Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not All Those Who Survive Are Fit

Nearly all of the time that I interact with senior officers (American, Canadian, British, German, French, Aussie, Kiwi, etc), I am impressed.  They tend to be very smart, very articulate and usually quite curious and willing to learn.  And this makes sense as getting promoted in a military hierarchy is no easy thing.  The higher you go, the harder it is to make to the next left.  Up or out, eventually. 

Of course, what it takes to rise in a peacetime military and what it takes to succeed in wartime are two different things.  Likewise, what it takes to win a battle may quite different than what it takes to deal with matters after conventional combat ends (Franks could win a battle, but Petraeus could win a battle and then build on it). 

Why do I bring this up now?  I am reading Kokoda by Peter Fitzsimmons.  I picked it up while I was in Canberra because Kokoda seemed to be a big WWII battle for the Aussies.  Indeed, it was their Guadalcanal--their first successful land battle against the Japanese after incredibly hard fighting.  Indeed, it was probably harder than Guadalcanal since Kokoda was fought on a vertical battlefield. 

Anyhow, Kokoda helps to remind me that General Douglas MacArthur was perhaps more trouble than he was worth.  I am no Japan expert, but I guess Doug did ok administrating Japan after the war.  And Inchon was a gamble that worked out great.  But his Generalship, otherwise, leaves much to be desired.  MacArthur's legendary arrogance and the sycophancy he encouraged around himself blinded him to the facts on the ground, leading to far less support than the Aussies needed or deserved.  I am actually somewhat surprised that no one fragged him.  Victory during World War II came despite, not because of, General Doug.  And his firing was perhaps one of Truman's very best decisions. 

2 comments:

Lule said...

Actually, the battle of Milne Bay was the first land defeat of the Japanese, inflicted by the Australians and that came prior to Kokoda.

Steve Saideman said...

Shows you what I know about Aussie military history. Yep, just got to that chapter in Kokoda that mentions this. Still, from it sounded like at the Australia War Memorial, Kokoda is still their Guadalcanal.