Generals Always Fight The Last War

Have you had that experience where someone says a cutting remark to you, and it requires a witty response, and you do indeed think of the perfect witty response to make, a real zinger that will blast them into orbit, but you only think of it -- after ceaseless rumination -- 10 years too late?

Have you ever seen a sign in the office kitchen which says "People named Jeffrey should not steal Helen's birthday cake which her daughter made for her, and if they do I hope they choke on it Jeffrey" ?

In other words, have you noticed that:

Generals Always Fight The Last War


What does this mean in practice?

People are facing a new situation, and rather than think "on their feet" they bring along all of their historical baggage, all their battle scars, and the strategies they wish they had during the last war.

After a jungle war, the military will be ready for a new jungle conflict. And they'll take their jungle gear into a desert battle. Then after the desert battle they'll be ready for a desert battle and that will be the way they approach a cyber war. Then they'll use their cyber armament to try and fight a nano-virus war. And so on.

General Advice

When people give "general advice" it is really "specific advice" based on a specific scenario that happened to them. But they don't want to divulge the gory autobiographical details, and would rather just declare a new universal axiom. As if it has sprung fully formed from nothing, or as if it has been roundly tested with a blind placebo-controlled study, and is beyond question.

And then they'll clash head on with other people, who will be similarly informed by their own hidden and gory autobiographical details from which they've devised their own universal axiom. The two people (or groups, if you include their followers) will then clash: each arguing about their own universal axiom, but neither admitting the personal foundations of their story.

This is unlike my own general advice, which is not based on specific gory autobiogaphical details, and does not work only within a limited context, but is roundly tested with a blind placebo-controlled study, or has sprung fully formed from nothing. ;)