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Military Incompetence

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Dreadnought in flames

Military incompetence refers to incompetencies and failures of military organizations, whether through incompetent individuals or through a flawed institutional culture.

The effects of isolated cases of personal incompetence can be disproportionately high in military organizations, where strict hierarchies of command and an institutional culture devoted to following orders without debate mean that a single bad decision can direct the work of thousands. The sheer power wielded by military forces, meanwhile, means that bad decisions can easily lead to death, injuries and damage on a massive scale.

However, the most common cases of "military incompetence" can be attributable to a flawed organizational culture. Perhaps the most marked of these is a conservative and traditionalist attitude, where innovative ideas or new technology are discarded or left untested. A tendency to believe that a problem can be solved by applying an earlier - failed - solution "better", be that with more men, more firepower, or simply more effort, is common. A strict hierarchical system often discourages the devolution of power to junior commanders, who are often the best placed to efficiently take control of a situation, in favor of micromanagement from the top.

The nature of warfare provides several factors which exacerbate these effects; the fog of war means that information about the enemy forces is often limited or inaccurate, making it easy for the intelligence process to interpret the information to agree with existing assumptions, or to fit it to their own preconceptions and expectations. Communications tend to deteriorate in battlefield situations, with the flow of information between commanders and combat units being disrupted, making it difficult to react to changes in the situation as they develop.

Finally, military organizations tend not to be very effective learners. In victory, whatever methods have been used - no matter how inefficient - appear to have been vindicated, whilst in defeat there is a tendency to select scapegoats and to avoid looking in detail at the broader reasons for failure.

Failed - solution

A tendency to believe that a problem can be solved by applying an earlier - failed - solution "better", be that with more men, more firepower, or simply more effort, is common.

Example:

"If brute force doesn't solve your problems, then you aren't using enough"

"When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem you encounter resembles a nail."



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