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Old August 9th, 2017, 08:35 PM   #1

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How to become military literate?


Reading books of strategies and military history doesn't always generate decent or even great generals; we have textbook generals that failed.
Then, how to become military literate?
Understanding something is very different from reading something.
The English translation of On War is quite awful.
Let me select a random text:
We shall not enter into any of the abstruse definitions of war used by publicists. We shall keep to the element of the thing itself, to a duel. War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale. If we would conceive as a unit the countless number of duels which make up a war, we shall do so best by supposing to ourselves two wrestlers. Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: his first object is to throw his adversary, and thus to render him incapable of further resistance.

Since reading On War entirely may not render a person military literate, how should a layperson become somewhat military literate?
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Old August 9th, 2017, 09:42 PM   #2

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Not sure there is a reliable way other than reading and competing intensely in something. I don't think you can be literate by reading alone, you have to be involved in a confrontation that is fairly intense in some way to understand even vaguely how people think when threatened and without understanding some of human nature that manifests when under threat it seems difficult to become literate.

Even then for modern war that is probably not enough because it is incredibly complex and even during an active career someone isn't necessarily literate.
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Old August 10th, 2017, 03:16 AM   #3

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Let me give you example.
I became manager coming from IT area and I dealt with many issues in problems the best I could.
Later I joint management studies: and it was like revelation for me. Yes, NOW I UNDERSTAND I was thinking. Other students who never were managers repeated what they were tought but I am pretty sure they did not reach proper understanding.
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Old August 10th, 2017, 01:44 PM   #4
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Attend a military academy.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 12:00 AM   #5

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Reading military literature is very useful, but military literature is virtually never prescriptive. It cannot tell you how the next war will be fought. There's a saying that goes somewhere along the lines of "Generals prepare to fight the last war". That's what happens when you do not consider the everchanging nature of war.

The trick is to understand the concepts described and apply these concepts to the present war. That's why books like On War are so universally appreciated. It describes concepts which are true for war in general.

Other than that, there's ofcourse intuition. Gut-feeling, or Napoleon's 'coup d'oeil'. That cannot be taught with books, only through practice.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 04:12 AM   #6

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Like any layperson, be very interested in the subject and read all you can. Become an expert.
Think of an art, drama or music critic, they know enough about their field of art, but how many of them actually drew a curve, trod the boards or fired off an arpeggio?

However, I think your question may be addressing how to learn about warfare from literature rather than being in action with a weapon in your hand.
Well, most military men NEVER see action, but they prepare for it, which will involve reading all sorts of books to show the concepts required, which can then be tried in exercises and training.

For example, when the first Gulf War started, it had been over four decades since any kind of massed armoured warfare had been fought by the armies that made up the Coalition. How did anyone know what to do?
In that time, they had been practising to fight off Soviet Tank armies in western Germany; because practice was limited and many earlier participants had retired over that period, many manuals had been written, becoming essential reading for the up-and-coming captains, who would then use the theories behind them.

There's nothing new about flanking attacks, but that's exactly how that particular war was fought.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 05:13 AM   #7
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study logistics.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 06:02 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by VHS View Post
Reading books of strategies and military history doesn't always generate decent or even great generals; we have textbook generals that failed.
Then, how to become military literate?
Understanding something is very different from reading something.
The English translation of On War is quite awful.
Let me select a random text:
We shall not enter into any of the abstruse definitions of war used by publicists. We shall keep to the element of the thing itself, to a duel. War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale. If we would conceive as a unit the countless number of duels which make up a war, we shall do so best by supposing to ourselves two wrestlers. Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: his first object is to throw his adversary, and thus to render him incapable of further resistance.

Since reading On War entirely may not render a person military literate, how should a layperson become somewhat military literate?
I suspect that in the average advanced military training today, "On War" is a sidenote of a day or two. Modern armies have any number of official manuals and publications detailing every bit of strategic and tactical doctrine, as well as just how to run an army day-to-day.

Sure, logistics and regular management just need to be learned and taken care of, but to a large extent that's already taken care of since everyone who has jobs of those types in the army know what to do for their little part. The parts go together, and it works. Procedures, paperwork, signatures, accounting, etc. Inventory and readiness reports.

And of course soldiers and their officers learn tactics, and practice practice practice. THAT's how to get good at something.

BUT it should be noted that there is an absolute need for natural talent and inclination as well. You can't just train up a Napoleon or Caesar from nothing. If you read "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young" or watch "Band of Brothers", you'll see that every officer has his own style and method of command, and some are very much better and more effective than others. *Some* of that can be learned, much comes from within.

Of course, if you have no intention of actually leading troops or armies into battle and just want to learn how it's done, keep reading! But I'd stick with the more detailed historical accounts, or commanders' memoirs, to get a feel for what personalities succeeded, and how they were able to visualize forces and deployments, etc. I believe a lot of military manuals are available online. Commanders had to know their men and how they fought, they had to know their officers and what their duties were, they had to know the enemy, they had to know the battlefield.

So basically, becoming "miltary literate" takes time and lots of study.

Matthew
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Old August 12th, 2017, 06:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Amt View Post
I
Sure, logistics and regular management just need to be learned and taken care of, but to a large extent that's already taken care of since everyone who has jobs of those types in the army know what to do for their little part.
LITTLE. I really object to this dismissal of logistics as "little part"

if you don't understand logistics you have no idea of what is possible operationally. Without a grasp of logistics you get Napoleon in Russia.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 07:55 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by pugsville View Post
LITTLE. I really object to this dismissal of logistics as "little part"

if you don't understand logistics you have no idea of what is possible operationally. Without a grasp of logistics you get Napoleon in Russia.
Oh, no, not what I meant at all, sorry! Logistics is absolutely crucial and huge! I just meant that each office clerk in whatever currenty system is a cog in a much larger wheel. Heck, I'm part of that, too, really, a credit card holder in the library of the US military's medical school. I buy books and ebooks and toner and office supplies, things like that. Tony over in Finance is a Vice President of something and has his daily tasks of approving this that or the other, but has no concern over toner or pencils, nor over moving orders up the pipeline to deploy a carrier task group. We're each doing little parts to get the whole immense job done!

A general or other leader doesn't have to learn about all that in detail, he simply knows the system works and how to utilize it for his purposes.

A *student* of militaria would certainly benefit from knowing the gigantic extent of military logistics (ancient or modern!), and get something of an inkling of that end of the world.

Matthew
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