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Critical Thinking

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Within the last century, the scale of war has made necessary a different type of leader. We no longer fight for our farms, villages, and hunting lands. Our interests have shifted from straits and mountain passes. In our current world, as a result of technological revolutions and ever growing political instability, we live in the threat of a global war. Actions have the potential to resonate in many continents subsequently influencing the economies, policies, and war strategies of nations worldwide. For these reasons, leaders must study the past and integrate history's lessons learned with the new challenges of leading within a heightened threat. Military leaders must maintain their grasp and focus on the technical mastery of warfighting, personal courage, and the ability to inspire men to fight for a common cause.
Victory will lend itself to the commander who can master the terrain and find new or creative ways to employ his weapons and men. Leaders must be technically proficient with the arms they use to wage war. In a broad example, the Spartans studied the natural tendency of phalanx formations to shift right and employed special tactics to break off part of their formation and bring it upon the flank of their enemy. Even here with similar weapons and tactics, the Spartans pursued the mastery of their warfighting system and stood victorious on the field of battle.
For a more detailed analysis, in 480 BC, during the Greco-Persian wars, a Spartan leader named Leonidas used terrain to his advantage to inflict incredible damage upon his Persian enemy. The Persian army numbering between 200,000 and 250,000 men marched towards the northwest pass into Greece. Leonidas moved his forces to block the vital passage at Thermopylae, a narrow passage with high walls. Though he reinforced his army along the way, Leonidas could muster only 7,000 men. He immediately began building a wall between the pass to further narrow it and channel his enemy. Overwhelmed, the Spartans lost the pass but managed to kill 20,000 Persians to their 1,000 lost.
Several centuries later in the US civil war, General Lee used his mastery of terrain at the Marye's Heights during the battle of Fredericksburg, Maryland. Mid-November in 1862, union forces under General Burnside began to occupy positions outside Falmouth near Fredericksburg to meet Lee. In response, Lee entrenched his forces at Marye's Heights, a higher ground outside the town. In addition, the armies were now separated by the Rappahannock River. In December Burnside began his assault. Lee allowed the union forces to cross the river and then instructed his entire army to open fire, which pinned Burnside between the Heights and the Rappahannock River. Lee managed to inflict 3 to 1 casualties upon the northern armies during several futile, uphill charges and Burnside is forced to call off his offensive. He would try again in January 1863, but would be repulsed by Lee's army in their superior position.

Beyond key terrain features and the placement of men and materials, leaders must be technically proficient with their weapons and utilize new methods and advanced tactics to improve their combat efficiency and effectiveness. On a broad scale, the Roman cohort system broke apart the predominate phalanx into smaller, more maneuverable fighting sections which allowed them to envelop their enemy and strike at the critical weaknesses.
Specifically, at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, an exhausted, sick, and starving English army presented itself outnumbered 4 to 1. With just under 6,000 men, King Henry V of England massed his troops 1,000 yards across from 20-30,000 French. The opposing armies were assembled on a freshly plowed field with forest on either flank. Henry placed 5,000 archers armed with the English long bow behind rows of sharpened 8 foot spikes stuck into the ground. In so doing, the British army employs one of the first known uses of massed artillery in history to inflict numerous casualties upon the French. The archers could loose 10 arrows per minute at a range up to 250 yards. When the French cavalry charged, they were pinned in by the forests and unable to flank the archers so attacked directly into a hail of arrows. The following infantry assault met the same deadly result. Henry's innovation with his weapons systems allowed him to sweep the field; killing 10,000 and capturing the French nobility and 1,500 prisoners at a cost of only 100 of his own English soldiers. This is a perfect example of innovative leadership and how a smaller force was able to crush a much larger one by employing superior tactics and weaponry.
Many other leaders have achieved success in battle by utilizing superior knowledge of their warfighting organization. In similar fashion as King Henry V, Admiral Nelson proved the success of tactical innovation with his daring maneuvers at the battle of Trafalgar. In accordance to the custom of naval warfare at this time, he sailed his warships along the line of the French fleet. Suddenly, he turned to pierce their center, surprising the enemy, and destroyed the French fleet by envelopment. Here again, a leader's mastery of his equipment and innovation of tactics enabled victory.
Again to demonstrate the need to understand a weapon's capabilities, Admiral Halsey graduated from Naval Aviation Training in his fifties after his appointment to a carrier battle group and though he had never flown an aircraft before, he found himself in charge. His determination to know his weapon and acquire training gave him the irreplaceable first-hand knowledge of how to fight off of a carrier based platform
Along with proficiency in their trade, leaders must also embody personal courage and the strength of moral character. This becomes a rallying point and allows for undaunted trust in the upper leadership. Moral integrity is just as crucial to victory as the weapon the soldier wields. Subordinates must know the fiber of a leader's character and the values by which he makes his decisions. Military leaders must share the hazards of battle and demonstrate an inexhaustible determination to do everything necessary to save his men's lives. There is no substitute for character; it is the foundation on which unit cohesion and success rely.
In contrast, when in history a leader has demonstrated cowardice, it has stripped them men of their warrior spirit, unity, and willingness to fight. When Antony fled the battle at Actium, his unit became disorganized and confused and subsequently lost the battle. The same result occurred when Napoleon abandoned his army at Waterloo.
These characteristics of valor and moral courage are illustrated in the battles of General Washington. He sat with the remnants of the Continental Army at Valley Forge starving, inadequately sheltered, and with their only clothing rotting off their backs. Though he had been successful earlier on, Washington now found his army suffering through one of the worst American winters and troubled by low morale and desertion. In response to his pleas for additional funds and supplies the American congress suggested he quarter his troops in the nearby towns. Quartering was an acceptable practice and certainly expected given his circumstances, but Washington feared the impression his troops would have upon the American public and how it would affect the support for the war and the resulting government. After much moral deliberation, he gathered his troops and spoke to them. His decision to stay in the blistering cold and suffer the winter was unpopular at first, but his men began to understand his reasons and responded to his exemplary leadership. Washington's personal actions and moral courage renewed his men's faith, convinced them to stay the course, and above all to do the right thing. In the combat action of the Revolutionary war Washington had a dozen mounts shot out beneath him, and was once missed by a round that struck through his overcoat and he narrowly escaped injury. His morality was accompanied by his physical courage in battle inspiring his men to fight on despite their hardships.
Nearly a century later, the moral courage and personal character of its commanding general held together an undersupplied, undermanned, yet confident Confederate army. In the final battle of the Civil War, Lee demonstrated his dedication to his men and willingness to sacrifice himself over his command. The opposing armies were prepared for battle in a field near the town of Appomattox. Near the beginning of the assault Lee's lines began to give way forcing him into a moral dilemma that affected the overall course of the war. In this moment Lee replaced his personal drive for victory with the sobering realization of defeat. Understanding the futility of further efforts against his enemy, Lee sent a flag of truce to his counterpart, despite the war cries and urging of his men to return to battle. He sacrificed personal pride and commitment to victory for his duty and loyalty to his men. General Lee's character and obligation to do the right thing tied together and motivated the armies of the south and his soldiers understood that Lee acted for the benefit of the Confederacy and not for personal gain.
In WWII, 80 yrs after Lee's surrender, the US was at the height of submarine patrols against Japan in WWII, and Commander Howard Gilmore set a course from Brisbane, Australia into Japanese waters to interrupt their shipping lanes in the USS Growler. While surfaced to charge the submarine's batteries, Gilmore was engaged and rammed by a Japanese ship. Attacking the crippled and idle Growler, enemy gunners quickly sprayed the bridge of the submarine killing the Assistant Officer of the Deck, lookout, and wounding Gilmore. The submarine remained under still heavy fire from the enemy machine gunners. Aware that the Growler would be sunk in the time needed for him to crawl below decks, Gilmore made the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Commander Gilmore put his command before himself and through his selfless and courageous act saved his crew at the cost of his own life. His ordered his crew to, "Take her down!" and then perished at sea.
Perhaps the most decisive aspect of moral leadership is the ability to inspire a fire within people to fight for a common goal or unit objective. Moral courage and technical expertise and skill are the enabling devices for which a leader may instill confidence and trust among his troops, but it is the ability to produce a common objective that will inspire men to fight. A free and voluntary army requires an indisputable cause.
For example, General Washington was able to contain the rivaling factions of the American Revolution and then unite and direct them towards a common purpose. Unable to agree amongst themselves as to an appropriate course of action, it was Washington's decisive and assertive leadership that unified their purpose. Despite their conflicting ideas, the Americans believed unanimously in the ability of Washington. In much the same way, Robert E. Lee fused and gave purpose to the Confederate states in the Civil War and Winston Churchill unified the rivaling factions of the British government during WWII.
One of the better examples of inspirational leadership is from recent history. Al-Qaeda forces draw their strength and morally rationalize their terrorist attacks through their fanatical belief in the justness of their cause. The terrorist leaders harness the energy created by this fanaticism in their culture and focus it towards a common goal. This leadership style establishes a purpose and allows for a transition into active fighting spirit.
These leadership traits are fundamental and remain at the foundation of successful military leadership. They remain a leadership challenge for all fighting men in the world's militaries and occur at all levels within the military force. Those who master and arm themselves with these concepts are positioned to succeed while those who ignore them are destined to fail.

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