Friday, August 11, 2006

Arrogance, ignorance invite disaster

Father Greeley nails it again:

Arrogance, ignorance invite disaster:

In a war, as Secretary Rumsfeld says, stuff happens. Things go wrong, sometimes a lot goes wrong, on occasion everything goes wrong. Then you have a fiasco (the title of the best book about Iraq, written by Thomas E. Ricks).
Military history is filled with fiasco stories -- the French army at Agincourt or the Union army at Fredericksburg. A more recent fiasco was Operation Market Garden in the autumn of 1944, a scheme cooked up by British Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. The Germans, driven out of France, were falling back behind the Siegfried line.

Montgomery desperately wanted to win the war by himself. The plan was for his British 2nd Army to run around the end of the line and go on to Berlin. Three airborne divisions (two American, one British) would secure bridges over the Rhine at Nijmegen, Enthoven and Arnheim. An armored corps of the 2d Army would drive up the road, cross the Rhine and strike into Germany.

It was an ingenious scheme, at least on paper. It turned into a fiasco (recorded in the book A Bridge Too Far and a film of the same name). The U.S. airborne divisions captured the first two bridges. The British failed to capture the bridge at Arnheim and their armored corps moved too slowly. The English paratroop division was destroyed and the war went on. Why the failure? Market Garden was developed in less than two weeks. The intelligence was inadequate. There were more Germans moving into Holland than Montgomery realized. There were not enough paratroop divisions. The armored corps was not strong enough and moved too slowly. The causes: arrogance and ignorance. The result: fiasco.

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