In “All the Pretty Horses” there is a lot of discussion of violence being a necessary evil and that how we deal with this violence is what ends up deciding whether we live or we die. This is seen in all of John Grady Cole’s adventures throughout the book. In “The Yellow Birds” a discussion of violence somewhat similar to ATPH comes up.
Sterling is a great soldier in the book. He has a lot of accolades at a very young age and commands the group with great authority and has no problems killing whatsoever. His response to Murph’s question of “what’s it like out there” is methodical and precise, “Remember your fundamentals and you’ll be able to do what needs to be done. It’s hard at first, but it’s simple. Anyone can do it. Get a steady position and a good sight picture… and squeeze. For some people it’s tough after, but most people do it when the time comes…Just gotta dig deep, find that nasty streak.” THAT is what I think makes Sterling the successful soldier that he is. He has the nasty streak, he is the guy during battle who will curse and scream at the enemy and will have an unstoppable intensity. I would argue that someone like Sterling would be the best soldier, the one who deserves the most recognition, because he approaches violence in the best way. I would take him over a higher ranking general without a lot of field experience any day. It is a scary thought that in the army the most violent man ends up being the best leader but maybe that is what the author is trying to show us, that the maniacal man who curses the enemy and likes killing people is the one who all the soldiers will admire and that that is a very disturbing thing.