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Sunday, May 22, 1898

The Old Fogies

Montojo is getting on in years, like the other Spanish generals and colonels who may be brave but lack vitality. Old age, aggravated by the climate, has reduced them to thinkers instead of strategists, unmoved either by victory or defeat. The proof is their poor defense of Manila, uselessly sacrificing their troops.

Yes, Moltke was 70 years old at the time of the 1870 campaign, while Napoleon Bonaparte was barely 30 during the Italian campaign and had just turned 31 at Waterloo. I have encountered a number of high-ranking officers, even generals, and I can say that it is more difficult to find an elderly chief superior to and more agile than a young man in the battlefield.

Commanding a war necessitates a lucid and forceful mind. The combination of energy and alert vitality is rarely found in an atrophying body, debilitated by rheumatism and gout. I say, these old fogies should be given their retirement, not a ship. Besides giving obsolete advice, they are completely incapable of following orders. It is imperative that the higher ranks, starting from the uppermost echelons, be filled by younger, more dynamic men. And why should there be a set of rules for the old and powerful and another more severe for the lower ranks? These old officers try to keep the image of a true leader without much success.

The lessons indirectly imparted by the English and the Germans are quite clear. Commodore Dewey, who is over 60 years old and has been captain of his ship for the last eight years, cannot be considered more experienced than Captain Chichester of the Immortality who is 47 years old and has been captain of his ship for nine years. the situation is even more interesting in the case of the Germans where the ship’s captain, upon reaching the age of 50, can be politely asked to retire without making him feel disfavored.

. . . A Japanese cruiser which arrived this week is spreading the news that the Spaniards fought a triumphant battle not far from Key West and have disembarked in Florida. It sounds too good to be true and too good for Spain. These Japanese are nothing but newsmongers ready to pronounce statements without checking the veracity of their sources.