May 21, 2019•442 words
Last Stand City
Moiraine's tale of Aemon and the last stand in Manetheren is a favorite passage of mine: the dichotomy of the current gaggle of angry farmers against her story of those same farmers' ancestors standing tall and facing the overwhelming hordes of darkness.
No one who made that journey did not know they would never return. But it was their land. It had been their fathers', and it would be their children's, and they went to pay the price of it. Not a step of ground was given up until it was soaked in blood, but at last the army of Manetheren was driven back, back to here, to this place you now call Emond's Field.
The Eye of the World, p. 112
Historically, last stands tend to fascinate. They are easily sensationalized, becoming a part of a cohesive identity to challenge the team to be greater than their predecessors. The Battle of Thermopylae, the Alamo, the Lost Battalion in the Meuse-Argonne - a comprehensive list would be exhausting to complete.
From a leader's perspective, they are an absolute last resort. It need not always be a wartime scenario, either. One of my favorite personal sayings is: "This isn't the hill to die on." Not everything is worth sacrificing it all. It's impractical, it causes more friction than it solves, and eventually causes people to go around you. Attacking a well fortified position is never advised, so it's generally easier to just go around than through.
There are times when it's worth standing your ground against the odds. Decisions involving safety of life, for example, are one of those. The success of the U.S. Navy's SUBSAFE (Submarine Safety) program is because it has chosen to not compromise on any technical, procedural or material component, system or system of systems that function to ensure a submarine makes as many surfaces as it does dives. The Challenger space shuttle tragedy, by comparison, is one of those times when even forceful people standing their ground on safety concerns were unable to change the decision. Choose your battles; and put those back that aren't the hill to die on.
Author's note: Swedish band Sabaton has an entire album dedicated to the theme of the last stand - aptly titled The Last Stand - of which two of the songs recount the WWI battle in the Meuse-Argonne. And it rocks!