Saturday, January 13, 2007

Don't' be French

The German victory in France in 1940 is one of the most decisive campaigns in military history. In six weeks, the Blitzkrieg re-ordered the balance of power in Europe.

The striking thing about the German victory is that the defeated Western allies enjoyed both a qualitative and quantitative superiority in men, tanks, guns, and planes. The Germans won because they had superior doctrine and training.

The French expected to fight methodical battles in which their material advantages would blunt the German offensive and roll back the invader. The Germans were able- through superior strategy and initiative- to disrupt the French plans and win operational victories that paralyzed the French High Command.

I have to admit that I hear French accents in a lot of self-defense advice on the web and in the gun rags. There is an obsessive focus on the material-what bullet/caliber works 'best', shotgun versus AR15-and little attention to the decisive factors-mindset, planning, practice.

I mean, a tactical shotgun is great, but how do you use it when you have to answer the door late at night? What's the best way to carry a 1911 so that you can deploy it in the event of a carjacking? (Is it even possible to get it into play with seat belts on?)

An effective personal defense strategy should not begin with the abstract evaluation of various weapons, calibers, or loads. Rather, it should start with an honest risk assessment: what are the likely dangers, what weapon is best suited to meet them, what are the best actions to counter those dangers if they arise?

There is one other applicable lesson from this historical period. Some of the propagandists for rearmament actually ended up strengthening the forces of appeasement. They overstated the might of Hitler and claimed that only massive rearmament could let the French and British catch-up. This helped create a sense of resignation and hopelessness that Hitler exploited in 1937-39.

I wonder how many newbies are dissuaded from buying a personal defense firearm because of the advice they receive from pixilated Rambos. Here is a man or woman with limited experience with firearms who is pondering whether to take that first, crucial step. When they ask a simple question, they get flooded with the macho posturing that made the internet famous.

"You need a tactical shotgun, and an AK-47. A high-capacity .40 S&W and a back-up subcompact that uses the same magazines. Yeah, always have four spare magazines with you at all times. Plus two for the AK. Get a tactical vest. Oh, and a bowie knife, an Akita, and a high-end home alarm system…"

I wonder how many potential new shooters just throw up their hands and do nothing?

That's sad because the 80/20 rule applies in the defense realm as it does in most aspects of life. Even worse, to return to my first point, this obsession with ordnance-lots and lots of hardware-ignores the crucial lessons of 1940.