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Thread: How Insurgencies End

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    WILF,

    My profession has little impact on the nature of insurgency, its causes and its cures.

    So, be I a soldier, a minister, or a pole dancer, the fact remains, that when the military rolls in and simply crushes that segement of the populace that dares to stand up to the failures of governance, it is not a "Win" no matter how many generals say so in their Memoirs.

    So, while the military is not in the role or setting policy, we are quite likely to be the ones looked to to have a sophisticated understanding of insurgency, and if ones understanding is that it can be resolved solely through violence, I would argue that they lack the requisite sophistication required of them as a military professional.

    20 years ago perhaps one could get away with an "all violence is war, and the suppression of any violence is peace" approach, but I believe that such cavalier approaches are simply no longer viable.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    So, be I a soldier, a minister, or a pole dancer, the fact remains, that when the military rolls in and simply crushes that segement of the populace that dares to stand up to the failures of governance, it is not a "Win" no matter how many generals say so in their Memoirs.
    As long as I never pushed $20 into your underwear....
    So, while the military is not in the role or setting policy, we are quite likely to be the ones looked to to have a sophisticated understanding of insurgency, and if ones understanding is that it can be resolved solely through violence, I would argue that they lack the requisite sophistication required of them as a military professional.
    So let me get this right. Are there any non-violent insurgencies, and if so, is military action required?
    20 years ago perhaps one could get away with an "all violence is war, and the suppression of any violence is peace" approach, but I believe that such cavalier approaches are simply no longer viable.
    You use armed force against armed force. An insurgency is the use of armed force. Destroy or defeat that armed force and you have solved to problem in terms of the problem being an insurgency. Anything else is simply none of your problem.
    It makes about as much sense as asking a Car mechanic to paint your house.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    You use armed force against armed force. An insurgency is the use of armed force. Destroy or defeat that armed force and you have solved to problem in terms of the problem being an insurgency. Anything else is simply none of your problem.
    Or, if you're dealing with a revolt or rebellion, you could resolve the issues that started and sustain the revolt or rebellion and end it without the need to destroy and defeat.

    This may not necessarily be a military function, but it should certainly be considered in any broad discussion of revolt and rebellion or in discussion of any specific revolt or rebellion. I wouldn't see anything wrong, for example, with a military leadership that was summoned to suppress a revolt pointing out that the revolt had reasonable and understandable causes and that resolving the causes might be easier and less destructive that wading in with killing and destruction.

    I think BW has a point about "winning" vs transient suppression. Mindanao is a good example of a fight that has been repeatedly "won" without ever being resolved. If the issues that started the fight remain unsettled, a day, week, month, or year without violence is no more a "win" than a half-time lead is a victory in a football match. Of course military action alone can't achieve resolution, it can only open a space to permit political resolution... but that doesn't make political resolution any less necessary for achieving a permanent conclusion.

    We do have to be careful about assuming that conclusions drawn from a broad study of insurgency can be applied to any given insurgency, since every fight is different. This is why I'd like to see the terms defined more clearly and used less casually. An "insurgency" that consists of a populace or portion thereof fighting its own government is a very different thing from an "insurgency" primarily driven by opposition to a foreign occupier; both are very different in turn from the (IMO absurd) construct of a "global insurgency".

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Or, if you're dealing with a revolt or rebellion, you could resolve the issues that started and sustain the revolt or rebellion and end it without the need to destroy and defeat.
    You could, but that is not the job of the Army
    I wouldn't see anything wrong, for example, with a military leadership that was summoned to suppress a revolt pointing out that the revolt had reasonable and understandable causes and that resolving the causes might be easier and less destructive that wading in with killing and destruction.
    Maybe - but folks revolt against ideas or actions other folks believe reasonable.
    I think BW has a point about "winning" vs transient suppression. Mindanao is a good example of a fight that has been repeatedly "won" without ever being resolved. If the issues that started the fight remain unsettled, a day, week, month, or year without violence is no more a "win" than a half-time lead is a victory in a football match.
    I agree. ALL war is "80%" political, but the Armed force is not there to solve the problem. It's there to defeat the other armed force, so as the political solution is made a reality.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    You could, but that is not the job of the Army
    True, but I'm not in the army, nor do I see any particular reason to confine discussion to what can or cannot be accomplished by the army.

    I do think that part of the role of the military is providing honest advice to the civilian leadership on what they can and cannot accomplish with armed force.

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    Default Since ALL war is a continuation of

    Politik by other means, how do you derive this:

    from Wilf
    ALL war is "80%" political....
    It would seem that ALL war is "100%" political following that CvC logic.

    Now, if one accepts the concept that each war has some effort made toward the "political struggle" and other effort made toward the "military struggle", then one could assign percentages of effort to each struggle. But, do you, Wilf, accept the concept of a "political struggle" as a part of war ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    But, do you, Wilf, accept the concept of a "political struggle" as a part of war ?
    Absolutely! All War is a political struggle, but the Armed Force can only be part of the Armed struggle. Armed force can only be instrumental. Armed force is never The Policy.

    a.) If there is no use violence, it is not war
    b.) War is political violence.
    c.) Armed Forces are purely instruments of actual or threatened violence for what ever policy they are required to set forth
    d.) The cause of all conflict is political.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Absolutely! All War is a political struggle, but the Armed Force can only be part of the Armed struggle. Armed force can only be instrumental. Armed force is never The Policy.

    a.) If there is no use violence, it is not war
    b.) War is political violence.
    c.) Armed Forces are purely instruments of actual or threatened violence for what ever policy they are required to set forth
    d.) The cause of all conflict is political.
    This is true. That's why discussion of war, small or large, must also involve discussion of policy, and why a discussion such as this one invariably involves policy aspects. no need or reason to shy away from it, no?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    This is true. That's why discussion of war, small or large, must also involve discussion of policy, and why a discussion such as this one invariably involves policy aspects. no need or reason to shy away from it, no?
    Dam straight! It may be that your policy aim cannot be set forth via violence, or is not effective in doing so. Military force is a tool to be applied very selectively. It cannot set forth every policy, and using military force changes the policy being set forth!

    The error in the US Military way of thinking is to say "our policy should be X, so we can employ military power", as opposed to "We can destroy the enemies armed force using military power," and leave it to the policy makers to answer the exam question. It also largely ignores that policy does not stay static and is almost never based on a deep understanding of military power.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    To throw another monkey wrench into the gears, I don't think Insurgency should be classified as "war" at all.

    It's kind of like a tomatoe. All your life you think its a vegetable, becuase everyone has always told you it was a vegetable, you've always treated it like a vegetable, you always mix it with other vegetables; and then one day some horticulturist comes along and tells you its really a fruit.

    I won't take that any farther, but I think we gain clearer insights as how to approach insurgency and the relative roles of the Host nation government, its military and that of any outside governments and their militaries that intervene to assist by looking at insurgency not as war, but as a civil emergency. Not to apply the rules of war, but to apply the rules of military support to civil authorities. Not to supplant the civil leadership, but to supplement the same, holding them to task.

    We've been treating insurgency like war for too long. Its violent like war, it has an "enemy" like war, it will kill you and drain your national blood, treasure, and influence like war. But it isn't war. If I eat tomatoes all my life and refuse to recognize they are a fruit it really doesn't matter much. But if I mischaracterize a major event like an insurgency, I could inadvertantly harm, or even destroy my nation.

    Ohh yeah. And Wilf asked a few posts back about "non-violent insurgencies." Here is where I largely agree with Kitson. He saw this as a spectrum along a scale of violence. The causal factors being the same, but what begins as "subversion" at some point becomes "insurgency", not because the events somehow changed in nature, but merely becuase it had become more violent. So, Kitson would call non-violent insurgency "subversion." Same event, just different stages. Sometimes the subversives win without having to employ violence, as with Ghandi or King. Or sometimes an insurgency is suppressed back down into a subversive phase for a number of years before it goes "insurgent" again, as in Mindanao. You solve it when you address the root causes, and level of violence is only one of many metrics to measure success with, and certainly not the decisive measure.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    And Wilf asked a few posts back about "non-violent insurgencies." Here is where I largely agree with Kitson. He saw this as a spectrum along a scale of violence. The causal factors being the same, but what begins as "subversion" at some point becomes "insurgency", not because the events somehow changed in nature, but merely becuase it had become more violent.
    I'd see "subversion" as entirely political. Does subversion include violence? It can, but it is not primarily violent - it is "subversive."
    What Kitson better contributes is how the military can go after the insurgents, which is what the military should focus on doing.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    To throw another monkey wrench into the gears, I don't think Insurgency should be classified as "war" at all.
    Again, I think one of the problems with these discussions is that we, like the Rand monograph, lack a consensus definition of insurgency. It's all very well to take the the "I know it when I see it" approach, but it makes discussion difficult, because while we all know it when we see it, we may be seeing it in different places.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I think we gain clearer insights as how to approach insurgency and the relative roles of the Host nation government, its military and that of any outside governments and their militaries that intervene to assist by looking at insurgency not as war, but as a civil emergency. Not to apply the rules of war, but to apply the rules of military support to civil authorities. Not to supplant the civil leadership, but to supplement the same, holding them to task.
    Agreed, but I'd point out that these formulations have little or no applicability to our current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, because in neither of these cases did we "intervene to assist".

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    He saw this as a spectrum along a scale of violence. The causal factors being the same, but what begins as "subversion" at some point becomes "insurgency", not because the events somehow changed in nature, but merely becuase it had become more violent. So, Kitson would call non-violent insurgency "subversion." Same event, just different stages. Sometimes the subversives win without having to employ violence, as with Ghandi or King. Or sometimes an insurgency is suppressed back down into a subversive phase for a number of years before it goes "insurgent" again, as in Mindanao. You solve it when you address the root causes, and level of violence is only one of many metrics to measure success with, and certainly not the decisive measure.
    I'm not sure that the level of violence is the only distinguishing factor. Certainly we could imagine a continuum moving from dissidence to subversion to insurgency. But where, then, would we place someone like Timothy McVeigh? Based purely on the level of violence, we'd call it insurgency, but I'm not convinced that's appropriate. I'd think that a certain level of organization and scope is necessary to distinguish an insurgency from the work of a small number of very angry dissidents.

    In similar vein, we often assume that dissidents embrace violence because no peaceful avenue for change is available to them. In some cases that's true, in some it's not. Sometimes people embrace violence because they are unable to generate enough popular support to make use of conventional vehicles for change... again, such as McVeigh, or the Baader-Meinhof, or other violent but extremely restricted fringe groups. Certainly this is violent dissidence, but can it be called "insurgency"?

    Possibly a load of unnecessary semantic detail, but given the extent to which insurgency is discussed here it might be useful to define the term.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Root causes and conflict resolution

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Again, I think one of the problems with these discussions is that we, like the Rand monograph, lack a consensus definition of insurgency. It's all very well to take the the "I know it when I see it" approach, but it makes discussion difficult, because while we all know it when we see it, we may be seeing it in different places.
    Agree.

    Agreed, but I'd point out that these formulations have little or no applicability to our current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, because in neither of these cases did we "intervene to assist".
    Partially agree. We intevened to force arbitration on non-cooperative actors in the hopes that we could force a better solution (governance).


    I'm not sure that the level of violence is the only distinguishing factor. Certainly we could imagine a continuum moving from dissidence to subversion to insurgency. But where, then, would we place someone like Timothy McVeigh? Based purely on the level of violence, we'd call it insurgency, but I'm not convinced that's appropriate. I'd think that a certain level of organization and scope is necessary to distinguish an insurgency from the work of a small number of very angry dissidents.
    I was going to make a similar reply. The problem with BW's tomato analogy is that oftentimes, the root causes or ideas or grievances behind the rebellion or secession is deeply ingrained in the community. For example, if we look at other areas in the Phillipines where the communist continue to mobilize, the root causes seem to be land reform and reparations issues that pre-date back before the christians and the United States were ever introduced. How do you resolve that? But BW has a point, every 20 years the insurgency vanishes, the gov't chalks up a win in the COIN category, and then they rise again in perpetual cycle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    We intevened to force arbitration on non-cooperative actors in the hopes that we could force a better solution (governance).
    I thought we intervened to throw out governments we didn't like.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    I was going to make a similar reply. The problem with BW's tomato analogy is that oftentimes, the root causes or ideas or grievances behind the rebellion or secession is deeply ingrained in the community.
    That's true, and it's also true that different sectors of a populace may have irreconcilably different demands. Still, it makes sense to start looking at an insurgency by asking why the insurgents are fighting and whether there's a possibility that those issues could be addressed without having to fight a war over them.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    if we look at other areas in the Phillipines where the communist continue to mobilize, the root causes seem to be land reform and reparations issues that pre-date back before the christians and the United States were ever introduced. How do you resolve that?
    The areas of the Philippines where communist influence remains significant are generally fairly remote, and are generally ruled under what are effectively feudal dynasties. Land reform or reparation are less the issues than the corrupt and abusive character of local governance, and the immunity from legal process enjoyed by the politically influential families. I actually think this could be resolved in most of the affected areas, with sufficient political will, and that the impact on the insurgency would be substantial.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    But BW has a point, every 20 years the insurgency vanishes, the gov't chalks up a win in the COIN category, and then they rise again in perpetual cycle.
    In Mindanao the Philippine government has at several points gained enough military ascendancy to introduce real political reform, but there's never been any real effort in that direction. Instead the focus has been on coopting key leaders, often by offering them lucrative positions on the government side of the fence. The underlying issues are not addressed and soon enough new leaders emerge, often more radical than their predecessors.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Definitions are a problem because we make them one. Particularly in the military where a focus on doctrine, and the poduction and employment of precise "terms of art" within the profession, promotes endless arguments when no firm, agreed-to-by-all definition exists. Look to the recent input here at SWJ by Daves Maxwell and Witty on UW. You'll never make everybody happy in defining such broad concepts as UW, COIN, Insurgency, etc.

    I used to get right in there and argue with everyone else; but I realized one day just how silly it was to argue about fine nuances of concepts that are completely subjective and undefined.

    So I think the best you can do is to state up front what definition you are applying, and then make your case based upon that definition. Then, for those receiving that input, to resist the urge to simply argue with the definition that the other party used, and to instead focus on the points that he is attempting to make in relation to the definition he based them on.

    "Insurgency" is not some neat, precise operational task, like "screen" vs "guard"; or "block" vs "fix". To try to make it such is probably extremely counterproductive to achieving the understanding that one is seeking in the first place. Like I was telling the metrics guys the other day at a staff meeting. Too often we confuse "Precise" with "accurate"; and when you seek a set of metrics that you can measure very objectively and precisely to determine how well you are doing on something as fuzzy and messy as COIN, you probably are not going to be very accurate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Definitions are a problem because we make them one. Particularly in the military where a focus on doctrine, and the poduction and employment of precise "terms of art" within the profession, promotes endless arguments when no firm, agreed-to-by-all definition exists.
    Hmmmm..... Sorry, but the real problem is that soldiers of today use language carelessly and without rigour.

    This probably did not really exist until about the 1930s, when people like JFC Fuller tried to create "Military Science" - and after which we see a plethora of nonsensical terms.

    You cannot have "Doctrine" without usefully precise meaning, because Doctrine is what is taught - that is what "Doctrine" means. You cannot have "practice" unless you have sound theory that explains it.

    Unless you have a common language with common coherent meanings, you will soon have a pseudo-science like "COIN Theory" or "Operational Level of War."

    Yes, the military does create problems for itself, basically by not studying it's own profession.
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    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I thought we intervened to throw out governments we didn't like.
    That's another way to say forced arbitration on non-cooperative actors. It is a values call by the US to say their behavior was unacceptable.

    The areas of the Philippines where communist influence remains significant are generally fairly remote, and are generally ruled under what are effectively feudal dynasties. Land reform or reparation are less the issues than the corrupt and abusive character of local governance, and the immunity from legal process enjoyed by the politically influential families. I actually think this could be resolved in most of the affected areas, with sufficient political will, and that the impact on the insurgency would be substantial.
    And if you are correct, then you have to determine how to win and build consensus within the Philippine gov't to enact your plan. That seems to be the crux of the dillemma.

    From BW,

    "I realized one day just how silly it was to argue about fine nuances of concepts that are completely subjective and undefined."
    Sir, couldn't agree more with the exception of when we reach the point where the definitions affect law, policy, resources, and mission. And, BTW, I like your tomato analogy.

    From Wilf,

    Unless you have a common language with common coherent meanings, you will soon have a pseudo-science like "COIN Theory" or "Operational Level of War."
    There's definitely some truth in that.
    Last edited by MikeF; 04-28-2010 at 02:06 PM.

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    Exclamation Thread derailment ahead....

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    This probably did not really exist until about the 1930s, when people like JFC Fuller tried to create "Military Science" - and after which we see a plethora of nonsensical terms.
    This is an unnecessary simplification, IMO. Obviously there were (many) soldiers out there who failed to use language and concepts with rigor prior to the 1930s. Militaries prior to the 1930s certainly did study their own history, and many came away with amazingly wrong conclusions about that history. The root of all good and all evil did not come from the 1930s, and much of the thinking during that period was in direct reaction to World War I.

    Most armies have some sort of defining period for their self-images. These obviously shift over time (with the most extreme example being the French with their shifts from [to over-simplify] "all offense" to "all defense" in the aftermath of World War I), but they tend to shape thinking (or lack thereof) within the army in question. The U.S. has had a couple of these (the Civil War and World War II), and both had a major warping effect on our thinking. The British may have found one of their more recent ones in the 1920s and 1930s. And in just about every case these periods came from the army in question studying its own profession and coming away with lessons that may not have been especially helpful or accurate. Armies (like other large institutions) have shown a great ability to shed those lessons that they don't like or don't fit into their own self-image or visualization.

    Sorry to divert the thread, but it's important to understand that history is a continuum of sorts, and that any event has things that led up to it and will have consequences that we cannot accurately predict based on those leading events and the reaction to them by each individual involved.
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    Default thread jumping the rails!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    This is an unnecessary simplification, IMO. Obviously there were (many) soldiers out there who failed to use language and concepts with rigor prior to the 1930s.
    ....and allow me to reply!

    Yes, there failures of thought prior to the 1930s, but based on the evidence to hand in terms of the written record, the language was generally simple, coherent and useful. They were far from perfect BUT they were much better than today's.

    Some of what was written in the UK's 1909 Field Service Regulations, was utter rubbish, but it was simply and clearly written rubbish. It was not the arch-twaddle you find in "FM3 Design" for example.
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    Thumbs up Jumping in to the jump in...

    I agree with Steve Blair's post, particularly with his last paragraph. However, Wilf has a very valid point IMO in respect to military writing. After the 17th Centuryt it consistentlv became more concisely and directly oriented. Mellifluous prose gradually disappeared. Most writing during and immediately after WW I was an indicator of a trend reversal. Since WW II, it has gotten far worse each decade and now we;'re producing 300 page FIELD manuals that say little. Illustrations which can help, are part of that. So are arcane charts and 'matrices' that are not helpful.

    So, IMO, you're both right (send checks to P,O Box 479... ).

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