Jena

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As OHL regulations require, on New Year’s Day I picked up my 1918 telephone and called my reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Of course, he already knows what’s going on down here — he’s seen it before — but he usually shares a bit of the view from Potsdam with me, and that can be interesting.

"So, how’s the new Liman von Sanders doing?" His Majesty enquired, referring to my position as Royal Prussian Military Advisor to the U.S. Marine Corps.

"I feel like a Jesuit among the Iroquois, Majestaet," I replied. "If the ideal army has German generals, Turkish infantry and American logistics, what I’ve got to work with has American infantry, German logistics and Turkish generals. Liman von Sanders at least got an occasional Zeppelin to support him. All I can look forward to is the V-22 u2018Albatross’, which will be easier to shoot down than any Zeppelin."

"Well, things are better up here," the Kaiser replied. "I’m just about to commission our latest Mackensen-class battlecruiser. What a splendid ship!"

"So there are battlecruisers in Heaven?" I asked.

"How could it be Heaven without battlecruisers?" His Majesty replied.

"Good point. If I may be so bold, what does Your Majesty foresee for the Americans in Iraq in 2005?"

"Jena."

"That bad?" I asked. Jena was the battle where Napoleon beat the pants off the Prussian Army in 1806.

"That bad," His Majesty confirmed. "You know, we didn’t lose at Jena because we were no longer the army of Frederick the Great. We lost because we were still the army of Frederick the Great, but war had changed. The Americans in Iraq have the same problem. They seem unable to adapt to a new kind of war."

"Majestaet, Jena was not merely a defeat, it was a rout. Are you saying the Americans risk a rout in Iraq? If so, I have to tell you that no one in Washington can foresee such a possibility."

"No one in Berlin could imagine my fleet would mutiny in 1918, but it happened. Unless the American government pulls out, a rout is in the cards. The Americans don’t know how to fight the kind of war they now find themselves in, so the situation won’t get better. The present mess can’t sustain itself. So there is only one way for the war to go, and that is for the American position to get worse. And it will get worse at an accelerating pace. Where do you think that leads?"

"To a rout where the Americans have to fight their way out, if they can."

"Exactly. And I will tell you that is coming sooner than any of your Turkish generals can imagine."

"Majestaet, Prussia’s defeat at Jena led to real military reform. Does the prospect of an American rout in Iraq have a similar silver lining? Will it finally force the American military to move from Second Generation war to the Third Generation, with at least a serious attempt to come to grips with the Fourth?"

"Well, we’re not supposed to give away too much, you know," His Majesty replied. "But you are aware that the American Military Reform Movement of the late 1970s and 1980s was a response to the defeat in Vietnam. I think it is safe to say that the defeat in Iraq will create a new movement for military reform in America. Whether that will succeed or not, I will have to leave for time to unveil. Let me just say that the more dramatic the American defeat is, the stronger the demand will be for genuine reform."

"And routs tend to be dramatic," I added.

"Indeed. And now I must excuse myself, as my train for Wilhelmshaven is about to depart. Wait until you see the Mackensens yourself! Come Der Tag, they’ll give those old Queen Elizabeth’s a drubbing they won’t forget!"

"Even though the Queens have fifteen-inch guns and the Mackensens have only 13.5 inch?" I asked the Kaiser.

"Machts nichts," His Majesty replied. "You see, the British still leave the anti-flash doors to their magazines open. Closing them would interfere with tea time."

"There will always be an England, Majestaet."

"Not if I have anything to say about it," the Kaiser replied as he hung up.

If only we could fight the Iraqi insurgents in battlecruisers in the Persian Gulf, I thought, how much simpler it would be. That’s the problem when you invade someone; you end up having to fight on their turf.

William Lind [send him mail] is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity.

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