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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Psychology of Military Incompetence

by Norman Dixon
As summarised by Bruno Just as: WHY GENERALS FAIL (Continued).
Research has uncovered a significant relationship between being attracted to the military and possessing such authoritarian personality characteristics as being conventional, conformist, ethnocentric, liking dominance/ submission in relationships, believing in power and toughness, inhumane and generally uptight, as well as being obsessive, conservative and having a closed mind. Because being conventional orderly and obedient are much desired militarily, the possession of such traits maximizes one's chances for promotion to the highest levels. Once at the top, these very traits prove incapacitating in a decision-maker's role. A commander with a closed mind, a tendency towards perceptual defence, cognitive dissonance, pro-procrastination, inappropriate risk-taking, etc., is ill-suited to the task of facing or resolving the great uncertainties of warfare.
Great captains such as Marlborough,Wellington, Rommel, Slim, Montgomery and Alexander do not appear to have been authoritarian in the strictly technical sense. By and large they did not possess those hallmarks of potential incompetence which draw some men to the military and are steadily reinforced on their slow rise up the career ladder.
General Haig has been mentioned before in this article. He was renowned for his smartness. (It's interesting to note that the word means both well groomed and intelligent, although the two do not always go together in fact). The General's personal escort was one of the best turned out units in the British Army. His table (mess) at his headquarters was always immaculate. Haig resisted the machine gun (too messy?) In 1926, he went on record as saying that nothing would replace the horse. He forgot to add: at the Ascot races!

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