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Inter-fraternity relations are politics and diplomacy in their simplest form. When you think about it, the way different houses act towards each other are, for better or worse, a microcosm of international relations. Each chapter is sort of like its own country. IFC is kind of like the United Nations. There can be alliances, rivalries, and of course, there can be war.
As Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote in his famous work On War, “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” This statement by one of the greatest military minds in history applies not only to warfare in the literal sense, but to inter-fraternity warfare as well. See, sometimes you just can’t sort out the differences between your house and the assholes next door through diplomacy and compromise. Instead, you must resort to force. Now, I’m not here advocating the use of aggression to solve your chapter’s problems, but if it comes down to it, if you want to win, you need to know what you’re doing.
I don’t know what it is about fraternity men, but we seem to do to fairly well in the military. George Marshall and George Patton, two of my personal heroes, were both brothers of the Kappa Alpha Order. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell is a Delta Tau Delta. We’re natural leaders, we’re team players, and we always play to win. Period. While this means the men of your chapter can be counted on in your struggle against your enemies, just remember that the other guys probably possess some of the same qualities you do. You’re going to need an edge. That’s what I’m here to give you.
The United States military uses nine principles of war to plan and conduct its operations, and if it works for them, I’m willing to bet they’ll work for you. When applied to inter-fraternity warfare, these principles have the possibility to change the tide of battle. This is some serious shit, guys.
First and foremost, you need to have an objective, which just so happens to be the first principle of war. Simply put, you need a goal to work towards. Without a well defined objective, you can’t even begin to combat your enemies. In 1962, in preparation for the Battle of Faber, the Deltas knew that the “situation absolutely require[d] a really futile and stupid gesture.” They chose their gesture, the launching of an attack during the Homecoming Parade, with the goal of causing maximum disruption and destruction of enemy (the Omegas) forces. They were specific about their goal, and from there they were able to further develop their plan.
Next, the principle of offensive is necessary. One of the key leaders of the Deltas, Bluto, knew that “all [that] lyin’ around shit,” wasn’t helping their cause. He knew that initiative is key to victory. You have to fight the enemy on your terms. You don’t wait for him to make the first move. If your enemy is on the defensive, they have to worry about anticipating your next move, rather than making their own.
Mass, the synchronization of the forces and resources available at your disposal, goes hand-in-hand with offensive. You need your effort to be utilized decisively. Hit the enemy at the right place, the right time, and with the right amount of force. Synchronization is key, and at the Battle of Faber, the Deltas massed their forces brilliantly. Rather than just launching a disorganized attack, which would have led to disorder, and subsequently, defeat, the Deltas chose to hit the enemy in key places. They diverted the marching band, they destroyed several floats, knocked over the grandstand, and kept the Omegas quick reaction force, led by Douglas C. Neidermeyer, from being able to stop anything with the quick use of marbles to knock them off their feet. All this was done within the span of several minutes. The enemy didn’t’ have enough time to think, let alone react.
While things like objective and offensive always come to mind when planning any operation, it’s equally important to remember and take into consideration the next principle of war: economy of force. No resource should be just sitting there. Everyone and everything should have a purpose. Even the pledges. The Deltas took this into consideration, as should you. Every member of the chapter was involved. Even Stork had a key role, and “people thought he was brain dead.” Utilize everyone you have. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
Next is my personal favorite of the principles of war: maneuver. Freedom of movement is key. You and your men need to be able to move about the battlefield in order to successfully conduct your operations. It’s not only placing your forces in the most advantageous position, but it’s canalizing your enemy so that they’re forced into a disadvantageous position. The Deltas did this by launching their attack when the Omegas, Dean Wormer, and their other adversaries were bottle-necked by the narrow streets of Faber. They had nowhere to run, and the Deltas showed no mercy.
The next principle of war is one that we often disregard in the heat of inter-fraternity battle. Unity of command is vital to your success. You need to know who’s in charge, and who’s subordinate to him, and who’s subordinate to him all the way on down the line. All your forces need to be working towards one common goal under one common leader. Be he the President, the Risk Manager, or the drunk fifth-year holding a golf club like Patton held a riding crop, it’s important that someone be in charge. You can’t allow yourself to fall victim to the classic “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” problem. The Deltas had one common leader: Eric “Otter” Stratton. Under his command, they fought to victory. Use his leadership as an example, and you too may find success.
While you should always be on the offensive, you can’t forget security. You cannot allow the enemy to gain any advantages. In an inter-fraternity war, this is key. Late night “black ops” are the name of the game here, guys. As I’m sure you all know, your enemy is waiting until you’re all either passed out or with female company to strike. Don’t give them that opportunity. You have pledges. If they aren’t conducting roving patrols, setting up observation posts, and pulling security, not only are you setting yourself up for failure, but you’re putting pledges to waste, which I’m pretty sure is a sin.
Now, I know I said maneuver is my favorite of the nine principles, but honestly, it may be tied with surprise. If you ask me, surprise is the most important of the principles when it comes to inter-fraternity warfare. If you hit the enemy when he least expects it, your chances for victory increase tenfold. If your enemy is having a mixer with the hottest sorority on campus at a bar downtown, that’s the perfect time to strike. They’re house will be poorly defended, if it’s defended at all. You can conduct your raid, get your objective (composites, letters, etc.), and get out, without even being noticed. Don’t believe me? Surprise worked for the Deltas. The disguised the “Deathmobile” as a cake float in the homecoming parade. Nobody saw that shit coming. Nobody.
Finally, there’s simplicity. A plan doesn’t have to be complicated for it to work. In fact, the less complex it is, the better. Remember, no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy. You don’t need to be SEAL Team Six to get the job done. Honestly, you probably just need to be a couple beers deep. Did the Deltas have a complicated plan? Hell no. They had an objective and they accomplished it by the simplest means possible — they fucked shit up.
Those nine principles should guide you the next time your rival chapter takes shit too far. Remember, war should be the last resort, but if the enemy chooses to fight, unconditional victory is the only option. We’re fraternity men. It’s just what we do.