Sheepdogs

Most people are, in my experience, natural placid, even pacific ~ we are, by and large, a peaceful species, able to see the advantages of peace and even able to put aside selfish advantage to secure it for others. It is, really, quite a wonderful thing.

But the operative word is “most.”

Just as in the countryside where there are many, many placid, peaceful sheep there are also wolves.

giordiOver the millennia, ever since sheep were domesticated and herded we, humans, understood a need for sheepdogs both to help keep order inn the herd, but, mainly, to deal with the wolves. The sheepdogs often look a bit like wolves and they are certainly just as ferocious; the big difference is that the sheepdog’s ferocity is controlled: disciplined, trained and directed.

It is somewhat popular to use the sheep ~ wolves ~ sheepdog analogy to describe the broadly peaceful, even placid populations, the few, dangerous “wolves” (terrorists, aggressive leaders, etc) and the soldiers who protect the people. It is a very imperfect analogy but applicable, I think, to a professional military, like Canada’s.

7ce40ec5223f0180ed5546f84ef29b76Every so often, twice in the 20th century, the “wolves” are so numerous and so well organized that the “sheep” must be armed and trained and conscripted into service to protect themselves but, mostly, for the past 1,000 years or so, it was “sheepdogs,” professional soldiers, who kept order, beat back attackers and invaded neighbours. So it appears, is it most likely to be the case in the 21st century. The Chinese, for example, who have the raw numbers to pose a serious threat to the US led West seems, to me, highly unlikely to want to fight nor, even, to accidentally stumble into a war. Over the past decades the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has shed a millions conscripts and replaced them with a few hundred thousand swell trained, professional soldiers ~ enough to dominate their region but hardly the army (or navy DESERT SHIELDor air force) that one expects to attack across oceans. The Russians are aggressive enough, when the opportunity presents itself, but their military is a mixed bag: much of it a poorly trained, conscripted rabble. The West is well provided in both large and small numbers, with often superbly trained and disciplined, professional soldiers. We are not lacking in “sheepdogs” but one does worry, somewhat, about the calibre of the fourth ingredient: the shepherds.

I have been pondering, for a few days, a rather bitter attack, by a noted American historian, on, directly, on US Army General Joseph Votel and, more indirectly, on the entire US (and, by extension the entire US led West’s) strategic command and control (C²) superstructure. Professor Bacevich suggests that, as 18th century French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat, said “Personne n’est corrigé; personne n’a su ni rien oublier ni rien appendre. ‘Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything.‘” If the shepherds, the president and prime ministers, defence ministers and senior generals are unable to learn and adapt then what are they teaching the “sheepdogs?”

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