Thursday, January 27, 2011


History has shown us that as decision makers, we humans leave much to be desired.  When you combine bad choices with war you have tragedy......and when a blunder occurs lives are lost and the fate of nations are at stake.  We've seen it time and again.  And what is most alarming is that many of those mistakes have come from Rulers of countries and Generals of armies.    

How do you learn to make good choices?  I've been working from a premise in the last fifteen years that the way to learn to make good decisions, is by making bad ones.  Most importantly, in making those bad choices, I will have developed experience to help me down the right road.  Another way of proper decision making would be to surround yourself with people that help you see the proper choice.  Far too often the leaders of our countries, our armies, our corporations and our churches, don't.  And it's here where the recipe for failure is obvious.   Whenever those in charge see themselves as thee "voice", have an attitude of being unapproachable or surround themselves with "yes" people, the groundwork for failure has been laid, not success.

Let's take a look back at some of the greatest Military blunders of all-time.  See if you don't recognize some of the traits I've listed.  Think too, that if a different decision had been made, how our history would be altered in that outcome.  The Top Ten All-Time:

10.  THE MUNICH AGREEMENT (1938).  In an attempt to prevent the Second World War, British  Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain, along with Benito Mussolini, of Italy, Adolf Hitler and Édouard Daladier, of France, signed a treaty of appeasement in Munich. This signed away the Sudetenland, along the Czechoslovakian border, to the expanding Nazi Germany.  Basically, by throwing Sudetenland Hitler's way, these leaders hoped to avoid conflict.  In reality, it provided Hitler an expanded territory without any military losses.

Air Superiority Didn't Win the War
9.  THE VIETNAM WAR (1959-1975).  This was said to be one of the worst mistakes in U.S. History...not just militarily.  U.S. support for the Republic of Vietnam in their fight against the communist North led to a failed strategy.  Over 60,000 lives were lost despite perceived American technology and air superiority.  The guerilla warfare tactics of the Viet Cong rebels and the North Vietnamese Army were far too much for our troops.

8.  THE BATTLE OF LAKE TRASIMENE (217 B.C.).  When Hannibal marched his huge army of Carthaginians and Gauls over the Alps the Romans began quaking in their boots. The great General had fought his way across Southern Gaul and entered the Roman heartland complete with war elephants and vicious barbarians. The Romans sent 40,000 soldiers to halt the General's advance.  Hannibal, a master of military strategy, ambushed the Romans as they marched to Lake Trasimene where they thought he was camped.  Many Roman soldiers were forced to run and subsequently drowned.  History tells us that Hannibal also suffered huge losses, which in essence, makes this a blunder on the sides of both armies.

7.  THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1854).  "The Battle of Balaclava had nothing to do with knitted head wear but everything to do with knitted jackets. As part of the Crimean war, British, French and Turkish forces were advancing towards the major Russian port of Sevastopol when they met the defending Russian army. The British had a large amount of cavalry but the Russians countered this with an impressive array of guns and artillery. The defenders had control of the valley and had flanked the British army by capturing several redoubts on the valley wall.

It was a miscommunication that caused the British cavalry to charge into the valley. The original order had been to capture the enemy guns on one side of the valley, but instead they were given the instruction to charge through the valley and to capture the main bank of enemy guns. The British Cavalrymen, led by Lord Cardigan, must have known this to be suicide but dutifully followed their orders. Lord Cardigan led the charge. This foolish action led the Russian officers to believe that the British were drunk.

Miraculously, nearly two hundred of the 600 strong Light Brigade survived the charge and Lord Cardigan returned home as hero and a fashion icon. As a result, his woolen jacket , which had been made especially for the cold Russian weather, became a popular item of clothing known as the cardigan (the sweater).

Tennyson immortalized the charge of the Light Brigade in his poem of the same name. In this he famously wrote ‘ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die’." 

6.  THE DIEPPE RAID (1942).  This was an attempt by Canadian and British troops to land on the beaches of Dieppe, France.  6,000 troops were dropped onto the beaches through naval and air power in hopes of proving a landing of such a magnitude was possible.  The result was a massacre.  Over 3,000 troops were killed.  The Dieppe Raid did end up providing tactical information for the Normandy landing that would take place later.  A test run with significant losses.

5.  BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN (1876).  Who can forget Custer's Land Stand?  A failed war strategy and lack of command/direction by the U.S. Seventh Calvary led to the slaughter of 700 troops at the Little Big Horn.  This battle was a great success for the Native peoples of  North America, the Lakota and Cheyenne.  Yellow-haired Custer also lost much that day.  In addition to his own life, he lost his nephew, brother-in-law and two brothers.

4.  PEARL HARBOR (1942).  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will live in infamy in U.S. annals.  The Imperial Japanese Navy launched a strike on Pearl Harbor with a thought of crippling the United States Pacific fleet, thus rendering defenses useless....and that in itself would lead to an early Japanese victory.  Despite huge losses of U.S. ships and life, the Japanese did not complete their supposed duties.  Had a scheduled third wave of the attack been led by Japanese forces, the U.S. could have been rendered totally useless in their ability to provide Naval support in the Pacific.

December 7, 1942....Pearl Harbor

3.  BATTLE OF WATLING STREET (61)  An unbelievable ninny don't you think?  How can you have a troop of Celtic Britons numbering 80,000 and lose to a group of Romans totalling 400 is beyond me.  The leader, if you want to call her that, was Queen Boudicca.  The Queen raised an Army against the Romans and went about rampaging Roman towns and burning them to the ground.  Little did she realize, an ambush is not a great thing to fall into.  In addition to the surprise encounter on Watling Street, the Romans created a wall of shields and spears the Celtic Britons could not penetrate.  It's been said, that the Queen took her own life after turning and running from the slaughter.   

2.  GERMAN'S INVASION OF THE SOVIET UNION (1941).  Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union is often considered to be one of the wost decisions ever made by anybody. Hitler had already defeated all of his European enemies. Only Great Britain remained. The fact that Britain commanded an empire comprised of three of the largest countries on the Earth didn’t bother Hitler. He was bored and wanted a new challenge. And so he decided to declare war on a nation ten times the size of his own empire.
Hitler quickly advanced towards Moscow with little resistance.  Cold weather set in and Soviet troops used this as a rallying point.  Had they not....the map of Europe might very well be Red and dotted with swastikas.

1.  NAPOLEON'S INVASION OF RUSSIA (1812).  In June of 1812, Napoleon began his fatal Russian campaign, a landmark in history of the destructive potential of warfare.  Virtually all of continental Europe was under his control, and the invasion of Russia was an attempt to force Tsar Alexander to submit once again to the terms of a treaty that Napoleon had imposed upon him four years earlier.  Having gathered nearly half a million soldiers from France and other states of Europe, Napoleon entered Russia at the head of the largest army ever seen.  The Russians, knowing that defeat was inevitable if they stayed and fought, strategically retreated.  As the months wore on, the supply lines for Napoleon's troops grew thinner and his troops were reduced by two-thirds due to fatigue and hunger.  In September, Alexander and Napoleon's troops waged battle where 108,000 were killed, but no decisive winner was apparent. Tail between his legs, the Little General ordered his troops to head for France.  Fighting winter and the lack of food and supplies, only 10,000 reached home.

Some colossal blunders, don't you think?  So, does that help you in fretting about some of the dumb choices you made....and a realization that there are  a number of people who made far worse mistakes than you?   I put some time to this whole decision making process and came up with a few ideas....but then I thought, it might be better to get an authority to weigh in on the subject, so I turned to Pastor John Kline of Zion Lutheran Church in Des Moines.

"Why, Pastor John, do we live in a world where people are paralyzed in their decision making?",  I asked.  His answers back were more than insightful.  The Pastor mentioned the situations most of us operate in daily.  "Often times, people are working in an environment ripe with fear", he said.  In simplistic terms, they're afraid of how they'll be perceived in making a misstep.  "What we all need is an environment of approachability. screwed up", Kline went on to say.  "We need to surround ourselves with people who don't overreact and who will encourage others to lead the same way."   

Pastor Kline left me with a nugget you might find helpful.  Matthew 18:1-4.  "At the time the disciples came to Jesus and asked 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom in heaven."

You say you've made some big time mistakes....some blunders that are embarrassing to think about, let alone talk about.  Strangely enough, we've all been there.  Every day you'll be making decisions on your future.  Pray about, surround yourself with good counsel and be open to those that have the gift of discernment.  The Good Pastor had one last thought on decision making.  "There will always be a day to be Faithful", he concluded.  See if that doesn't help you avoid those blunders......



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