The Commander On The Ground

The commander on the ground makes the final decision: why older men and established communities think younger men and new comers are stupid, and haven’t a clue of what they are talking about.

In World War One but especially World War Two, one of the things the German army did that was revolutionary was that high command would make a mission with certain objectives and then assign this mission to a unit. The commander of the unit, the subordinate to the high command was then free to accomplish the mission in any way he felt necessary. The rationale was that the commander on the ground had superior tactical knowledge of a mission, and therefore was well equipped to make changes in the plan in response to the changing conditions on the ground. The high command accepted the fact that the best laid plans often fall apart, and the best way to work around that was to let the commander on the ground change the modus operandi to fit the current tactical situation instead of rigidly following a plan and guide lines set by higher-ups.

Other armies that were slow to adopt this line of thinking and operating had trouble reacting to the ever changing conditions of the battlefield. Commanders who were competent but did not always follow orders to accomplish missions often got court martialed and their careers stalled, hampering their ability to positively affect the war effort on their nation’s behalf. Commanders who were known for rigidly following rules often got their men killed when they could adapt to the ever changing tactics and strategy of the enemy.

Sometimes older men, jaded through experience, are quick to dismiss the ideas of younger men who seek their guidance because they feel like they know the answer already and that there is no other way to arrive at the same answer. Sometimes they dismiss the younger men as stupid for not seeing the answer like they do, because it is so blindingly obvious and “How can you not see what the answer is?”

Often the same issue is paralleled in established communities where newcomers are trying to break ground. One of the examples that most comes to my mind are scientific communities like the ones that revolve around physics or anthropology. Often they dismiss newcomers as too inexperienced to make any observation worth a damn, or just plain crazy.

Usually the issue is that the older party or established community, having so much knowledge and experience in store, comes to conclusions pretty fast. Just like a boxer who can perform his combos faster and faster due to practice or can recognize the moves his opponent is using, an older man or established organization uses all of their data points to come to conclusions and find answers pretty fast. Most of the time, this is a good thing. Sometimes, though, it prevents the older party or community from learning something new.

Maybe the kid actually has something worthwhile to say. Maybe the up and coming anthropologist’s new theory actually has a lot going for it. Of course nobody would know unless they stopped to think that maybe they don’t have all of the data points and maybe they might learn something. It certainly doesn’t hurt to listen to all of new idea’s arguments, if not only to be sure of its usefulness, as opposed to making a snap judgment. It is important to keep your mind open so that you do not discourage younger people or new comers from forming their own opinions and bringing them to you.

The worst case is that they’ll tell you you’re full of shit and take their ideas elsewhere and learn things the hard way.

My father, despite his abundance of experience, does not belittle any ideas or suggestions I make and does not answer any stupid questions of mine as if it were a burden to do so. Sometimes he may think he’s a little forceful in debate, but he’s usually good about acknowledging the fact and apologizing if he thinks he has gone too far (he’s never actually apologized, but I did catch him explaining how he was tired and therefore his method of debate was little less diplomatic than usual and that he was not mad at me). Consequently, I seek out his advice often and pay attention even when I think his answer is off the mark.

My brother on the other hand does not do the same. He has gained lots of experience like my father and has done relatively well for himself. However, his attitude is different when offering answers to questions or advice. While he’s nice enough over the phone or through email, in person, his arrogance is corrosive. Every now and then I ask him questions and he’ll oftentimes sigh as if he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Then he answers my questions as if I’m the stupidest person in the world for asking those questions. Or he’ll ask me to do so something for him and when I do it wrong or don’t understand what is asked of me, he’ll look at me as if I’m a retarded monkey capable of little more than eating bananas and slinging poop.

And then he’ll tell me how I’m stupid and am doing it wrong in a disappointed tone. This makes me dislike asking him questions. He just sounds like a prima donna douche bag who gets annoyed that he has to help me out or explain things to me. Sure he has more experience living life than I do, but not nearly enough like my Dad to warrant his attitude.

One time when I drove with him over 1,000 miles to keep him company on the way to see the birth of his first born son, I talked with him about a girl I was involved with. At the time I was started develop heavy feelings for her as she had already told me “I love you” plenty of times and I thought that maybe she might be sincere after all. My brother tore that idea apart with how it would end miserably because I wouldn’t see her for 18 months if I went to the service academy that I desired.

When I told him about how I made her make me a sandwich and blow me while I ate it because she was “being too much of a woman” he told me that I was abusing her. He thought I hated women. I was appalled. How could he say I was abusing her? It’s one thing if beat her and forced her to make the sandwich, but to come to that conclusion? Just like that? He didn’t even stop to be on my side for a minute because I’m his brother. Or congratulate me on it.

What? I hate women now?

The irony is that my brother once taught me that I should let what people say about or to me get to me. If some drunkard on the street told me, “I fucked your mom last night” I wouldn’t care. He doesn’t know me, or my mom, and probably didn’t fuck her. But to hear these sorts of comments from my brother blew me away. In ninth grade my brother once told me that I could ask him anything about girls, especially about how to have sex because he had no shame in discussing such matters and I was his little brother, dammit. Now the thought of asking my brother for any advice towards girls repulses me.

Later I learned that my brother acted the way he did as he was feeling guilty of some his own personal demons. I still don’t think he should have projected his bad behavior and morals regarding such on me but I largely forgive him for it. When I brought up the issue to my Dad, he explained to me that my brother had a hard time imagining that when I think of wrong answer, I come up with it, because at my age it makes sense and I don’t know any better. He will learn in time with his son that young people ask a ton of stupid questions, and he’ll mellow out on giving advice. I certainly hope so.

Read More: It’s Easier To Shine When You’re Younger

25 thoughts on “The Commander On The Ground”

  1. I’ve experienced this before on many occasions and it seems to be a growing problem in many industries and parts of our society. In my second engineering internship I had a feminist female boss in her 50’s who was too lazy to learn anything new, and as an engineer learning new technologies and methodologies the go is a must in any field. Many a time I would be explaining a concept to her when she would interrupt me too even admit that she was too lazy (in her own words) to put effort forth to comprehend.
    It’s sad to see sometimes how older parties especially baby boomers and many people after they graduate college are too lazy to train and teach others as well as be taught from others themselves just because they think they know enough already.
    Good post brotha

    1. It’s true you’re likely to encounter men and women like this, but it’s my belief that it is a “growing problem” as you say precisely because of the feminization of America. “According to W. I. Thomas, the matriarchal phases of history were those with little movement of population, a conservative watchful attitude over things to grow… And Magaret Mead: We may well find that there are certain fields such as the physical sciences, mathematics and instrumental music, in which men by virtue of their sex, as well as by virtue of their qualities as specially gifted human beings, will always have the razor edge of extra gift which makes all the difference, and while woman easily follow where men lead, men will always make the new discoveries”. The sexes aren’t equal and the assertion of sameness not only enslaves both men and women alike, but also causes the stagnation of civilization (in my view).

  2. WTF? That is about the opposite of what the Wermacht MO was. Political leaders like Hitler and Goering were always interfering with the tactical decisions of lower level commanders. Which is ironic since without that meddling the really incomparably talented German officers (IE Manstein, one of the greatest generals who ever lived) would have won the war by 1941. That the german army was not allowed to operate in the manner you describe is common knowledge.

    1. Questionable whether there are any general-level positions in a dictatorship. Certainly Manstein didn’t amount to much, or he would have stepped over Hitler

      1. Who could have truly comprehended the mind of that madman. Or been in the shoes of the soldiers who had to save their country and people while serving under that boot heel. Not all fo the soldiers in Nazi Germany were fascist. Their party was truly a demonic machine of marketing and false propaganda. THey were probably just as confused as they were on their dying day.
        It is what it is, and we may never truly know the whole scope.

      2. Sounds like you don’t know much about him. Give it a quick google, its interesting reading.

    2. I’m just gonna leave this here for you…
      It should get you started. You can read more on the subject on your own. Wald’s article has more to do with the REALLY lower tactical level of the German military, meaning battalion level and below, where the rubber meats the road so to speak. Also, the wartime “bad behaviors” of the senior Nazi leadership have little to do with the training and doctrinal practices inculcated into the German war machine by the Prussian military aristocracy over a period of decades.

      1. That was exactly what I was referring too. I admit I should have been more specific, but that was not the focus on my article.

  3. I’m not sure what the point of this article was. That there is a generational gap? That the op has some sort of complex with his brother?

    1. Yeah, I was a little perplexed too. Although sometimes when writing something this personal it is easy to lose focus when clarifying elements of your past involving those who had such a profound effect.
      There are several lessons in this that I got, although I agree with you in that they could have been related better. His other articles were fine. So I feel no need to rip him up.
      Everyone is allowed a mulligan.

    1. It’s one week. If you’re so bugged by it, just come back later…or don’t click on those articles.

    1. Didn’t click the link but assume it’s some sort of gay porn.
      Nice try, feminist troll

  4. Hey, you’ve forgotten that this was supposed to be fat shaming week! 😛
    But this article was worth several reads and an introspection. *sits in yoga position and starts*

  5. “Why older men and established communities think younger men and new comers are stupid, and haven’t a clue of what they are talking about.”
    Who were the ones that went into the reckless wars and financed the size of the stupid welfare state? I guess it must have been the young and the unborn with their voting block right? Gimme a break and quit sayin stupid fuckin shit.
    You bring up the German army, but they got their asses kicked by the Americans and the British. Hell, Hitler actually made the same kinds of comments you’re makin to show that the Germans and Japanese were better than the Americans. That worked out well didn’t it. Wait….

  6. This article kind of wanders around and never really finds a point. We start out talking about the responsibility of field commanders and wind up listening to the author bitching about his brother. Pull it, rewrite it, and repost.

  7. I hate to be critical, but this article needed some serious editing/reworking before posting. It wasn’t ready for public consumption. Quality checks son! Do work, bring us your best shit, you’re better than this.
    JW Black


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