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Style v. Substance
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It seems this is the week for generals. This time it is active duty generals and criticism for the way they act by a British officer:
A senior British officer has criticised "shoulder-holster" American generals for trying to emulate film stars.

Brig Alan Sharpe, who worked alongside Americans in Baghdad, said there was a "strong streak of Hollywood" with officers trying to portray themselves as Sylvester Stallone or John Wayne.

[...]

An important part to being a successful American officer was to be able to combine the "real and acted heroics" of Audie Murphy, the "newsreel antics" of Gen Douglas MacArthur and the "movie performances" of Hollywood actors, the brigadier wrote.

While this might look good on television at home, the brigadier suggested that "loud voices, full body armour, wrap-around sunglasses, air strikes and daily broadcasts from shoulder-holster wearing brigadier-generals proudly announcing how many Iraqis have been killed by US forces today" was no "hearts-and-minds winning tool".
*sigh*

While Brigadier Sharpe (who btw, shares the same last name as the protagonist in a wonderful series by Bernard Cornwell about the penninsular wars) is probably right about his characterization of some American generals, his characterization certainly doesn't remind me of the majority of generals I know.

And there's probably a bit of a cultural difference at work here as well.

I mean how many times have Americans, over the centuries, been called "brash", "loud", "flamboyant", and other such terms? Why does Brig. Sharpe expect them to be different now?

Was George Patton aping "film stars"? Or were film stars aping him? Creighton Abrams was certainly no shrinking violet. And how about General Honore, who we saw during Katrina? Was he "emulating film stars?"

That's in contrast to the culture of the British military in which it is expects officers be moderate, understated, and almost disinterested.

Unsurprisingly a member of that latter culture would believe it to be the best way to do business.

While there may be some validity to this critcism, I'm not sure where it's to be found. Certainly not all American generals act as Sharpe contends. And yes, I know that for a fact. If the best that Brig. Sharpe can bring in the form of criticism is one of style, and if he must stereotype to do that, I'm afraid I'll have to take it with a grain of salt.

Americans have always been "brash", "loud" and "flamboyant" - at least to their European counterparts. But there is certainly no evidence, despite Sharpe's best attempt to imply there is, that the British way is the best way.
 
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We’re Americans. Of course we’re brash, loud, and flamboyant.

How else are we supposed to spread our cultural empire?
 
Written By: Dave
URL: http://
Has no one heard of Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, never a man more given to self-promotion in the Press of his era... Fleet Street loved him.

And the rest of the British screed is just cant... the US military has been VERY sparing in the use of firepower and "body counts" have been pretty explicitly outlawed... so where this focus on firepower and dead Iraqi’s comes from is beyond me.

I find this rather British, "Cousin Jonathan" has NEVER been well liked, probably something to do with beating them once and staving them off once. The Yanks simply aren’t their cup of tea, "over-sexed, over-paid, and over here..."
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Brigadier Sharpe (who btw, shares the same last name as the protagonist in a wonderful series by Bernard Cornwell about the penninsular wars)...

Sean Bean ... uniform ... tight pants ...

*fans self*
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
What’s this? Did they film Cornwell’s Sharpe series and I missed it? Where have I been? Where can I get this?
 
Written By: jinnmabe
URL: http://
I see it oft times late at night on some of those channels like Bravo, etc. It is very good or at least I liked it.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
LOL.
By contrast British servicemen, although under-equipped, were "undemonstrative, phlegmatic and pragmatic", patrolled on foot where possible and were keen to interact with locals.
Arguing that the Army’s 500 years of experience gave it a marked edge over the Americans in insurgency operations, Brig Sharpe said the senior British officers in Baghdad should continue with their moderating influence.


Brig Sharpe said the most effective way of passing on British experience was to place capable officers "with a feel for the British way of doing business" into positions of influence alongside American officers where they could "practically influence the decisions, plans and conduct on the ground of US adventures in world policing".
Yeah, that’s hysterical coming from the British. Whose foreign policies were, not that long ago, “make the world England”. And British imperial demarcations heavily contribute to the mess we’re in now.

It’s a very long way to Tipperary, indeed.

What’s this? Did they film Cornwell’s Sharpe series and I missed it? Where have I been? Where can I get this?
One word, Jinn… Netflix. (they’re quite good.)
Enjoy.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
"While there may be some validity to this critcism, I’m not sure where it’s to be found."
Its to found in the comment regarding "hearts and minds" ([tm] British Army circa 2003,Basra)

The British Army realised sometime during the 30 years that they brutally occupied Northern Ireland that if you’re going to bash locals heads, you do it behind closed doors. You don’t make a big song and dance about it.

Pogue, The Tipperary was a bar in Piccadilly. Not the Irish county.
 
Written By: symptomless
URL: http://
Its to found in the comment regarding "hearts and minds" ([tm] British Army circa 2003,Basra)
Well, if you’ve read about COL McMasters and the 3rd ACR that lesson is being learned by the US as well.

Don’t have a link, but I assume you can google it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
The only thing Hollywood about American military is that they want to make sure that all the good guys (Americans) live through to the end of the movie (campaign). To do this they tend to shoot, bomb, strafe, shell anything that does not walk like a Yank. This makes local populations and allies rather nervous.

The British generals are less concerned about their soldiers (western front, Galipolli, Crete, Northern Ireland) than how the campaign will look to their superiors and the Parliament. They will rather be sure that it is the enemy they are attacking even if it means risking a few squaddies to find out for certain.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
McQ,

My point is that those leasons were learned in Northern Ireland.

Can’t believe that I’m quoting Unaha-Closp:"To do this they tend to shoot, bomb, strafe, shell anything that does not walk like a Yank. This makes local populations and allies rather nervous."

But he/she’s got a point. But that in no way leads to a H&M campaign.
 
Written By: symptomless
URL: http://
Pogue, The Tipperary was a bar in Piccadilly. Not the Irish county.
I heard the same thing from the barkeep at this London Tipperary in 1999. I think you’ve been misinformed, symptomless. Wikipedia sums it up.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
My point is that those leasons were learned in Northern Ireland.
I understand. And the Americans are learning in Iraq. That’s why I pointed to COL McMasters and the 3rd ACR’s recent experience (the mayor of the major town in their area petitioned CENTCOM to leave the 3rd ACR there for another year because of the bond that had grown between the people and soldiers ... impossible of course, but a success which will be studied very carefully and most likely emulated).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
Actually, Brigadier Sharp isn’t a "British general". Brigadiers are field-grade officers in the British Army, not generals. Brigadiers and substantive colonels wear the same cap badges and gorget patches.

Generals, i.e. ranks between Major General and General, have their own distinctive cap badges and gorget patches, while field marshals have distinctive insignia of their own that are unique to that grade.

For NATO purposes, Brigadiers are treated as generals by courtesy, but in British terms, the Brigadier is a Field Officer.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Good point, Dale, and one I completely overlooked this morning (it was early, no coffee yet).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
I’m not on the ground in Iraq and never was, so it’s hard for me to judge the accuracy of Sharpe’s criticisms. Are there US generals who are more concerned with appearing "macho" than with being sensitive to the people whose country they’re in? Undoubtedly. I think it was either Sun Tzu or von Clausewitz who said that wherever and whenever there’s an military, there will be chickensh*t senior officers.

But you’ll have to excuse me for feeling a little bit like the ghost of Field Marshall Montgomery has come back to haunt us. During World War II, Monty constantly (and loudly) disagreed with American General Omar Bradley’s strategies, but when given his way, the result was often failure, with Bradley and his troops having to pull Monty and his men out of the fire.

More at The Cranky Insomniac.
 
Written By: The Cranky Insomniac
URL: http://crankyinsomniac.blogspot.com
. "And the Americans are learning in Iraq"

Another lesson of Vietnam that seems to have been forgotten. As the saying went, "Grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow". Makes nifty t-shirts, as does "Yea though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil, for I am the baddest Mother** in the valley." Catchy, but bad for winning hearts and minds.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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