Quotulatiousness

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?

March 15, 2017

Serbian Field Marshal Stepa Stepanovic I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

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

Published on 14 Mar 2017

Serbia’s turbulent history of the late 19th and early 20th century created some hard-boiled military leaders to the front lines of World War 1. One of these was Stepa Stepanovic – but he was not just hard boiled, he also stood with his country throughout the entire war which included the Serbian Exodus to Korfu.

March 3, 2017

Conrad Loses His Job – Nivelle’s Coup I THE GREAT WAR Week 136

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

Published on 2 Mar 2017

The new Austro-Hungarian Kaiser is not happy about his Empire’s dependence on the German ally. And he is also not happy about their own military decisions and over the winter has worked to replace key positions with his own men. The last step in that process is convincing Conrad von Hötzendorf to take a position on the Italian Front. At the same time, French Commander Robert Nivelle is trying to get control over the British Armies on the Western Front and the Zimmermann Telegram is released to the press.

February 25, 2017

Updating the junior rank structure of the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Earlier this week, Ted Campbell offered his suggestions on how to address some issues he notes in the lower ranks of the Canadian Army, based on both Canadian and allied armies’ experiences:

There was always a problem with the old (1850s to 1960s) Army rank structure: there was some need to tie rank to trade, but not as tightly, many military people believe, as […] in the Canadian Armed Forces today. Some branches (corps) used to have fairly strict rules; in the old (1960s) Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, for example, the technicians, amongst the very highest paid soldiers in the whole army, could not attend the long, difficult and expensive, advanced (3rd of 4 levels) technician course until they had passed the junior leadership course and they could not attempt the senior leadership course until they had passed the advanced technician’s course, and so on. But that system always excluded some good people. There were, and still are today, many people who can be excellent, even outstanding technicians but cannot lead or manage soldiers. The United States Army addressed this same issue by creating the “specialist” grouping which allowed soldiers to “advance” through part of the pay system ~ higher salaries for technical skills ~ but not the other ~ even higher salaries for leadership. In past years there were many different (paid) grades of specialist but now it is a “rank” equivalent to the US Army corporal for soldiers who have not yet or cannot pass the first level junior leader course. The British Royal Air Force has a similar and, in my opinion, better system …

… which recognizes both technical skill and leadership requirements.

In my opinion we should undo much of what Mr Hellyer did, while thanking him for addressing the pay problem, and restore the junior leadership positions, especially the tank and rifle section commanders, to the real, and younger, junior leaders: those in the rank of master corporal. This will restore the senior leaders to their traditional roles as “guides” and mentors to the junior leaders: both to the corporals and the lieutenants. The ranks of sergeant ~ in several “grades” and warrant officer are often, and very correctly, referred to as the backbone or even the “heart and soul” of the army. That is partly because, traditionally, they stood ever so slightly “aloof” from the rank and file. The lieutenants gave orders, advised, coached and mentored by the sergeants, to the corporals who, then, directly led the riflemen but were also mentored by the sergeants. It was, to repeat the words I used to describe the US constitution, “a fine and finely balanced system;” we upset the balance 50 years ago to solve a pay problem. We should, also, adapt the RAF’s aircraftman/technician to our own needs to allow some soldiers to advance “up” in their technical field (and be paid more) without becoming leaders (and being paid more for that, too).

To do that the Army will have to reform itself.

First, it will have to repose trust in its junior leaders; that’s something that will be hard to do, even after the Army, of absolute necessity, makes junior leader training ~ making privates into corporals and civilians into second lieutenants ~ its highest priority and the job it assigns to its very, very best senior leaders.

Second, it will have to restore the “sergeant’s mess” to its traditional pride of place in the Army by giving the sergeants and warrant officers back the senior supervisory and management duties that have, in far too many cases, migrated “upwards” until they are now done by captains and even majors. Once again, it is a trust issue and we live in a world where many of the most senior leaders are timid because they have been “burned” too often, by their own superiors, when a subordinate makes a mistake. Mistakes are part of human nature; they have to be corrected, forgiven, in most cases, and, very often, used as teaching aids.

Third, the government will need to revise the pay system so that junior leaders are paid more and, meanwhile, the gap between corporal and master corporal and sergeant is maintained.

Fourth, promotions, in the Army, at least, to corporal and to captain must not be automatic. Promotion to corporal must require that one pass a very tough junior leaders course; promotion from lieutenant to captain should be by examination.

But, doing these four things will, in my opinion, give the Army a firm foundation upon which to build and fight.

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