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03 September 2015


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Patrick Bahzad,

thanks for the very detailled answer to my question.

I will try to discuss some of your remarks:

"What distinguishes the Bundeswehr from other armed forces of its time, maybe less so today, is the concept of "Innere Führung", which was developped as a counter-model to exactly the "command culture" that Muth speaks about and which utterly failed to prevent the massive war crimes and genocide by German armed forces in WW2."

Here I disagree to a certain extend. Most of the higher officers who committed war crimes in WWII were products of their pre-WWI training and WWI war experience. If the basic concept, i.e. intellectual freedom of officers, were the basic fault, we should have seen a lot of war crimes in WWI and I can not explain why many former Austrian officers were more prone to war crimes in WWII than their German peers. There were some good articles on the situation in Yogoslavia, the WWI experience (theatre of war) determined the actions of the officers, not their original nationality and curriculum.

Could it be, that a lack of "civilian" supervision is more importantto turn an soldier into a criminal?

"On the downside, he fails to understand certain contingencies of "military life" and misses out on fundamental qualities of military leadership that are not learnt through an academic curriculum."

Could you elaborate this a little bit more? My impression was, that Muth did NOT assumed that you learn the trade in an academy, quite contrary. It was about an environment in the regiments that leads to critical thinking, many Regimentschefs did not attend the war academy.

Now, I have to digest your comments a little bit more.



"Could it be, that a lack of "civilian" supervision is more important to turn an soldier into a criminal?" In my experience civilian members of government are more savage and disregarding of death and destruction than soldiers. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Think we'll have to save this discussion for a separate piece about Muth's book and the German army in WW1 and WW2.

Quick replies to your points:
- Muth deals with period 1901-1940, therefore preWW1 training and experience is of interest in his research and has a direct bearing on WW2 as well. There was no big difference in the "command culture" of the "Heer" of 1914, the "Reichswehr" of 1930 and the "Wehrmacht" of 1939 ... there's a cultural and personal continuity in many cases. Except for a few general officers who were ousted, sometimes under dubious pretenses, the whole army swore an oath to Hitler, who by the way never made it past the rank of "Corporal" and not even in a combatant capacity.

- Let's nt forget the German armies committed a number of war crimes during WW1, especially in 1914 and 1915, but the fall-out and the bad publicity they got in the Allied press was so bad that the "High Command" put an end to it. Never forget the "Lusitania" ... that one really backfired on them didnt it ?!

- "Innere Führung" is not about freedom of an officer, it is about any member of the military beng a citizen first and a soldier second. Therefore, the citizen takes precedence over the soldier, that is the basic guiding principle, as explained by ex-Chancellor and ex-Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt, himself a former Lieutenant in the Wehrmacht, when he sacked COs who still thought they could behave as in the old days of the Wehrmacht.

- Regarding Austrians, many of them were assigned to Yougoslavia, which was a particularly bloody partisan war. I don't think they were any better or worse than the Germans who got posted in the same environment.

- regimental culture and values are dictated top to bottom. It does only make a difference if you end up in a regiment where you can develop leadership qualities instead of blind obedience. what makes the difference, is the experience you get in the field, that's where you prove how good a leader you are, for men will not follow you into war and possibly death if they don't have absolute faith in you (and you can't be a good leader of men if you don't have faith in them). Let's not forget either, the militaristic anti-democratic political culture at work in Germany: the figure of the "Hauptman von Köpenick" is the perfect example of this culture.

- there are a number of other limitations to Muth's theory, linked to the purely military planning of the German High Command from 1866 until 1914. Basic strategic flaws nobody dared highlighting and I'm not sure Muth is in a position to assess the seriousness of these shortcomings.


Any time! 'Once a Doc, always a Doc'.


I was taught that you don't want a Franchise owner to be a creative leader. With 100 installations out there in the field, you don't want someone who's going to invent about cutting corners by cooking the burgers for 30 sec instead of 1 min and serving them half-raw, or buying a cheap off-brand mixer with bearings that're going to break. You want someone you can give the 3-ring binder of policy & procedure rules to, and they're going to follow them. Someone who used to be an airline pilot or a policeman. You want a good *manager*, someone who knows how to follow a plan to produce consistent results, and is not going to get bored by it.

The really creative ones, you hire yourself & promote to corporate. [But NOT in accounting. You DON'T want creative accountants.][Enron. Goldman Sachs.] The right person for the right job.


Death and its implications are complete foreign situations to the Playstation generation, and so they have no immediate experience upon which to ground values and decisions. Grand Theft Rambo teaches blowing untermen away with no consequences; like the Star Trek red-shirts, they were born to die. And if by some chance you get killed, why restart the game with your next life, no loss.

Difference in degree but not kind; a Vietnam bomber talked about following orders and pulling the lever to drop carpet bombs on all those cartoony people down there, like the Road Runner. Because it's not immediate, it's not REAL.

American movies from Hollywood have the same problem. The Hero ALWAYS survives and ALWAYS wins. People think in stories, and assess probabilities based on accounts and immediacy. So to watch ten thousand hero stories on TV before age 10 skews judgement. "Platoon" is a good start, but I would recommend making "84 Charlie Mopic" required viewing; there must be better I don't know.

"The American Psychological Association says there are three major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e.: video games/television) children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others." http://allpsych.com/journal/violentmedia/#.Ve3hnd_I12E

Also if possible show documentaries on the secondary effects of killing people: deriving others of family and breadwinners. No good suggestions here but "Restrepo", "Fruitvale Station", "The Times of Harvey Milk", or "The Act of Killing" might provide starting ideas. Actions have consequences.

In 6th grade, we got to watch The Talk. Our biology teacher was a photographer; he would go down to the morgue and the hospital and document local teens, then relate simply and factually what actually happens to hundreds of people in a hair-raising slide-show guaranteed to scare people straight. "Here's a guy who died of a heroin overdose. Here's his equipment. Here's a guy who got drunk, thought he could run across the highway. Here's a guy who robbed a drug store, thought he could shoot it out with the police. Here's a guy who got into a gang knife fight. Here's another overdosed drug addict..."


Next: A solid appreciation of ethics/values, and when NOT to follow orders.

My Lai massacre and how individuals acted should be required study. Other similar histories as well.

Schweizer's "Extortion" and Bueno de Mesquita's "The Dictator's Handbook" teach officers that politicians are not infallible.

A full semester should be taught on the atrocities of Israel, as shining examples of how not to act. Start with one day on our Constitution and that of the U.N., including right to life; no imprisonment w/o trial; no self-incrimination; no collective punishment, so there is a strict bright line on moral behavior. Then a comprehensive catalog of ethical violations. Do not discuss just WHAT is wrong, but WHY it comes 'round to bite you in the end: the population loses respect for the legitimacy of the government and its army, leaving an escalating mortal contest of repression/terrorism.

An Army effort is seriously trying to integrate/update Bushido ethics for the modern world. I've lost the reference, but it's something like: "A warrior is a Protector. Protect who? Protect himself. Protect his nation. Protect EVERYONE." Hum, looks like perhaps Jack Hoban's Ethical Warrior program? I admire the direction: All life is valuable; must go along to get along; actions have consequences; actions must be grounded in ethics; ethics must be well thought-out. Right direction.

The following video should also be required viewing. Two Ukrainian POWs are trying to explain why they followed orders to point artillery at civilian town centers and shell them. There is no excuse, and they know it. They will have to live with this knowledge for the rest of their lives. Do not ever let your people become players in this kind of situation.


Meta-decision theory: Knowing WHEN and HOW to decide. Quality of decision improves but saturates with quality of information, improved thru Information-gathering Actions. Cost of further Info-g-Actions is compared against chances of whether further info could change the decision any, and immediacy/urgency of the situation. At some point further info is not going to change your mind. Decisions are always made w/some degree of incomplete information; when to fish or cut bait, and when to sit back & gather more info, is a meta-decision. Other possibilities include: do nothing; wait; relegate choice to inferior; delegate choice to superior; call in experts; pick something random; shoot from the hip; etc. Sometimes good decisions lead to poor outcomes, and vice versa. Decisions should be made with cooperative, repeated trials with multiplicative outcomes, over the long term, in mind; not single-shot additive rewards; this will act to minimize risk and ensure thriving survival, not maximize gain. The science of how to make a good-quality decision (when to choose to decide) can be studied and taught.


Goldratt's "The Goal" teaches the counter-intuitive lesson that the progress of an aggregate is determined by the speed of its slowest path-critical component, NOT by their average speed. Also random fluctuations will eat you alive. It is written compellingly at an easy high-school level in the form of a mystery novel in an industrial logistics setting, and should be required reading for all officers. The dice game experiment starting on p.104 should also be a required experiential transformational exercise. Since the book talks about the hiking speed of a squadron of scouts being governed by the speed of its slowest member, this book has immediate application to troop leaders.


Re Innere Führung: No dispute. And Helmut Schmid was the right man in the right position.

"Except for a few general officers who were ousted, sometimes under dubious pretenses, the whole army swore an oath to Hitler..."

However, there was a broad spectrum how officers handled criminal orders. IMHO too many complied, some ignored the orders, many muddled through. Some (like Rommel) were simply lucky, that there was no large scale murder in his TOW.

"Regarding Austrians, many of them were assigned to Yougoslavia, which was a particularly bloody partisan war. I don't think they were any better or worse than the Germans who got posted in the same environment."

That is the point. They had a complete different curriculum than their German peer but behaved not better, quite contrary.

"there are a number of other limitations to Muth's theory, linked to the purely military planning of the German High Command from 1866 until 1914. Basic strategic flaws nobody dared highlighting and I'm not sure Muth is in a position to assess the seriousness of these shortcomings"

That is my critique too. He ignored some of the results of the Zuber discussion (which 2009 already weakended some Muths arguments) and IMHO Frieser in "Blitzkrieglegende" did a much better job to describe with Halder as example teh weaknesses of the German system.


"Let's nt forget the German armies committed a number of war crimes during WW1, especially in 1914 and 1915, but the fall-out and the bad publicity they got in the Allied press was so bad that the "High Command" put an end to it. Never forget the "Lusitania" ... that one really backfired on them didnt it ?!"

I think the Lusitania is a bad example, it only highlights the stupidity of the Germans when it comes to propaganda. You would have a better argument with Belgium 1914, a few thousand civilians were killed in dubious situations, no officer was punished.

However, if you check the east front then you see already a very dirty war on both sides in WWI, which is simply forgotten. Here the German contribution was not worse than the Austrian or Russian giving an argument against the hypothesis that the curriculum of the German officer training was the culprit.


"In my experience civilian members of government are more savage and disregarding of death and destruction than soldiers."

Yes, they have often no skin of their children in the game and usually did not see the results of their orders and action.

However, it is still a disturbing observation, that the German and Japanese armies turned criminal in WWII when they were perfectly normal in WWI. What changed? How would officers others armies have reacted in a atmosphere the German were 1941 on the Ostfront?

Patrick Bahzad

Many German officers may have meddled through but when the Reichswehr was decapitated by the Nazis, with Generals such as Schleicher, Blomberg and Bredow being ousted or even murdered, nobody in the Reichswehr moved a finger. How is that for an "esprit de corps". I don't know, but doesn't go down well ...

Patrick Bahzad

agree with you about Belgium, but there were things along the same lines in Eastern France ... As for the Lusitania, it had a fatal impact for German war as it was used a propaganda tool in the US.



In the case of both Japan and Germany militarist politicians gained control of the state and simply ordered the military to carry out their policies. pl


doesn't "esprit de corps" thin out a bit at higher elevations.

What would "right action" have been in the chaos of 1933-34?

factule: putsch was a brand new word in 1920. Germans needed their own word for coup.



IMO it is true that self interest is more and more a factor as people gain more and more power. As my dear old dad used to say "when you are tempted to trust a general officer remember how he got to be one." There are exceptions, but not many. IMO the Reichswehr in the first year or two of Hitler's chancellorship had many internal psychological inhibitions about overthrowing a legally created government. By the time they overcame that, it was too late. pl

Patrick Bahzad

What chaos are you referring to with regard to 1933-34 ? There was no chaos !

Got me lost about 1920 + putsch vs coup statement.

Patrick Bahzad

And those who had publicly expressed second thoughts were either murdered in 1934, such as Gen. von Schleicher (ex-Minister of Defence and ex-Chancelor) and Gen. von Bredow (Chief of 'Abwehr' military intelligence), or ousted in 1936, like Gen. von Blomberg (Defence Minister and ex-Chief of Staff) when the Nazis dug up some dirt about his wife and forced him into retirement.

That could/should have served as a wake-up call for the Staff and General Officers of the "Reichswehr", but other than the psychological inhibitions, what was also at stake was the position of the "Reichswehr" as the main armed force in Nazi Germany. Up until July 1934, there was still the risk of E. Roehm's "SA" being put in charge of military operations.

At least, that is something the Nazis played with in order to encourage allegiance from the "Reichswehr". In the end, Hitler chose Himmler and his SS as the party's armed wing, but getting rid of the "SA" probably was enough to buy a certain loyalty among officers who had not completely realized what was going on and who were also in agreement with many of the Nazi party's declared goals at that time, let's be honest.


The Germans had helped overthrow the Romanovs fifteen years previously. The outcome of (and blowback from) that must also have made for a certain qualmishness.



" This was a “gift” from his father who liked to discuss passing topography from the military point of view. Pat Lang had participated in that “game” from early childhood."

ENVY! Lovely vignette - would be less moving if the father were a warm fuzzy type and/or the experience for the kid had been a pleasant one. Can it be expanded?

I have a set of old pictures each of two people (actually three if you count the one behind the camera) titled Intervals. The feature of interest is the space between them. It is eloquent.


To lead men, you must feed their souls. The soul is the domain of Meaning & Purpose. When you give men's actions Meaning, and you give them a Purpose, then they will endure and can do practically anything.

The main book here is Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning", both halves. First half is autobio about how Dr. author survived starving in Nazi concentration camps; second half is his fumbling attempts to codify this and turn it into an early psychoanalysis school "logotherapy" to deal with ennui and suicide.

When you go meta and see it's all about meaning & purpose, it becomes much easier.

Meaning & purpose can be perverted, however, which is why Buddha taught Right Actions, Right Livelihood, and Right Efforts. http://www.londonbuddhistvihara.org/fund_topics/eightfold.htm
Engineering is about doing things efficiently. But when the German engineers set up an efficient logistics system for gathering inconvenients, putting them on trains, cycling them through the death chambers, and disposing of their bodies, all on schedule without stacking up--and the German pre-computer programmers used punch-cards to track population and feed the system,
then meaning & purpose become perverted. Even now the cycle becomes complete, as the Zionists of Israel derive purpose from efficiently keeping Gaza at near-starvation food levels.

So choosing the RIGHT purpose, in an era of ever-increasing efficiency, requires critical thinking.


"Skate where the puck is going." In the Rape of Nanjing, an entire city of inconvenient untermen was rounded up, taken to the river, and exterminated like cockroaches. In the Iraq Turkey Shoot, a million inconvenient young men conscripted at gunpoint were slaughtered, while an entire country of untermensch was destroyed for the women and children. In the Ukraine, the country is drafting women and old men as cannon fodder, while allowing officers to shoot enlisteds for insubordination. The common theme is contempt for inconvenient human lives.

The next generation's biggest challenge will be to keep from losing their humanity in the face of ever-better automation. Humanoid Terminators are still 14 years out, but the Army's already studying how to give orders to mixed killer-robot squads, and how grunts will take orders from Terminator lieutenants. The Skynet hunter-killer drones are already a reality; any patrol that does not use eyes in the sky is so 2000's. Death from above at the push of a button circumvents the Constitutional messy needs for trials. Robotic falconry will become ubiquitous. Same for robot speedboats, fighter jets. Laser cannons are coming online, could allow for precision non-lethal shots, will allow very-long-distance sniping. Death-ray machines have been downscoped to portable truck-mounted heat-rays for pesky crowd control; their first use will inspire intense hatred.

As creating death becomes overwhelmingly easier and cleaner, the temptation of amoral politicians grows to do what seems to work and employ force as a first solution. At present the JCoS seem to act as the only adults in the room, counterbalancing the politicians' death wish; I see this need can only grow. The Colonel's modus of getting to know people; treating people like people; and defusing potential conflicts through deep understanding, needs to be taught and spread. Karmic payback is a bitch; America has yet to master this.

The Armed Forces are now wizard at destroying stuff. American lives can be saved by learning how to defuse, transcend and create. These skills can be identified and taught.


Harvard Negotiation Project's "Getting To Yes", required. "Type Talk", required. Oshry's "Seeing Systems". Surprisingly, Gottman's "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" is actually about the patterns of general relationship conflict, and how they can be prevented. Criticism, contempt, whining, mockery, stonewalling, insults, threats, feints escalate on a sliding scale to confrontation. A cascade of problems builds to trigger avalanches. "What is far more important than actually solving the issue or problem is feeling good about the interaction itself."

William R. Cumming

IMO WWI a large ethnic and culturally driven war and WWII a racially driven war. Could be wrong of course.

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