Commanded by imbeciles.
Dear Dr. Boli: I was shocked and horrified by a recent news story about the defeat of Her Majesty’s forces by the Zulu nation at the Battle of Isandlwana. Some unscrupulous newsmen have blamed the loss on a number of dutiful quartermasters who refused to distribute ammunition to their fellow soldiers without the proper requisition forms. In this civilized age, with an empire that stretches across the globe, why can the British military not devise a method for providing a suitable number of requisition forms for the Queen’s men? —Sincerely, Colin.
Dear Sir: It may well be true that a lack of requisition forms contributed to the catastrophe. Moving a large army across a wilderness is a delicate logistical balance: one must decide whether to place the dozens of wagons full of paperwork in the vanguard, where they may be most useful in a frontal attack, or in some more protected position, where they may be less accessible, but their valuable contents may be protected from sudden ambush. A wrong decision can lead to disaster; soldiers may defeat the enemy and nevertheless die of thirst if the wagon bearing water requisition forms is lost. The next time you are tempted to sneer at military bureaucrats in “desk jobs,” remember that, in the words of Napoleon, “An army marches on Form 2876-D, Standard Requisition for Combat-Grade Footwear.”
Nevertheless, most historians are agreed that the British defeat at Isandlwana was due in greater part to the shockingly poor sportsmanship of the Zulu army in using superior numbers, intelligence, strategy, and tactics against an enemy known to be commanded by imbeciles. The gentlemanly thing to do would have been to place their own forces under the command of imbeciles as well, so as to make the game altogether even. It is quite all right for enemies to be numerous and even brave, but they ought not to be clever.