Friday, January 20, 2017
The Rommel Effect
On social media and in news commentary, there is near universal agreement that making General James Mattis Secretary of Defense if a great thing for America and the Trump Regime. Not only is Mattis arguably the best living general in America, maybe in the world, but he is also seen as willing to stand up for what is right.
But the meteoric rise and fall of the World War II German General Erwin Rommel shows that great generals can make ultimate defeat worse. And it shows that soldiers are lousy conspirators.
The common view of the first year of World War II is that the British and French armies were routed and defeated in six weeks by a superior German armored force using Blitzkrieg tactics. The truth is, the invading Germans were outnumbered and outgunned by the defenders of France. They won because Erwin Rommel commanded 7th Panzer Division at the front of the invading German Army carrying out a brilliant invasion plan.
The British and French had a combined 3,000 tanks, all of which had cannons capable of destroying any of the German medium tanks in the invasion force. The Germans had 2,000 tanks, hundreds of them armed with just machine guns. But the Germans concentrated nearly all their armor on a 20-mile invasion front, while the British and French spread their tanks from the Swiss border to the English Channel. Rommel punched through the allied lines. He personally waded into rivers when his engineers were making bridges for his tanks. Rommel broke through the allied lines and captured huge formations.
Without Rommel carrying out a brilliant invasion plan by General Heinz Guderian, the allied army could have stopped or slowed the German advance and dragged out the war in France. The great early success of Rommel, Guderian and the German Army led Hitler to invade Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Four years later when Allied armies were back in France after D-Day and Soviet armor was in Poland headed for Germany, Rommel joined a plot to assassinate Hitler. Rommel took his own life after being caught. Honorable soldiers are lousy conspirators.
General Mattis could be great for America. His job is to make the American military the best weapon possible. He could make the American military an even better fighting force. But Trump, not Mattis decides who that weapon will be pointed at, just as Rommel fought where Hitler told him to.
Generals decide HOW to fight, not WHO to fight.