Things I’ve noticed while reading military history

  1. Civilian leadership usually appoints the wrong commanders.
  2. The main thing lacking in military leaders, from the highest level to the lowest, is a willingness to accept the risk of defeat. Nothing assures failure like indecisiveness.
  3. Advances in communications technology increases the amount of civilian interference into war operations.
  4. Civilian leadership seldom has a clear objective in mind.
  5. Military commanders regard “the book” as an intrinsic excuse and therefore have a tendency to cling to it.
  6. A historian’s take on a given war is strongly influenced by his nationalist sympathies.
  7. The temptation to interfere with a strategic plan once it is put into action appears to be almost overwhelming.

My favorite quote from Max Hastings history of World War I thus far: Falkenhayn noted laconically on taking over command:  “Schlieffen’s notes are at an end and therewith also Moltke’s wits.”

It’s really remarkable to observe how overwhelmed, inept, and generally detached from reality the generals on both sides were. Between the commander of the British Expeditionary Force constantly attempting to retreat and the high commander of the German forces not bothering to even give orders to his generals for literally days at a time, it’s just astonishing.  And they were the relatively competent ones in comparison with the Austrian and Russian commanders.

It’s somewhat sobering to read the historical blunders in light of the lunatic decisions presently being made by the US and European military leaders.