About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In war, there are no second prizes. Commanders at all levels ought to recognise this. Wars are either won or lost. Winning is dependent on good training, good equipment, good strategies, good tactics, good battle drills, good command and control and above all, good planning.

But a good plan cannot be executed with poorly trained troops, regardless the type and quality of gadgets they are issued with. Nor can a bad plan be “fixed” with firepower.

Many armies seem to train and prepare exclusively for so-called peacetime missions. There are many reasons for this but the single most important reason is that those giving the instruction have no combat experience. With no real experience, troops are often not given the vital information they need to conduct their missions and more importantly, survive on the battlefield. To compensate for their lack of real situations, they mechanically follow a text book approach. That coupled to an inability to view training as the single most important preparation prior to combat, has led to a dramatic rise in casualties.

The problem with this approach to training is that when faced with real combat situations, many things begin to fall apart. Troops do not have the self-belief to cope with these difficult – and often terrifying – situations. They are not mentally prepared for what they are facing. They do not have the self-discipline to remain calm under fire. They are not sure if they can trust the soldier next to, or behind them to do what he should be doing. They have not been taught to adapt to rapidly changing situations.

Soldiers are not prepared for combat by mindless classroom work. Whereas the foundation of the soldier is discipline, his survival on the battlefield depends on good training, an ability to follow orders and to be flexible in his execution of orders. Good training allows soldiers to think…along the lines of the planned action.

Discipline is, regardless of what the detractors may say and think, vital for the survival of soldiers on the battlefield. It is this discipline that leads to unit pride, self-discipline and the strength of mind to cope with life-threatening situations. Good discipline also contributes enormously to unit cohesion. But discipline does not revolve around self-discipline alone. It includes fire discipline, equipment maintenance – without being told to do so, cleanliness and respect.

Parade ground work lays the foundation of military discipline. It teaches soldiers to react instinctively to orders. Likewise, physical training (PT) aids in the development of fitness and endurance. Both of these activities build character and push men to their limits. Men who have discovered that their limits are way beyond what they thought, suddenly develop a new-found pride in themselves. But when these activities are used solely for punishment and mindless time fillers, they lose their value and instead, breed resentment.

Cross-training of soldiers is equally important, not only to increase confidence but to allow men to operate and use different weapons and equipment. Cross-training adds to the flexibility of units and added flexibility creates new opportunities on the battlefield. We cannot expect every soldier to be a specialist diver, pilot, tank commander and so forth, but we can expect him to be the best prepared he can be for his role within the unit – and most importantly to be able to carry out his orders efficiently. Cross-training aids in this.

Are soldiers taught to use a map and compass when the GPS goes down? Can they replace a broken firing pin of an enemy assault rifle? Can they treat a serious wound? Can they improvise a diversion? Can they use most weapon systems within their own unit? Can they call in an airstrike or guide a helicopter into an LZ? Can they lay a hasty ambush at night? Can they…?

Commanders are keen to prepare “Lessons Learnt” after an operation but are those lessons learnt passed all the way down the hierarchy? Are they given to trainers who understand the importance and implication of those lessons? Can the trainers apply those lessons learnt to the advantage of their recruits?

Those who are tasked with training and preparing soldiers for combat often forget the great responsibility they have. When the trainers have no real experience, their training will be mediocre at best – especially when the instructor cannot answer the questions of recruits sensibly, instead claiming that it is “because we have always done it like that” or “because I say so”.

“Train hard, fight easy” is an old adage but without the correct instructors, discipline, confidence, tactical plans and mission predictions, it will never become a reality.

We only have one chance to do it right because there are no prizes for losers.


Botsle said...

Eeben, great blog man. I am usy reading your book - Exec Outcomes... it is a great. I was at university in the 90's when all the Angola stuff was going down. Man, it is fantastic to get your side of the story.

It would be great if you could sign my copy of the book

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks on both accounts, Botsle. The Angola stuff was something that led to a lot of bitterness and anger amongst many SADF soldiers. Especially as regards the manner history has been rewritten. Truth be told, the old SADF fought the Russians, Cuban, East Germans and of course the Angolans, SWAPO and the ANC in Angola but at the political level we had to fight the entire West, led by the UK and the USA. It was a war the South African soldier could never win because ultimately the great betrayal was at home…

The work EO’s men did in Angola, against massive odds, is therefore in my opinion all the more remarkable, to say nothing of Sierra Leone, Indonesia and other conflict zones.

At the end, it all boiled down to training, discipline and planning.



hardnose said...

Good leadership is the rareist of commodities. More ofter than not the 'Peter Principle' is at work and incompetance rises to it's own level. Leadership often seems to be in the hands of people who simply covet the title leader, manager,or boss and then proceed to disburse their new found power. Ego and prestige become the watch words while the troops are left to muddle through or are blamed for the failure. Context, for the situation, born out of years on the cutting edge is often lacking. Many managers seem to have spent just enough time on the ground to say they've been there, done that and then scramble for the comfort of an office with all it's attendent perks.

matt said...

Eeben, fantastic post, as is all of your posts. During my time in Marine Corps boot camp, one quote went through my mind the entire time I was grunting through it.

"The Romans are sure of victory... for their exercises are battles without bloodshed, and their battles bloody exercises." - Josephus, 37-100 AD.

Here are some other cool quotes dealing with what you are talking about Eeben.

"We must remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school."- Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars, 404 BC.

"Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it."- Flavius Vegetius.

The question I have, and I have dealt with this in the contracting industry, is how do you create unit cohesion and discipline in a private security or military company? It sounds like you had members of the same unit in EO, but how do you take men from all over the world and instill these things? Do you set company policy, and expect them to follow, or do you instill it in a mini company boot camp?

I know many companies do a overseas contractor spin up course, but these courses are just a couple of days to a week long, and they are very basic. Discipline or Unit Cohesion is really not taught at these things. They are more tests to see if you can shoot or are physically fit. Company policy is gone over, but working on the other stuff you mentioned in this post is not really worked on and that is certainly a cause of some issues out there. But how is that navigated in a war where there is 246,000 of us over there? How do you instill discipline or unit cohesion into a group of KBR truck drivers?

I always go back to leadership to get everyone in line. But institutionally, companies really do not work on this stuff, and they just kind of expect stuff to work out in the field. They apply no metrics to leaders or unit discipline or cohesion.

The irony is that a lot of guys come from units that are disciplined and do very well on the battlefield. But private industry does not put the effort into doing the little things to insure unit cohesion or discipline. That is mostly because of cost, but a lot of it goes towards this idea that if you throw together guys from good units, that they naturally do well together and are instantly disciplined. I have seen the exact opposite, because most guys get out of the military and reject the discipline or 'military-like' things, and think they do not have to work on those things in the private industry and in their new company. Good topic.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Poor leadership, incompetence and abuse of power seem to flourish in the times we are living in, Hardnose. When armies start telling corporals they are “managers” there seems to be something that goes missing. Where are the days when corporals were corporals and not managers or supervisors? This un-military culture gets carried over into the PMC where everyone thinks he is a manager – and they manage themselves out of their missions.

You are so right about ego and prestige being the driving force. But when you take a long hard look at those who are unable to perform in the field, you find that they only made their position in the army because of family, political or religious ties.

It is time the military and the PMC industry realised that there is a huge difference between battlefield management and business management. Whereas both may use some similar principles, the application is vastly different – as are the end results.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Some really great quotes, Matt, which illustrates just how serious they were about training.

A PMC is, as far as I am concerned, a private company that operates in a military role, “military” being the operative word. In EO, not everything was plain sailing. Although we had men with similar backgrounds, it took a while to instil in them an “EO” culture. But the men came from disciplined backgrounds and we retained military ranks which made it easier. We also kept our morning parades when it was possible and most of the men realised the importance of what they were doing and the example they had to set for the government soldiers they were training.

Not every PMC has the luxury of time on its side. When governments call on a PMC, it is usually because regular armies have failed and a hurried solution is required to a military problem. This then is where the disciplined soldiers come to the fore. The riff-raff eventually weed themselves out but only usually after they have damaged the PMC and its reputation.

If time was no issue, PMCs ought to go back to the basics to ensure a disciplined foundation. Those who feel they are above discipline should find themselves another job. In that sense, a “commercial” soldier – who is better paid than a professional soldier – ought to set an even better example, regardless of his position within the PMC.

A very strict Code of Conduct ought to be enforced as well. You point out an irony regarding men from disciplined units – make no mistake, we experienced some of that in EO. But it then goes back to those who are appointed to command. If they cannot command and control, the PMC will be in for a rough ride.



Joe1172 said...

Great article. I wish our Army Generals would read it because it illustrates the fundamentals our forces were once build on. But it went lost during the last decades. (You mentioned the peace mission preparation - that's exactly how things are at the moment and somehow I am happy that I don't have to serve in Afghanistan under the current kind of leadership and the poor preparation our soldiers receive.)

Greets from the Cape

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Joe.

Just because someone wears a uniform does not mean that he is disciplined, well-trained and competent at making war. Nor does it mean that those above him are competent in their jobs. I believe armies fell off the rails when business philosophy took hold. At least, that is what I see looking in from the outside.

An army that runs with managers, supervisors and such like has lost the plot. Simply because commanders at all levels “manage” their subordinates, this does not mean we have to apply the philosophy of Donald Trump and others in conducting combat operations. In business you may lose the negotiation but war is somewhat more serious with massive side-effects if we lose.

From the Cape, huh? Well, I suppose talking about rugby and the Stormers is somewhat out of the question?



Joe1172 said...

Hi Eeben, that's exactly the point. I spoke about the German Army by the way. Since conscription doesn't draw most of the male population anymore, less and less politicians in our government have experienced military service themselves.
(I still ask myself where all the party's military experts in the MoD come from...?) The forces are lead by civilians who think the military has to be structured and managed like a civil state department.
Not the military skills and experience of the invidual soldier count.
Apart from that the war in Afghanistan is presented as a peace mission to the public. From my point of view our soldiers are not well prepared for their mission and the challanges they have to face on the ground. (which cost some lifes already)

Well, I'm coming from a football nation, but I like rugby more and more. Haven't decided yet which team I will support in the future. Seen the Sharks and the Bulls in the Super 14 and liked their performance. But as a Western Cape resident the Stormers should be my choice, I guess (?)

Have a nice evening

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well Joe, as a Bulls supporter, I shall add no more comment on the Stormers apart from saying that sometimes we cannot chose our teams. But on a more serious note – politicians the world over seem to think they are more knowledgeable in matters military than the military itself. And on the other hand, senior officers know that those politicians are the ones that will determine their futures. So, they bow and scrape to the politicians.

Wouldn’t it be a good day when a military commander challenges a politician to take command of his unit and run it efficiently? Or even better still, tell the politician that once he has his mission to simply butt out of the execution thereof. But that is ever so politically incorrect. Today, senior officers are more concerned about their future retirement than the men they command. The same goes for the training of their men – sometimes I am under the impression that they couldn’t care less.

I think the military is therefore also largely to blame for the mess they find themselves in. Generals who lack moral fibre will instil that in their men.

My sympathies lie with the soldier on the ground, irrespective of his rank. He is expected to act in a manner that actually prevents him from doing his job. After all, soldiers are brought in when wars or conflicts need to be resolved in a manner other than political. But, they cannot fight when they have one hand tied behind their backs by the politicians and the other by their commanders.

Maybe the day commanders realise they are there to uphold the Constitution of their country and not support any particular political leader of party, we might see a change for the better.



simon said...

I dont reallly think I can add much to whats been laid out in this post and the responses. Matt stole almost all my favorite qoutes from Josephus, Vegetius, etc. I took my degree in Ancient History so I am an avid Romanist. The reason they prevailed so quickly and decisively tactically against the surrounding enemy was discipline. The discipline was severe. Something probably not approximated in any modern army. And they were formulated on Basics. Every Roman soldier mastered the basics. Hours upon hours marching then thrusting and hacking at a wooden post, etc. Many books have been written on the Roman Military ethic so I wont try and improve. Its foundationally carried on into modern military as well.

On this side of the pond and of American Soldiers, the one who lived, fought and fought some more in the battlefield and the pentagon more than any other was David Hackworth. It ultimately cost him his career and sent him into exile for 15 years. EB, is some ways he experienced some similar backlash as you did. They even tried to blow up one of his jeeps in Saigon.

He preached 'Teach the man the Basics and he will fight'. Instill Pride and Confidence and he will fight.

One quick story. During the Vietnam conflict, he became a troubleshooter of sorts by taking ragtag draftees and trying to sort them. the 4/39 infantry suffered immense casualties led by poorly trained 'ticket punchers' that got everyone killed in the Mekong Delta. Upon arrival he set up training programs that actually had people saying they were going to Frag him. So, as a LT.col. he decided to call their bluff and went out on patrol, taking point and crossed a rice paddy with his back to the guys who threatened him. And proceeded to clear a nest. He meant business. Casualties dropped and kill ratio went thru the roof. He along with Slam Marshall wrote the Vietnam Primer on out G'n the Guerilla. Wherever he went the BASICS were his doctrine.

He eventually grew so disgusted and felt so written off that he came out on ABC news and said the war would not be won under the current leadership and style, not to mention the cowardice of most of the ARVN. I recommend About Face and Steel my Soldiers Hearts as an american version of what is being said here.

Tango said...

A Quote:
Major Guy Du maurier: 1865-1915
"That the soldier is but a servant of the statesman,as war is but an instrument of diplomacy,no educated soldier will deny.

Politics must always excercise an extreme influence on strategy;
but it cannot be gainsaid that interference with the commanders in the field is fraught with the gravest danger"

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, Matt gave us some great quotes, Simon. As for the Romans, discipline and training were the very reason they could create the empire they did. As those two critical elements int eh soldier’s make-up began to slide, so too did their empire crumble. A lesson in history for all to see.

What I have read about David Hackworth has been really good. Those who did not like his comments knew that they were hitting close to the bone and pointing a finger at their incompetence.

SLA Marshall’s book “Men against fire” is also a good guide to leadership for anyone who cares to read.

Both the above officers were keen to point out unit pride, unit cohesion, discipline and training. But their words are sadly forgotten by those who should be remembering them.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Politics will determine the ultimate national strategy, Tango, and the military strategy is developed to ensure that the national strategy is met. In this sense, the soldier remains an instrument of politics and his aim is to safeguard the nation and uphold the Constitution of his country. Once the political direction has turned towards military action, battlefield strategies and tactics become the domain of the military and not of the politicians. It might do politicians well to remember that.

Good quotes by Major Guy – thanks!



Aethyr said...

Once again a fantastic Blog, Eeben! I had to recall my humble time in the Army when you mentioned the PT being used as punishment! Also the answer "because we do it that way" - I heard that a lot.

Peace mission preparation is definitely not enough. My Country is neutral, and since the end of the Cold War, we only have some sort of peace training and no war time training - if you know what i mean. So I think your thoughts are very important and need to be heard!

But at least we learned how to use a map and a compass and also the use of all the weapons in our platoon.


Unknown said...

T'ai Kung said it best in my opinion. What would be different if Bush had followed this advice on september 12th?


King Wu asked Tai Gong: What is the process of appointing the commanding general?

Tai Gong said:"When the state encounters danger, the ruler should avoid the Main Hall, summon the general and charge him as follows: ‘The security or endangerment of the state all lie with the army’s commanding general. At present such-and-such state does not act properly submissive. I would like you to lead the army forth to respond to it.’ "

After the general has received his mandate, command the Grand Scribe to bore the sacred tortoise shell to divine an auspicious day. Thereafter, to prepare for the chosen day, observe a vegetarian regime for three days, and then go to the ancestral temple to hand over the.

After the ruler has entered the gate to the temple, he stands facing the west. The general enters the temple gate and stands facing north. The ruler personally takes the head of Axe of Authority, saying: ‘From this to Heaven above, will be controlled by the General of the Army.’ Then taking the handle of Axe of Authority, he hand it to the general, saying: ‘From this to the depths below, will be controlled by the General of the Army. When you see weaknesses in the enemy, you should advance; when you see that they are strong, you should halt. Do not assume that having the numerical advantage, we can treat the enemy lightly. Do not commit yourself to die just because you have received a heavy responsibility. Do not, because you are honored, regard other men as lowly. Do not be self opinionated and contravene the masses. Do not take verbal facility to be a sign of certainty. When officers have not yet been seated, do not sit. When the officers have not yet eaten, do not eat. You should share hardship with them. If you behave in this way the officers and masses will certainly exhaust their strength in fighting to the death.’

After the general have received his mandate, he bows and responds to the ruler: ‘I have heard that a country cannot follow the commands of another state’s government, while an army in the field cannot follow central government control. A general with two minds cannot properly serve his ruler; general in doubt cannot respond to the enemy. I have already received my mandate and taken sole control of the awesome power of Axe of Authority. I do not dare return alive. I would like to request that you condescend to grant complete and sole command to me. If you do not permit it, I dare not accept the post of the commanding general.’ The king then grants it, and the general formally takes his leaves and departs.

Military matters are not determined by the ruler’s commands; they all proceed from the commanding general. When the commanding general approaches an enemy and decides to engage in battle, he is not of two minds. In this way, there is no Heaven above, no Earth below, no enemy in front and no ruler to the rear. For this reason, the wise make plans for him, the courageous fight for him. Their fighting spirit soars to the sky; they are swift like galloping steeds. Even before the blades clash, the enemy surrenders submissively.

War is won outside the borders of the state, but the general’s merit is established within it. Officials are promoted and receive the highest rewards; the populace rejoices; and the general credited. For this reason, natural systems will run smoothly; the grains will grow abundantly; and the whole state will be secure and peaceful.

King Wu said: Excellent!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, David. I believe that parade ground work and PT should be used to build on. Yes, it can be used to push men to their limits but there is a fine line between one’s limits and actually punishment that breeds resentment.

Whereas I understand the neutrality of your country, I also believe that in times of peace one should prepare for war. Being neutral in the world of today is never a guarantee for peace.

Being able to use very basic equipment and aids to effective soldier-on should be part of every soldier’s training.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for an excellent piece, Sigurdur, as well as the link. It is such a pity that our leaders do not go back to the old teachings and take heed of some of the wisdoms contained therein. But, they would probably argue that the writings are Chinese and therefore originate from the “enemy” and thus need to be rejected. Any military scholar who does not read and take lessons from the past is walking the road to defeat.

I particularly liked the lines: “A general with two minds cannot properly serve his ruler… I would like to request that you condescend to grant complete and sole command to me. If you do not permit it, I dare not accept the post of the commanding general”. Today’s generals will see the exact opposite of that.



Alan said...


Superb article! We are attempting to change, but many years of rear echelon, egalitarian feel-good soldiering have taken it's toll. Wat jy saai, sai jy maai. I can't help but recall that passage from Jean Larteguy's classic "The Centurian." No need to post it. All here know it in one form or another.

Regards from steamy Atlanta.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alan.

Your Afrikaans comment “What you sow you will reap” is indeed very apt. Poor training delivers poor-prepared soldiers to the line. When that is combined with poor leadership, the end result is disaster.

Wish it was steamy here!



Robby said...

Says it all.....

Washington, D.C., June 19, 2009 - Declassified documents confirm that prior to the launch of the first spy satellites into orbit by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in the early 1960s, the Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) collected by the National Security Agency and its predecessor organizations was virtually the only viable means of gathering intelligence information about what was going on inside the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and other communist nations. Yet, for the most part, the NSA and its foreign partners could collect only bits and pieces of huge numbers of low-level, uncoded, plaintext messages, according to Archive visiting fellow, Matthew M. Aid, who today posted a collection of declassified documents obtained for his new book The Secret Sentry on the Archive’s Web site.

The Secret Sentry discloses that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was far from the first time when U.S. government officials, including senior military commanders and the White House, “cherry picked” intelligence information to fit preconceived notions or policies and ignored intelligence which ran contrary to their expectations. The Secret Sentry and the documents posted today show that widespread manipulation of intelligence also occurred during the Korean and Vietnam Wars for example, when Washington ignored intelligence on Chinese intervention in Korea, resulting in catastrophic consequences.


Alan said...


Ahhh yes, the long awaited re-entry of "No Fire Zones." Appears we're not "GETTING IT RIGHT" the second time around either.

Regards, Alan

New US battle rule: No fighting near Afghan homes.

KABUL – The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.

The order would be one of the strongest measures taken by a U.S. commander to protect Afghan civilians in battle. American commanders say such deaths hurt their mission because they turn average Afghans against the government and U.S. and NATO forces.

Civilian casualties are a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. The U.N. says U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians in the Afghan war last year.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the "number of Afghans shielded from violence," and not the number of militants killed.

McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith.

"But if there is a compound they're taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that's the option they should take," Smith said. "Because in these compounds we know there are often civilians kept captive by the Taliban."

More at the link.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby.

When I initially read this, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. For any service to manipulate information and intelligence to match with perceived notions is nothing but laziness – and criminal. Somehow, I have always suspected that over-reliance on SIGINT is a danger especially as it can be manipulated by the sender to confuse the listener. But, then again, it seems that there is a deep desire to manipulate any intelligence in order to adopt an offensive posture – and to heck with the results.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan.

Again, I just shake my head. It appears as though the militants have fully accepted the “fish in water” analogy and the Generals haven’t yet figured that out.

Whereas it is always a consideration to ensure minimum collateral damage, it is equally insane to allow the fish to live in that bowl and do nothing about it. Whereas the rationale might be very noble, the execution will simply add to the growing number of casualties.

Poor soldiers…



3002050998 said...

Dear Eeben

I have just finished reading your book, and it is an eye opener.

Not only the duplicity and greed of the politicians, generals and big business, but also the incompetence and stupidity of our intelligence establishment and foreign affairs and the obvious sensation and money driven morals of the SA press.

As an immigrant son who faithful to my adopted South Africa served my two years (SAINTS - with my Army record consequently disappearing into thin air)for a cause I along the way soon realised was 90% bullshit, I at long last found coherent answers to some of those niggling thoughts and issues which have been haunting me since the eighties.

Thank you for that, it actually helped me find some peace (but no forgiveness towards the previous regime and their lackeys) - your book should be compulsory reading to show the next generations how greed, poor morals and plain stupidity can undermine a country -all in the name of a "greater good". May they all rot in hell.

Let us just pray that South Africa will not yet pay the price of its past (and present?) actions and policies towards Angola (and some other countries) - the present Government is either too arrogant (or stupid)(or corrupt)(or simply too much carbon copies of their predecessor masters)to realise that eventually for "every action there is an opposite and equal reaction" and that countries, other than men, have surprisingly long memories...

Very best regards

Alan said...

Eeben and colleagues:

I've not read 'Secret Sentry.' I'm always a bit put off by books with titles beginning with "Secret" this or that, but your comments regarding "manipulation" are spot on. For better or worse, our military and intelligence organizations are regulated by "civilian control." While they've yet to develop their own Haka, few aspects of this civilian control could be more invasive than that exercised in the areas of intelligence collection and production. With limited exceptions, it has been my experience that product manipulation or cherry picking takes place at levels well above the production or operational levels. One note of irony here. Not to disparrage his writing efforts, but the fact Mathew Aid can pitch spanners at the process by freely writing and hoping to publish such a book speaks volumes about the endgame and final scores of an admittedly imperfect process.

Regards, Al

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your post, 3002050998.

The mix of generals, big business, Foreign Affairs and others was toxic to say the least. However, not all of the generals (fortunately) fitted the category, but those who didn’t agree with party policy were quietly shifted away. It seems to me it is happening elsewhere in the world as well.

Although I was regular army (damned PF!) I had a great deal of admiration – and pity - for the NSM who did their two-year stint. It was hard and often uncompromising. Yet, when the chips were down, they gave their all. I suppose many PF’s such as I realised that we were all engaged in something the politicians had thought out simply to ensure their stay in power for as long as possible.

I am truly pleased if the book was able to give you some answers. Many people who sailed the same boat as we did have also told me that. If reading it was able to bring some closure, it was well worth the effort writing it. Ironically though, there are still some book dealers who refuse to carry it on their shelves…

As you rightly point out, countries do not forget – especially in Africa.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Point well taken, Alan. But, the irony still remains that whereas civilians are given command of such important matters such as intelligence it is unlikely they will ever appoint a general to take care of commercial business. Why? Because they will simply argue that he is not qualified, yet these civilian controllers have even less qualifications that the generals.

In South Africa, our one Minister of Defence was a L/Cpl in the air force choir. Says it all, doesn’t it?

Intelligence manipulation is such a dangerous avenue to follow. Yet, it somehow seems to be all the rage. Gone are the days of skill in collection and interpretation…



graycladunits said...

Dear Eeben:

What kinds of tactical/PT exercises did you do when you were training back during the Border Wars and how have training exercises changed in the modern SANDF? I hear standards have really fallen.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Every unit followed a different approach, GCU. Where I was, training started off every morning with a 10km speed march with almost all of our equipment on our backs plus our rifles – which were FNs and not lightweight modern assault rifles. The day ended with an hour of PT which was runs, squats, sit-ups, push-ups and so on. Depending on what course you were on, it could get drastically worse than that.

Tactical exercises were Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTs) and Tactical Exercises With Troops (TOMTs ) – Afrikaans acronym. Initially all of them were dry but eventually the majority were live-fire.

During operations, there was no PT or other exercise – it was all situation bound.

Sadly, standards have fallen in the SANDF – but then again, it seems as though this is a world-wide phenomenon. I count myself lucky to have been in the SADF and never in the SANDF.