Quotulatiousness

September 14, 2017

The art of leadership and other secrets

Filed under: Humour, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Taki’s Magazine, Steve Sailer remembers the late Jerry Pournelle, including a helpful leadership tip he once shared:

I didn’t meet Jerry until 1999, but I’d known his son Alex in high school. The Pournelle family asked me to go with them to Kansas City in August 1976 to the science-fiction convention at which Heinlein, the central American sci-fi writer of the 20th century, received his lifetime achievement award. (But I had to be at college that week.)

But Jerry, one of the great Southern California Cold Warriors, had a remarkable number of careers, starting as a teenage artillery officer during the Korean War, which deafened him in one ear. (At the lunch table, he’d choose his seat carefully to position his one remaining good ear next to his guest.)

He once recalled a question from the Army Officer Candidate School test:

    Q. You are in charge of a detail of 11 men and a sergeant. There is a 25-foot flagpole lying on the sandy, brush-covered ground. You are to erect the pole. What is your first order?

The right answer is:

    A. “Sergeant, erect that flagpole.”?

In other words, if the sergeant knows how to do it, then there’s no need for you to risk your dignity as an officer and a gentleman by issuing some potentially ludicrous order about how to erect the flagpole. And if the sergeant doesn’t know either, well, he’ll probably order a corporal to do it, and so forth down the chain of command. But by the time the problem comes back up to you, it will be well established that nobody else has any more idea than you do.

He also quotes Dave Barry’s breakdown of Pournelle’s monthly columns for Byte magazine:

In 1977 Jerry paid $12,000 to have a state-of-the-art personal computer assembled for him, supposedly to boost his productivity. By 1980 that led to his long-running “Chaos Manor” column in Byte magazine in which he would document his troubles on the bleeding edge of PC technology. As fellow word-processing aficionado Dave Barry explained jealously, Jerry got paid to mess around with his computers when he should be writing:

    Every month, his column has basically the same plot, which is:

    1. Jerry tries to make some seemingly simple change to one of his computers, such as connect it to a new printer.

    2. Everything goes hideously wrong…. Sometimes there are massive power outages all over the West Coast. Poor Jerry spends days trying to get everything straightened out.

    3. Finally…Jerry gets his computer working again approximately the way it used to, and he writes several thousand words about it for ‘Byte.’

    I swear it’s virtually the same plot, month after month, and yet it’s a popular column in a magazine that appeals primarily to knowledgeable computer people.

I like to imagine Steve Jobs circulating “Chaos Manor” columns to his executives with scribbled annotations suggesting that some people would pay good money to not have to go through all this.

September 8, 2017

Grant Vs Lee Who Was The Better General?

Filed under: Books, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 17 Aug 2016

Today I break down the book: Grant And Lee: A Study In Personality And Generalship By J.F.C Fuller

Here’s a quick break down of the two personalities

Grant: common sense, logical, simple plans with incredible precise execution, the ability to bring a whole lot of moving pieces into focus, and finally the ability to think clearly under stress.
Lee: The ability to motivate his men to an incredible degree, an extremely kind man, very good at doling out troops to his commanders when in a defensive situation.

This video goes into more detail on all of this, I hope you enjoyed!

August 25, 2017

Great Northern War – I: When Sweden Ruled the World – Extra History

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

Published on 19 Aug 2017

A young boy king had inherited the crown of the Swedish Empire, and his neighbors saw an opportunity to attack. To their surprise, young Charles XII of Sweden turned out to be a fearsome opponent who quickly repelled their assaults – and then sought revenge.

July 7, 2017

Turmoil In The Reichstag – The Kerensky Offensive I THE GREAT WAR Week 154

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

Published on 6 Jul 2017

WW1 Flying Event with Indy & the Crew: http://bit.ly/TGWStowMaries

The German home front is shaken by a political scandal this week 100 years ago. A member of the Center party reveals that the German unrestricted submarine warfare is not achieving what the German high command had hoped for. Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, who pretty much run Germany as a military dictatorship by now, also dispose of chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg. Hollweg was actually secretly involved in peace negotiations but that chance is gone with him too. Russia unleashes their Kerensky Offensive on the Eastern Front and puts further pressure on the Central Powers.

June 20, 2017

Hero or Burden? – King Constantine I of Greece I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 19 Jun 2017

King Constantine I of Greece embodies the complex history of modern Greece in the early 20th century. By some he was and still is perceived as a hero who united the country. Others perceive him as a burden who only brought problems to Greece.

Why Arabs Lose Wars

Filed under: Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Jan 2015

Read from source: De Atkine, N. (1999, December 1). Why Arabs Lose Wars. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars
In the modern era of warfare, Arabic-speaking countries have been generally ineffective. Egyptian special forces fared poorly against Yemeni tribes and irregular forces. The Iraqi army has collapsed several times; The Iran Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and against the Islamic State. And the Arabs have done poorly in nearly all military confrontations with Israel. Many Middle Eastern states have not adapted to the modern battlefield.

June 15, 2017

Why is Rommel so complicated? – Erwin Rommel vs. Desert Fox

Filed under: Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 May 2017

This video takes a look at why Erwin Rommel often called the “Desert Fox” is so complicated due to the various interest groups and his complex situation in World War 2.

June 13, 2017

Top 10 Stupid Moves of World War 1 – Mid 1915/1916 I THE GREAT WAR Ranking

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 12 Jun 2017

Generals of WW1 did a lot of stupid things, so many in fact that we made a second top 10 list to appeal to your inner armchair general.

June 6, 2017

QotD: Comparing general staff “systems”

Filed under: Germany, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st there have been, largely, two staff systems:

  • The continental system ~ which is used by most European armies and also used by the American and many, many Asian armies;
  • The imperial, or British staff system which was used by the Canadian Army throughout most of the 20th century.

The two are fundamentally different.

The continental system is based on the great and impressive German General Staff system which grew up in the 19th century based on lessons learned in the Napoleonic Wars and then relearned in inter alia the Franco-Prussian Wars. The imperial system came later and reflected British thinking about what the Germans had formalized.

The best way to see the difference is to look at how the commanders and staff relate. In a French or German battalion ~ at least this was the case a few years ago ~ a company (100 to 150 soldiers) is commanded by a captain; there are only two or three officers in the company. The battalion, three, for or five companies, is commander by a lieutenant colonel, and there is a major deputy commander. The battalion staff consists of:

  • S1 – personnel officer – a captain
  • S2 – intelligence officer – a captain, sometimes a major
  • S3 – operations officer – a major
  • S4 – logistics officer – a major
  • S5 – plans officer – a captain, often a major

For the German captain, company commander, looking “up the chain,” all he sees is higher ranks and he will never be blamed for being unsure if the commanding officer or the operations officer is the real “boss.” Ditto for French and American officers whose command-staff relationships are very, very similar. One of the great strengths of the German General Staff system was it “coherence.” The staff, at every level, was part of a single, coherent whole that stretched top to bottom from Berlin to the smallest battalion in the field. It is part of what made the German General Staff so famous and so feared by enemy armies. But the British, especially in 1914-18, saw a flaw in the continental system. The soldiers and commanders in the battalions and brigades in the trenches saw the general staff as being too remote, and even comfortable ~ removed from the horrors of combat and, consequently, many felt, making poor staff decisions. The system of the staff out-ranking subordinate commanders extends all the way to the top of the US Army and most European armies. Higher rank staff officers tend to build bigger and bigger HQs, too.

The British adapted the imperial system so that is was always crystal clear that commanders, from company up, always outranked and “out-appointed” the staff. Consider a British or Canadian battalion, also with, say, five companies. Like the US or European battalion the commanding officer is a lieutenant colonel, but each company commander is a major and the staff are:

  • Adjutant (S1/personnel) – a captain
  • Intelligence officer (S2) – a lieutenant, maybe a captain
  • Operations officer (S3 and S5) – a captain, but, after about 1944 usually a major by “misemploying” the HQ Company commander
  • Quartermaster (s4) – a captain

So a British or Australian or Canadian or Indian major, company commander, looking “up the chain” saw that there was no one between him (or her) and the CO except officers of equal or lower rank. The same applied, top to bottom: Field Marshal Montgomery’s (famously able) chief of staff was a major general … but you can be 100% certain that when Major-General Sir Francis Wilfred “Freddie” de Guingand, a two star level officer, phoned General (four stars) Henry Duncan Graham “Harry” Crerar, commander of the 1st Canadian Army in 1944/45 was wakened up and took the call because Monty’s chief-of-staff only dealt with important people and important matters. Rank didn’t really matter: de Guingand didn’t need any more stars ~ his appointment and ability both spoke (loudly) for themselves.

One result was that imperial (Commonwealth) armies tended to have smaller and lower ranked HQs, top to bottom.

There is no empirical proof that the continental staff system is better than the imperial one. The German General Staff was, indeed, superb, but that didn’t help, in 1944/45 when the German divisions and regiments and battalions were being defeated in detail on the front lines. Ditto in Korea and Vietnam: large numbers of excellent staff officers and superior communications systems didn’t help (and may have hindered) when the (first French and then) American brigades and battalions were being beaten in the jungles and rice paddies. The British, too, were defeated in battle ~ Dunkirk, Hong Kong, Singapore ~ but there is no evidence that bad operational staff work was to blame.

Ted Campbell, “The foundation (2)”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-02-21.

June 4, 2017

Emperor Claudius

Filed under: History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Victor Davis Hanson outlines the career of the fourth Roman Emperor and makes an unusual comparison:

The Roman Emperor Claudius, who reigned from 41 to 54 AD, was never supposed to be emperor. He came to office at age 50, an old man in Roman times. Claudius succeeded the charismatic, youthful heartthrob Caligula — son of the beloved Germanicus and the “little boot” who turned out to be a narcissist monster before being assassinated in office.

Claudius was an unusual emperor, the first to be born outside Italy, in Roman Gaul. Under the Augustan Principate, new Caesars — who claimed direct lineage from the “divine” Augustus — were usually rubber-stamped by the toadyish Senate. However, the outsider Claudius (who had no political training and was prevented by his uncle Tiberius from entering the cursus honorum), was brought into power by the Roman Praetorian Guard, who wanted a change from the status quo apparat of the Augustan dynasty.

The Roman aristocracy — most claiming some sort of descent from Julius Caesar and his grandnephew Octavian (Caesar Augustus) — had long written Claudius off as a hopeless dolt. Claudius limped, the result of a childhood disease or genetic impairment. His mother Antonia, ashamed of his habits and appearance, called the youthful Claudius “a monster of man.” He was likely almost deaf and purportedly stuttered.

That lifelong disparagement of his appearance and mannerisms probably saved Claudius’s life in the dynastic struggles during the last years of the Emperor Augustus and the subsequent reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Caligula.

The stereotyped impression of Claudius was that of a simpleton not to be taken seriously — and so no one did. Claudius himself claimed that he feigned acting differently in part so that he would not be targeted by enemies before he assumed power, and to unnerve them afterwards.

Contemporary critics laughed at his apparent lack of eloquence and rhetorical mastery, leading some scholars to conjecture that he may have suffered from Tourette syndrome or a form of autism. The court biographer Suetonius wrote that Claudius “was now careful and shrewd, sometimes hasty and inconsiderate, occasionally silly and like a crazy man.”

Sound familiar?

May 21, 2017

The Hero Of Tannenberg – Paul von Hindenburg I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 20 May 2017

Paul von Hindenburg’s military career was already over when World War 1 broke out. He fought in legendary German battles like Königgrätz [and] Sedan and now was retired. But he returned in 1914 and became a living legend after the victory over the Russians at Tannenberg 1914. During the war he and Erich Ludendorff turned Germany in a de facto military dictatorship to steer the entire country through this total war. But Germany still lost and Hindenburg was also responsible for setting up the Dolchstoßlegende – the myth of the stab in the back of the undefeated German Army.

May 9, 2017

US Joins WW1 – Spring Offensives 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Summary Part 9

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 8 May 2017

After a rather quiet winter, the war erupts into action in 1917. Not only do the United States join the war after weeks of unrestricted submarine warfare and the uncovering of the Zimmermann Telegram. The British and French launch their own spring offensives. In the East, chaos spreads in post-revolutionary Russia and Lenin returns from exile. And in Mesopotamia the British take Baghdad.

May 7, 2017

Joffre The Imbecile – Nivelle’s Catastrophe I OUT OF THE ETHER

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

Published on 6 May 2017

It’s time to shine a light on some of the great comments we received and in the past days you guys had a lot to say about Nivelle and the French High Command in general.

March 31, 2017

QotD: Government as Superman … reality as Kryptonite

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… politics is all details. And each of those tiny little details has to be endlessly negotiated, because the system is set up precisely to frustrate a powerful guy with a big idea. You may recall your middle school social studies teacher talking about “checks and balances.” This is what that looks like. Kryptonite, if you will.

So there is no shortcut around the long days spent debating whether the tax credit should be 3.45 percent or 3.65 percent, and drafting pages of legislation that amend some obscure subclause of the immigration code to read “that” rather than “which,” and ending up with a middling, pork-riddled program that costs too much and doesn’t do anything close to what its visionary proponents promised.

Governing is not like building a building; it’s not like running a business. It’s like, well, trying to herd three branches of government in roughly the same direction. These branches are composed of thousands of people, each of whom has their own agenda, and represents millions more, each of whom has their own agenda, and will hound out of office anyone who strays too far from it. This is a wildly ponderous and inefficient way to do anything, which is why I am a libertarian; almost anything can be done better when you’re not trying to build it by a committee.

But in a representative democracy, this is what we have. There is no superhero strong enough to overcome the villain. There is actually not even a villain to defeat, only the unslayable amoeboid agglomeration of 300 million citizens’ worth of unenlightened self-interest. In the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke: “Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

Megan McArdle, “Voters Want Change. Candidates Disappoint. Repeat.”, Bloomberg View, 2015-08-21.

March 20, 2017

“We call this pope’s persistent heresy ‘Marcionism'”

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

David Warren calls out the pope for his heterodox views:

The Left mildly disguise their anti-Semitism by substituting the term “Zionists” for Jews. Our pope does it by substituting “Pharisees” and like terms, in his daily homiletic attacks from Santa Marta — aimed chiefly against Catholic doctrinal precision. Our Saviour, who could hardly have been an anti-Semite, being Jewish himself, did make actual Scribes and Pharisees the butt of parables, and was very sharp on religious hypocrisy. But this was not to the purpose of disowning their religion; rather of showing how representative characters were disowning their own.

As many popes before him were at pains to explain, to Catholics and to others, we are Jews ourselves and our religion is not a contradiction of, but a continuation from, the Truth and truths going back to Moses and before. The Ten Commandments apply to us, too; the Great Commandment that Our Lord specified was itself paraphrased from Hebrew Scripture. He does not “invent” this, He shows it to be the structural and hermeneutic core of the Torah and the Prophets. Echoes of the ancient Scripture are everywhere in our Gospels.

Christ did not come to overthrow the Law, but to fulfil it. He said as much. He came as a scourge not to those who upheld the Law in their lives and hearts, but to those who twisted it. He preached Love, in all its mystery and toughness, not Climate Change.

We call this pope’s persistent heresy “Marcionism,” after Marcion of Sinope, who came to Rome about the year 140, after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Marcion taught that the revelations of Christ and the traditions from Paul were incompatible with what he thought the legalistic, bellicose, jealous and spiteful God of the Jews and their Torah. Gnostic not Christian, he may be found in the roots of the Eastern religion of Manichaeism, which spread through the declining Roman Empire in the fourth century, and flourished in competition with Catholic Christianity for many centuries thereafter.

While I don’t have a god in this fight, isn’t it a bit … presumptuous … to denounce the leader of your own religion as a heretic?

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