Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Finally, the Australian military explained to the rest of us: It’s a sentimental outfit

It is not surprising that a style of warfare characterized by aggression, individual initiative, and a distinctly impertinent attitude towards authority was celebrated.

Australian troops in New Guinea during WWII. (Wikimedia Commons)
Australian troops in New Guinea during WWII. (Wikimedia Commons)
Australian troops in New Guinea during WWII. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

“It is not surprising that a style of warfare characterized by aggression, individual initiative, and a distinctly impertinent attitude towards authority was celebrated.… According to the national folklore, the Australian Army has been successful because of the extraordinarily good character of its fighting men, not its staffs and generals.” —Australian military historian Russell Parkin, writing in the October issue of the Journal of Military History.

My thought: Many countries seem to feel this way. What isn’t said is that this view is extremely romantic, and — when held by military members — probably unprofessional. It is dangerous because it tends to underestimate the crucial nature of competence in command and staff. Elan goes a long way, but not as far as coordinated close air support, good intelligence feedback, and dependable logistics. For more on this, read Roy Appleman’s East of Chosin, or my summary in The Generals of the U.S. Army’s troubles in that campaign.

 

“It is not surprising that a style of warfare characterized by aggression, individual initiative, and a distinctly impertinent attitude towards authority was celebrated.… According to the national folklore, the Australian Army has been successful because of the extraordinarily good character of its fighting men, not its staffs and generals.” —Australian military historian Russell Parkin, writing in the October issue of the Journal of Military History.

My thought: Many countries seem to feel this way. What isn’t said is that this view is extremely romantic, and — when held by military members — probably unprofessional. It is dangerous because it tends to underestimate the crucial nature of competence in command and staff. Elan goes a long way, but not as far as coordinated close air support, good intelligence feedback, and dependable logistics. For more on this, read Roy Appleman’s East of Chosin, or my summary in The Generals of the U.S. Army’s troubles in that campaign.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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