Archive for November, 2016

Wellington – the Iron Duke …

Posted on November 30, 2016. Filed under: Personalities, The English, Uncategorized |

Arthur Wellesley participated in some 60 battles during his military career. He is famous for his adaptive defensive style of warfare, resulting in several victories against numerically superior forces while minimizing his own losses.  However many, perhaps most, of his battles were offensive -Argaum, Assaye, Oporto, Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse. But for most of the Peninsular War, where he earned his fame, his troops lacked the numbers for an attack. He is regarded as one of the greatest defensive commanders of all time and his tactics and battle plans are still studied in military academies around the world.

Wellington always rose early – he “couldn’t bear to lie awake in bed”.. Even when he returned to civilian life after 1815, he slept on his camp bed, reflecting his lack of regard for creature comforts.While on campaign, he seldom ate anything between breakfast and dinner. During the retreat to Portugal in 1811, he subsisted on “cold meat and bread” – to the despair of his staff who dined with him. He was, however, renowned for the quality of the wine which he drank and served, often drinking a bottle with his dinner – not a great quantity by the standards of his day.

He rarely showed emotion in public, and often appeared condescending to those less competent or less well-born than himself (which was nearly everyone). Once, just before the Battle of Salamanca, he was eating a chicken leg while observing the the French army. He spotted an over extension on the French left flank and realized that he could launch a successful attack there. He threw the drumstick in the air and shouted – “The French are lost!”

Military historian Charles Dalton recorded that, after a hard-fought battle in Spain, a young officer made the comment, “I am going to dine with Wellington tonight”, which was overheard by the Duke who retorted- “Give me at least the prefix of Mr. before my name!”. — “My Lord,” replied the officer, “we do not speak of Mr. Caesar or Mr. Alexander, so why should I speak of Mr. Wellington?”

His stern countenance and iron-handed discipline were renowned. He was said to disapprove of soldiers cheering as “too nearly an expression of opinion”.He cared for his men and refused to pursue the French after the battles of Porto and Salamanca, foreseeing an inevitable cost to his army in chasing a diminished enemy through rough terrain. The only time that he ever showed grief in public was after the storming of Badajoz – he cried at the sight of the British dead in the breaches.

In this context, his famous dispatch after the Battle of Vitoria, calling them the “scum of the earth,” can be seen to be fueled as much by disappointment at their breaking ranks as by anger. He expressed his grief openly the night after Waterloo before his personal physician, and later with his family; unwilling to be congratulated for his victory, he broke down in tears, his fighting spirit diminished by the high cost of the battle and great personal loss.

His valet, Holman, who resembled Napoleon, recalled how his master never spoke to servants unless he was obliged – preferring instead to write his orders on a note pad on his dressing table.

Wellington had a “vigorous sexual appetite” and many amorous liaisons during his marriage to Kitty. He enjoyed the company of intellectual and attractive women for many decades, particularly after the Battle of Waterloo and his subsequent Ambassadorial position in Paris. The British press lampooned this side of the national hero and when some one threatened to publish some thing, he is supposed to have thundered “Publish and be damned.”

In September 1805, Major-General Wellesley was newly returned from his campaigns in India and was not yet particularly well-known to the public. He reported to the office of the Secretary for War to request a new assignment. In the waiting room he met Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, already a legendary figure after his victories at the Nile and Copenhagen, who was briefly in England after months of chasing the French Toulon fleet to the West Indies and back.

Some 30 years later, Wellington recalled the conversation that Nelson began with him which he found -“almost all on his side in a style so vain and silly as to surprise and almost disgust me”.

Nelson left the room to inquire who the young general was and, on his return, switched to a very different tone, discussing the war, the state of the colonies, and the geopolitical situation as between equals.  On this second discussion, Wellington recalled, “I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more”.

This was the only time that the two men met. Nelson was killed at Trafalgar –  just seven weeks later.

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Machiavelli and Cicero on Political Power …

Posted on November 16, 2016. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Guide Posts, Personalities, Uncategorized |

“The Prince” is an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power. The dedication declares Machiavelli’s intention to discuss in plain language the conduct of great men and the principles of princely government.

The book’s 26 chapters can be divided into four sections: Chapters 1-11 discuss the different types of principalities or states, Chapters 12-14 discuss the different types of armies and the proper conduct of a prince as military leader, Chapters 15-23 discuss the character and behavior of the prince.

Golden Rules

It is better to be stingy than generous ………….. It is better to be cruel than merciful.

It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against one’s interests.

Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defense than any fortress. …. Princes should undertake great projects to enhance their reputation.

Princes should choose wise advisers and avoid flatterers.

Fortune controls half of human affairs, but free will controls the rest, leaving the prince free to act. However, few princes can adapt their actions to the times.

And Now Cicero

Quintus Cicero’s letter in 64 BC containing some practical advice to his more idealistic brother Marcus which became the work “How to Win an Election” (Philip Freeman), which includes political principles like:

  1. Have the backing of your family & friends. Surround yourself with the right people.
  2. Call in ALL favors. Build a wide base of support. Every vote counts.
  3. Promise EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY. It’s easier for people to vote for you if you come up with excuses for why you couldn’t keep your promise later than flat out refusing to make a promise in the first place.
  4. Communication skills are KEY. Give people hope..  Flatter voters SHAMELESSLY.
  5. Know your opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them.

How did the election go? Well, Marcus went on to win and there’s a book called “How to Run a Country” (also by Philip Freeman) which contains Marcus’ letters, speeches, and other writings on the subject.

While some things change, the principles stay the same.

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Sam Manekshaw on Officers – then and now …

Posted on November 11, 2016. Filed under: From a Services Career | Tags: , , , , , , |

This is from a Q/A Session with Field Marshal Manekshaw at the Staff College – some 25 years after he retired –
Q – How has the Army changed/progressed over the years?

Ans: Over the years, things have changed. In my time, my father used to support me until I became a Lieutenant Colonel. I used to get an allowance to be able to live. Today, the young officer has not only to keep himself but has to send money home.

In my time, we did not have all these courses. Today the young officer hardly stays in his regiment. He is sent from one place to another to do this course and that course and he does not get a chance of knowing his men. We knew our men.

Also there wasn’t so much work in those days. We got up in the mornings, did Physical Training for half an hour , came back, dressed, had breakfast , then went to our company lines and spent all our time avoiding the Commanding Officer . .

Those Commanding Officers were nasty chaps. They did not give a damn for anybody. I will give an example of my Commanding Officer. I was made quartermaster of my battalion. The Commanding Officer sent for the Adjutant and my self. He said, I want to take the battalion out tomorrow morning for an exercise. So, I as quartermaster indented for a company of mules. He said we were going to leave for the exercise at 6:30, so I ordered the company of mules to arrive at six.

At eleven o’clock at night, the commanding officer changed his mind. He said, “I will not go at 6:30, we will go at nine o’clock”. There was nothing I could do so come morning I got on my bicycle, went off to the lines, where the mules had arrived. I told them to unsaddle, and go into the shade – when who should arrive on a horse but the General Officer with his daughter!

I touched my hat. He said, “What are those animals doing here, young man?” I said that we were going out on an exercise. “When are you going?” “Nine o’clock.” He tore strips off me – “Going at nine o’clock and you have the animals waiting here at six o’clock”. He was riding with his daughter on a horse. What could I say to a General officer, I had two pips on my shoulder.

Suddenly, who should be coming on a bicycle, but the Commanding Officer! He touched his hat, said, “Morning, General.” Turning to me, he said, “What is the matter, Sam?” I said, “Sir, the General is angry with me because we are going out at nine o’clock and the mules are here at six.”

He turned round to face the General, and said, “I will thank you General to know who commands this regiment. Me, and not this young man. I will not have you ticketing him off in front of your daughter.”

He turned back to me and said, “Have you had your breakfast, Sam?” “No.” “Go along. have your breakfast.”

I was delighted to go off. But when we came back from the exercise, at about eight o’clock in the evening, in my letter rack, was a letter from the General’s wife, inviting me to tea the next day. Now, I did not want to have tea with the General’s wife! But that’s the sort of thing that happens”.

When I became a field Marshal, I was the guest of Her Majesty in England. I had given a reception at India House, where the same Commanding Officer with his wife were also invited. He came in, shook hands with my wife, shook hands with me, and walked off. After about half an hour, when everybody had arrived, I walked up to him with a glass of whisky in my hand.

He turned to me, “May I call you Sam?” “Please do, Sir. You used to call me ‘bloody fool’ before and I thought that that was my Christian name”

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Woes of the Indian Army …

Posted on November 3, 2016. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Retired Gen SK Bahri was surprised to receive a Happy Birthday Card from no less a person than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Interestingly the Picture on the Card was that of Calcutta’s famed Victoria Memorial! Was that a hint that the Defense Forces were a relic of the past and their new avatar needed to be more subservient to the administrative service?

Any way the Gen took the opportunity of saying what is uppermost in his anguished mind. Here is what he wrote –

“Dear Mr Prime Minister, Thank you very much for the greetings on my birthday. They were a surprise and are much appreciated.

Today, I am an 84 yr old officer who was commissioned in Dec 1952 and belong to the 1st Course of the National Defense Academy. From Jan 1949, when I joined the NDA, I have only seen a steady decline in the status and financial state of the Armed Forces. If this decline is not arrested we will have an abundance of soldiers (due to unemployment) to be led by mediocre or below par officers.

Field Marshal Carriapa said at our Passing out Parade in 1952 that the Jawans are always good, it is the officers who have to be capable of leading them.

It is sad that due to the neglect by successive governments only mediocre or below par officers are being inducted as the cream of the youth available has been skimmed off by the civil services and the corporate sector. Till mid ’50s we used to be equated to the British company officers and the civil services were considered nowhere near AF Officers.

Most senior officers in the police were seconded from the Army who were medically unfit for army service, and the senior most officer in the police held an appointment of Inspector General which was junior to a Brigadier.

Unfortunately, the scene has changed completely. The Armed Forces are being undermined consistently and relentlessly as though the bureaucracy’s only agenda is to belittle the soldiers. Previously, the governments were least concerned and aim was how to stay in power and milk the Nation.

While the Armed Forces continued protecting the sovereignty, with inadequate equipment due to rampant corruption, the civil services quietly continued up grading themselves vis a vis the soldiers. After the biggest national victory in ’71 the slogan being chanted was “India Is Indira & Indira is India”.

While the 3rd CPC inflicted the most grievous wound on the Armed Forces, by lifting the pensions of civil servants, reducing the pensions of JCOs and OR and not giving any additional benefit to the officers. It looked as though the civil servants had created a new country and taken 93,000 PsOW.

The cunning and cussedness of the IAS started from the time FM Ayub Khan declared martial law in Pakistan. They started putting fear in the then govt that the Indian Army may also take over the nation. By playing on these fears and the insecurity of inexperienced politicians the IAS ingratiated themselves with the ruling party and started eroding the status of the Armed Fkrces while consistently upgraded themselves.

When I was commissioned an IAS officer felt that he would be happy if he retired as a deputy secretary at age 55. The Armed Forces aimed to retire as Lt Cols at 48 yrs. The difference was in their pensions. A Dy Secy took home less than Rs 400 pm while a Lt Col took Rs 675 pm.

Now every civilian entrant, whatever be his performance, retires as an additional secretary at age 60, while the Lt Col retires at 52 and takes home 50% of last drawn pay. As this service had to carry other services along, except the Armed Forces, crumbs were thrown at them also. Now these services have more additional secretary level officers in a total cadre strength of about 15,000, than all the Armed Forces together, which have an officer strength of about 60,000.

Something is radically wrong in the cadre management, which is costing the country a pile while providing poor administrative support to the citizens. I would like to bring to your notice that in the military academies, the Sword of Honor winners among the cadets do not become the Chiefs of the services. The order of merit (O of M) is decided on the performance during training and then it is revised based on the performance during an individual’s service. In the civil services the O of M is decided by the performance in the UPSC entrance examination and they carry it through out their service, whatever be their contribution to the nation’s well being.

It is ironical that with NFU the civil services have thrown performance linked promotions out of the window, which is ensuring that we stay at the bottom of the comity of nations despite paying much more than our civil servants deserve. Ask any HR professional and he will give an adverse report within minutes, on the way the cadre management of civil servants is being done.

The worst part is that to maintain the supremacy of the civil servant this gang will not hesitate to feed wrong data to any committee being set up eg., the 7th CPC. They have become so confident and brazen that they are not even worried about committing contempt of the Supreme Court by supplying wrong data, to prove their point.

I had written to the RM a few months ago that the integration of the MOD with the AFs must be done, as recommended by a knowledgeable civil servant, Mr K Subramaniam in his report, post Kargil operations. This will ensure that decisions by the civil servants in MOD are not taken in silos and the RM receives well considered advice. Otherwise, he will always keep telling the Services, “I will look into the matter” after every biased decision is announced by the MOD.

As it happened after the recent announcement of a revised equation between defense officers and civil servants in the MOD, this one sided decision making is not new. In 1975 when I was Military Attache in our Embassy in Paris, I was paid Foreign Allowance (dearness allowance abroad) equal to a 1st Secretary, even though I was entitled to FA equal to a Counselor as per a MEA letter, because the MOD had issued a letter giving an arbitrary equations.

It is still happening because the MOD is always looking for ways to belittle the armed forces. May I therefore, please ask as to why the government is ensuring that the soldiers not only have to fight our enemies on the outside, but also the known enemy within?

The latter fight is more debilitating and demoralizing. Your government has its objectives clear but regret to say that the bureaucracy is not entirely with you.

With warm regards and wishing you and the Nation a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Diwali under your leadership.

SK Bahri  Gen

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Success at Various Stages of Life …

Posted on November 2, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

First You believe in Santa Claus.  Then You don’t believe in Santa Claus. And then You are Santa Claus. And finally You look like Santa Clause.

At age 4 success is . .  . Not piddling in your pants.  At age 12 success is . . . Having friends. At age 17 success is . . . Having a driver’s license. At age 35 success is . .  . Having money.

At age 50 success is . . . Having money. At age 70 success is . . . Having a drivers license.  At age 75 success is . …  Having friends.  At age 80 success is . . . Not piddling in your pants.
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