldn’t bear it just like some people today can’t even watch someone having an injection on television well he couldn’t bear to watch executions Himmler he couldn’t now there are of course really nasty brutal ruthless people in the world who like Che Guevara for instance Che Guevara had a particular liking for executing prisoners in selphie like to shoot them in the head with his pistol well even those really brutal nasty people this shoot in the back of the head why do they do that well because to shoot someone in the front of the head you have to see their face and you can see the fear on that face and a normal man cannot then pull the trigger a normal man will get trigger finger frostbite you can’t do it and why well we have a very powerful instinct that tells us not to do it an instinct that evolved before the design of the pistol think back to the Stone Age there you are you’ll defeated enemies in front of you and you’ve got a club and you could just try to beat him to death with your club but you can see his face and you could see that you’ve won he’s terrified is is waiting himself he’s crying he’s sniveling there’s no way that’s acting he’s absolutely terrified you know you have won at this point you don’t have anything more to prove you are the winner if you back away now you will have won terrific if you start beating him to death with your club what options have you given him he can either be beaten to death or he can put every ounce of effort he’s got left into lashing out in the hope of defeating you why take that risk you’ve won back away that’s what your instinct is telling you now admittedly with a pistol of course the risk is far lower your pretty pretty likely to win the fight if you pull the trigger but your instincts haven’t evolved for pistols there you are you can’t do it you’re you’re fighting against this very strong instinct to not do it assuming you’re not a psychopath which most people are not so what percentage of people are psychopaths and do actually shoot to kill deliberately but it seems naturally about 2% of people actually shoot to kill and these actually divide quite neatly into the two categories there’s the the psychopath who does it because Psychopaths are wired differently upstairs and one of the things one of the many things that makes them different is that they don’t recognize fear in others when they see a terrified person they don’t read read it as fear they read it as maybe weakness or whatever were just doesn’t seem to be doing much and they don’t see shooting someone who’s terrified as doing anything wrong well he should have told me he was terrified well he should have tried to run away then but why didn’t he run away because he was too terrified to run away once someone is utterly terrified you can not reason with him the forebrain shuts down the the amygdala kicks in it only takes about 12 milliseconds if the threat is great enough the amygdala detects the threat and shuts the forebrain down and reasons gone out the window you cannot reason with someone who’s terrified but Psychopaths don’t see that and well it’s just I don’t know I told him I told him to get up and go over there neither he didn’t so I saw I shot him oh I had to he wasn’t he wasn’t obeying me couldn’t you see the guy was terrified Oh was he one no didn’t feel they’ve done anything wrong cuz they’re psychos so that’s that’s one half of the the 2% that actually shoot to kill what about the other half the other half is quite different the other half of the sort of people who win the VC the other half shoot not out of psychopathy but out of love yes love and here’s a strange thing you see the VC the Victoria Cross is the highest award for valor for gallantry that you can win if you’re in the British Army and you have to do something pretty spectacular particularly now to win one and that makes this group of people a worthwhile group to study and people have they’ve looked at them and think right is there anything which connects VC winners what what what subgroup of humanity is the sort of subgroup that will win the VC and the answer seems to be that most of them the substantial majority I think it’s three-quarters of them maybe more than that share one quite rare characteristic and that is they were when younger responsible older siblings so I think Victor father’s gone to war and is being killed or just it’s way mother’s become an alcoholic and you are the eldest of seven and you think right okay I’m now effectively the the head of this household I’m now going to have to look after my younger siblings and you do this for some years and this instills in you a great sense of responsibility for the people in York and the people in your family and you also develop perhaps I’m theorizing here I don’t know this but I’m suggesting that you develop us a parent like love for your siblings that goes beyond what most people feel in in regard to their own siblings because you you become like a parent to them they become like your children now if if a father sees a man attacking his children he will do whatever is necessary to tip to see off that threat he will he will take risks parents will do stuff to protect their kids elder siblings then get recruited to the army and are given now a new family that their their platoon their section these these men that they fight with I like their new family and perhaps some of those parental feelings of responsibility in love carry over to their new family and when the bullets are flying and everyone is hit the dirt and there all the attacks ground to a halt and everyone’s and you see some of your family some of your men being being shot by those enemy in that machine-gun nest right you are going to take action because out of love for to Brittany the desire to protect the people you love you will then rush over there around there get another chuck grenades in and defeat the the nest and you win the VC for saving the day and saving the rest of the opportun and it’s noticeable that when you do see citations for bravery and medals and so forth and look at the sort of people who win medals and the reasons for why they they’re given these medals it’s generally to do with saving your own side rather than just killing an awful lot of the enemy it’s not oh well in order to win the VC you’ve got to kill 50 Germans in a day or something and o49 bad luck Tompkins you didn’t quite do it still try again tomorrow eh no it’s not for killing sprees it’s not it’s not choked up with how many of the enemy you destroy it’s almost always saving the day for your comrades doing the thing which saved the rest of your new army surrogate family so it’s out of love that they other 1% shoots to kill so how can you if you’re in an army and you want your troops to do more you know shooting to kill how do you get the number of men to shoot to kill to be greater because fewer than a quarter was quite shocking to the American army in 1947 really fewer than the court of our guys were actually shooting at the enemy and only 2% we’re shooting to kill how can we improve on that well a chap called BF Skinner wrote a book called the behavior organisms you may have heard of him skinny Aryan psychology he’s the man who perhaps more than anyone else familiarize this all with the term conditioned reflex they thought ah maybe maybe this this guy Skinner’s ideas will work and it seems that they do so maybe we can condition our troops to have reflexes which is to shoot at the enemy and that will change their behavior and it seems to work so um before World War two if you were training troops to shoot straight you’d get them to shoot at a range at a series of concentric circles this was a target which just in an abstract way measured accurately the deviation from a central desired point but when they started introducing Skinnerian techniques they started introducing targets that were man shaped get people used to shooting at men it’s not how straight you shoot it’s it’s how willing you are to shoot a man that’s what we got to train these guys to do and they improved the the willingness of troops to shoot at the enemy by quite a bit even by the Korean War which wasn’t that much later they got up to perhaps fifty percent of their troops were then shooting at the enemy by the Falklands conflict which was 1982 the British Army had 95 percent of their men shooting in the general direction of the enemy in the Gulf War the Americans managed to get their figure up to 95 percent shooting to kill it seems that’s what I I gained from a documentary I watched on television about the modern American army that’s the figure they were claiming they got it up to so how do they do that then well I want you to imagine that it’s World War two and you’re some ordinary Atkins and you’re in a slit trench you’ve been told to hold the line at the front and nothing happened yesterday and all the day before and oh you see some guys now you’ve never actually seen any real-life Germans you’ve only just been shipped across you’ve done basic training in England if you’ve never actually seen any German you saw a few dead Germans well at least they’re boots poking out from under some tarpaulins but these are he’s a real-life actual in the field Germans and you say Brian Brian look look can you see that can you see the two guys I can’t see what they’re doing can you see what yeah they’re definitely German helmets I don’t know there’s a third one there’s a and you watch them for hours and you talk about this and then later it comes up in conversation and your officer overhears what’s that but you shoot them oh no I didn’t shit why didn’t you shoot them it never occurred to me sir sorry you aren’t my orders were to hold the line and nobody told me to shoot them threatening me they weren’t doing you think that’s the normal way to behave so what you got to do is see a target bang shoot it so how do you do that skinnier in linear Ian psychology so you get a guy and you train him you give him a gun you put him into a target thing we’re a target flips up here it’s man-shaped and bang if he doesn’t shoot it within one second or whatever then he loses a point there’s that there’s a carrot-and-stick here there’s you reward success and you punish failure and another one pops up bang and the level of bang and then you perhaps take this a little bit further so for instance in the same documentary they were showing Americans who were training with paintballing but these were paintballs being fired by actual guns using actual gunpowder so there was the full bang noise of a gun and if you got hit by one of these it seriously hurt and in fact there was even a potential for being killed if you were hit in a vital spot from close enough range you could be killed with one of these paintballs they were that powerful so it was hurt the other guy or be hurt and the first time guys were entitled their hearts will be going like a steam train okay this is gonna really good good good take cover and there was so stressed by this and then you do it again and the next day they do it again and after a while Oh their heart rates under this is heart rate was still elevated but they were not panicking like they were the first time and so then you put them on it on a range and bang-bang they shoot before making the decision of whether or not to shoot and that’s the important thing that’s what makes it a conditioned reflex remember the first time you ever drove a car but how tightly you you held the steering wheel at the end when you got home your hands were tired physically tired from gripping the steering wheel so much after been driving for a bit just two fingers models on the radio you know and your heart rate was quite normal you got used to it you got used to it and every time you pull up to a junction do you think ah now then should I press the accelerator and change into fourth gear know if you’ve got got a manual what the Americans call a stick shift you just press the clutch into first you just do it you’ve done it so many times you don’t actually make the decision to do it it becomes a conditioned reflex so we all have these and it’s possible to train a soldier the conditioned reflex to just shoot bang to kill straightaway and it seems that the American army and others I’m sure have succeeded in this but there are problems actually before I get on to the problems you may be familiar with the film Black Hawk Down which is about to historical engagement between Americans and Somalis and that’s a rare instance of an army with this modern skinny Aryan shoot to kill first mentality going up against an army that doesn’t have that and when you watch the film it seems it was comical in places that the Somalis don’t seem to be able to hit anything and yet every time an American soldiers shoot another Somalian full dead well perhaps that difference can be explained partly by this that those Somalis were actually just thinking go away Americans go it could just be a friend of me and just go away this I don’t want to be here back and they didn’t hit a thing whereas the Americans were just oh I’m in danger bang the immediate response to danger is I shoot to kill you someone comes at you with a bayonet and they’re screaming they’ve got the war face and they’re rushing at you you can either not shoot them and be bayonetted to death or bang bang bang bang you just shoot them and an ordinary man can do that but remember the the fear and the shooting of the face I was talking about earlier an ordinary man cannot when not threatened do that but with enough training a modern soldier can be made to shoot to kill first before you’ve even thought now the downside the downside though the upside is that you won’t get an army that’s perhaps a great deal more effective the downside is that it seems that we haven’t worked out what to do next so you’ve got a man who’s been brought up to believe that killing is absolutely wrong he has now got several memories of having killed someone perhaps quite a close range and he saw their face he’s got these terrible memories and he has now got to live with those memories now maybe because of little training you’ve got a guy who was never going to fire his weapon in the direction of the enemy maybe he was one of that majority that normally won’t actually fire at the enemy and he certainly wasn’t one of the 2% he wasn’t one of the shoot to kill guys but you’ve turned him into a shoot-to-kill guy and that made him an effective soldier on the front line but now he’s come home have we got the technology to sort that out a week we can turn them into these killers but can we then deal with the mental consequences of what we’ve turned them into it seems that we’re not quite there yet lemurs

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