05 July 2010

Unity of Effort, Then and Now

The debate surrounding the relief of General Stanley McChrystal  involves the issue of unity of effort.  Noah Shachtman, of Wired.com's Danger Room, quotes from an e-mail he received:
There are very few things we control in Afghanistan. In every review of COIN best practices, ‘unity of effort’ tops the list. Every. Single, Review. And we’re totally fucking it up; fucking up the one thing that should be in our control,” the advisor says. “We can’t control Karzai, or the ANP [Afghan National Police], or the Pakistani tribes, but we should be able to get our shit in one sock and we’re not.  [This is further expanded upon by CNAS' Andrew Exum]
The controversy over unity of effort, and more importantly, the implication of a civil-military divide, was echoed in a passage I recently encountered in Piers Macksey's "The War for America", a history of the American Revolution written from a British point of view. (Thanks for the recommendation, Tom Ricks!)

Says Macksey:
Saratoga was marked by the resignation of all the Commanders-in-Chief in America, and was the beginning of what was soon to become a characteristic misfortune of the war:  bitter feuding between the Ministers and their naval and military commanders.  By the end of 1777, both Carleton and Sir William Howe had resigned; and their example was to be followed by Lord Howe in the course of the following year.  
It's interesting to note that the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga was born, in no small part, of grudges between British commanders Burgoyne and Carlton, the latter of whom refused to lend any assistance to Burgoyne, who ultimately surrendered to a large force of Continentals and militiamen.

The lesson:  disunity of effort can cost lives, battles, and ultimately, wars.

Question for the Kings of War:  do you have any other good recommendations for historical works on the American Revolution?

1 comment:

A.E. said...

To say nothing of the various shambolic campaigns of 1812.