B.H. Liddell Hart’s examination of the German High Command in his book, The German Generals Talk, begins with Hans von Seeckt as the cultural prime mover of German military doctrine following World War One. Disturbed by the political/military fusion Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff exercised over the German Empire during World War One, Seeckt endorsed an unambiguous civil/military separation. The so-called Seeckt-pattern professional developed in Germany throughout the interwar era – and seemed to act as an enabling component for Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship.
“The General Staff was essentially intended to form a collective substitute for genius, which no army can count on producing at need. Of its very nature it tended to cramp the growth of genius, being a bureaucracy as well as a hierarchy, but in compensation it sought to raise the general standard of competence to a high level.
“A newly-promoted general is always confident that the situation is better than it appeared to his predecessor, and that he can succeed where the latter failed. Such a disposition is a powerful lever in the hands of any ruler.
“When soldiers concentrate on the absolute military aim, and do not learn to think of grand strategy, they are more apt to accept political arguments that, while seeming right in pure strategy, commit policy beyond the point where it can halt. Extreme military ends are difficult to reconcile with moderation of policy.
“Technical science and tactical skill were the keys to the future. ‘A conscript mass, whose training has been brief and superficial, is cannon fodder in the worst sense of the word, if pitted against a small number of practiced technicians on the other side.’
“There was a wise warning, too, in another of his wider reflections – ‘the statement that war is a continuation of policy by other means has become a catch-phrase, and is therefore dangerous. We can say with equal truth – war is the bankruptcy of policy.’
*All excerpts have been taken from The German Generals Talk, Quill.
In the Shadow of Hans von Seeckt – B.H. Liddell Hart