William G. K. Elphinstone (1782-1842) commanded the British 33rd Regiment of Foot (later the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, and today incorporated in the Yorkshire Regiment), and was almost certainly the worst battalion commander in any of the armies during the campaign. His troops broke at Quatre Bras and lost their colors at Waterloo, which he afterwards tried to cover up by secretly ordering new colors; a deception that failed to retrieve the regimental honor. He went on to prove quite possibly the most inept officer ever to command an army, when, as a major general during the First Afghan War (1839-1842), he dithered on so heroic a scale that, of his 4,000 troops and 10,000 camp followers, only one man escaped death or capture.
Al Nofi, “Al Nofi’s CIC”, Strategy Page, 2015-06-18.
January 19, 2017
January 18, 2017
Colby Cosh explains why unilingual Conservative party leadership hopefuls should just plunge right into those French lessons already:
There is clamour in the press right now about the “rule” that a federal Conservative party leader ought to be able to speak in both official languages. I could probably stop this column after the following statement: It’s not a rule. It’s just a very strong precondition for electoral success. Calling it a rule implies that there is some sense in arguing about the ethicality or the practicality of the principle — that it is an idea someone has the power to revoke after discussion of its philosophical merits. It invites verbal volleying over whether Canada is essentially a bilingual country, whether it is proper to exclude qualified unilingual leaders from the Prime Minister’s Office, etc., etc.
You get the normative questions mixed up with the factual ones awfully quickly. You start discussing whether a bilingualism requirement is right or wrong, just or unjust; and political reality stands off to the side, remaining intractable, utterly insensitive to the feelings of ambitious monoglots and their media advocates.
The various Conservative parties have proven that they can, very occasionally, win elections without Quebec. But francophone Canada is just a little bigger than Quebec, and a unilingual leader would now be compromised in campaigning and sidelined in television debate. If he had promised to learn French, which seems to be the hope of Conservative leadership candidates who don’t speak it well, he would be challenged on his skills every week for the remainder of his career. Every speech would be a tiny test, its contents overlooked.
And he would be excruciatingly vulnerable to the good faith and sense of his francophone MPs. When you take all the added challenges for a unilingual party leader into account, it might be easier to go ahead and just learn the damned language already. (One thing worth remembering is that Quebec’s representation in this Conservative leadership race, and probably in future ones, is proportional to its House of Commons delegation. It may be strategically possible to win a general election as a leader without Quebec, but you do have to win the leadership first.)
It was still feasible for unilingual candidates to win the Conservative leadership (back when they were the “Progressive Conservative” party) into the 1970s, but in practical terms it was nearly impossible to win a general election without substantial support from Quebec (which would not be given to a monolingual leader). At this late stage, I read any Conservative leadership hopeful who does not speak both official languages to be angling for a “Kingmaker” or power broker role rather than expecting to actually win.
January 17, 2017
Vice Admiral Mark Norman, former head of the Royal Canadian Navy, was relieved of duty as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on Monday. Details are sketchy, but Robert Fife and Steven Chase report on the highly unusual activity for the Globe and Mail:
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was relieved of his duties as the Canadian military’s second-highest-ranking officer over alleged leaks of highly classified information, The Globe and Mail has learned.
A source said General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, ordered Mr. Norman’s removal after an investigation of “pretty high-level secret documents” that had allegedly been leaked.
The source would not provide further information on the nature of the sensitive leaks. It is unknown whether the alleged leaks were to journalists, business interests or another country.
The military is offering no explanation for this extreme measure which took place Monday morning.
Vice-Adm. Norman has served in the Forces for 36 years and was previously in charge of the Royal Canadian Navy. He commanded the Royal Canadian Navy for more than four-and-a-half years until General Vance appointed him as vice-chief in January 2016.
The use of the term “temporary” to describe Admiral Norman’s relief may indicate that further investigation is required (my speculation), but no official explanation has been provided yet.
January 11, 2017
Published on 10 Jan 2017
Luigi Cadorna was the Italian Chief of Staff when World War 1 broke out and when Italy joined the conflict a year later. He was a man of tradition and believed that most important factor of military success was the will and determination of his soldiers. During the numerous Battles of the Isonzo River, this doctrine proofed disastrous for his troops.
December 24, 2016
How to make some NATO members move in the right direction? Here’s an idea. Let me pull one of my “NATO Motivator” concepts out of my goodie-bag.
You learn quickly in NATO that one of the most critical and important things to many in the alliance is a thing called Flags-to-Post.
It is when NATO decides which nations will get which senior uniformed and senior civilian adviser billets. Trust me on this; the conflict in AFG, refugee crisis, etc – none of that stuff goes in front of anything related to Flags to Post.
If you’d like to bring attention to the “Press allies on defense spending” point, do this; the minute an Estonian General (pop. 1.3 million, percent of GDP on defense, 2.04%) take a position usually held by say, a Belgian General (pop. 11.2 million, percent of GDP on defense, 1.05%), then you will get people’s attention.
Just an idea.
CDR Salamander, “Make NATO Great Again”, CDR Salamander, 2016-11-14.
December 16, 2016
Published on 15 Dec 2016
After the humiliating defeat at Kut, the British forces in Mesopotamia have been busy building a proper supply chain up the Tigris river. Their goal is Basra and they are even dreaming of taking Baghdad. At the same time, French general Robert Nivelle, the new hero of the French army, is promoted while Joseph Joffre is no longer needed.
December 13, 2016
Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.
For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?
Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.
General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, quoted by Geoffrey Ingersoll, “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read”, Business Insider, 2013-05-13.
November 22, 2016
Published on 21 Nov 2016
On this day 100 years ago, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary died after 66 years on the thrown. He became emperor in a turbulent time and some say that only his reign held the empire together when the minorities demanded more and more independence.
October 18, 2016
Published on 17 Oct 2016
Check out http://audible.com/thegreatwar for a free trial and a free audiobook from the great selection that Audible has to offer.
This episodes contains images that are orphaned works for which the copyright holder is not known.
The Battle for Lake Tanganyika in German East Africa was one of the most bizarre battles of World War 1. It only really started once the Royal Navy had carried two boats through the jungle and the mountains from Capetown. Their names: Mimi and Toutou. Their commander: Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, probably the weirdest high ranking officer in the entire war.
October 16, 2016
Published on 15 Oct 2016
Indy is answering your questions about the First World War again. This time we talk about:
– soldiers wearing glasses
– the different industrial centres of the major nations
– generals leading from the frontline and from the rear
October 2, 2016
Published on 24 Sep 2016
James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for the Brothers Gracchi!
September 29, 2016
Published on 1 Sep 2016
After getting the Seneca to join the Great Law of Peace, Hiawatha came up with a plan to convince Tadodaho. But it took Jigonsaseh to confront him and make him become a true leader. Now united, the Five Nations created a participatory democracy rooted in the Peacemaker’s ideals, one that still lives on today.
Three nations had united under the Great Law of Peace, but the Seneca and Onondaga remained outside it. Both nations relied on war for their power – but also for their safety. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker came to the Seneca expecting an argument, but Jigonsaseh had already convinced them since she was Seneca herself. All but two of the chiefs were ready, but those two chiefs feared what would happen if other nations brought war to their borders. The Peacemaker called a council to discuss their concern, but it quickly dissolved into in-fighting and arguments. To solve it, he established a bicameral legislature where each tribe had a turn to speak. Hiawatha joined the Mohawk and helped legislate a solution, putting the Mohawk and Seneca in charge of the borders with the authority to call the tribes together in war if outsiders threatened the confederacy. The envoys also agreed to follow his plan for Tadodaho. They returned to the Onondaga nation and offered to make Tadodaho their leader, with veto powers over every law. He immediately saw the potential to grow his power, but Jigonsaseh confronted him for his greed and cruelty and convinced him to use his power responsibly. With him, the Onondaga joined the Great Law of Peace. Now Jigonsaseh sat with the women’s councils and selected the League representatives, for the women owned the council positions and chose the men who served in them. Those representatives met the Peacemaker on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where he demonstrated how a bundle of five arrows, like the five nations, could not be broken. Then he had them bury their weapons under a white pine tree guarded by an eagle. Those symbols would later be adopted by the United States, whose Founding Fathers studied the Great Law of Peace and adopted many of its principles into their own Constitution. The original Haudenosaunee League drafted laws based on the Peacemaker’s teachings, creating a government that served the will of the people. Hiawatha commemorated each of these laws with a series of wampum belts, most notably the Hiawatha Belt which symbolized the five nations coming together in peace. The government they created has lasted for centuries, making it one of the longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.
September 27, 2016
Published on 26 Sep 2016
Philippe Pétain already had a long military career when World War 1 broke out. And even during his peacetime service, his ideas were not always popular because they went against the old doctrines of the French Army. But during World War 1 he proofed his critiques wrong and became the Lion of Verdun who halted the German advance.
September 21, 2016
Published on 10 Sep 2016
Special thanks to Mike Duncan for writing this episode! Check out his History of Rome podcast: http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/
Before Tiberius and Gracchus got famous, their father led such a break-out political career that it must have seemed impossible to live up to his legacy. Yet, his success set the stage for their falls…
Tiberius Gracchus the Elder has been overshadowed by his sons, but in his lifetime he had the most successful political career imaginable. Born just as the Second Punic War came to a close, he arrived on the political stage just in time to befriend the Scipio family during the Seleucid War. He secured a route of safe passage for their soldiers which led them to catch and defeat King Antiochus. The Scipios planted themselves in the east, dealing with the spoils of war and enriching themselves in the process. Upon their return to Rome, they were charged with corruption for accepting bribes, but Tiberius Gracchus the Elder had just been elected tribune of the plebs, and he voted their trial entirely. Scipio Africanus rewarded him by giving him the hand of Cornelia, his daughter and an amazing woman in her own right. Tiberius Gracchus went on the be elected aedile, and threw such lavish public games that the Senate passed a law restricting future games. It worked for him, though: he won his next election and became a praetor assigned to nearer Spain, where he launched a fierce and successful military campaign buffered by a land redistribution effort. In that way, he solved the underlying problems of poverty among the Celtiberians and secured peace for 25 years. For his success, he received a triumph and was elected consul, two of the highest honors in Roman politics. But here he played a dangerous game. Already allied with the Scipiones, he served as consul alongside their family’s biggest rival: a Claudius. He won the game and formed a relationship that would later provide his sons with important allies. Next he went to Sardinia to protect against rebellious tribes, and again he succeeded. The Gracchi name was now honored in both Spain and Sardinia, a legacy his sons would rely upon. This won him a second triumph and a role as censor, after which he joined a traveling embassy of senators to assess Rome’s client kingdoms. Tiberius Gracchus used this opportunity to forge friendships with foreign kings, like the King of Pergamum who would one day form a key part of Tiberius’s efforts to redistribute land. Finally, he won a second consulship, but here he made the mistake of screwing over a man whose son would one day lead the assault that killed Tiberius in the forum. At the end of his days, Tiberius Gracchus the Elder wasn’t just a prominent senator, but one of the most powerful men in Rome. It was the duty of a son to surpass the fame of his father, which must have seemed impossible… but Tiberius and Gracchus, building on the legacy he left, did exactly that.
P.S. If you’ve read this far, we think it’s only fair we tell you that Mike Duncan is aware the proper Latin name for the Scipio family is “Scipiones” but he allowed us to shorten it to “Scipios” to make it easier for non-Latin speakers to understand. Cheers!
September 18, 2016
Published on 17 Sep 2016
Sitting in the Chair of Temporary Insanity, Indy talks about officers tricking their own men, the relationships between them and how criminals were treated in the first world war.