Our leadership: autocrats and authoritarians

This applies to priests as well.

From LifeSite:

Why some bishops behave the way they do

June 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Why can’t 40 Days for Life in my home town get any support from our local bishop? Why does Florida Bishop Robert Lynch interpret the terrible shootings there the very same way the Huffington Post and other enemies of the Faith do? Why did British generals sacrifice many soldiers’ lives with frontal attacks on the Western Front in the First World War?

Curiously, an answer to all these questions may be found in a single book, a 1976 masterpiece called On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, written by a psychologist named Norman Dixon who saw plenty of examples while serving in the British Army in the Second World War as a military engineer.

Interestingly, commentators like to focus on Dixon’s enumeration of the characteristics of bad leadership while ignoring what is the heart of Dixon’s book: “the psychology” of why military organizations promote into high command people incapable of the clear thinking and bold, confident, decisive action their positions require. Dixon said incompetent generals were often physically courageous under fire, but lacked the moral courage to develop unconventional winning strategies and tactics and to take risks.

That’s true of a lot of people, of course, but those people should certainly not be generals, right?…Or bishops?

Dixon, however, explained why so many are, by distinguishing between two kinds of leadership personalities: the autocrat, and the authoritarian.

[…]

Every alternative presents itself as an opportunity for failure. After all, the authoritarian already has reached the top. There isn’t as much upside to defeating the enemy as there is downside to defeat. So the authoritarian—incompetent—general may do nothing at all or he may do too little. He may do a little bit of everything so that no one could criticise him for failing to do anything. He sends some troops north to oppose the enemy but keeps most at home. He doesn’t warn the civilian population to build bomb shelters because he doesn’t want to admit there may soon be air attacks. He wants to be popular. He does not want to win so much as to avoid being criticised. The general who is not motivated by the desire to win is less likely to do so than the general who is.

This makes me think of many bishops. They rose through the ranks when Christians and Catholics were still popular, respected and even powerful. They took their leadership positions in large, military-like hierarchical organizations with the responsibility to preserve these organizations, not risk them—in other words, in peacetime.

For these men, there is no upside, no chance of a decisive victory over evil, secularism or social change—only the downside of unpopularity, criticism and conflict with society’s trendsetters and thought leaders, and quite possibly with civil authorities, quite possibly lawsuits and nasty headlines. If they are in Europe, they enjoy huge salaries on the government’s tab.

These smooth, plump men did not sign on for combat, did not sign on for marches, for vigils, for interrogations in courtrooms or for jail terms. As priests they were instantly deferred to and respected by their own flocks. As bishops they get even more of that from their faithful, plus real palaces. But they now find themselves targets for attacks from society at large. They are tasked with feeding their sheep at the same time as defending Christianity’s politically incorrect teachings on homosexuality, abortion and transgenderism, and Catholicism’s particular teachings on a male-only priesthood, divorce and in vitro fertilization.

[…]

Read the whole thing there.

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30 Responses to Our leadership: autocrats and authoritarians

  1. organistjason says:

    His Excellency Bishop Lynch, recently, reached the “magic number” of 75. With that, the Canonical Obligation, to submit his resignation. His Excellency has shown a pattern of “colorful” theological and political commentary. While I am not optimistic that the Congregation of Bishops, with it’s present membership, will clarify the situation under the current dogma of “Mercy” with an Orthodox Successor. Some peace may be gathered, that His Excellency Bishop Lynch, will soon no longer be the Ordinary of St. Petersburg.

  2. oldconvert says:

    Yes I came across Dixon’s book years ago when I was spending a year working as a clerk at an Army garrison. Being bottom of the heap looking up is an excellent place to observe the characteristics and foibles of the upper layers of command.

    Dixon is pointing out not only how particular personality types thrive in the Army, but also why such types are attracted to the Army in the first place, and his observations can be applied to any rigidly hierarchical system, such as the Church or the Civil Service alike. I found his obs very illuminating when applied to NHS nursing, also a hierarchical monolith.

    Another illuminating text is Laurence Peters’ The Peter Principle, which demonstrates how people rise, or are promoted, to their level of incompetence.

  3. Blaine says:

    As a service member for the last 16 years (service academy, 10 years active, two reserve) I can tell you Father I understand this perfectly. It’s amazing. And true.

    His Excellency Bishop Lynch is my Bishop. He will retire soon, having requested such from the Holy Father. I pray he has a fruitful retirement, a long life, and maybe takes up a hobby far removed from the Internet.

  4. anamaria says:

    Powerful stuff! Got me thinking…
    I grew up with The Lord of the Rings, and now my children are doing it too. They know where they stand.
    Let´s pray for strong leaders!

  5. kiwiinamerica says:

    Is public Eucharistic Adoration still banned in Lynch’s diocese?

    That tells you all you need to know about this bishop.

  6. WGS says:

    50+ years ago, I was serving as a Supply Officer on the USS Little Rock CLG4 in the Mediterranean Sea. We would usually have an admiral on board, and on one occasion I was informed that the admiral’s carrots had been cut too thin (or maybe they were too thick).

    I easily resolved the problem by a communication with the admiral’s steward, but it has always intrigued me: Do you get to be an admiral because you’ve shown concern about such details, or are admirals the kind of people who take delight in asserting their authority about such details.

    I recall that this same admiral specifically requested Dove soap and Kikkoman soy sauce. No problem! His wish was my command.

    It seems the same goes for bishops!

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    Thanks be to God that my archbishop is not one of those smooth, plump men! This year alone, among other writings and actions, he led a Jericho walk of thousands around the Planned Parenthood killing fortress ( we now hear word of a number of the staff quitting) and has also led Prayer in the Square on the steps of the state Capitol. That is not a man hiding in his palace, entertaining young men or famous personages.

  8. GypsyMom says:

    I haven’t read Dr. Dixon’s book (though I will probably order it soon!), but what is described above is the topic of almost daily conversation between my husband and myself. This ascension of the incompetent and unqualified has infiltrated all areas of society–besides the military and the Church, also education, government, the media and entertainment, business, and just about any other institution. The weak and ignorant are in charge of almost everything and have the power to make decisions that affect the lives of the rest of us. Being in charge, those in high positions promote other incompetents, and they become entrenched and work to keep out people who are able.

    We have lost touch with God, and we have thereby lost our ability to discern anything. Judgement of any kind–in reality, thought–is condemned, and we are no longer permitted to make proper and just determinations about anyone or anything. And in our haste to jettison truth (Christ), we rush to the collapse of everything. The wages of sin is death, the death of everything good. My prayer is that Mary’s Triumph is very soon, for it doesn’t appear to me that there is any hope from a human perspective.

  9. tcreek says:

    If only we had such a Man today, in the country and in the church.

    March 8, 1983
    We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. … There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might. . .

    Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness . . . they are the focus of evil in the modern world. . . .

    It was C.S. Lewis who, in his unforgettable “Screwtape Letters,” wrote: “The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. . . . But it is conceived and ordered in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. . . .

    You know, I’ve always believed that old Screwtape reserved his best efforts for those of you in the church. . . . The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith. . . .

    June 12, 1987
    General Secretary Gorbachev if you seek peace, . . . come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

    He caught Hell for both of these speeches from the intellectuals in and out of the church. He was a called a warmonger and a dunce.

  10. un-ionized says:

    Smooth, plump men. I like that.

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    This is a hard pill to swallow, but this man has exercised the office of bishop over three pontificates. Not being one fearful of throwing stones, to whom can I throw my metaphorical pebble?
    We have a big problem.
    No one who can is doing anything about it.

  12. Traductora says:

    This is kind of a twist on the basic Peter Princiole – rising to the level of one’s own incompetence. Organizations love this type of guy, because he’s so incompetent that he makes no waves, sides with whomever he perceives to be the most powerful, and completely ignores the underlings as he rises higher and higher.

    My only question about Bp. Lynch is how he has managed to survive under three popes. I don’t want to go into the gruesome details, but he has been involved in both financial and sexual scandals, and of course was practically the enabler of the death of Terri Schiavo. He forbade priests to visit her and he did nothing on the legal front to save her (if he had at least supported Gov. Jeb Bush’s attempts, that would have helped enormously).

    He was also out of his diocese at Easter, which is theoretically a no -no for any bishop. She was dying at that point and he wanted to be away when it happened. I was part of the vigil outside the hospital and I still can’t believe the lack of support from the Church. But she died as the result of a Scientology ritual, extreme fasting to drive out some “negative energy” or another, and the Scientologists rule in that part of Florida. So of course, that’s where the power was and that’s where the good Bishop Lynch went.

    It’s not really that there are incompetents in charge that is surprising, but that the institutional Church is so okay with it. And getting more so, I fear.

  13. crjs1 says:

    What exactly did Bishop Lynch say that was so wrong?

    Yes his:

    “Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,”

    could have been said with more nuance, instead of ‘religion’, it would be more accurate to say something like: ‘some members of religions, including our own…’ But I don’t see the huge problem with his comment.

    We can’t honestly say that there hasn’t been [misguided/unjust] persecution of homosexual people which has been religiously motivated, including by Catholics in the past.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    That was insightful. Another serious leadership defect in both the Church and the military is social engineering. Certain cardinals, bishops, and certain military and civilian defense officials are actively corrupting their institutions to achieve socialist goals. No doubt they also enjoy the cheap emotional thrill of fawning left-wing media coverage and the batting eyelids of Democrat Party officials. And the disdain of these “leaders” for their own followers has been noted many times.

    In the advance of Faith and Liberty, and in the defense of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, I’d prefer to be led not by a social engineer/liberal but by that cowboy who lassoed a criminal outside Wal-Mart. To be direct: a cowboy can probably be trained in the administration of a large organization, and he almost certainly knows how to lead it in a just and effective manner.

    As for the social-engineering clergy and defense officials it is highly doubtful that they will ever acquire common sense. It is also very unlikely that they will develop a sense of personal responsibility for what their malevolent policies have wrought upon the lives of the rank-and-file and upon the souls of those in the pews.

  15. Simon_GNR says:

    I read somewhere recently that there two types of leaders (with acknowledgements to A.A. Milne) – Tiggers and Eeyores!! Every organisation needs some of both in its leadership and probably more Eeyores than Tiggers. I think the Church could do with a few more Tiggers in the hierarchy. JPII was definitely a Tigger, Paul VI definitely an Eeyore. Pope Francis? Difficult to say.

    So many bishops seem to be pessimistic in their outlook and see their job as managing decline: falling Mass attendances, plummeting priestly vocations, closing parishes etc. We need some younger, energetic bishops with a bit of get-up-and-go who are zealous for the Faith and not merely concerned not to offend secular, atheistic civil society.

    As for authoritarian bishops, well, they’re only human, and for some of them it’s understandable if a little bit of power goes to their heads. It’s liberal, doctrinally unsound bishops that annoy and worry me.

  16. The Mad Sicilian Geek says:

    Father:

    I must respectfully disagree with some of the basis premises here…

    //They took their leadership positions in large, military-like hierarchical organizations with the responsibility to preserve these organizations, not risk them—in other words, in peacetime.//

    There is no concept of “peacetime” in the Catholic Church. When has the Church ever really been at peace? In my understanding, the answer is NEVER.

    Firstly, the Church has been persecuted since its inception so I the use of the word “peacetime” is not appropriate in this context.

    Secondly most, if not all, of these bishops have been around since Roe V. Wade. One of the greatest battles of our time and many bishops are utterly impotent.

    //For these men, there is no upside, no chance of a decisive victory over evil, secularism or social change—only the downside of unpopularity, criticism and conflict with society’s trendsetters and thought leaders, and quite possibly with civil authorities, quite possibly lawsuits and nasty headlines.//

    Let’s be charitable and call them unimaginative and unoriginal. (The actual words I would use are “incompetent and a failure at their role; exhibiting a complete lack of discernment and real understanding for the position”. )

    Perhaps it would have been better if, in all humility, they declined the promotion?

    //These smooth, plump men did not sign on for combat, did not sign on for marches, for vigils, for interrogations in courtrooms or for jail terms.//

    Actually… yes they did sign up for combat (spiritual ) and that necessarily entails other dimensions (social, judicial,etc.) as well. Yet, they utterly failed to follow up on that.

    One must also consider the effect of the sexual abuse crisis within the Church. This time bomb has been ticking for decades. Although periodic reports of abuses were always covered up, it become no longer possible to contain the explosion and the damage to the Church has been significant and widespread.

    Many priests and bishops, so enthralled by their positions, did immeasurable damage to the Church and it will be a very, very long time before the damage is undone (if ever).

    It never helps to give your enemy a sword because they will most certainly use it on you. This is what we are living through.

    I’m looking at this as just another example of The Peter Principle” where “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”. Of course, the organization becomes top-heavy with leaders who can’t lead . People realize this and their behavior is predictable: no respect for upper management and general dissension and defections within the ranks. It’s a downward spiral from there.

    The old proverb “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” seems to apply quite well.

    We must pray for strong leaders because the weak ones are causing more damage than the strong ones can repair.

  17. Manducat in the hat says:

    “He wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions. He was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

    ~2nd Lt. Lipton, Band of Brothers, commenting on the leadership style of 1st Lt. Norman Dike

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    I think this theory makes so much sense. Add on to this that many of these men have their own disordered personalities and issues, and we can see why there would be problems. Let’s face it, we have a lot of homosexual priests and Bishops, Cardinals as well. Some no doubt are good and faithful men, but many are not. They were not called to the priesthood, but they got in anyway, and now they are in like Flynn, untouchable Bishops, and what can we do about it? Nothing. Their predilections and issues are now all our problem, and their weak understanding of the faith is what they are passing on, and not even much of that. This is obvious now, going right up to the top.
    No. There’s nothing we can do about these men. Only God can do something about this. I often wonder now, what He has in mind.

  19. TheDude05 says:

    I pray His Excellency Bishop Lynch considers the contemplative life for his retirement. No contact with the outside world might do wonders for his spiritual life.

  20. Justin_Kolodziej says:

    I have a feeling that it is more what the Bishop did not say than what he said that is the problem, for the latest (and in many eyes here not-so-greatest) Catechism says both that unjust discrimination against homosexuals is to be avoided and that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. He avoided the last part, making it sound like the Church should give them everything they want, which of course it cannot. But, it can offer something greater than that: eternal life and great crowns for those who repent and endure great trials from all sides, special crowns reserved for just those who overcome that condition.

    Back to the topic: Why are there bad bishops? Because they are also fallen human beings, the Pope included. And the Pope is not infallible when selecting who is to be made a bishop where. Barring private revelations, charismatic gifts, etc. he has to do the best he can, and sometimes he chooses badly, sometimes the bishop turns out to be another Judas. God knows why some dioceses endure bishops that seem to cross into heresy every now and again, and the Pope never seems to notice, let alone depose and excommunicate them. It may be a ‘wheat & tares’ type of deal. I can only pray that I and you and all the faithful remain that way as things progress.

  21. robtbrown says:

    Justin_Kolodziej says:

    I have a feeling that it is more what the Bishop did not say than what he said that is the problem, for the latest (and in many eyes here not-so-greatest) Catechism says both that unjust discrimination against homosexuals is to be avoided and that homosexual acts are gravely disordered.

    It doesn’t define unjust discrimination

  22. robtbrown says:

    crjs1 says:

    What exactly did Bishop Lynch say that was so wrong?

    Yes his:

    “Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,”

    Is it wrong to target and breed contempt for drug dealers and embezzlers?

    Moral law is usually also written into rules for proper social behavior and rules for proper legal behavior. Homosexuality has traditionally been considered a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. Should we ignore that just because post modern culture is fine with almost all sexual orientation?

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Of course the Church never really has a peacetime. But remember that a lot of the Boomers and pre-Boomers were saturated with the idea that the fulfilment of all human history was come, the Omega Point, when we would all just magically evolve into being part of Christ. That was part of why Vatican II was so utopian, and why the Spirit of Vatican II was so decisively and destructively Utopian — because the end of history was already supposed to be here, and as soon as the US started to sing Kumbaya with the Soviet Union, suddenly we’d be in the Age of Aquarius.

    So we didn’t need churches any more. We didn’t need prayers any more. We were all going to have direct contact with God and each other by way of psychic shortcuts, and the New Jerusalem was going to show up any day. (Or we were all going to die by nukes, but probably God would send the aliens to save us from that. Or God and heaven didn’t really exist in any non-Deistic way, but the Church would build heaven on earth by means of Kumbaya and such.)

    So the only leadership you would really need would be a sort of rock star leadership of feeling good, or a nice leadership of destroying the “right” things and purveying the new hotness, with a few soothing “There, theres,” to the poor while you acted as lobbyists — but not a hard leadership of fasting, prayer, alms, exemplary behavior, saintliness, and real communion in suffering.

    But it’s not just a modern problem. There have always been bishops who were saintly, bishops who were just hardworking honest pastors but had God as their helper… and those other guys.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Bishop Lynch’s statement — What’s wrong is that it does not comfort the mourning, encourage the frightened, or proclaim the Gospel. It is not a prophetic statement. It’s a bland CEO’s statement. Towards the end, the bishop starts to invoke God’s name, but it’s so late in the statement that it sounds like an afterthought.

    Bishops are responsible in some part for the souls of all the people in their diocese, although especially of all the baptized (Catholic or not). If there’s anybody who could feel like he’s failed his people, it would be him. But this is not the statement of a shepherd who loves his sheep and is calling them home for food and shelter; or who mourns the loss of all his wandering sheep, including the murderer. It’s not even the statement of a shepherd who only loves his fellow Catholics. It’s the statement of an outsider who doesn’t know or care about anybody in Orlando, but is willing to scold this bunch of strangers – and the rest of the Church and the human race besides. Meanwhile, he does take the time to affirm his wandering sheep (SSA sufferers and Muslims alike) in their okayness, no matter what kind of psychological damage and danger they incur while wandering around dangerous cliffs instead of heading for greener pastures.

    It’s cold. It’s mean. It’s insulting. It’s not pastoral.

  25. robtbrown says:

    Should be:

    Moral law is usually also written into rules for proper social behavior and/or rules for proper legal behavior. Homosexuality has traditionally been considered a sin that cries to heaven for ve

  26. Benedict Joseph says:

    “I pray His Excellency Bishop Lynch considers the contemplative life for his retirement. No contact with the outside world might do wonders for his spiritual life.”
    No. Rather I would suggest the eremitical life.
    We don’t want to endanger what little balance remains in the few remaining contemplative communities of men.
    On his own would be best. If he can shoulder it.

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    tcreek: outstanding quotes from Pres. Reagan. This was a man graced with leadership and fortitude. He developed those skills as a lifeguard when he was a boy, and during the late 1940s when he was president of SAG and battled the Commies in Hollywood. Reagan also enjoyed a good horseback ride. If I recall, he was a member of a reserve cavalry unit in the late 1930s. After Pearl Harbor his near-sightedness (he wore some of the first contact lenses) sent him to the military training and documentary film unit.

    Here’s another quote from the 1983 Evil Empire speech:
    “…freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted. The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight.”

    Reagan was determined to defeat the Soviet Union. He had no intention of fooling around or being bullied by the Soviets. Here is one sentence from a January 1983 document, NSDD 75, that sums up his leadership style and his setting of clear and realistic, if arduous, objectives before his subordinates:

    “U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union will consist of three elements: external resistance to Soviet imperialism; internal pressure on the USSR to weaken the sources of Soviet imperialism; and negotiations to eliminate, on the basis of strict reciprocity, outstanding disagreements.”

    Well now: “external resistance…internal pressure…negotiations-strict reciprocity” That is refreshing.

    Here’s an interesting anecdote about a surprised Russian general after the 1982 Falklands War, from Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs, “Downing Street Years” pp. 173-4:

    “Since the Suez fiasco of 1956, British foreign policy has been one long retreat…We had come to be seen by both friends and enemies as a nation which lacked the will and the capability to defend its interests in peace, let alone in war. Victory in the Falklands changed that…Years later I was told by a Russian general that the Soviets had been firmly convinced that we would not fight in the Falklands, and that if we did fight we would lose…”

    Numerous observers have noted the Soviet bewilderment and hesitancy after St. John Paul II arrived on the international scene in 1978, Thatcher in 1979, and Reagan in 1980.

    Reagan addressed bewilderment from another angle in this quote from his speech to the British Parliament in June 1982:

    “…during the dark days of the Second World War, when this island was incandescent with courage, Winston Churchill exclaimed about Britain’s adversaries, ‘What kind of a people do the Nazis think we are?’ Well, Britain’s adversaries found out what extraordinary people the British are. But the West paid a terrible price for allowing the dictators to underestimate us…”

    Today, of course, most governments in the West are socialist, with appeasement the default foreign policy. But domestically, conservatives are targeted by the IRS, Christians are…well we all know about current events.

    Now, note from this June 1982 address to the German Bundestag how civil Reagan was with anti-Pershing II missile demonstrators:

    “To those who march for peace, my heart is with you. I would be at the head of your parade if I believed marching alone could bring a more secure world…I would sign your petition if I thought it could bring about harmony…The question is how to proceed.”

    Reagan then logically and methodically presented his case for not unilaterally disarming, and why the Soviets were to blame for arms control failures- not the West. Reagan, unlike certain national leaders today, did not demonize his political opposition or their news outlets.

    To wrap this up, here are two more Reagan quotes from my Cold War notes, the first quote is from a speech to the Irish National Parliament in 1984, the second quote from a speech at the Royal Institute in London in 1988:

    “The struggle between freedom and totalitarianism today is not ultimately about bombs and missiles, but a test of faith and spirit. And in this spiritual struggle, the Western mind and will is the crucial battleground. We must not hesitate to express our dream of freedom; we must not be reluctant to enunciate the crucial distinctions between right and wrong- between political systems based on freedom and those based on a dreadful denial of the human spirit.”

    “We have learned that the first objective of the adversaries of freedom is to make free nations question their own faith in freedom, to make us think that adhering to our principles…is somehow an act of belligerence.”

  28. Scott W. says:

    Sorry for the quibbling, but the idea of incompetent” WWI generals from a place of safety callously throwing young lives away ( described as “Lions led by donkeys”) has been highly exaggerated. Google Dan Snow and 10 myths of WWI:

    “During the war more than 200 generals were killed, wounded or captured. Most visited the front lines every day. In battle they were considerably closer to the action than generals are today”.

  29. Imrahil says:

    “I divide my officers into four categories: the smart, the stupid, the industrious and the lazy. Mostly two of the categories come together.

    There are those that are industrious and smart: and their place is the General Staff.

    There are those that are stupid and lazy: they make up about 90% of every officers’ corps and are perfectly suited for day-to-day duties.*

    There are those that are smart and lazy, who are suited to the highest leadership positions, for they alone bring with themselves the necessary tranquility to decide on fundamental questions.

    And then, of course, there remain those that are stupid and industrious: and one must absolutely beware of them, for no matter where you put them, they will only cause mischief.”

    Col.-General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

    [* “day-to-day duties”, w.r.t. an officers’ corps andin contrast to the general staff and the highest leadership positions, includes positions at least up to battalion-commander.]

  30. John Nolan says:

    All attacks on the Western Front in the First World War were frontal attacks for the simple reason that there were no flanks to turn. Even a genius like Bonaparte would have found his capacity for strategic manoeuvre and surprise to be as constrained as was Sir Douglas Haig’s. This was siege warfare, the preserve of the sapper and the gunner, and it was the scientific use of artillery which finally, after four years of development, produced the key which unlocked the Western Front. That, and the development of the ‘all-arms’ battle which was developed in 1914-1918 and was brought to fruition in a later war.

    Since modern warfare is the most complex collective activity of which mankind is capable, it is actually salutary to reflect how many good generals have been thrown up in the 20th century. Sniping by psychologists (hardly a reliable profession but one that has an inordinately high opinion of its abilities) who have only held junior rank isn’t really illuminating.

    Military historians don’t take Dixon seriously, any more than musicologists regard Ernest Newman’s ‘The Unconscious Beethoven’ (1927) as telling us much about the composer. It does tell us about the author’s half-baked understanding of Freudian psychoanalysis (itself more-or-less discredited these days).