Quotulatiousness

February 5, 2016

Military discipline

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

Retired Colonel Ted Campbell has some thoughts on the Canadian military:

Nothing in what follows is, in any way at all, intended to minimize the importance of quantities ~ quantities of people, quantities of dollars and quantities of ships, tanks and aircraft ~ but it is intended to stress that there IS a qualitative measure to national defence: how much must, always, be balanced with how well. Indeed, sometimes, “not really well” can be offset by “lots of men (and women), money and materiel” and, equally, often “not enough people or equipment” can be offset by “able to get 100% out of every person and every bullet.”

For many years I have preached that we, Canadian sailors, soldiers and air force personnel need to be four things ~ we need to have four attributes ~ and we need to be those four things in a specific order. We They, now, need to be:

  1. Tough;
  2. Superbly disciplined;
  3. Very well trained; and
  4. Adequately equipped.

Now, a few years ago some friends suggested, and I agreed, that I needed to “bookend” those four things with two more; they also need to be:

  • Well led; and
  • Properly organized

I agreed and revised my list accordingly […]

And on the differences between a “typical” military organization and a properly disciplined one:

Discipline starts on the parade square, and Canadian military men and women take a back seat to no-one when it comes to pomp and circumstance, but “real” military discipline is self discipline and it comes from doing what needs to be done when one is near exhaustion, in the dark, in the cold, and when no one is looking … I remember, some years decades ago, when I was a junior officer, I was escorting a foreign visitor into our unit. As we drove in the main gate a trumpet call sounded over the loudspeakers; “what’s that?” our guest asked. “The lunch signal,” I replied, “we’re just in time for lunch.” As we drove past the transport lines we both observed many soldiers washing vehicles, loading stores, repairing armoured personnel carriers and so on … “why aren’t they breaking for lunch?” our guest asked. “They’re not finished yet,” I answered, “they’ll be off for their lunch as soon as they’re done their work.” “In our army,” he said, “they would have just dropped their tools and run for the lunch line.” “Oh, ” I responded, “not here. This is our army and these fellows know what has to be done and they’ll do it without being told or watched.” We were, in fact, discussing the fundamental difference between a very large, very well equipped and very average army, on the one hand, and a small, adequately equipped but very well disciplined Canadian army on the other. Discipline certainly starts with sergeants bellowing orders on the parade square, but in a good army it is exemplified by individual soldiers doing the hardest jobs, in the worst of circumstances, alone and without supervision. It doesn’t really matter if the task is “square bashing,” a lonely, dangerous, standing patrol at night, or the loneliness, even in a crowd, of command at sea; whatever the task, a tough, superbly disciplined Canadian sailor, soldier or aviator can do it, and do it right, the first time.

January 13, 2016

One Of the Capable Generals of WW1 – Arthur Currie I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

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

Published on 11 Jan 2016

Arthur Currie is one of the few universally acclaimed generals of World War 1. His refusal to send is troops into battle as canon fodder and his detailed planning and training made the Canadian Corps a force to be reckoned with on the Western Front. Find out all about the man who was only serving in the militia before the war.

December 16, 2015

The First Soldier of Belgium – King Albert I I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

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

Published on 14 Dec 2015

King Albert I of Belgium was not by any means a regular monarch. It was already unlikely that he became King in the first place and when he did, he tried everything he could to distance himself from King Leopold II who had reigned before him. After the outbreak of World War 1 he tried everything he could to keep up the morale on the Yser Front, the last part of Belgium not occupied by the Germans.

December 15, 2015

Hannibal Barca’s tactical triumph and strategic failure

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

William Brooke Stallsmith explains how Hannibal’s amazing string of battlefield successes still ended up meaning little in the larger war between Rome and Carthage:

Hannibal Barca of Carthage was one of history’s most remarkable commanders. In 218 BCE, at the start of the Second Punic War, he led an army of Carthaginian regulars, barbarian allies, and mercenaries — not to mention a few elephants — over the Alps into Italy and over the next few years nearly brought Rome to its knees. Hannibal scored a series of victories, which climaxed at the Battle of Cannae in August 216 BCE, where his 50,000 soldiers enveloped and destroyed nearly twice as many Roman legionnaires, including both consuls of the Roman Republic.

After Cannae, Hannibal controlled nearly all of Italy. Roman military forces on the peninsula were in tatters, and the republic was on the verge of panic. But this great triumph — still studied today as the model for a battle of complete annihilation of the enemy — turned out to be a strategic dead-end. Its aftermath was 15 more years of war and a harsh Roman-dictated settlement that ended centuries of Carthaginian power in the Western Mediterranean.

I think the reasons for Hannibal’s ultimate defeat lay not so much in any failings on his part as in the resilience and flexibility of the Roman Republic. Resilience was built into the nature of the state and the character of its citizens. This fundamental trait made it possible for Rome’s Senate and other institutions to shake off their initial panic and adapt to the new situation created by Cannae. They mobilized the Republic’s manpower and other resources with a ruthless efficiency would have made Albert Speer blink. While new legions were being formed and trained, Roman command in Italy went to a septuagenarian ex-consul, Quintus Fabius Maximus. He refused to engage his limited forces in pitched battle against Hannibal and focused instead on pinprick harassment and the disruption of Carthaginian supply lines.

When the Romans had regained strength and confidence, new adaptations were made. Roman institutions harnessed the energy and lust for glory of an aggressive young commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Scipio led an offensive into the Carthaginian heartland in North Africa and inflicted the final defeats on Hannibal’s army that ended the war on Roman terms.

November 30, 2015

Why Don’t You Use Modern Names For Cities? Who Was A Capable Commander in WW1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

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

Published on 28 Nov 2015

Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again and this time answers two questions that you were asking a lot. He explains his policy for naming places in a historical context and if there were any good commanders actually.

November 29, 2015

President Nero

Filed under: History, Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Last month, David Warren wrote about the Emperor Nero as if he were a modern American president:

While Rome burned, it is said, the Emperor Nero golfed, partied, and selfied. This, anyway, is my updated account. In an earlier version, he played his fiddle. The fire, which broke out in the evening of 18th July, 64 anno Domini (or 817, ab urbe condita), continued for a week, levelling ten of pagan Rome’s fourteen districts, and leaving at least half a million homeless. I gather it started in the merchant quarter, where fires usually started, back then. There were lots of merchants; there were lots of warehouse fires. And this despite numerous municipal regulations.

Read your Tacitus, however, and you will see that this rumour has been corrected. In fact, Nero rushed back to Rome from his palace at Antium (just outside the Beltway), took charge of the fire-fighting operation from the first night, opened public buildings and his own gardens to shelter the dispossessed, and made immediate arrangements to import huge quantities of grain into the city, for distribution free or at nominal cost. Criticisms of his Department of Homeland Security were feverish and unfair.

There is another problem with this rumour. The violin was not invented for another fifteen hundred years. Those still circulating the story should say he was playing on his cythera, instead. Nero was an enthusiastic and accomplished amateur musician; perhaps some people resented it. He was a man of culture; an Ivy League guy. But he was also an accomplished politician, and nobody’s fool.

Rumours that he set this fire himself are about as likely as rumours that George Bush started Hurricane Katrina. It would not have been in the chief executive’s interest to do so, in either case. For Nero was already sinking in the polls — curiously not because he’d ascended to office by having his mother kill his uncle, then killing his mother in turn; or many similar instances of hardball. Politics was politics then as now; success is to the ruthless. No, Nero was unpopular thanks to his growing reputation for ineffectuality. His failure to stop the fire hurt him in the same way as Bush’s failure to stop the hurricane.

After consulting with a few focus groups, Nero decided upon a scapegoat. He chose the Christians. He accused them of complicity in setting the fire, and his subsequent persecution of them — which included the martyrdoms of Saint Peter and Saint Paul — probably improved his popularity rating, at least slightly. From what I can make out, the early Christians were not well liked. People thought they were spooky and weird.

November 25, 2015

The delaying tactics of Fabius Cunctatus

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

James Holmes suggests a few lessons modern tacticians can learn from the great Roman general, Quintus Fabius Maximus:

Quintus Fabius would nod knowingly at seeing the world turned upside down. Celebrated as Fabius Cunctatus (“the Delayer”), the Roman dictator lent his name to strategies whereby commanders deploy strategically defensive yet tactically offensive methods to forestall a decisive battle — all while marshaling manpower, implements of war, and other resources to right the military imbalance.

Skillfully prosecuted, a Fabian strategy proffers an opportunity to defeat a superior foe in a conventional trial of arms. And indeed, Fabius’s feats of arms earned him the nickname “Maximus” among Romans — signifying rock-star status. Historians of classical antiquity ranging from Polybius to Plutarch to Machiavelli considered him an icon of patient, guileful martial statecraft.

Polybius retells Fabius’s tale expertly. After trekking over the Alps, the Carthaginian warlord Hannibal’s army had rampaged throughout Italy, compiling a virtually unbroken record of battlefield victory. In particular, his triumph over the Roman legions at Cannae won enduring fame in Western military circles. Two millennia later General Dwight Eisenhower recalled in his memoir Crusade in Europe, “Every ground commander seeks the battle of annihilation,” maintained Eisenhower; “he tries to duplicate in modern war the classic example of Cannae.”

Granted emergency powers, Fabius assumed personal command of the legions and encamped near the Carthaginian host at Aecae. Upon learning that the Roman army was nearby, Hannibal resolved to “terrify the enemy by promptly attacking.” The Roman riposte? Nothing. No one responded to the Carthaginians’ approach. They trudged back to camp. Having acknowledged his army’s “manifest inferiority,” Fabius “made up his mind to incur no danger and not to risk a battle.”

He was ornery that way. Better to live to fight another day, and on more favorable terms. Why rush in and risk fresh disaster? Rome was fighting on home turf. Its armies were beneficiaries of an “inexhaustible supply of provisions and of men.” Fabius only needed time to tap that potential, transforming latent into kinetic military power.

November 16, 2015

“Skunk Works” founder Kelly Johnson’s Rules Of Management

Filed under: Business, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tyler Rogoway recounts the set of formal and informal rules Kelly Johnson used while running the famous “Skunk Works”:

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson is the Babe Ruth of aerospace design. Aircraft programs under Johnson were so cutting edge and historically influential, and his cult of personality and management strategy so effective, that he and Lockheed’s Skunk Works (which he also founded) are forever enshrined in mankind’s technological hall of fame.

[…]

Kelly’s Rules

1. The Skunk Works manager must be delegated near complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.

2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.

3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).

4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.

5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.

6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program.

7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are often better than military ones.

8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don’t duplicate so much inspection.

9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn’t, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.

10. The specifications applying to the hardware, including rationale for each point, must be agreed upon well in advance of contracting.

11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn’t have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.

12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor, and there must be very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.

13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.

14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.

Kelly also had a unofficial 15th, 16th, and 17th rules, which he is known to have stated repeatedly to his subordinates:

15. Never do business with the Navy!

16. No reports longer than 20 pages or meetings with more than 15 people.

17. If it looks ugly, it will fly the same.

It is amazing to think that one man did so much to advance mankind’s aerospace capability. Even his few dead-ends and failures had key technologies that would lead to wins or lessons learned down the road.

H/T to @NavyLookout for the link.

November 2, 2015

The Top 10 Moustaches of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Top List

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

Published on 28 Oct 2015

Grow your own World War 1 moustache and send a picture to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #TGWmovember. We will collect the best for an upcoming OUT OF THE TRENCHES.

November is the month of the year to celebrate moustaches and beards in all forms and fashions. To celebrate the start of #movember we made a new top list ranking the beards of World War 1.

October 25, 2015

QotD: German culture and discipline

Filed under: Europe, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Germans are a good people. On the whole, the best people perhaps in the world; an amiable, unselfish, kindly people. I am positive that the vast majority of them go to Heaven. Indeed, comparing them with the other Christian nations of the earth, one is forced to the conclusion that Heaven will be chiefly of German manufacture. But I cannot understand how they get there. That the soul of any single individual German has sufficient initiative to fly up by itself and knock at St. Peter’s door, I cannot believe. My own opinion is that they are taken there in small companies, and passed in under the charge of a dead policeman.

Carlyle said of the Prussians, and it is true of the whole German nation, that one of their chief virtues was their power of being drilled. Of the Germans you might say they are a people who will go anywhere, and do anything, they are told. Drill him for the work and send him out to Africa or Asia under charge of somebody in uniform, and he is bound to make an excellent colonist, facing difficulties as he would face the devil himself, if ordered. But it is not easy to conceive of him as a pioneer. Left to run himself, one feels he would soon fade away and die, not from any lack of intelligence, but from sheer want of presumption.

The German has so long been the soldier of Europe, that the military instinct has entered into his blood. The military virtues he possesses in abundance; but he also suffers from the drawbacks of the military training. It was told me of a German servant, lately released from the barracks, that he was instructed by his master to deliver a letter to a certain house, and to wait there for the answer. The hours passed by, and the man did not return. His master, anxious and surprised, followed. He found the man where he had been sent, the answer in his hand. He was waiting for further orders. The story sounds exaggerated, but personally I can credit it.

The curious thing is that the same man, who as an individual is as helpless as a child, becomes, the moment he puts on the uniform, an intelligent being, capable of responsibility and initiative. The German can rule others, and be ruled by others, but he cannot rule himself. The cure would appear to be to train every German for an officer, and then put him under himself. It is certain he would order himself about with discretion and judgment, and see to it that he himself obeyed himself with smartness and precision.

For the direction of German character into these channels, the schools, of course, are chiefly responsible. Their everlasting teaching is duty. It is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to what this “duty” is. The German idea of it would appear to be: “blind obedience to everything in buttons.” It is the antithesis of the Anglo-Saxon scheme; but as both the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton are prospering, there must be good in both methods. Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continue, it will go well with him. When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine. But maybe his method has the advantage of producing a continuous supply of good governors; it would certainly seem so.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.

October 17, 2015

QotD: Stephen Harper

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

[Prime minister Stephen] Harper’s genius, as a power-seeking politician, is the opposite of Obama’s (the once popular USA president). He carries the “Conservative” label, of a party slightly to the right of the others in our Parliament. Therefore he has most of the liberal media machinery against him. Obama, as perhaps we all know, has enjoyed until recently a compliant and fawning media, that do not criticize their darling, nor hesitate to suppress news that would be unfavourable to him. Obama’s tactic has been to draw attention constantly to himself. He has something to say on every subject, empty of content, but dramatically insistent in its repetition of the first person singular. By contrast, Harper goes out of his way to distract attention from himself, and when he can’t, to avoid vehemence of any kind, or anything resembling drama.

This is not to say he isn’t ruthless, as a political operator, and backroom settler of scores. Anyone associated with Christian causes, such as the defence of human life, will know how he rules his pro-life backbenchers. His intention is to keep the party “on message,” with a message that will not excite media attention, so he can get on with normal administration. His strength is his reputation for management: he has not, like Obama, made a hash of everything he has touched. The Canadian budget is actually in surplus, and while our cumulative debt is substantial, and we face the same unfunded welfare liabilities to an aging population, we have not the bottomless debt and fiscal chaos into which Obama and other irresponsible politicians have delivered the United States. (Notwithstanding, when they crash, it will be right on top of us.)

But of course, this is a “democracy,” and the great majority of our population, as those in all other countries, are almost entirely ignorant of public affairs. Like children, they get bored with good government, but unlike children they have, collectively, the power to do something about it.

David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.

October 15, 2015

Europe: The First Crusade – V: Siege of Antioch – Extra History

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

Published on 5 Sep 2015

After their victory at the Battle of Dorylaeum, the Crusaders have an open path to Antioch and beyond that, Jerusalem. After the Sultan of Rum, Kilij Arslan, ordered the wells destroyed along their path, the Crusaders struggled through the desert and eventually decided to split their forces. Tancred and Baldwin set off towards Tarsus and Tancred tricked the Turkish garrison into surrendering to him, but Baldwin claimed the city for himself and broke his oath to the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos. Tensions between the two lead to another confrontation in the next city, after which Baldwin abandoned the Crusade entirely and conned his way into becoming the Count of Edessa. Tancred meanwhile returned to the main force of Crusaders, who were besieging Antioch. When a force led by Bohemond and Robert of Flanders met Antioch’s Turkish reinforcements on a foraging mission, they attacked them and scared them away. Then Bohemond tricked the Byzantine general into leaving as well, and threatened to leave himself unless the Crusaders let him keep Antioch. They had no choice but to agree to keep their forces together. With this assurance, Bohemond engineered the capture of Antioch: he bribed a Turkish commander to let them through the gates. The Crusaders massacred the people of Antioch when the city fell, but they had no time to rest after their victory: a huge Turkish army was already bearing down on them.

October 11, 2015

How Was A Burial Truce organised? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

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

Published on 10 Oct 2015

Indy is sitting in the Chair of Madness this time and to answer your questions. This time we are talking about Paul von Hindenburg and his legacy after World War 1 and about burial truces between the armies on the Western Front.

September 30, 2015

Let’s all just leave the Governor General out of everyone’s election scenario-making exercises

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

Colby Cosh on the sudden interest among the chattering classes about the role of the Governor General during election campaigns:

What’s with malcontent nitwit constitutional experts popping up in the newspaper to warn of “political instability” because we’re having a three-sided election? You know, this isn’t really that hard. The United Kingdom, a nuclear-armed power across the Atlantic that may be vaguely familiar, had an election in 2010 that failed to produce a majority. Its 650-seat House of Commons ended up with 306 Conservatives, 258 Labour MPs, 62 Liberal Democrats and a ragbag of deputies from nationalist and leftist parties.

[…]

If there is no majority party, that will involve tough decisions, most likely falling upon whomever finds himself in third place. But it should not end up with the governor general making some kind of awkward choice in a vacuum. The party leaders should feel enormous pressure to arrive at a decision between them, as if there were a taboo protecting the governor general’s door. The Privy Council Office is probably already creating that pressure. A governor general should never be presented with anything but a fait accompli. He plays the role of the Queen locally, and should be thought of like the Queen, as being above political decision-making.

The proper thing for constitutional pundits to be doing right now is to strengthen that taboo. Musings about imaginary scenarios in which the viceroy might have to involve himself in the selection of a government are fun — exactly the kind of thing I myself enjoy. But if you are cooking up such an op-ed, or giving quotes of that nature to a journalist, you are signing a license for party leaders to prolong the negotiation period that might follow our election, and encouraging them to make illicit use of sly appeals to the public about what the governor general ought to be doing.

In a minority situation, the temptation will be there: some leader will want to suggest that an arrangement for government that leaves him out has been arrived at unfairly. Or a third-place finisher who should be deciding the identity of a prime minister other than himself, and who has the real power to decide, might lose his nerve and start thinking he can evade the choice.

September 29, 2015

QotD: The “secret” of German military superiority, 1866-1945

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

Trevor Dupuy was a US soldier and a military historian who took a statistical approach to evaluating combat performance. He paid particular attention to casualty statistics. Casualties – in case you did not know – include deaths but also include wounded, missing and captured. They answer the general’s question: how many men do I have who are able to fight?

Of course, statistics aren’t everything. For instance, the North Vietnamese took vastly more casualties in the Vietnam War than the Americans but they still won. But all things being equal, being able to kill more of your enemy than he can kill of you is a good thing to be able to do.

In A Genius for War Dupuy enquired into the nature of the German army. He found that the statistics told a remarkable story: the German army was very good and had been for a long time. From the Franco-Prussian War to the Second World War the Germans were consistently better at killing the enemy than the enemy were at killing them.

Now you may be thinking that such comparisons might be skewed due to the Russians and Dupuy found that that the Russians were indeed every bit as bad as you might think. But even when he removed the Russian numbers Dupuy found that the Germans still held a clear and consistent superiority over the French, British and Americans. This superiority existed regardless of whether the engagement was offensive or defensive.

Chauvinists might be surprised to learn that there seems to have been no great difference between the western allies. French and British performance was more or less equal in the First World War. British and American performance was more or less equal in the second. The Americans in the First World War and the French in the Second are special cases.

Having satisfied himself that the German army was indeed superior, Dupuy asked why this was. His key finding was that there seemed to be nothing inherent in being German. Dupuy found a number of historical examples where the Germans proved to be anything but good fighters. These included largely-German units in the American War of Independence and various battles between German mercenaries and the Swiss.

So, if being German didn’t make you a good soldier what did? Dupuy’s theory was that it was all due to the German General staff. So what was so good about the General Staff? Dupuy listed several criteria. These included selection by examination, historical study and objective analysis. In other words it was an institution that thought seriously about war.

Patrick Crozier, “What Trevor Dupuy says about the German military”, Samizdata, 2015-08-24.

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