Quotulatiousness

September 17, 2017

American military command and control, as adopted by the Canadian military

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell explains why he feels the complex and cumbersome system used by the US Army (and derived from the US experience of raising, training, and running a vast army in WW2) is not well suited to the much smaller Canadian Army, yet has become the “way things are done” in Canada:

The problem, as I see it, with the American command and control system is that it is totally systematic. This is born, to some degree, out of the practical necessity that the US faced in the 1940s when it fielded a force of over 15 million men and women but it, systematic management, became something akin to a cult when Robert McNamara, who had been a pioneer of systems analysis in the US Army Air Corps in World War II and was recruited to be one of Henry Ford II’s Whiz Kids who would use those tools to help reshape American industry in early the post war years, became President John Kennedy’s Secretary of Defence (1961 to 1968). He reshaped the US military using systematic management as his main tool. It works for the administrative management of very, very large organizations … it, American style systematic management, may not work as well as many would hope, but it can, and did, bring order, to a very large enterprise. But it stifles individuality and initiative, which are essential for command ~ even, I have read, American unconventional forces are forced into a very conventional systematic matrix.

Systematic management requires a great deal of rote learning and adherence to doctrine. There is a “school solution’ to every problem and that is the one that second lieutenants and lieutenant generals, alike, are required to offer … there is little room for, say, a Robert Rogers, T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate or David Sterling … and, in fact, even the missions of the much discussed US Seal Team 6 seem carefully managed by check lists and risk analysis and other tool of the systems analysts. The notion, as one American special forces commander had, for example, of using local animal transport in Afghanistan in 2001, remains unpopular: systems analysis says that only the latest technology can be employed and officers who break the rules do not become generals because riding horses, rather then helicopters, is not the “school solution.” The fact that it worked didn’t really matter because it violated the process.

Why does Canada follow along, uncritically?

First: we, our military, has long had a “colonial” mindset. Until the 1950s we were, for most intents, a sub-set of the British military. It went beyond “buttons and bows” (scarlet mess jackets and the same rank badges, and so on) and included important traditions, like the regimental system, tactical doctrine and equipment. Canadian officers, especially, served, often, in the British Army, in jobs up to and including (during my service) a Canadian major general serving as commander of a British division that was “on the front line” in West Germany, and attended British training courses. In the 1970s we began to shift, more and more, to be a sub-set of the American military and many Canadian generals have served in senior (but generally powerless) “exchange” postings as deputy commanders of large American formations. They come home deeply influenced by the “American way.” The same things happen to Australian and British generals. The American aim is to have all its allies adopt its systematic approach which will make interoperability (by which the US means doing what they want their way) simpler. Exchange postings, as they are called, with other forces are never bad things, not even when the lessons we learn are the wrong ones … IF we understand what we are learning. My complaint with Canadians serving in senior “exchange” posts with the US military is that the post are less about exchanging information and ideas (learning from each other) and more about indoctrinating Canadians (and Australians and Brits) with US ideas about command and control and organization and management which, to my mind, anyway, are less than useful.

Mercenaries – War of the Pacific – Russian WW1 Remembrance I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Americas, Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 16 Sep 2017

It’s time for another episodes from the chair of wisdom, this week we talk about mercenaries in the war, the influence of the War of the Pacific and Russian WW1 war graves.

But is it full of eels? If not, feel free to visit the British Hovercraft Museum

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In their continuing series of “Geeks’ Guide to Britain”, The Register takes a trip to the former HMS Daedalus, a Fleet Air Arm seaplane training base that is now home to the Hovercraft Museum:

Did you know that the word “hovercraft” was once patented? And did you know that Great Britain is a world leader in the design and manufacture of the floaty transporters, and has been for half a century?

These and other surprising facts – including that some of the largest commercial hovercraft ever to be used in revenue service spent their lives shuttling booze cruisers back and forth across the English Channel – can be found at the Hovercraft Museum, at Lee-on-Solent in the south of England.

A century ago, what is now the site of the museum was known as HMS Daedalus and used as a Fleet Air Arm seaplane base. Back in the early days of aviation, and especially naval aviation, the station was at the forefront of naval and aviation technology alike. Seaplanes and skilled pilots were in great demand by the Royal Navy for anti-submarine patrols, and a new training base had to be set up to fill the service’s demand.

Thus came about the “temporary” Naval Seaplane Training School at Lee-on-Solent, with the new training school being based around a large local property, Westcliffe House. Slipways and hangars were duly erected, with the former leading down into the waters of the Solent itself; of the latter, one of the original J-class hangars, capable of being erected by just 15 men, survives to this day.

[…]

To truly appreciate the hovercraft, one should actually ride one of the things. This is easily done by a short journey along the coast from Lee-on-Solent to Britain’s only scheduled hovercraft service, which operates between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Operated by Hovertravel, whose sister company Griffon Hoverwork also builds the craft operated by the company, the service runs about every half an hour during the day, with more frequent services during the morning rush hour and a gradual winding-down into the evening.

Why are some people left-handed? – James May’s Q&A (Ep 39) – Head Squeeze

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 20 Sep 2013

“Once thought to be in league with the devil, left-handed people, while not especially evil, are indeed special in many ways. James May explains all in this Head Squeeze video.

In mediaeval times lefties were believed to be in league with Beelzebub himself, this gave rise to the word sinister from the Latin ‘sinistra’ meaning of the left. Later on scientists proposed that left-handed people had their brains wired differently, which turned out to be only partially true.

Most of us, between 75 to 90 percent use the left hemisphere of our brains to speak and understand language. The other hemisphere is used to control our dominant hand. Research has shown however that only 30 per cent of left-handers have reversed brain lateralisation, or indeed no dominant side at all.

Genetics play a big part in your dominant hand. If you have two left-handed parents, there is 26 per cent chance that you will be too. This is double the average odds.

There are some statistical advantages and disadvantages to being left-handed. Schizophrenia, dyslexia and ADHD are more prevalent. However susceptibility to arthritis and ulcers is less.

Left-handed people do well in sport and fighting, as the majority of people are not used to going up against such opponents. There is evidence that they are more creative too with a disproportionate amount of artists painting with their left hand.

In terms of famous left-handed people, four out of the last seven presidents have been – President Obama, Clinton, Bush senior and Ford.

However as only those who are true lefties know, the world is stacked against them. Dozens of daily household items we take for granted, from corkscrews to scissors, even books, are designed for the right-handed majority.

QotD: The great enrichment

Filed under: Books, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most fundamental problem in Piketty’s book, then, is that he misses the main act. In focusing solely on the distribution of income, he overlooks the most surprising secular event in history: the Great Enrichment of the average individual on the planet by a factor of 10 and in rich countries by a factor of 30 or more. Many humans are now stunningly better off than their ancestors were.

This includes a gigantic improvement of the poorest — your ancestors and mine. By dramatic increases in the size of the pie, the poor have been lifted to 90 or 95 percent of equal sustenance and dignity, as against the 10 or 5 percent attainable by redistribution without enlarging the pie.

What caused the Great Enrichment? It cannot be explained by the accumulation of capital, as the very name “capitalism” implies. Our riches were not made by piling brick upon brick, bachelor’s degree upon bachelor’s degree, bank balance upon bank balance, but by piling idea upon idea. The bricks, BAs, and bank balances were of course necessary. Oxygen is necessary for a fire. But it would be unenlightening to explain the Chicago Fire of 1871 by the presence of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere.

The original and sustaining causes of the modern world were indeed ethical, not material. They were the widening adoption of two new ideas: the liberal economic idea of liberty for ordinary people and the democratic social idea of dignity for them. This, in turn, released human creativity from its ancient trammels. Radically creative destruction piled up ideas, such as the railways creatively destroying walking and the stage coaches, or electricity creatively destroying kerosene lighting and the hand washing of clothes, or universities creatively destroying literary ignorance and low productivity in agriculture. The Great Enrichment requires not accumulation of capital or the exploitation of workers but what I call the Bourgeois Deal. In the historical lottery the idea of an equalizing liberty and dignity was the winning ticket, and the bourgeoisie held it.

That even over the long run there remain some poor people does not mean the system is not working for the poor, so long as their condition is continuing to improve, as it is, and so long as the percentage of the desperately poor is heading toward zero, as it is. That people still sometimes die in hospitals does not mean that medicine is to be replaced by witch doctors, so long as death rates are falling and so long as the death rate would not fall under the care of the witch doctors. It is a brave book Thomas Piketty has written. But it is mistaken.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, “How Piketty Misses the Point”, Cato Policy Report, 2015-07.

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