Friday, February 11, 2005

The Good Officer


Readers may wonder why Gandalf is so angry at the British Army's prosecution of a few NCOs. Why all this protectiveness of men who inflict violence?

To me, this is all about good management - of which I've painfully learned over years in the School of Hard Knocks. There are only a few rules: set clear objectives; understand the opposition; listen to the knowledgeable; be honest and courageous; lead from the front; constantly monitor; win don't expect respect from your group. And, above all, make it your mission to inspire, train & nurture that group.

My grandfather exemplified this. Over 40 at the time of WW1, he fought with distinction at Gallipoli and in France, rising through the ranks from enlisted man to Major. After the war, like many discharged veterans, he fell on hard times. My mother remembers the kindness her family was shown by the men of my grandfather's old unit, who, although hard up themselves, provided food and accomodation. My gradfather died before I was born, but his life has been a constant inspiration to me.

For immediate context, there's an excellent article in today's American Spectator about General Mattis, the Marine who shocked! shocked! liberals by revealing that he obtained some pleasure from killing bastards who subjugate, beat and abuse women. Here's what he says to an NCO struggling for promotion.

"I don't give a damn about the officers. If they don't like what they're doing, they can get on a plane and leave the Corps -- go back where they came from. But I do care deeply about those 18- and 19-year-old Lance Corporals out on the frontlines." The General was telling me that, as an officer, I better be concerned with helping younger, junior Marines, not advancing my own career."

Good man, great manager. Shame we don't have officers like that in the British Army.

Final point, I'm not in favor of ill-treating innocent people, or even captured combatant/criminals such as these looters. If I commanded the British soldiers in question I'd a) have made it my business to watch them carefully, since they'd just been rotated out of combat b) quickly moved the prisoners into the care of professionals and c) given them a bollocking for mistreating the prisoners. If the question of criminal charges had arisen, I would have taken full responsibility. Because I was responsible. That's management folks.