Harsh tradition continues in the Russian Army

The Christian Science Monitor reports today that the Red Army practice of senior non-commissioned officers maintaining discipline through beatings and torture of junior enlisted soldiers continues in the Russian Army, despite Putin's stated intent to reform the military.

The "rule of the grandfathers," or dedovshchina as it is called in Russian, is not discussed very often in the media as the CS says, but it is not a surprise to those who studied the USSR during the Cold War.  What is surprising is that there has been virtually no headway in ridding the Russian army of what amounts to barracks thuggery and extortion in an organization that is trying to become a modern, volunteer force.  However, instilling a ruthless and brutal nature in soldiers does not necessarily mean that an army is incapable of conducting effective combat operations; just ask some soldiers from a few newly independent former Soviet republics who have been on the receiving end of a Russian assault.

Another example is the Japanese Army in WW II.  The high level of brutality all the way down to the lowest private made for precise and unquestioned execution of combat orders that generally resulted in swift and decisive offensive campaigns and tenacious defensive battles.  However, the strict adherence to the Bushido Code, coupled with the standard practice of beatings on down the chain of command often times resulted in the well-known torture, killings, of both civilians and POWs in the Pacific Theater of war.

Bataan Death March historian Jim Nelson notes that for tens of thousands of low-ranking Japanese the only outlet for years of physical punishment by superiors was to go into the stables and "beat the horse."  Once POWs were seized and interned, the captives assumed the unfortunate role of the horses.  Throw in the fanatical sense of honor on the part of Japanese officers, and the 40 percent death rate among US POWs in the Pacific is the result.

Ultimately though, such a military system breeds a centralized command system the suppresses small unit initiative and flexibility in addition to showing the world that Russia still holds the moral low ground.  Is it any wonder that Putin is losing ground to the US and the West?

Hat tip: Lucianne.com