@ Small War Council yesterday, I kicked off a thread The Dumbness of Oneness. Readers will, I’m sorry, have to pop over to Small Wars to view the original post and subsequent comments [edit: not anymore: PDFs below]. The short version is that I am challenging the industrial age mentality that is still so evident in much of our thinking, even after eight and a half years, 5000+ combat casualties and thousands of civilian victims of this ‘new war’ against takfiri jihadists of all races, religions and persuasions.
In the quotes in the thread, a theme emerged that perhaps the commanders from WW1 and WW2 actually had a far better handle on the art of war than those today who seek to make it a simple push-button science based more on Harvard Business School methodologies than the accumulated experience and lessons of history. War is not simple, not is it logical nor rational…it can not be distilled down to simple formulae and calculations that will determine the outcome of an engagement. War is about much more than a simple financial bottom line.
It was no more rational for 825 Squadron to fly into the German guns than it was for the New Zealand Division to break out from Minqar Qaim, the Marines to hold out at Wake, or for any of the hundreds of US CSAR missions in Vietnam and other conflict zones – these actions do not stack up in a balance sheet calculation that has no place for courage, camaraderie or commitment, no value that quantifies the human spirit. This is the myth of modern manoeuvre warfare – that achieving a position of dominance over a foe takes the place of actually defeating that opponent. History is as full of ‘sure thing’ plans that ended in tears as it is of desperate acts that paid off.
The myth of oneness is equally false. Although there is no dispute that there are advantages in common approaches and equipment, this should never be allowed to adversely affect effectiveness. Amanda Lennon stated at the New Zealand Chief of Army’s Conference last year that “…coalition interoperability requirements drive conceptual laziness…” and this is the risk of oneness as well: under the guise of interoperability, we create a bubble of dumbness that expands throughout an organisation. Driven by drives for efficiency, we forgot not so much how to do things but WHY we do them. We rationalise away the need for drill and colours and things as unnecessary in modern war, forgetting that they foster the courage, camaraderie and commitment that bolsters a force when the going gets really tough.
I surf the Get Frank site periodically, mainly because it has good competitions, and came across this editorial item Schama on New Zealand. In summarising, it states “…but beyond that, these people see only money. They measure the worth of a society solely in terms of GDP. As a result, they are utterly blind to our real achievements, and place no value on them…” This is not simply a question of core values although they are part of it. It is about remembering what is important in maintaining, nurturing and evolving the art of war…for there will come a time when we will face a foe is both prepared to and capable of going toe to toe with us in real War…where the blandness of oneness will be exposed at what cost?
Edit: 20 Nov 2018. The original Get Frank article is gone but I found a similarly-themed article from Simon Schama from the same period that also notes the value of diversity to New Zealand.