The thesis of Apocalypse Now is that borrowing authority from an institution is like being stuck between a hammer and an anvil. On the one hand, you have to bring your own initiative, exercise individual judgment in pursuit of the mission, and get blamed for every failure that happens under your command. On the other hand, you have to carry out nonsensical missions to achieve contradictory strategic goals and follow arbitrary rules of engagement (written by people with no understanding or sense of responsibility) that prevent your success. This leads to the paradox that is tearing apart Colonel Kurtz’s soul.https://aeolipera.wordpress.com/2021/02/22/first-draft-of-apocalypse-now-part-3-of-3/
Imagine that you’re a colonel in the modern military and a general orders you to both win a battle and achieve a zero carbon footprint, and you’ll have an idea what that’s like. You don’t get to choose your orders or challenge them legally, it’s logically impossible to achieve both missions, you’re on the hook for the blame, and you can’t desert. There’s no way to maintain your honor in that situation. The central conceit itself is therefore pretty simple and easy to understand: it’s the desire to wield the power of institutions (particularly military power) without being beholden to them.
For example, John Ringo’s character Mike Jenkins (the Kildar) answers to no man and is king of his castle, but he’s also personal friends with the president of the United States and can basically call in a nuclear strike if he feels like it. So on the one hand, if there’s ever anything bad about America he’s not on the hook. But he also gets to flex on people and be all “Do you not know who the fuck I am? I can get on the phone and call the president on you in two seconds.”
In one of the books there’s a bunch of senators and such going to a snuff whorehouse. If Mike Jenkins were himself the president, he would have to take at least a sliver of responsibility and perhaps even do a formal apology on behalf of the US. Instead he can just sit in his bunker like Trump during the BLM riots and tweet “Man, that looks bad. Someone really should take responsibility!” (That’s not how the Kildar story goes, but his moral high ground for sitting out the fight allows him to negotiate for more money for the job of knocking down the snuffhouse.)
Now, obviously everybody wants power without accountability. It’s the perfect vice and that’s why it shows up in a pure wish fulfillment character (and an enjoyable one, I’ve read all those books three times). Owl melons are only distinct in that they get off on informal networking with insiders while retaining formal autonomy from the chain of command. In contrast with, say, snake melons, who retain real autonomy in positions of formal responsibility. Because they don’t mind backstabbing, ignoring orders, etc. They feel much greater responsibility to follow informal rules than formal ones, and what’s the actual moral difference anyway?
(Reacts on this from a certified troo owl melonhead tomorrow.)