June 29, 2020, Israel
"We had a pre-conception that they were unable to launch a counter-attack, and they did everything they could to make us believe that, so you could say it was a case of self-delusion on our part." (H. W. O. Kinnard, Colonel, 101st Airborne, World War Two, USA)
Change is rare, and exceptional. How many of us have really taken a good hard and honest look at ourselves and decided: I need to change? How many of us have said, my views on life are incorrect, I have been fooling myself for years?
I know of an Israeli former Communist, at age 80 he wrote an article of how he came to understand that he wasted his entire adult life pursuing a false dream; Communism can never work. How many can see beyond the illusion? How many can rise above the ideology to which they are committed and take an honest look and understand that they were mistaken?
The front on the Ardennes forest was the quiet one, ironically shell shocked exhausted US soldiers were sent there to recover, little did they know that they would soon be involved in the bloodiest battle in USA history, the Battle of the Bulge. This was the Germans last great surprise of the war, Hitlers' great gamble to stop his looming defeat. The Germans did everything possible to keep this a secret in order to insure complete surprise, and they succeeded; The Americans were indeed caught totally by surprise. But was this entirely due to the Germans clever and strict secrecy? Was it possible to move 400,000 men without anyone noticing? What about American air reconnaissance? Can one move thousands of tanks and artillery pieces without anyone noticing?
No, you cannot. The German secrecy was only half the equation, and herein lies the lesson for us (Self Defense instructors and practitioners).
Intelligence was plentiful and informative but of course it needs to interpreted. For some reason it was totally misunderstood. Local Belgian and Luxemburg residents heard Germans speaking, they heard, Wir wollen wieder nach Paris (we want to return to Paris, i.e. we are going to counter-attack), but the Americans dismissed these messages. The question is why. American soldiers could clearly hear the sounds of tanks arriving, but their commanders told them that the Germans play records of tank movements to scare the Americans. The soldiers knew the difference between a live sound and a recorded sound, but they trusted their commanders.
The answer is simple, the officer at the beginning of this blog told us: We have a pre-conception and we choose to delude ourselves. Later on the lesson was learned: we must be wary of the dangers of becoming wedded to a fixed view of the enemy's likely intentions.
What this means is we believe our own conclusions so conclusively that even when we see actions that should alert us to danger, we miss the signals and fail to respond to danger. In retrospect those warning signals seem impossible to miss, and yet in real time we miss them.
It was the Battle of the Bulge, The Ardennes Counteroffensive, Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein, and the Germans achieved complete and total surprise. In some areas the Americans were outnumbered 10 to 1. The army band and finance department were given rifles and sent to defend against the German attack.
Who were these men who were so caught by surprise? Where they simple minded ordinary men? No, they were the greatest military and political minds of the generation, they were generals and presidents, but yet they could not see a force of half a million men with tanks and artillery right under their noses. This is the power of self delusion. This is the power of being "wedded to an idea" and not willing to think that your world view may be incorrect and needs reevaluation. This is what we want to do with IKI Krav Maga, rethink everything!
If we want to move forward, if we want different results, we must be willing to divorce ourselves from our pre-conceptions and accept a new reality, one that does not agree with our worldview, one that makes us uncomfortable. This is a challenge.
Let us face the truth; most of us are not afraid of acts of extreme violence. We see it on the news, we hear stories but like the commanders in World War Two we are wedded to the idea that bad things happen to other people, not to us. Everything is going to be fine. Sadly the only thing that will wake us up from the slumber is an explosion, the kind the US soldiers woke up to on the morning of December 16, 1944. Many of them would die in the course of the next six weeks. Close to 100,000 American soldiers would become casualties. Those who did not get killed learned their lesson well, the battle hardened combat soldiers, the G.I.s would become the best soldiers. When they would see the new guys, the "Cannon fodder", they did not bother associating with them as they knew most would be dead within the next 48 hours.
You pass by the Krav Maga school of self defense in your community, some of you see it on the way to work or shopping, perhaps you think about it for a moment. But then the thought passes as you hear a nice song on the radio. You are the Cannon Fodder, in a real violent attack you will not make it. Such is life. But you still have time to change the road you're on, you still have time to listen to wisdom. There is still time. But time passes with the wind.
And the forest of Ardennes is quiet now, and cows casually moo, but the older folks, they remember, they remember when the skies shouted with thunder and tanks and rockets filled the forest but not with sounds of laughter. The hills were alive but not with the sound of music but with the sound of bombs. The forest remembers, the bunkers and fox holes are there to remind us, the souls of the men who died there, the blood soaks the land.
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