Excerpts from the pages of On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, by Norman F. Dixon (1976).
Military incompetence involves:
- A serious wastage of human resources and failure to observe one of the first principles of war – economy of force.
- A fundamental conservatism and clinging to outworn tradition, an inability to profit from past mistakes (owing in part to a refusal to admit past mistakes).
- A tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalatable or which conflicts with preconceptions.
- A tendency to underestimate the enemy and overestimate the capabilities of one's own side.
- Indecisiveness and a tendency to abdicate from the role of decision-maker.
- An obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contrary evidence.
- A failure to exploit a situation gained and a tendency to `pull punches' rather than push home an attack.
- A failure to make adequate reconnaissance.
- A predilection for frontal assaults, often against the enemy's strongest point.
- A belief in brute force, rather than the clever ruse.
- A failure to make use of surprise or deception.
- An undue readiness to find scapegoats for military set- backs.
- A suppression or distortion of news from the front, usually rationalized as necessary for morale or security.
- A belief in mystical forces – fate, bad luck, etc.
Incompetent commanders, it has been suggested, are often those who were attracted to the military because it promised gratification of certain neurotic needs. These include a reduction in anxiety regarding real or imagined lack of virility/potency/masculinity; … boosts for sagging self-esteem; … power, dominance and public acclaim; … and legitimate outlets for, and adequate control of, his own aggression.