- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last summer, reading an overview of Christian wars against Muslims, I was surprised to see that one of the later Crusades was undercut by a new policy that allowed crusader knights to serve for just one year and then go back to Europe.
“The efficiency of maritime delivery of warriors and the equally efficient departure mechanism had created much coming-and-going, with crusaders serving for a year to earn the indulgence and then departing.” This had the effect of undercutting unit cohesion, writes Malcolm Lambert in God’s Armies, so that “the crusade lacked the esprit de corps which came about when warriors served and suffered together continuously, overriding national and personal rivalries.”
As Jonathan Shay argues, soldiers need a sense of a shared future, both with their comrades and their leaders.
Image credit: Karl Friedrich Lessing/Wikimedia Commons