Sunday, July 16, 2017

Professional Reading, Volume I, Edition 1

The season of heat has begun here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

Doesn't do any good but to accept it and adapt to it.

The Colonel's adaptation amounts to avoidance.  He still has plenty of chores and projects to knock out across his vast holdings.  He just has had to prioritize and temporize while the temps and attendant Mississippi humidity push the heat index well into the triple digits.

There was a time...,  back in the day...,  when the Colonel was a bit younger, and a lot less wise, that he relished the heat and humidity.  He waited until the sun, and its warmth, was at its zenith to go for his daily run.  The heat energized him.

Not so much, anymore.

Heat exhaustion is now the Colonel's shadow.  And, so, because the Colonel is shooting to live to be 120, he adapts and temporizes.

Early mornings are for outside chores and projects.  The rest of the day is for indoor activities.  And, as there are only so many inside chores and projects on the CRIPPLE (Colonel's Really Important Planned Projects List, Enumerated), the Colonel has decided to reinvigorate his professional reading program.  

Until a decade ago, when there was still the possibility of the Colonel participating in the Third World War, and the participatory requirement to draw on history's lessons learned, he maintained a rather robust reading program.  Over the past decade, his normal 20 to 25 books per year has dwindled to, shamefully, 2 to 3.

So, beginning this season of heat, the Colonel will draw on his albeit dwindled reservoir of self-discipline and push the page count.

He will, as the two dozen of you who regularly waste precious rod and cone time perusing posts hereon may have frighteningly  concluded, post hereon a review of each book, to include applicable lessons learned for the future of our Republic (or, in case the American Republic decides to belly up, the future Tallahatchie Republic -- to be initially headquartered here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere).

The Colonel recently concluded Peter Cozzens' relatively even-handed and noteworthily nuanced "THE EARTH IS WEEPING, The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West."  The author's treatment, in a captivating and descriptive narrative, of the thirty-year war of concentration and attrition against the Native American tribes west of the Mississippi, is replete with examples of governmental inter- (and intra-) agency disconnect, strategic policy -- military operations mismatch, civilian and military leadership ineptitude, and failure to understand and appreciate enemy desires, will, and capability.  

Throughout the period in question, both sides continued to fail to grasp the enormity of the task presented them as the inexorable tide of treasure-seekers and homesteaders flooded westward.  In particular, the Plains tribes failed to cease their fierce internecine warfare (nearly until they were extirpated in all but a fraction of their former territory by the US Army, the Lakota Sioux considered the Crow and Pawnee far greater enemies than the whites) and unite to strike concentrated blows against the Americans until it was too late.  And, even when they did concentrate -- to the everlasting infamy of George Armstrong Custer -- they did so only temporarily and without a united follow-up campaign that may well have resulted in a negotiated peace that could have given the Indians a multi-generational peace on terms favorable to them.  

While there were many on both sides of the conflict who sought, and attained, deep understanding of the opposing side, they were far too often in the minority and rarely significant enough in the decision-making process.  Without understanding of the enemy, insufficient military resources (most of the small post-Civil War US Army was detailed to occupation and Reconstruction of the South), and with completely ineffective control of the American civilian population along the borders with and through (railroad and California-bound wagon trains) Indian territory, the Federal government was perpetually playing catch-up with regard to the situation in the West.   

In the end, however, this clash of cultures was won by the culture with the preponderance of four things -- manpower, technology, economic resiliency, and political unity.   The Plains tribes demonstrated, on more than one occasion, the ability to concentrate appropriate force coupled with technological adaptation (many tribes often fought with modern repeating rifles against US Army formations whose soldiers were equipped with older single-shot, albeit breech loading, weapons), but their loosely confederated and semi-nomadic culture was solely dependent on what turned out to be, considering their numbering in the tens of millions, a surprisingly fragile resource -- the buffalo.  Interestingly, the Plains Indian "horse culture" (which existed for little more than a century and not millennia, as is the popular misconception) and warrior reliance on their mounts for tactical advantage was actually an operational weakness  --  experienced Army officers learned to time their campaigns against hostile tribes for late winter when Indian pony herds were weak from lack of forage.   

The only true strategic set-back inflicted by the Plains tribes on the Americans was done so serendipitously.  Incessant attacks on the Northern Pacific rail line (and defeat of an Army detail sent to defend its construction) caused shareholder panic.  The company bankrolling the construction went bankrupt and the ensuing panic resulted in the economic depression of 1873.  The rail line construction stopped and the Lakota wrongly assumed their tactical victory had accomplished their campaign aim to stop white encroachment via the "iron horse" once and for all.  They failed to follow up and once the depression ended, track laying recommenced.    

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be drawn from the Indian wars for the West is the warfighting necessity for political unity and unity of effort.  Rare is the national leadership that goes to war without at least calculating that the initial force ratios (manpower and technology) are in their favor.  Not so rare are those that fail to ensure political unity, and fail to protect, as well as marshal for war support the preponderance of, their economies in order to ensure the most rapid victory and thereby preserve the will of the people.                
Post a Comment