It’s one of my favorite lines, and I wish I could lay claim to it, but I cannot. It is heavily paraphrased from the famous novel “Anna Karenina”, by writer Leo Tolstoy, and originally referred to family life. The original quote can vary by translation, but most widely it is translated as:
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.
Young Private Alvarez is looking for wisdom from Joe Rock; and Joe doesn’t know what to say. He has wisdom and insight compared to Alvarez, but he also realizes that the complexion of the war has changed and all his past knowledge may not be completely applicable. He wants to be truthful… but he also wants to reassure as best he can. A fine line to walk.
Everyone in a position of responsibility has to find their own way to lead and interact with juniors, a way to motivate them and project an aura of confidence. Sometimes, a cryptic or philosophical-sounding comment can create an image of wisdom that builds trust, even if inside you’re flailing for answers yourself. Because even as you lack clarity, the best thing you can do is give the junior troops the feeling that they can sleep at night ’cause their leaders have the situation at hand.