Glorious incompetence

This may be obvious or false to the historians among you, but novel and interesting to me:

Nothing better illustrates capitalism in feudal-aristocratic drag than colonial militaries, which were notoriously distinct from those of the metropoles, often even in formal institutional terms. Thus in Europe one had the ‘First Army’, recruited by conscription on a mass, citizen, metropolitan base; ideologically conceived as the defender of the heimat; dressed in practical, utilitarian khaki; armed with the latest affordable weapons; in peacetime isolated in barracks, in war stationed in trenches or behind heavy field-guns. Outside Europe one had the ‘Second Army’, recruited (below the officer level) from local religious or ethnic minorities on a mercenary basis; ideologically conceived as an internal police force; dressed to kill in bed- or ballroom; armed with swords and obsolete industrial weapons; in peace on display, in war on horseback. If the Prussian General Staff, Europe’s military teacher, stressed the anonymous solidarity of a professionalized corps, ballistics, railroads, engineering, strategic planning, and the like, the colonial army stressed glory, epaulettes, personal heroism, polo, and an archaizing courtliness among its officers.

[Benedict Anderson,

Imagined Communities

, p. 151]

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