Wednesday, 12 January 2005

Articles of War

Two articles recently read on the Net, which deserve not to be forgotten.

The first is about Training, adopting Lessons Learned, and "Process Improvement" in an environment where lives are at stake. Battle Lessons :
The chronic shortage of troops and shifting phases of fighting and reconstruction forced soldiers into jobs for which they weren’t prepared; Wong found field artillerymen, tankers, and engineers serving as infantrymen, while infantrymen were building sewer systems and running town councils. All were working with what Wong calls “a surprising lack of detailed guidance from higher headquarters.” In short, the Iraq that Wong found is precisely the kind of unpredictable environment in which a cohort of hidebound and inflexible officers would prove disastrous.

Yet he found the opposite. Platoon and company commanders were exercising their initiative to the point of occasional genius. Whatever else the Iraq war is doing to American power and prestige, it is producing the creative and flexible junior officers that the Army’s training could not.
A minor disclaimer : I've been a member of Company Commander for a while, and have been since I needed to do research on required logistics for moving military units for Disaster relief.

The second is of a less contemporary, and more historical character. The Specters Haunting Dresden :
Walking with the widow of a banker through the one small square in Frankfurt that has been restored to its medieval splendor, I remarked how beautiful a city Frankfurt must once have been, and how terrible it was that such beauty should have been lost forever.

“We started it,” she said. “We got what we deserved.”

But who was this “we” of whom she spoke? She was not of an age to have helped or even to have supported the Nazis, and therefore (if justice requires that each should get his desert) it was unjust that she should bear the guilty burden of the past. And Germans far younger than she still bear it. I went to dinner with a young businessman, born 20 years after the end of the war, who told me that the forestry company for which he worked, and which had interests in Britain, had decided that it needed a mission statement. A meeting ensued, and someone suggested Holz mit Stolz (“wood with pride”), whereupon a two-hour discussion erupted among the employees of the company as to whether pride in anything was permitted to the Germans, or whether it was the beginning of the slippery slope that led to . . . well, everyone knew where. The businessman found this all perfectly normal, part of being a contemporary German.
Foreigners, such as the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman, could write about the sufferings of the Germans immediately after the war, but not the Germans themselves. Victor Gollancz, a British publisher of Polish-Jewish origin who could not be suspected in the slightest of Nazi sympathies and who had spent the entire 1930s publishing books warning the world of the Nazi peril, wrote and published a book in the immediate aftermath of the war called In Darkest Germany, in which he drew attention to the plight of the Germans living (and starving) among the ruins, which he observed on a visit there. To the charge that the Germans had brought it all on themselves and deserved no less, he replied with a three-word question: “And the children?”
...Und Die Kinder? Indeed. Although this latter article has some large factual omissions - the fact that Dresden was the only functioning tranportation nexus for sending ammunition and troops to the Eastern Front, as well as being the German Army Headquarters for the East, it nonetheless sees the forest, even if a few trees are hidden.

Both articles are long, too long for a casual visit - so either bookmark them, or bookmark this post for future reference. Both articles should make you uncomfortable, regardless of your political viewpoint. Truth is rarely pure, and never simple.

1 comment:

Fred Kiesche said...

"Wong found field artillerymen, tankers, and engineers serving as infantrymen, while infantrymen were building sewer systems and running town councils."

"Every Marine a rifleman" is the creed of the USMC, and it should be the creed of the US Army as well. Artillerymen, tankers and to a lesser extent COMBAT engineers all have basic infantry skills. Some do better than others--tankers, for example, are trained to fight dismounted (what happens when you get your tank shot out from under you?).

The big problems have been with support soldiers. Given a "basic lite" version of training they lack a lot of infantry skills and often are neglected when it comes to reinforcement of map skills, small arms, fire and movement and the like (believe me, I know, having been to several service schools where various MOS's mix).

Luckily they are starting to get that training, but it hasn't come soon enough for many.