“Make the other guy die for his” – on learning from the Men with Guns

I think it was Patton who said that the main aim of a soldier was not to die for his country but make the other guy die for his.  Let me google that for me…  Yep, it was.  [Patton was a tit, btw – Truscott the real deal; see Brendan Phibbs “The Other Side of Time”. But I digress].

Anyhows, I have long felt that social movement activists are missing out on some Important Lessons, about tactics, strategy, motivation etc, because of their squeamishness about Men With Guns Who Kill People.  I wanna say this – Look, our taxes pay for those guys’ education. Our taxes pay for some of them to sit around dreaming up new ways to make the other guy die for his country.  We paid for it, and that knowledge belongs to us. We should get our game faces on and use it.

So after that long preamble, here’s a couple of short quotes from Robert Paterson’s (typically) excellent book on Vimy Ridge

Currie shows us that the key to making sense of fast moving chaos is to create a culture of enquiry. Currie created both a process and an environment where Feedback became an essential part of Canadian operational doctrine.

This is very difficult when leaders think that they know everything anyway or think that they have to be the only ones who know. The cultural challenge for many organizations is to be comfortable with this feedback. It has to be acceptable for the senior leaders “Not to Know” and to look for help.

So how did Currie pull this off?

He set up a defined channel where new ideas were routinely passed up the chain of command. This process was called “Lessons Learned”. All officers were encouraged to report problems and solutions up the line. Lessons from the “Lessons” were built continuously into the how the staff saw events and reacted to them. Tactics and doctrine changed monthly as a result. The result was that the Canadians learned faster and better than their opponents and their colleagues.


As a result, managers have lost power and workers have lost their own sense of taking personal responsibility for their actions. Head offices have become relatively large and self-important placing both a budgetary and psychological strain on the effectiveness of the organization.

Currie did everything in his power to prevent this from happening to the Corps.

In 1918, as the manpower shortage worked its way into the French and British armies, it was decided to reduce the number of battalions in a division.

It was suggested to Currie that the Corps do the same. Then result would have been smaller but more divisions which would have justified calling the Canadian Corps an Army which would in turn have created a new command layer, the Army.

The carrot for this deal was that Currie would have become the General in charge. Currie refused.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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