Topics include SA Army doctrine and force development 1900-1968, the place of the principles of war, planning for Lesotho-style military interventions, combat readiness and finally, morale and discipline. Before writing this review, this commentator met Kruys at a seminar at the SA Army College in late November where he presented his findings to a group of senior, general and flag officers. No-one present disputed them.
Kruys points out that military skill are highly perishable. After the National Party gutted the Union Defence Force of its experienced commanders (1948-1950) and replaced them with affirmative action appointees, many skills were lost, among them the ability to command brigades and divisions. In the same essay he points out that it took the SADF from 1968 to 1984 to develop a maneuver-warfare based doctrine and train brigade and division staffs to standard.
What are principles of war? No substitute for common sense, one pithy colonel at the seminar opined. The feeling was that South Africa now had too many of these so-called principles (14) and that they had become a checklist to be followed during planning and something of a replacement for proper doctrine. Kruys, at the seminar, and in his essay warns the unwary against this. It should rather be seen as a guideline. “The final conclusion is that successful commanders will never knowingly violate the principles of war without first evaluating the risks they take. In spite of the fact that there are critics of the principles, history shows that most of the time the winners took heed of them and the losers did not.”
Reviewing South Africa’s intervention in Lesotho, Israel’s in Lebanon and the US in Vietnam, Kruys argues for a proper pre-deployment planning cycle bringing together political and military leaders to determine the feasibility of such operations and to ensure they are properly planned, rehearsed and executed. Unstated is the need for officers of character who can tell politicians when operations are not feasible or forces are not combat ready – even if it costs them their careers. The ultimate deterrent in such a case is officers willing to speak out in public why they acted the way they did. They will not be popular, but they will have retained their honour.
On the issue of readiness, readers are advised that business practices are best left to business. “Commanders at all levels must be good leaders who are well trained to do their jobs.” And they must command. An MBA may not be a help in this regard. Kruys also believes that officers should get to ply their trade in ceaseless preparation for war and should not allow themselves – or be allowed – to become uniformed civil servants. Unfortunately this is too often the case.
Turning to discipline, Kruys quotes US General SLA Marshall with approval: “the fault in the American disciplinary levels was not that the discipline in the ranks needed to be more relaxed but that the discipline of a considerable percentage of their officers needed to be tightened. This is very likely true of the SA Army today.”
All told a valuable collection of useful essays.
Prof Mike Hough, Col (Dr) Louis du Plessis, Editors
Brig Gen George Kruys (Retd), Contributor
ISSUP Ad Hoc Publication 38
University of Pretoria
Top stories this week
Airbus Military, EADS North America deliver HC 144A Maintenance Training Unit to US Coast Guard
16 May 2013 - The US Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center has purchased the prototype CN235 aircraft and plans to transform it into an HC-144A maintenance training unit. The HC-144A is based ...
INTS Systems Management helps prepare defence bids
13 May 2013 - A South African company is exploiting a gap in the market by offering to assist companies prepare bids for Armscor and other defence and government organisations.
Airbus Military A400M receives full civil Type Certificate from EAS
13 May 2013 - Airbus Military has today received full Type Certification for the A400M new generation airlifter, marking a critical step towards delivery of the first aircraft to the French Air Force.<...