How the gasoline, tanks, and ammunition reached him was somebody else’s concern

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel once said he had no real interest in logistics, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

He would do the fighting; how the gasoline, tanks, and ammunition reached him was somebody else’s concern.

Both Marshall and Rommel, splendid men, did not really understand the world they lived in. A war can no more be successfully fought without political concerns for the future than a panzer can roll without gas.

Comments

  1. Kirk says:

    I would submit that the vast majority of the officer class of any military are too narrowly trained and selected to really do much more than serve as highly specialized tactical/operational leadership cadre. Outside that narrow lane, they’re mostly useless.

    When you create officers like this, you shouldn’t be too surprised when they don’t do well outside that narrowly delineated area. Politics is an “out of context” issue for most of the officers raised up and trained in the US system, and deliberately so–Politics is supposed to be a civilian function. So, don’t use a knife to turn a screw, eh?

    Root problem with the idjits surrounding the Korean War, and most of our other 20th Century conflicts isn’t that the officers didn’t understand politics, but that our civilian political class failed to understand war, or that they were supposed to be doing something about it. You complain our generals lack political acumen, fine–Be careful of what you wish for. The current lot of parasites in the Pentagon are nothing if not political, but the wrong sort. We’ll pay the price, probably with our civil liberties.

    A great deal of this problem boils down to the fact that there ain’t nobody running things that knows how to play the damn game. Hell, most of them don’t even realize that there is a game, or that they’re in it…

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll point it out again: Much of our leadership/managerial classes really do not understand how things work in the organization. They do not know how to work the levers of power, nor do they grasp the realities they create through policy and construct through their actions. This problem is endemic in our society, from the corporate world through the military. Why it is so, I’m unable to tell you, nor can I tell you how to fix it. I can only point to the fact that these people are producing failure everywhere they touch, and they don’t even have the ability to recognize that fact.

    Every manager and leader ought to be set a problem within the organization as a test, and told to do something about it. Ninety-nine percent of today’s “leaders” are going to go about it by sending out an email or some other commandment, and then consider it to be “solved” because they truly believe in the false idea that “thus is it said, thus is it done…”. That crap didn’t even work out that well for the Pharoahs, but our leadership class still thinks it’s just peachy-keen, and works every time.

    Maybe one percent of the general mass of “managers” is going to step back and actually analyze why something is happening inside their organization, realize that the actual problem is inherent in the environment of that organization, and then do something to change that set of conditions instead of telling people not to do something that is really the result of multiple factors encouraging that behavior. Don’t want people walking across the grass in the quad? Well, maybe you ought to lay some sidewalks there, and add in a bit more time between classes or shift changes… People create and take shortcuts when the environment encourages them to do so. If you don’t like those shortcuts, look to the reasons they’re taking them, and then modify those. Telling people not to take them ain’t going to do squat, until you remove or change the incentives around them.

    Nearly nobody in modern management or leadership recognizes this stuff. It’s not taught, it’s not addressed, and if you go look at how the “system” produces these people, what you’re going to find is a setup that makes it almost impossible for anyone other than a mechanistic “If I tell them to do “A”, I’ll get result “B”…” sort of thinker. The actual reality is, instead of “B”, you’re probably going to get unintended result “G”, which will create more new problems that you’ll have to figure out other ineffective ways to address.

    Want to know how men like Rommel happened? Look at how they were trained, and the organizational culture they came out of. Rommel’s background was pure tactics and operations, which he excelled at. No General Staff education or experience, thanks to Hitler having jumped up his famous favorite, who was a WWI hero. This is why Rommel thought that logistics were someone else’s problem–And, why American generals of the mid-20th Century thought politics were someone else’s deal, too.

  2. Altitude Zero says:

    Great post, Kirk, and very true indeed…

  3. Vetrani Sui Sunt Circuli says:

    Kirk,

    Sorry, that we don’t do political is dated. We now teach the Political aspects down to the NCO level, E5 in fact. At the service schools.

    PMESII-PT; Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure, Physical Environment, and Time.

    Kirk is correct we’ll regret politicizing the military, mind you we are simply drawn from a society that politicizes EVERYTHING.

    As to why those in power can’t grasp the levers of power or understand their organizations, I am able to answer: EDUCATION.

    We have the most educated and the most incompetent ruling and managerial class in history because it’s all based on Education. No the answer isn’t educational reform unless you mean ala Pol Pot [a schoolteacher, he knew what he was doing].

    The good news is when you politicize your military down to the Junior NCO level and engage in constant conflict foreign and domestic, competent leaders are sure to arise. On a pile of bodies probably but we get the government we deserve.

    “PMESII-PT is an acronym developed in the military of the United States and stands for Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure, Physical Environment, and Time. It’s a tool that is used to help users organize large amounts of operations information.”

  4. Kirk says:

    Vetrani Sui Sunt Circuli,

    That’s an interesting tidbit that had escaped me, but I’m certain that the NCOES wonks and the blundering idiots at the SMA will undoubtedly screw the pooch and it will inevitably become another “buzzword bingo” session that really teaches nothing.

    Just like the rest of the military educational system.

    Fundamental issue with all that crap, from the lowest level on up, is that the “system” doesn’t really know what the hell it is doing, nor do the people running it all. NCOES is, was, and always will be a colossal waste of money, time, and effort–Mostly because it’s a cookie-cutter affair, run for and by the careerists, none of whom really understand their jobs or purposes within the military. You make something a rubber-stamp process, expect a whole lot of ineffectual stamping to go on, accomplishing nothing.

    The sort of thing that would produce actual politically effective officers would be a system that actually took politics and political affairs into account, and had them integrated into the leadership development process. So long as the idiots running the system think they can address this deficiency by adding another BS class to the already-overburdened military educational system, you’re going to get nothing but lip-service and actual failure.

    You want an officer and NCO class with the ability to do politics, then you need to have them working real politics, evaluating them and their effectiveness on a daily basis. As is, all you’re doing with any of this crap is going through the motions, which isn’t going to accomplish much besides fill the machinery with more sand. I’d love to know what they cut from the curriculum to wedge this stuff in–More than likely, it was something like marksmanship and/or another “irrelevant” skill-at-arms task like how to properly site a machine gun or fill out a range card. Don’t need those, in today’s Army, donchaknow?

    The rank venal incompetency of it all is what pisses me off. None of the idiots running this crap have any idea at all how it all really works, or how to keep the system running efficiently. All they know are the buzzwords, which are based on arrant stupidity coming out of the academic class.

    Swear to God, smartest thing we could do, as a society? Blow up the entirety of “higher education”, and go back to a system where scholarship was an end only to itself, rather than a hot ticket to managerial career success. You start evaluating and promoting people based on scholarship and education? What you’re going to get is a bunch of lousy scholarship and a huge number of incompetents. You want excellence at something? Evaluate actual real-world performance instead of how many checkboxes the idiot has managed to tick off along their cursus honorum.

    The root of almost all our ills isn’t what we think it is–It is, I am afraid, the fact that there is no longer accountability and predictable consequence to people’s actions. That fact alone is why we’re in a state of decline–Nobody running things wants to be the bad guy, and tell people “No, you can’t do that…” or “No, we’re not going to let you do that, and we’re going to punish you for doing what you did…”. It’s all “Oh, he had a rough childhood…”, no attention paid to the fact that “he” murdered seven people and ate their dogs…

    It’s a transactional universe, people: Cause has effect. You can ignore that for a few generations, but it will eventually catch up with you. In numerous and very unpleasant ways.

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