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Today’s Pentagon: War-Winning Versus War-Losing Madness

In late June 1940, in the aftermath of the British Expeditionary Force’s (BEF) evacuation at Dunkirk and the French surrender to Hitler, British Major-General Bernard Montgomery committed himself to what his biographer considered to be Monty’s singular purpose for the remainder of the war: “to reform the British Army – to avenge Dunkirk,” to prove that “democracies could defend themselves.”

Weeks earlier, appalled that many British considered Dunkirk to have been anything other than “a crushing defeat” and, equally, with the BEF’s incompetent leadership – while anticipating his own division’s return to France to continue the fight – Montgomery added to a reputation for intensity that led some to refer to him as “the ‘mad General.’” In Monty, The Making of a General 1887-1942, Nigel Hamilton wrote,

It is impossible to say that Bernard’s character changed in the course of the early summer of 1940, since such features of his personality [including his “‘mad’ laugh” and personal “iron discipline”] had been in evidence long before. Moreover madness is often indefinable except as abnormality – and abnormality, the unwillingness of English people from Churchill to the Home Guard to accept defeat, was undoubtedly what saved Britain in 1940 and 1941.

From 1940 to 1942, Montgomery’s “almost despotic vision” as a corps commander built a night-fighting army – and the first truly modern British Army “since Napoleonic times” – that successfully battled the Germans in North Africa and, later, in Europe. His personally devised training lessons included the following:

No good trying to fight a first class enemy unless the soldiers are absolutely on their toes.

They must have the light of battle in their eyes.

They must look forward to a good fight.

They must be full of “binge.”

Cannot be full of binge if you are not fit; must have that exhilaration that comes from physical well being; [optimistic] outlook on life; no good being pessimistic with a face like a piece of cheese.

Physical fitness and powers of endurance are essentials for victory.

Cannot be full of “binge” if you are always “belly-aching.”

Too much of it in the Army. Stop it.

The nature of Bernard Montgomery’s “madness” proved to be war-winning – in which he joined ranks with other renowned 20th-century military leaders including the U.S. Army’s generals Pershing and Marshall. They, too, emphasized individual discipline, an army’s foundation of physical fitness and endurance, and the relieving of subordinate commanders no longer up to the exigencies of leading troops in combat.

But what about the Pentagon? Rather than focusing on legitimate combat readiness for an increasingly likely confrontation with Communist China, the U.S. Army wastes its scarce resources and cultural capital on renaming installations bearing the names of those incapable of passing the current “Purity Test.”

While the Army “belly-aches” over its dismal recruiting (and unfit recruits) – also evident in 2022’s lowered applicant-accessioning numbers at the service academies and the Virginia Military Institute – Pentagon leaders fail to consider that its policies disrespecting the majority of citizens in the former Confederate states – whose young adults since 2001 sustained one of every three U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq – actually may harm recruiting.

This isn’t rocket science. As preeminent British military historian Sir Michael Howard wrote decades ago, there are only two ways to learn military history: one is to experience it; the other, to read and study it. Based on studies of previous warfare, is there any military historian who thinks that renaming military installations, providing military administrative support to servicemembers’ requested change of gender assignment, or requiring certain pronoun usage by personnel has anything to do with enhancing combat readiness?

Air Force leaders based in the Pacific theater, or elsewhere, who assert that proper pronoun usage increases “lethality” are speaking irresponsibly. They should be warned, or retired. Meanwhile, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels have been denied port calls in the Solomon Islands, where for six months beginning in August 1942 the Battle of Guadalcanal raged at high cost in American blood – perhaps a poignant reminder of realpolitik. Moreover, its government recently concluded “a secretive security agreement with China,” another indication of China’s strategic ambitions around the globe.

As one prominent air power historian mused, the “bought-off-with-Chinese-money” Solomon Islands government perhaps is unimpressed with our diversity programs and proper pronouns. Another insightful observer concluded, “This self-absorption is not lost on our allies, friends, competitors, adversaries and enemies. It is now sewn into their battle plans.”

In his 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury’s Professor Faber says of the regime’s authorities, “They are so confident that they will run on forever. But they won’t run on. They don’t know that this is all one huge big blazing meteor that makes a pretty fire in space, but that someday it’ll have to hit.” So it is with our defense establishment’s diversity-obsessed, anti-meritocratic, self-destructive irrationalities. They will hit reality – perhaps soon.

In contrast to Bernard Montgomery’s war-winning madness during World War Two, today’s Pentagon is promoting what could prove to be a war-losing madness.

Heed Monty’s exhortation: “Stop it.”

– Forrest L. Marion, PhD

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