We have all heard the term "a ship of the line" from the days when Britain was in absolute command of the seas. The man who invented the "line ahead" formation that was so instrumental in giving Britannia true control over the waves has one especially interesting attribute. Not only did he never leave Britain, but he was never on a ship in his entire life, even in port.

The famous British redcoats got their uniform from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army. Cromwell was in his middle age when he developed the New Model Army, training his troops in the methods Gustavus Adolphus had been using in the Thirty Years' War before he was killed at, I believe, L├╝tzen. The New Model Army, from its first day in battle, swept every opponent from the field. Cromwell always beat everybody.

Cromwell's New Model was the basis of all British ground combat for about two centuries.

As I said, Cromwell was a middle-aged man before he led his New Model Army to its first victory. Before that, he had never been in the army, he had never been in a battle, he had never even HEARD a hostile shot fired.

One thing you are NOT going to see emphasized in a military history is that, when the British Empire was at its height and Britannia rules the waves, it might not have ruled anything without the techniques developed by complete military amateurs.

So let's ask a question. Please note that this is 1) a question with so obvious an answer one feels silly asking it, and 2) a question absolutely no one ever considers when they look at history or anything else that doesn't have the word "Advertisement" written all over it. That question is, "Why wouldn't a military academy textbook emphasize that the developer of the line ahead formation and the New Model Army were both amateurs?

The obvious answer, so obvious it seems silly to state it, is that those who buy books for military academies want to emphasize how PROFESSIONAL military men are the only ones who know how to run an army or a navy.

This is rather obvious, but no one seems to take it into account. For example, when I was young I always heard that absolutely everything was created in the Cradle of Civilization, the Middle East. Even as a teenager, when this belief was absolute, it struck me as unlikely. The Middle East was made up of absolute, top to-bottom, rigid tyrannies. All intellectual life was owned by the priests. How could such a rigid tyranny invent NEW things?

It took me a while to realize WHY this doctrine ruled. It was taught in schools where the ability to read and write and do arithmetic were also taught. So history said that the societies that read and wrote and followed rules were the places where everything began and the only means by which truth triumphed over a mankind that was not better than the apes.

This was not a conscious choice. But that was the history schools at the time would obviously want so that was the history they got.

Isaac Asimov wrote his whole Foundation Trilogy in the early 1950s based on the idea that only an Empire could produce original ideas. After the Fall of Egypt or the Fall of Rome, history said, everything became stagnant and brutal and filthy until a new Empire based on scribes and bureaucracy came again. That is the absolute basis of the Foundation Trilogy, and it is exactly what everybody took to be true history in 1950.

The idea was that only a totally centralized bureaucratic state could INVENT things. New ideas only came from a rigid, bureaucratized state. It was assumed that the only argument against Communism, with everybody reporting Soviet leaps and bounds in production with every Five-Year Plan, was that it took away too much freedom.

No one doubted Communism was as successful as it claimed to be. It was just too mean about it.

Of course, everybody was wrong on every single point.

But how could you PREDICT they were wrong, when every statistic and historical instance and Future Inevitability they all the professionals announced said they were right? The way to do it would be to analyze each and every piece of information, each Theory of History, each Future Inevitably by ONE criterion:

Does anybody have a reason to WANT this to be true?

Professional scholars wanted it to be true that only a society which had a huge army of bureaucrats and scribes could accomplish anything. Asimov took this to a laughable extreme, but only laughable TODAY. At the time it was a sober analysis.

Intellectual life is an infomercial.

Treat it accordingly