Not an appropriate metaphor in a free society. Image: artofmanliness.com
The allegory of the Sheepdog has been deeply ingrained in the western warrior psyche for generations. It is taught as indoctrination to military and police recruits, and is held up as a point of pride for veterans and warfighters alike. However, while it serves as a powerful expression of the warrior mentality, it is wholly inadequate for the American warrior whose oath is to a set of principles, and its oversimplified application may even explain the driving philosophy behind the emerging police state.
As war psychologist Dave Grossman explains in his popular study On Combat, this comparison was passed down to him from a Vietnam-era Colonel, likening society to a pasture. In this pasture, most people are sheep – kind, gentle, unable to hurt each other. A small subset of society are wolves – the terrorists, the sociopaths, and anyone whose instinct is to prey on the innocent.
The smallest class of all is the Sheepdog. This is the archetype for the “warrior class,” the police and military warfighters who feel a call to stand between the wolves and their prey, and to give their lives in defense of the flock. The sheep, as the allegory goes, almost invariably are offended by the sheepdog’s ways, and harbor disdain for him – until the wolves arrive, at which time they gather behind him, demanding of him protection from the hungry predators.
This allegory is so pervasive that one may hear it repeated in every tactical community from special operations, to everyday grunts, from SWAT officers to regular beat cops. Its nearly universal popularity provides a rare look into how our warrior class see themselves: as protectors, outcasts to an extent, and as a family unto themselves.
The Sheepdog image is a common source of pride across military and police communities. Image: RangerUp.com
Any veteran can attest to the kinship between service members who share a common discipline, similar formative experiences, and the enduring sense of being “of a different breed.” It’s also somewhat comforting for a soldier in war or policeman on patrol to simplify society into classes of sheep, wolves and sheepdogs, because it makes the hard moral choices inherent to the profession of arms feel much less gray.
But however noble the intentions of those who embrace the role of Sheepdog, the allegory is flawed. It is medieval in its reasoning and condescending in tone, leading to the development of a warrior no free society should ever need or tolerate. The Sheepdog is anathema to the ideal of the Citizen Soldier that Americans have held dear since the days of our founding and, one may argue, represents the core mentality leading our modern military and law enforcement personnel to feel justified in acts that violate their sacred Oath.
For this reason, a few additions to the sheepdog allegory deserve to be admitted. For a keeper of the Oath to the Constitution, these revelations should lead to the rejection of the Sheepdog analogy in favor of one in which the warrior is not separate from the flock, but of it. One in which the people they serve are not helpless sheep, but free citizens with dignity and sovereignty of their own.
First, every Sheepdog works for a Man.
The allegory completely ignores the fact that both the Sheep and the Dog belong to a Shepherd. The Shepherd is in a class unto himself, his rule beyond question. He takes from the sheep according to his will, while providing them the illusion of freedom within certain limits as he sees fit. His badge of office, the shepherd’s crook, is a device designed to hook errant Sheep by the neck and force them back into line.
This inconvenient revelation suggests a society not at all based on classical liberal values as the founders intended. The pasture is not the way of the American Experiment, but rather a more ancient model based on feudal values. In medieval times, the feudal lord whose rule was absolute, was like unto the shepherd, his subjects the gentle sheep whom he could tax, molest or kill with impunity. Thus the Sheepdogs, his knights, were both defenders of the territory and enforcers of the lord’s will. There was no room for liberty under the feudal order.
In a free society, by contrast, the sheep would have a voice of their own. They would feel free to wander without fearing the crook, or the menacing presence of Wolves. Free sheep would grow horns and bad attitudes, and would feel free to govern themselves without the aid of the Sheepdog.
We must eventually admit that our own governmental structure has regressed toward feudalism, and in more ways than we may care to admit. Elections are of little consequence, we are forced to pay for services we neither need nor want, and the will of the people today is more engineered from the top through programming than grown from the base through reason. We live under the rule of distant leaders who govern under the direction of their largest donors, while we distract ourselves with gratuitous feasting, entertainment and sex. Is it any wonder that we have come to resemble the Sheep, in need of Sheepdogs to protect and defend us?
Second, there’s more than “a little” Wolf in every Sheepdog.
A sheepdog is the product of generations of selective breeding, the beneficiary of a lifetime of dedicated training, and the fortunate pick of the litter. A Wolf, by comparison, requires no training. He is untouched, in his natural element as he was created.
It’s said that the wolf and the sheepdog share certain qualities, and thus there is a little wolf in every sheepdog. But owing his breeding, his training, and the entirety of his legitimacy to the Man, the Sheepdog is at best a refined and better-trained wolf. Without the man to feed and reward him, the sheepdog absolutely reverts to his deeper instinct, which is to hunt with the pack, and take from the sheep himself.
To be a sheepdog is to merely be a reeducated wolf. Image: 21stcenturywire.com
It would do an American warrior well to remember that the Sheepdog’s instinct to kill without remorse in defense of his flock comes from the same dire hunger with which the Wolf attacks his prey. The true American warrior should have nothing in common with the Wolf. If he does, we can imagine how easily he may become an oath-breaker.
Third, the Sheep are far from helpless.
To compare free citizens, Americans in particular, to sheep, is a thinly-veiled insult. On its own, this comparison reveals a feudal contempt for the common rabble. It is an affront especially to our Second Amendment, which specifies that citizens have a Right to bear arms for Militia action.
Imagine a flock of sheep with horns and hard heads, and a temperament as dire as the Wolf’s. That would be as strange and unique flock in the world as Americans once were. Would there be any need then for a Sheepdog to protect such creatures? Would they tolerate a Shepherd to rule distantly and absolutely over them, or to place boundaries around their territory?
The American Warrior is of the flock, and the flock is its own guardian. Image: biostim.com.au
Warriors are Citizens first – which is to say Militia first – and step forward from the body of the Militia to serve in the profession of arms. They are most certainly not reformed Wolves who are born in a class unto their own and trained until they can pretend to be something else in the sight of their masters. Thus, the American warrior does not hold himself separate from the flock – the American warrior is of the flock, and proudly so.
As Oath keepers in name and deed, Americans should reject the medieval thinking behind the Sheepdog. Instead of trying to expand it, repair it, make it impossibly complex to reflect the complexities of our moral dilemmas, it would be better to abandon the allegory altogether – for a society worth defending would never resemble a pasture, and its warriors would never forget who and what they are.
Instead, let us return to an older, more respectable image: the Citizen Soldier. The warrior who carries not only his instinct, but his conscience, into battle. This is the one who steps forward not out of fear or ambition, but out of love. The Citizen Soldier is the one who threw off the yoke of British rule, the one who jumped first into Normandy, the one who holds his fellow police officers accountable, and the one who stands down in the face of orders that violate his fellow citizens’ rights. And when his duty is done, he is the one who goes back into the flock with a clear conscience.
Anthony James Kidwell is an Army veteran, an "import" Texan and a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, born and raised in the liberty movement. He currently serves as a support element officer for Comanche Company, Central Texas Militia. He is also an Oath Keeper and an activist for Texas gun rights via Come and Take It Texas.
Anthony holds a Bachelor of Science in English and Education, and a Master of Science in Professional Writing from Towson University, Maryland, yet somehow has withstood the brainwashing of the Marxist university system - an impressive accomplishment on its own if he don't say so himself, (which he does).
sheepdogs are the herdmasters of the SHEPHERDS . . . . wolves simply exist. Terrorists are sheep, or sheepdogs gone bad, rabid . . . they are part of society and struggle to chew their way through or out . . . yet none of them would exist without SOCIETY. Cops are SOLDIERS, The majority of Soldiers are SOLDIERS, trained to follow orders and directives with very little room for opinion, perspective or morality. Compare your definitions, then grow the hell up and answer truthfully.
The sheep we talk about when we discuss this allegory would never grow horns or fight back. They rely on “herd immunity” for protection. They don’t want to exert themselves by learning self defense or taking on that responsibility. They think that as long as they can outrun an older, weaker sheep, or one burdened by children, they don’t have worry. What else but herd animals would you call those that advocate urination by women as an act of self defense or that women who are raped should just “get over it” because a gun is too dangerous for them to learn to use to defend themselves?
Good article, but somewhat irrelevant. From the perspective offered, it makes sense. But that is not the full perspective. Sheepdogs are not just those protecting the sheep in an official capacity, like LEO’s or military. There are plenty of us normal civilians (albeit oftentimes former LEO or military like myself) who are sheepdogs. Being a sheepdog is nothing more than a mindset, made possible by training and acceptance of personal responsibility. In my definition (which is wholly informed by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman) your idea of the citizen-soldier IS the current sheepdog. The thing that is different is the environment. Today, most citizens are sheep. And yes, it is a thinly-veiled insult to name them as such, but nonetheless true. If the country were filled with your citizen-soldiers rather than sheep, we wouldn’t be having this discussion and there would be no such thing as sheepdogs. Sheepdogs are a necessary stopgap in a world filled with weak sheep and strong wolves. Sheepdogs are citizen-soldiers. Sheepdogs are nothing more than a person who has decided to take responsibility for himself, control his AO, and look out for those who cannot or will not do the same for themselves.
I am wrestling with this very topic from a Christian theological view point in response to the rampant genocide at the hands of Radical Islam in many parts of the World. I understand the author’s perspective based on how he has framed it, i.e. the American experience and I think I agree with this last reply to that expression of the subject. Mine frame is theological in its nature. What responsibility do Christian men have to use force to protect the innocent against the wicked, when the “Civil Magistrate”, who has been given this function officially by God (Romans 13) is absent, abdicates, or worst yet becomes the predator? The Church is characterized as God’s Flock, full of Sheep and Christ being the Man, i.e. the Shepard. This led me just recently to the the concept of the Sheep Dog. Christ clearly requires his followers to become significantly like Sheep. It is hard to become a Sheep and at the same time be worried about protecting yourself from wolves. He provides under-shepherds to protect his Sheep spiritually from false teachers and the Civil Magistrate to do the same from physical predators. To me, the “Civil Magistrate” represents the equivalent of the Sheep Dog and yes, the police and military of the “Civil Magistrate” are those trained specifically for this role. Yet, to build and protect societies where life can flourish is hard wired into the “Males” of Mankind as that aspect of God’s Warrior Image Ex 15;3. What do Christian men do when there is no Civil Magistrate or they go rogue like what is happening in America? They form militias is the best answer I have to date. I some instances, even a civil war is justified to change the Civil Magistrate. Under no circumstances does the Church, as the Church bear the sword. Christian men, as men, fulfilling the Warrior Image of God they have as a vocational call of the created order, just as sure as women have a vocation of the created to bear and nurture new life, can bear the sword as part of the Civil Magistrate or a temporary substitution for it until a new, legitimate one is formed. To me, this is what is happening in Africa and the Middle East, as various ethnic groups, Christian or otherwise form militias to defend their people against Radical Islam. If the current Civil Magistrates do not regain a legitimate stance to provide that protection, then these militia will ultimately become the new Civil Magistrates. Still, the role of the Sheep Dog, if there is a legitimate transitional role for them as far as the Christian Man is concerned is a new and exploratory realm for me.
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