Your RDA of Irony

The Straight and Narrow

For too long, the young and impressionable members of our armed forces have been molested by a flamboyant, theatrical clique known as officers.  Adorned in ribbons and spangles, these strutting coxcombs routinely accost the enlistees, demanding unnatural acts of submission and degradation.  No one willingly does 50 pushups.

And for too long, we have tried to ignore the brazen, outlandish conduct of officers.  Liberal etiquette tells us that it is only a matter of lifestyle and that we should judge the officers solely on their military ability.  But that is the problem!  Officers are inherently incompetent.  History proves it.

In the annals of war, victory has often been determined by which side had the fewer officers.  Consider these examples: 

Agincourt, 1415: 6,000 Englishmen confronted 30,000 Frenchmen.  But the French force was chiefly comprised of knights.  That is the equivalent of an army of second lieutenants.  How do you coordinate 30,000 megalomaniacs?  They were preoccupied with their appearance, not with such mundane drudgery as tactics.  The English massacred them.

English Civil War, 1642-1649:  As the axe descended on his neck, the soon-to-be-late Charles I had the consolation that his cavaliers were quite good poets.  Unfortunately, while finding rhymes, they lost battles. They had been defeated by dour farmers who had no panache but knew the lay of the land from plowing it.  (Yes, the Roundheads had poets too, but John Milton had no delusions of military ability.)

American Revolution (you should know the dates):  By this time, the British Army had abandoned any hope or pretense of competence.  Its officers had achieved their commissions by buying them.  The classic example was General John Burgoyne.  When he surrendered at Saratoga, Burgoyne had with him 30 carts of luggage, a wine cellar, someone else’s wife, and what was left of 9,000 men. The general had simply intended to march his army from Canada to Albany, N.Y., but he had chosen an itinerary through forests, swamps and 20,000 American troops-led by amateurs.  

French Revolution, 1789-1815: Taking the guillotine as a hint, most of the French officer corps fled the country.  Led by its more assertive sergeants and corporals, the French army soon overran most of Europe.  Unfortunately, those sergeants and corporals then promoted themselves to Dukes, Princes and-in one case of overreaching-Emperor.  They stopped thinking like soldiers and began acting like officers, invading Spain and Russia without any idea how to win there.

World War I:  According to the laws of physics, a machine gun bullet is faster than an infantryman.  The officers of Europe spent five years testing that axiom.  At least, the British officer proved that he could still write good poetry. 

Viet Nam:  Modern technology-and PhD. programs– produced a new species of officers.  Military consultants have all debilities of traditional officers and do not even have the physical ability to do chin-ups.  They wage war with flow charts.  The military consultants were certain of victory because they went to Ivy League schools and Ho Chi Minh did not. 

And Afghanistan/Iraq:  See Viet Nam. 

I realize that some historians, military re-enactors and Jeopardy fans can think of competent, even excellent, officers.  Yes, I can name too:  Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Frederick the Great and Lawrence of Arabia.   But they are the exceptions.

If only all our officers were gay.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    Well, maybe not gay, but T.J. Jackson was delightfully sociopathic (“Kill them. Kill them ALL”) and was no slouch at moving infantry at nigh the speed of cavalry and having same apply a serious whoopin’ on whomever he found when he got where he was going. Then again, maybe that was altogether too much the influence of incompetent officers on the other side. One of Jackson’s frequent opponents, a General Banks, so frequently had his troops whipped and his supplies stolen that the southern boys took to calling him, instead of General Banks, Commissary Banks.

    Jackson’s life was cut short by the combination of a trigger-happy TarHeel and the not-so-tender mercies of the field hospital bonesaw at a time when antiseptics were more frequently taken internally by the surgeon than applied topically on the patient.

    • Steve Katz says:

      He lived and worked in NYC after the Civil War and after his presidency. He worked there as a stockbroker/financier and lost everything he had. He wrote his memoirs (a wonderful read) while dying of cancer so he could leave an estate to his family.

  2. Leah says:

    Or good alcoholic family men, like the guy who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? By the way, why is he buried in NYC rather than Arlington or Ohio?

    • Rothgar says:

      Perhaps they buried him in NYC to keep the smell of liquor and military success from bothering all the worthies at Arlington.

      Actually according to LTC Herbert (in Soldier) he felt that the mostly reservist US Army in Korea (where everyone was there just to get the job done and got home) was far superior to the professionalized officer corp we fielded in Vietnam. Interestingly he was a Sargeant in Korea and a LtCol in Vietnam.

  3. Dennis says:

    The most dangerous thing in the world : A second lieutenant with a map and compass

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