These were his words about his opponents in the Vietnam war and sum up his attitude towards the Viet Cong militia rather succinctly. There is no middle ground for Colonel Kurtz – you go all in, or go home. Kurtz has been disillusioned by the way the Americans fight the war in Vietnam and has become convinced that the US troops were never intended to win the war; in his mind it’s all just a huge propaganda show and a way to expand the money-making military industry complex. Kurtz believes in his philosophy so much that when his superiors declare his methods “unsound” and call for his arrest, he defies the institution he has devoted his life to and flees across the border into Cambodia, where he continues to engage in guerrilla warfare – and establishes a cult of personality around himself, his loyal followers consisting of both natives and Americans who have defected. Kurtz is soft-spoken, persuasive and has an aura of mysticism around him. Unlike a typical Fe-using cult leader, however, Kurtz does not engage in public speaking. Instead he prefers to communicate eye-to-eye (Fi) and ask questions – often framed in a highly philosophical manner – so that he can get into the mind of the person he’s speaking with and perhaps convert them to his line of thinking. Kurtz is highly preoccupied with thoughts on morality in general and the nature of moral warfare in particular, and he doesn’t hesitate to express his disgust with the “wild west” attitude and tactics of the other US colonels, such as Kilgore, whom he feels is all ‘show’ and no substance. Like most Ni-doms, Kurtz holds an unwavering belief in pure will-power and believes will is enough to win any war. Even though he despises the Viet Cong, he also admits he admires their dedication, going as far as to state that if he had “ten divisions of men like that”, he could use them  to win the entire war in two weeks. Despite his use of charm and manipulation to further his goals, his motives are not Fe-related, as shown by his respect for individual sovereignty (Fi) – every man is ultimately responsible for his own decisions and only his. His use of abstract metaphors to describe people, institutions, and most importantly people’s moral shortcomings show his highly developed introverted intuition (object distortion) as well as his complicated relationship with his own inferior function (Se). Even though he devalues the use of Se in others, he is not above engaging in Se-based visceral scare tactics, such as throwing the severed head of Willard’s lieutenant in his lap to let Willard know their cover has been blown. Kurtz’s low degree of environmental awareness is also what ends up killing him; he cannot react fast enough to deflect a surprise machete attack by Willard in his sleeping tent. Kurtz is also mentioned by one of his most zealous followers to “sometimes go too far” in his acts of cruelty and carnage, but “being the first one to realize it” (Se grip). Prior to his defection, Kurtz’s indomitable will made him find victory in virtually every situation, and he refers to the military’s inability to adapt to the style of warfare that would bring victory as lack of proper motivation and discipline (Te). He is, however, more comfortable ordering an execution than carrying it out himself.

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“Out here, with these natives, it’s a temptation to be God.”

The Colonel has an excellent understanding of the dialectics of darkness and light in a man’s heart, and he’s also acutely aware of his own deficits in this area. Due to his nature as a core 6, Kurtz cannot stand seeing the institution he’s dedicated his life to fail, and equates America’s fruitless attempts to best the Viet Cong with “a snail crawling on the edge of a straight razor” – even if it survives, it gains nothing and will be worse for the wear whichever side it emerges on. Kurtz’ 6 core compels him to seek the approval of others by achieving goals that will benefit America as a nation, and he is hurt deeply by his superiors’ rejection of his efforts. His 5 wing makes him paranoid, distrustful, and broody, compelling him to retreat into a place – literally and figuratively – where he is blindly obeyed and “free from the opinion of others” – and himself.

Guest typing by Henrika.