The Matterhorn Effect

Consider a very theoretically simple form of organization: The infantry brigade (here’s a handy org chart).  Let’s keep the math simple: ten soldiers in a squad (led by a sergeant), four squads in a platoon (led by a lieutenant), 45 guys in total.  We don’t have to worry about “organizational mission” or anything like that, because the platoon’s mission is whatever the company commander tells it to do.  The leaders — the lieutenant and his platoon sergeants — should lead “down and across.”  That is, the sergeants should be mainly concerned with the soldiers in their squads (“down”), but also on the same page as the other squad sergeants (“across”).  The lieutenant should mainly be concerned with his sergeants (though on the same page as the other platoons in the company).

However, and crucially: The next-higher leader should also have half an eye gazing one level lower.  The lieutenant should rely on his platoon sergeants, but not completely.  He’s in the field with all 44 other guys.  That’s a small-enough group that he should have a pretty good sense of how things are going with the entire platoon.  Even if all four sergeants agree that the platoon is fine, the lieutenant should have sufficient powers of observation and judgment to decide that the platoon is not fine.  He shouldn’t micro-manage — getting low-level stuff done is what NCOs are for — but the platoon leader who relies only on the reports of his sergeants is, pretty much by definition, a bad platoon leader…

…or a good one, depending on who’s doing the judging.  Because, of course, while leaders should lead across and down, they also have to think UP.  A platoon commander also has to have some idea of what his company commander sees, and at least something of a handle on how his CO thinks.  It’s pretty likely that, in action, the platoon commander will learn something that the CO doesn’t know, and that would substantially change the CO’s thinking if he knew it.   The good platoon commander not only recognizes this information — often a significant accomplishment in itself — but knows the best way to present it to the CO, such that it fits in with the commander’s information and thinking.

The problem, of course, is that the company CO is doing the same thing with the Lieutenant Colonel back at battalion, and he’s doing the same thing with the colonel back at regiment, and he’s doing the same thing with the general back at division…  If you want 600 agonizing pages detailing all the ways this can break down, read Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn.  It’s the best book you’ll never want to read twice, and when all the Boomers finally die off and we can start thinking rationally about Vietnam, it will be one of the classics of modern American literature.

If you don’t want to put this post on hold until you’ve read it, the tl;dr is: All it takes is one guy thinking up too much to get a lot of people very messily killed. Populate your entire chain of command with guys who think up almost exclusively, and you’ve got… well, you’ve got Vietnam.  The platoon leader who is “just following procedure,” and writes up the paperwork that way, will never get in trouble.  He might miss the objective.  He might get his men killed, a few other platoons ambushed, and half the company hip-deep in shit, hell, he might miss a chance to score a smashing victory, but his actions will be 100% theoretically correct. He’s covered.  If his CO asks him “why didn’t you consider such-and-such, lieutenant?” he can pass the buck.  “I radioed it back to Captain So-and-So at company; he told me to go ahead.”

Captain So-and-So, of course, put it in the fifteen pages of paperwork he forwarded to Col. Whatsizface at regiment, who included it in the three-hour briefing they gave to General Whomever back at division….  Meanwhile, the crucial information that started the whole debacle, like in Matterhorn, could simply be “despite what my platoon sergeant says, it is not physically possible for my men to make that march.”  Too much thinking up, not enough thinking down.

All that is with the simplest possible command structure, in an organization playing for the very highest stakes.  What happens with a big, messy, so-complicated-it’s-effectively-meaningless chain of command, in an “organization” in name only?  What happens when no one is effectively in charge?

In a democratic society, that’s the surest, most terrifying sign that a major crisis is just over the horizon.  Guys in Our Thing like the Civil War, so consider that.  Back in 1850, no one would disagree that “the Slave Power Conspiracy” (as the Yankees would have it) was the dominant force in American politics.  But — crucially — the SPC had leaders, who knew and acknowledged themselves to be such.  Good leaders, who saw the situation vertically — both down and up.  John C. Calhoun, for instance.  So long as Calhoun was alive and kicking, compromise was possible, because Calhoun saw the big picture, and, crucially, could whip his guys into line.

Calhoun died in 1850, depriving his side of leadership.  The other side never had any leadership to begin with, so the “direction” of the country fell into the hands of guys like Stephen A. Douglas — a brilliant politician, but a deeply provincial one, with scruples so flexible he’d fit right into the 2019 version of the Democratic Party.*  Douglas had no vision, only process.  For Douglas, the point of politics was politics, and because of that, hotheads like Preston Brooks and John C. Breckinridge had free rein.  We know what happened after that, there’s no need to re-litigate the Unpleasantness of 1861-5 in the comments, the point is this:

When you’ve got a junior Congresscritter with nothing but a big mouth setting the national agenda because nobody else can be bothered to, you’re fucked.

In theory (and counter-intuitively), representative government works a lot like military command.  Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are the platoon leaders and they are — as much as it vexes me to write this — doing a good job.  They’re supposed to represent the viewpoint of their constituents on the national stage, and since their constituents are rabid antisemites and brainless hipsters, respectively, they’re succeeding brilliantly.  The problem is, they’re not thinking up like a good platoon commander should, and so you get the schadenfreudily delicious spectacle of the entire Democratic Party concluding that a “resolution” against “hate” — the easiest gestural-politics slam dunk this site of “kittens are cute” — is just too extreme for the American people.

Even worse than a platoon commander not thinking up, as we’ve seen, is a regiment commander not thinking down, and the Democrats are a Matterhorn-level clusterfuck on that score, too.  They really do seem to believe this  “Hate iz bad, mmmmkay?” resolution they’ve cooked up is a tactical problem.  They really do seem to think that all they need to do is find the correct wording, the right procedural shenanigans, to pass it, and the problem’s solved.  Stephen A. Douglas could pull it off in his sleep, but as we’ve seen, when Stephen Douglas is your best case scenario it’s about to start raining bullets.

A guy like John C. Calhoun would have Chiquita Khruschev’s fingers broken if she got within fifteen feet of Twitter. He’d go old-school Sharia on Ilhan Omar, stuffing her in one of those full-body trash bags and duct-taping her mouth just to be sure.  He might be fighting an unwinnable, Vietnam-style conflict — demographics, like logistics, are the only things that really matter in the long term — but he’d fight it brilliantly, and to the bitter end, because he’d know what was at stake.

The goofy geriatric Whites on the American Left not only don’t know what’s at stake, they actually think they’re winning.  Like LBJ and Robert McNamara, they’ve got all the advanced metrics that say the numbers are pointing their way.  The guys getting killed on the Matterhorn say otherwise, but that signal is guaranteed to get lost in the noise.

 

 

*This is the guy, you’ll recall, who sabotaged his own legacy-defining Compromise of 1850 just four years later with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, because he wanted to make a few bucks on railroad stock.  A not-retarded Hillary Clinton with smaller balls, that was Stephen A. Douglas.
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9 thoughts on “The Matterhorn Effect

  1. Pickle Rick

    We used to have a saying in my battery when we got orders to do something exceptionally stupid and annoying- “just another clown in the circus!”- and then we would begin to dance around while singing the Barnum and Bailey clown march theme.

    Remember, I said a few weeks ago that the Young Cool Radicals were serving notice Who Run Bartertown? Nancy just got a heaping helping of Master Blaster. More, and faster, because the more insane the left becomes and the more they cut each other’s throats (metaphorically, for now) the better it is for our side to get some maneuver room and exploit this. Sow as much dissension and chaos in the enemy’s ranks before you stick a bayonet in their guts, because we have to flip von Clausewitz’s dictum- politics is war by other means. If we want to really prevent the latter, we’d damn well better start fighting the former with utter ruthless calculation.

    1. Severian Post author

      There it is. It’s not that Pelosi is a bad leader, exactly — she’s just out of her depth, and has NO IDEA that she’s out of her depth. She’s been coaching the Harlem Globetrotters so long that she forgets she’s the head honcho of a traveling circus. Just as a halfway competent college team would wipe the floor with the Globetrotters, so the new crew who isn’t willing to be one of the circus acts is going to give her a very nasty surprise.

      It’s no slander on Stephen Douglas to say that he was out of his league — he was one of the most brilliant men of his times, but alas, the times changed while he was still in power. That he disappeared from politics after 1860 says a lot about him as a man. Pelosi, of course, won’t go away. She’ll try to burn the world down around her… which, as you say, opens up some opportunities.

      1. Pickle Rick

        Well, that’s because little Stevie drank like a fish and died of complications from typhoid fever in 1861…

        If I was Trump, I’d be milking this for every advantage, but Trump isn’t really a radical. He still thinks we can go back to the Lee Greenwood vision of America. That shit is dead and buried.

        1. MBlanc46

          Indeed, Rick. The same Nancy Pelosi who just had her nose rubbed in it by Ilhan Omar urinated on Donald Trump’s shoes then laughed in his face a few weeks ago. They may be delusional for thinking that they’re winning, but that doesn’t mean that we’re winning. Losing, for them, will be when the whole rotten edifice (that they’ve spent the better part of a century undermining) collapses around their ears. That will be losing fo us, too.

  2. WOPR

    It is amazing to watch a freshman representative say things that tick off a constituency that comprises 50% of your cash donations. That’s not counting that constituency’s influence in the media. Not only that, but the Democrats can’t even muster a coherent rebuke. The only thing holding the Democrats together is Orangeman Bad and whites are the devil. That glue seems to be coming undone.

    I think it’s obvious that there is no leadership in Congress when it cannot even pass a budget. It’s been over a decade since we had one. Also, no old time Democrat would have forced through Obamacare without a fig leaf of some Republican support. On the other hand, no old time Republican would have constantly talked about repealing it and then acted confused when they had the chance.

    Congress is impotent. The only two things keep Trump from ruling like Obama. First, the Uniparty would actually impeach him. Second, Trump seems to actually try and follow the law. The second one is shocking to me. I figured he would be far more loose with the rules than he has been.

    1. Severian Post author

      And there you have it. The Left pretends to be worried Trump will make himself Dictator-for-Life; over here, we’re half afraid that he won’t. The moment you find yourself muttering “if only we had our own Pinochet,” you know it’s screwed beyond all hope of repair.

  3. rwc1963

    The old Democratic party died under Clinton who morphed it into the party of Wall Street and Davos.

    That said the Democratic money men(mostly Jews) made a terrible mistake pandering to ethnic(tribalism) identity and recruiting brown skins into power. The problem is, they don’t obey old white people rules. They see Jews as whites and hence fair game for their criticisms. They cannot be guilt tripped or bullied. All it does is confirm in their minds that they have to fight back .

    The Jewish moneymen in their hatred of European whites basically let in the barbarian horde and have no means of repulsing them when they left the plantation. AOC and company see this. That the money men have nothing outside of generating massive amounts of faux hysteria that no one outside of political nerds give a rats behind about.

    It should get real interesting from here on out.

    1. Pickle Rick

      The holocaust as a club to beat white gentiles with has a sell-by date, and we’re rapidly approaching it, because white boomers are the last generation to have any real connections to what happened in 1939-45.
      Blacks, Browns, and Asians can’t be frightened by the ghosts of dead Nazis.

      The sell-by date that the blacks have to use segregation and “racism” as a club to beat white boomers with is also rapidly becoming a diminished weapon, since the boomers are dying off. My younger generation has only seen black aggression, dysfunction, and violence, with boomers always giving in to black demands for more…

      Bottom line, the racial politics is going to change. We’re seeing a new paradigm emerging, slowly, but it’s going to accelerate fast.

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