O'Reilly logo

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by Lila Rajiva, Will Bonner

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

In Praise of Blockheads

Indeed, as a profession, soldiering must be nearly as hopeless as psychology or marriage counseling. We can think of scarcely a single war that was not begun in treachery and fraud. Nor can we think of any that wasn't carried out with wooden‐headed imbecility. Troops never seem to get where they are supposed to get … when they are supposed to get there. Armies walk into obvious traps with their eyes wide open. Orders are mixed up … or lost … or handed to the enemy. When a victory is gained, it is as much a result of luck as of skill. Most of mankind's wars—far from being stories of valiant heroism—are absurd farces that even the cavalry horses must have laughed at … until they starved to death.

If World War I had been a movie rather than an actual event, the actors would have turned up their noses at the script and refused to have anything to do with it. But put the actors in uniform and they are ready to play any part—no matter how preposterous. Told to go over the top and advance across a no‐man's‐land with the enemy shooting at them, the soldiers acted like dumb mules—that is, they did as they were told. It was a case of “lions led by donkeys,” said the popular press. And yet, looked at with an unsentimental eye, nearly all of them look like jackasses.

Take the so‐called “Great War.” On the Eastern front, the Russian army was commanded largely by German‐speaking officers. As often as not, their orders would fall into the hands of the enemy—meaning the ...

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required