Command Failure in War: Psychology and Leadership by Philip Langer, Robert Pois PDF

By Philip Langer, Robert Pois

Why do army commanders, so much of them often rather able, fail at an important moments in their careers? Robert Pois and Philip Langer -- one a historian, the opposite an instructional psychologist -- research seven circumstances of army command disasters, from Frederick the nice at Kunersdorf to Hitler's invasion of Russia. whereas the authors realize the worth of mental theorizing, they don't think that one strategy can disguise all of the members, battles, or campaigns lower than exam. in its place, they judiciously take a couple of psycho-historical techniques in wish of laying off mild at the behaviors of commanders in the course of battle. the opposite battles and commanders studied listed here are Napoleon in Russia, George B. McClellan's Peninsular crusade, Robert E. Lee and Pickett's cost at Gettysburg, John Bell Hood on the conflict of Franklin, Douglas Haig and the British command in the course of global conflict I, "Bomber" Harris and the Strategic Bombing of Germany, and Stalingrad.

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This army won several minor clashes, but always the main van of the Russian army eluded capture or destruction. Probably every student of history knows something about the terrible winter that played a crucial role in destroying Napoleon’s army during the retreat from Moscow. In at least general texts, however, the toll exerted by the terrible heat of the June and July days of 1812 is not usually mentioned. 30 Furthermore, it soon became obvious that, despite Napoleon’s special preparations regarding supplies, the vast distances that had to be covered by the emperor’s army in its seemingly hopeless attempts to bring an elusive foe to battle would render such insuf¤cient.

This was an exercise in eighteenth-century diplomatic and military formalism, something that, while it did not rule out that Vernichtungskrieg so adored by later practitioners of what is sometimes referred to as “military science,” made such a thing highly unlikely. 48 The result was that the eighteenthcentury realities that had made campaigns of annihilation impossible for Frederick in this case served his interests rather well. At Kunersdorf, Frederick violated virtually every principle he had espoused in his earlier writings on war.

52 T RO UB LI N G Q UE S T I ON S Any consideration of Frederick’s actions at Kunersdorf in particular faces certain troubling questions. As we have seen, he violated several of his own tactical theorems, as was evident in his failure to properly reconnoiter the terrain, failure to concentrate his forces, and a gross misuse of cavalry. In fact, Frederick contributed to his own defeat as much as his enemies did, if not more. Second, although he acknowledged he had learned from the Austrians, his blind contempt for the Russians had not changed.

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