On the Psychology of Military Incompetence

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By Norman F. Dixon

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A classic study of military leadership uncovering why generals fail

The Crimea, the Boer War, the Somme, Tobruk, Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs: these are just some of the milestones in a century of military incompetence, of costly mishaps and tragic blunders. Are these simple accidents—as the "bloody fool" theory has it—or are they inevitable?

The psychologist Norman F. Dixon argues that there is a pattern to inept generalship, and he locates this pattern within the very act of creating armies in the first place, which in his view produces a levelling down of human capability that encourages the mediocre and limits the gifted. In this light, successful generals achieve what they do despite the stultifying features of the organization to which they belong.

On the Psychology of Military Incompetence is at once an original exploration of the battles that have defined the last two centuries of human civilization and an essential guide for the next generation of military leaders.
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On Sale
May 31, 2016
Page Count
528 pages
Publisher
Basic Books
ISBN-13
9780465097814

Norman F. Dixon

About the Author

Dr. Norman F. Dixon, M.B.E., Fellow of the British Psychological Society, was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at University College London. After ten years' commission in the Royal Engineers, during which time he was wounded ("largely through my own incompetence"), Dixon left the Army in 1950 and entered university where he obtained a first-class degree in Psychology. He received the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy in 1956 and Doctor of Science in 1972, and in 1974 was awarded the University of London Carpenter Medal "for work of exceptional distinction in Experimental Psychology".

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