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This was a particular problem for the military, which trains civilians to become warriors. This is his greatest handicap when he enters combat. It stays his trigger finger even though he is hardly conscious that it is a restraint upon him. The military changed the way it trained soldiers, trying to get them to shoot more reflexively.

Who is a coward and who is just being a human?

The idea was to condition out inadvertent cowardice. Rather than static geometric targets, shooters were given human-shaped targets that appeared and disappeared on the range.

Police departments and the FBI changed their training over the years, too. The idea was to make the act of pulling the trigger more automatic, to condition muscle memory. The actual science behind this physical and psychological conditioning is controversial and not well understood, yet it has come to dominate the way we train the Americans whose job it is to carry guns.

Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

Arming teachers or average citizens forces them to sign the same social contract — protect society or die trying. Should it be the duty of every teacher to shoot down an armed intruder if the situation arises?


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  • Registered in Ireland: Managing fear is one of the greatest challenges life throws at any of us. EVEN in a shrinking world like ours, with so much shared by people, there are still nooks and crannies of human experience which are profoundly alien to many of us — forms of thinking which are truly strange. Take the Buid, mountain dwellers of the Philippines, or the Semai, a tribe from the Malaysian forest regions. The Semai are largely unexpressive and unemotional, says Walsh, apart from being regarded as the most fearful people on Earth.

    Book Review: A bold examination of cowardice

    Thus George Washington, and little wonder that armies throughout history have, by definition, regarded cowardice as such a huge threat to their very existence. Walsh excels in how he is able to distinguish between cowardice, which is a liability in combat, and fear, which could be an asset to a soldier. This, strikingly, is something armies were aware of. In combat, duty confronts the reality of one's mortality. Fear of shame is weighed against fear of death. Thus, to understand the role of cowardice in a society, one must necessarily focus on the military.

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    Recognizing that men are the primary actors in war, however, one must be prepared to investigate the gendering of cowardice. Walsh introduces a Google Ngram to show a steady decline in the presence of "cowardice" and "cowardly" in English language publications between and that shows a small rise after He attributes declining interest in the issue of cowardice to the world turning away from war, alterations in the conditions of war, and the valorization of individualism, as well as the uptick to the moral challenge posed by the terrorist attacks on US soil.

    Walsh's presentation of the material follows a coherent if not analytical pattern.

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    Chapter 1 presents a historical exploration of the sustaining power of cowardice as an insult and provocation. Walsh traces how cowardice has been a motivating force in military engagement from the French and Indian wars of the British colonial period through successive campaigns in which Americans have been involved. Walsh demonstrates how criticism for being cowardly has repeatedly pushed American political leaders toward military engagement over negotiation.

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    For example, rhetoric that posed inaction as cowardly overwhelmed both Northerners and Southerners advocating for dialog and compromise on the issue of slavery and President Wilson's neutral position in An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.


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