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Who Am I? Why Am I Here? The Stockdale Paradox (Another short history lesson)

Remember what a fool they made of Admiral Stockdale in the VP debates?


Did anyone ever bother to find out, who he was? Again, a short history lesson, courtesy Wikipedia:

Flying from USS Oriskany on a mission over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, Stockdale ejected from his Douglas A-4E Skyhawk, which had been struck by enemy fire and completely disabled. He parachuted into a small village, where he was severely beaten and taken prisoner.

Stockdale was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven and one-half years. As the senior Naval officer, he was one of the primary organizers of prisoner resistance. Tortured routinely and denied medical attention for the severely damaged leg he suffered during capture, Stockdale created and enforced a code of conduct for all prisoners which governed torture, secret communications, and behavior. In the summer of 1969, he was locked in leg irons in a bath stall and routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. When Stockdale was discovered with information that could implicate his friends' "black activities", he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession.

. . .

In a business book by James C. Collins called Good to Great, Collins writes about a conversation he had with Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp.

I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

When Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

Stockdale then added:

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Witnessing this philosophy of duality, Collins went on to describe it as the Stockdale Paradox

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Seems odd ...

... that he calls it a paradox.

There is nothing paradoxical at all about surviving the problems of today while maintaining hope for the future. One MUST survive the problems of today if there is to be any hope for the future.

That's the definition of hope.

hope is a paradox

Noting that it was Collins [not Stockdale] that referred to it as a paradox, it becomes more clear to what such reference refers. It's not so much the need to simultaneously bear and keep separate two elemental notions of preservation, as I don't believe Stockdale [or perhaps anyone] could or would have seen that by itself as a paradox. Stockdale's wisdom though, placed in the context [as seen by Collins] of Stockdale's having said that the optimists perished but not he, provides the paradox [however momentary] that Stockdale considered himself not an optimist.

Hope is nothing,
momentarily beneficial,
but fully embraced is death...

Viktor Frankl came to the same conclusion...

in 'Man's Search For Meaning'

Prisoner's who set their hopes on being released by a certain date would give up and die soon after the date passed.

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This is a very important

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

Love that quote! It's a great definition of sanity.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

Stockdale's code

Stockdale wound up in Hoa Lo Prison - the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" -- where he spent the next seven years under unimaginably brutal conditions. He was physically tortured no fewer than 15 times. Techniques included beatings, whippings, and near-asphyxiation with ropes. Mental torture was incessant. He was kept in solitary confinement, in total darkness, for four years, chained in heavy, abrasive leg irons for two years, malnourished due to a starvation diet, denied medical care, and deprived of letters from home in violation of the Geneva Convention.

Through it all, Stockdale's captors held out the promise of better treatment if he would only admit that the United States was engaging in criminal behavior against the Vietnamese people, but Stockdale refused. Drawing strength from principles of stoic philosophy, Stockdale heroically resisted. His courage was an inspiration to his fellow POWs, with whom he communicated in an ingenious code, maintaining unit cohesion and morale. His jailers increased the level of torture, so Stockdale determined to fight back in the only way he could.


Because they were never allowed to ever speak to each other, Stockdale developed a unique code that was communicated by tapping, sweeping floors, blinking eyelids, flashing light through holes, banging pans together while washing and Etc. As ranking officer he used this code to maintain communication and sanity. I read his book "In Love and War" years ago and it really is worth reading. By the way McCain learned this code and still blinks this code out as he speaks.

Stockman was quite a man, Thank you Michael.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

The irony of this is that

the US WAS engaging in criminal behavior against the Vietnamese people. So basically he got tortured because he refused to condemn the evils of the US government.

I am not taking anything away from his heroic ordeals: the man has a heart of fire and a will of steel. I know that he didn't do it to defend the honor of the US, but to be defiant. When they take away everything, defiance is all you have. Defiance fuels the will to live. I admire this guy.

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.” — Albert Camus

Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou for this!

I've seen this over and over in survivors' stories--accepting your lot and building your life around it keeps you sane and ultimately helps you to overcome. The principle is the same even in our everyday life.

Christians should not be warmongers! http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance87.html

A True Warrior

He was the real James Bond, that much is certain.

Council on Foreign Relations: Korea War & Vietnam UN resolutions


Council on Foreign Relations writings instigating the Korea & Veitnam UN resolutions. Published on May 11, 2012. 10 minute presentation. Features words of Admiral James Forrestal (@ 2 minutes) & Admiral Jame Stockdale (@ 3:30 minutes).

This documentary presentation about the nefarious Council on Foreign Relations (CFF ~ part 3} reports on articles from its magazine "Foreign Affairs". The James Forrestal mystery (2 minute mark). Vietnam conflict, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Admiral Jim Stockdale's book (2:44 minute mark). Edith Kermit Roosevelt comments. Colin Powell comments to the United Nations on the Iraq conflict.

Ask yourself, what was reolved?

Disclaimer: Mark Twain (1835-1910-To be continued) is unlicensed. His river pilot's license went delinquent in 1862. Caution advised. Daily Paul

I don't know what took me so

I don't know what took me so long to click on this thread but I'm glad I finally did.
Another real hero who tells it like it is and gets marginalized by the sheeple masses because they basically know s-h-i-t.


Reality is tough, too many prefer comfort over principle.

Just finished 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins

Wonderful book. This is a must read for anyone looking to self improve or transform their business from good to great.

A few standout chapters are First Who then What, The Hedgehog Concept, and A Culture of Discipline.

Libertarian Principles abound in this book and it is refreshing to see that sticking by your Core Values, forever, is the key to becoming and staying 'great'.

This is where the D's and R's failed and where the Libertarians will prove to succeed.

I knew I knew Stockdale outside of the reference

I voted for him to be Vice-President on Ross Perot's ticket back in 1992.

aye capt

An admirable, courageous and honorable countryman. Of course they would turn him into a 'crazy tin hat' loon. The alternative would be the stupid lazy dumbshit Americans might actually listen to him

Nice post and please keep 'em coming. Learned a lot and am greatful for the wisdom

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Michael Nystrom's picture

Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality,

whatever they might be.


Ah, maybe later.

He's the man.

This guy had faith in a future he might have never seen.

Sort of kokeshish in his way...

or cudnoskish?

(just to drop a name or two)

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Demitri Martin much lately?


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Michael Nystrom's picture



He's the man.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

I prefer to start in the middle but that's just me.


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