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After a post on the point one of Sun Tzu’s quote your can read here below, I will try to analyze the idea of general’s ability.

Sun Tzu said:

Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:

1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?

2. Which of the two generals has most ability?

3. With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?

4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?

5. Which army is stronger?

6. On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

This is really a matter of great complexity, already in a national environment, even more in a multinational one. As already described in a previous post the first obstacle is the inter-cultural capability of the commander. You can refer here:

Then, beyond the mere comparison of national cultures, which have a strong influence on the way to solve a problem or to communicate with the team, you may find completely different educational systems, which will create officers with different skill levels, founding this post on the principle that the very first years in duty forge your brain and your soul for the next decades.

Let us have a look at some of them. In order to keep it simple and stupid, I will exclusively focus on the officers’ academies of the land forces of respectively: Spain, France, Germany and the UK.

-UK: the one year course objective is that “at the end of the course a newly-commissioned Officer will be qualified to lead and manage soldiers while at the same time upholding the British Army’s core values of selfless commitment, respect for others, loyalty, integrity, discipline and courage “.

-France: the officers’ academy “trains leaders able to decide in a complicated situation, prepared for combat. It trains men able to think and to act. (…) Beyond knowledge and know-how, absolutely necessary, the academy acts on way of thinking and attitude of mind so that the future leaders are able to invent solutions adapted to tomorrow’s challenges”.

-Spain:  “the future officers get a multidisciplinary education, which permits them to acquire intellectual ability and military, technical and classical knowledge. Thus, they are demanded to reach a working capability in conditions of stress and weariness and they receive a moral and military education so that they can fulfil their missions and exert the command of their units through a authentic leadership”.

-Germany: I prefer to give you some screen shots, as I have been unable to provide you with a short statement (it’s often the case with the Germans).

And what about the relation to Sun Tzu?

As you can read, there are large differences in the concept for military education of the future elite, where Germany seems to be more technical, the UK insist on leadership and training for the first job, while France and Spain mix academic and military knowledge, with a French peculiarity, stressing the anticipation of officers as future senior military leaders.

With such different objectives, it is really complicated to discriminate in a multinational environment, what officer would be the best leader. In fact, it is even impossible, as the peacetime leader is usually not the wartime one.

More precisely, we, Europeans, are until now unable to determine what is the best education system to choose, so that we are sure that the designated commander have the most ability and has won the confidence of his subordinates and of the political leaders of the coalition. In such conditions, the only solution which is left, consists in going back to Sun Tzu’s point one, where the multinational commander will first have to show his moral virtue to then open the door to this necessary confidence. Then, afterwards he will be able to express his ability in operations.

A reverse process would be in my opinion very complicated, as the best military proficiency level would be extremely difficult to implement in a operation if the subordinates do not first trust the commander. Effectively in a situation of mistrust, whatever military skills the leader may have, the national representatives would first refer to the nation before doing a single movement, and express to their national chain of command their concern; national chain of command which could recommend the national representative on the theatre to take some distance with the orders of the multinational commander and implement them a minima, thus endangering the operation.

To conclude (as usual), as long as there will be neither standardization nor benchmarking of military education of officers, confidence will be based exclusively on the capability of the leader to be imbued with Moral Law (or Tao, according to Thomas Huynh of, in any case, much more than in a purely national framework.



Author :
EurActiv Network