jeudi, 03 novembre 2011
Lyautey (1), Marshal of France (2): enlightened generalship humanely serving corporate fecundity
Theatrum Belli ouvre une nouvelle rubrique : "Theatrum Belli in English". S'apercevant que le blog est lu dans des contrées anglo-saxonnes et fidèle à sa vocation de faire la promotion des armes françaises sur le NET, "TB" traduira des textes français particulièrement instructifs dans la langue de Shakespeare afin de sensibiliser le lectorat anglo-saxon aux recherches françaises.
Nous inaugurons cette rubrique, dirigée par Robert ENGELMANN, avec le texte de François-Régis LEGRIER que nous remercions au passage d'avoir accepté que son texte sur le maréchal Lyautey soit traduit.
Since the Industrial Revolution, efficacy has declined in various guises: productiveness, performance, efficiency for instance. It has for consequences promptness and restless change. All must be efficient with no delay. Resulting from a productivist system, this perception has still strengthened through a media lobbying increased by the rising of information technologies. According to this logic, efficacy ignores meditation, study, repose, the long time lapse necessary for projects to mature. Those things sound dubious, useless and dangerous. Efficacy is incapable to even learn from obstacles or failures; it stays binary: it operates or not…
Yet, human actions cannot be compared to a mechanical result. Airplanes fly or not, it is factual, and to be efficient, they ought to fly. For societies it works in a different way. A society should not seek efficacy as such – even though it stays compulsory – but seek what is good, and by the way what it expected from this will be granted in addition. Let’s take a simple case: a company decides to hire a disabled person. Its productiveness can decrease a bit because the aforementioned disabled person does the job slower. Parallel to this, the company can gain on other levels and, at the very end, strike the balance of productiveness. Thus, a disabled person who works in a department will conduce his or her colleagues to act corporately; so the atmosphere at work will get improved. One is entitled to state that the involvement of every employee is favored through positive mood at work. A choice like this one helps in developing corporate image and in consolidating customers trust…
This is where the difference between short-term and long-term reasoning, between visible and invisible effects, which French economist Frédéric Bastiat is fond of, stands out: “One can sum up all the difference between a wrong and a right economist like this: one keeps to visible effects, while the other takes into account what is visible and what must be foreseen. This is a large gap because, in the case of immediate profitable consequences, further consequences will almost always be dire, and vice versa. Hence, as a result, the wrong economist pursues a small good today, which will be prior to a big evil later, while the right economist pursues much good to come at the risk of undergoing a small evil today.” One can also apply this to politicians, militaries or entrepreneurs!
Our society is enduring the totalitarian yoke of efficacy and short-term: we only need hardworking ants which never take a rest; nobody able to think. The sense of well-done work has been replaced by the worship of performance. The sense of well-done work used to bring some pride and appeasement; the worship of performance spawns dissatisfaction and tensions: that’s never enough. Reconsideration is perpetual, the reformation move is constant. Reformation as such is all what is aimed at: only the move counts. Efficacy in the modern sense of the word is totally opposite to fecundity. The paradox in our societies demands that we act efficiently but barrenly.
The occidental military campaigns are perfect examples: some efficacy is required to train, transport and provide with fresh supplies troops which fight sometimes a very long distance away. Efficacy is also required to coordinate high-tech maritime, aerial and terrestrial means: infantrymen, tanks, drones, helicopters, ships and combat aircraft shall move forward all at once through rather restricted areas. For what result?
Remarkable, even astounding in many respects, technical efficiency but where can we notice that those campaigns has produced efficient actions, that is to say perennial? From Iraq to Afghanistan, from the Balkans to Africa, the meagerness of our results compared with the great deal of efforts we have concentrated there cannot be a matter of indifference and shall lead us to reconsider military action in accordance with well-tried principles taught at Marshal Lyautey’s school of thought!
The very first principle taught there is realism: acting upon the real by focusing on the real and not on utopia. In other words: a military action will be fecund, only if it serves a policy anchored to the real, when actions are carefully pondered, this in order not to engender effects more harmful than those we expect to eradicate. In the Middle Ages, theologian Thomas Aquinas even considered this to be a requirement for legitimate warfare.
The second principle comes down to get prepared and anticipate by discriminating between essential and accessory, by designing the necessary solutions, by applying them using the possible means. In every case, the condition for success remains unity in action which rises in the leader’s constancy and teamwork as well. In brief: a driving force and a set-up capable to adapt in any event! Hence, we infer that all reformations are not bad as such. Between mind-numbing conservatism and perpetual move, reformation, that is to say adaptation to the real, is sometimes inescapable to make a given society more in keeping with its mission and its nature.
This is what Lyautey does when he writes his Du rôle social de l’officier. Through this short booklet which increases one’s perspectives, the nobleman from Lorraine, born in an ultraconservative milieu, stands up for daring views: the officer is not only a specialist in the defense tool, strictly concerned about the technical aspect of military matters, a defense producer as we would say today; he plays a role in social education made necessary through national service, the melting pot every citizen of this time experiences whatever his social background. In this perspective, the moral dimension in generalship, camaraderie and acquaintance with troopers are more important than ballistics and cartography. This allows him to claim this idea verified so many times that “an uneducated troop well in hand is better than a well-educated troop not well in hand.” By altering in depth human relationships between officers and troopers, Lyautey’s school of thought will contribute to make the officer corps more in keeping with its mission and nature. After Lyautey, officers will not just study the tool, they will become attached the laborer, the soldier: “Nothing could be further from our mind to divert them from the so conscientious and detailed study of their tool , but, for God’s sake, they shall first of all think that they would have some great difficulties to keep this soldier with two years of service in the crossfire, face to face with danger, besides however complete is his technical training, if they did not build the laborers’ morale and gain recognition among them above all.”
Even better, this idea will be durably influential, as it is still taught in military academies with the result that serving in battalions remains still today the supreme honor, even though Parisian salons seems to be so magnetically attractive…
Lyautey did not content himself with writing; he acted in accordance with his ideas all the way through his career and dimensioned them concretely within the framework of the birth of contemporary Morocco. One could admire again this sense of the real that helps us to preserve and restore the essential, here the political and religious structures of the sharifian Kingdom, still crumbling back then, parallel to this the development of its economy.
By doing so, Lyautey was terribly unefficient: indeed, Morocco did not integrate Democracy overnight. Riots did not disappear as if by magic as well; do not forget the Rif War (3) in the 1920’s for example. Nevertheless, he built a state which stability and development has made sense, even for essayist André Maurois (4), though hostile to any form of colonization.
Choosing perennial action rather than immediately efficient one, looking for general good beneath personal interests, and adding “this bit of brotherhood without which no human masterpiece is possible” to this: here is, today more than yesterday, the genuine challenge for the man of action.
Lieutenant-colonel François-Régis Legrier
French Army - mountain artillery
(1) More about Hubert Lyautey, Marshal of France: click HERE
(2) More about the distinction of Marshal of France: click HERE
(3) More about the Rif War: click HERE
(4) More about French essayist André Maurois: click HERE