Intention to ‘Break Enemy’s Will’ Can Produce Unwanted Results

Senator McCain said the purpose of war is to break the enemy’s will. This in opposition to President Obama’s decision to have a short military involvement in Afghanistan. My mind jumped to the ways in which I’ve witnessed less overtly violent will-breaking in other situations, namely in families and in the workplace.

Okay, here’s my point. If you have two armies going at it on an isolated military field that’s one thing. It’s horrible enough, and maybe war should never happen in a world as civilized as we could be in almost 2010. But fighting a war against a few among a civilian population means we can lose their good will from fallout from the drones, errant bombs, etc.  The same thing happens in families where there’s a bully. Even if only one person is singled out to be bullied, the others witnessing the bullying are being abused too. Now we get to the workplace. “Break the enemy’s will” becomes “carry out strict rules” or “run a tight ship.”  These expressions aren’t necessarily abusive but when overdone they can be. When applied to one or more employees unfairly they can have a demoralizing effect on the others. Collateral damage, whether it’s rage, bullets, or second-hand smoke, can occur in many situations.

When my first child went to kindergarten many children hadn’t had preschool and didn’t behave well. The teacher reacted by screaming at the whole class for most of the day, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I felt my son was being abused having to listen to this. He must have wondered what was wrong with him that he should be screamed at this way.

Writing “The Career Within You,”, we interviewed a few people who had bosses who seemed to  regard their employees as enemies. I’ve known professors and teachers with this attitude toward one or more students, too. I’ve also seen a completely broken will. After I gave my highly spirited dog to a relative who lived in another town, unknown to me he beat it into submission. The dog’s personality was unrecognizable the next time I saw him.

In this blog, I’ve talked about physical will-breaking and emotional abuse as it occurs in jobs and at home and how it impinges on those not directly involved in the conflict. This has implications for all nine career types. For example, some types have thicker skin than others and aren’t bothered much by criticism, but a sensitive type who is caught in the middle can be shattered by it. In another example, some types are extremely generous and expansive. The more uptight types in their presence can feel uncomfortable by comparison.

In conclusion, in Senator McCain’s experience in the Viet Nam war,  North Viet Nam itself was considered a vile enemy.  Except for the fact that he was being held there as a prisoner, would he have been happy obliterating the country? One would think he knows that maintaining a sincerely friendly relationship with the Afghan people is to our advantage.

The Good Soldier: “How to Survive Death”


While writing “The Career Within You,” Ingrid Stabb and I invented a way of finding your career that resembles a tree-finder. The result of taking the “Wagele-Stabb Career Finder” myself was to find out that I’d do well as a journalist.

Most of my books have had a large journalistic component: interviewing people. But what fun it would be to go out on exciting assignments, too, were I to start a new working-life. I’d be an objective observer at happening events,  the first at big fires, imbedded with armies, interviewing world leaders. Or maybe I’d be a photo-journalist or a cartoon-journalist.

If you go to my web site,, you’ll see a blue book cover with the title, “How to Survive Death.” My friend and mentor Harry Gans and I wrote this light look at death. For part of it we interviewed people, mostly at the French Hotel Cafe in Berkeley, about what they expect to find when they die.  You can read this little 26 page book  on my web site free. I think you’ll enjoy Harry’s illustrations.

I have another journalistic project going on, too. This one is also about death but a more serious, longer book. I want to find out how the nine Enneagram types think about death and whether the intense experience of the death process intensifies how they express their type. I’ve been collecting some interesting stories about death by people of Enneagram types for a few years. I’m sure there are many other fascinating stories out there, but many are reluctant about sharing their experiences. If you have a story I’d like to hear it; the only requirement is that you know your own Enneagram type and the Enneagram type of the person it’s about. Send it to: and put “Enneagram/Death” in the title bar. When I get enough, I’ll make them into a book.

This is Veteran’s Day week. Bill Moyers ran a part of the documentary, “The Good Soldier,” on a recent program. I recommend it.  The most important issue for me when I supported Obama was that I hoped he would end the violence our country was engaged in.