The Relationship Between Military And Commercial Logistics


An Aerial Photograph of Dresden; an anti-logistics military operation.

The usage and mention of the word “Logistics” in both academic and non-academic settings is almost always a reference to specifically military logistics.  Why is this?  The word itself began with a military meaning in mind during the 19th century, despite the actual mechanisms of logistics existing for thousands of years prior.

The history of military logistics is a history of the re-discovery of logistics.  What the market does by itself, for itself, has been learned slowly and painfully by various generals and governing bodies over the years.  For example, disasters such as the French and later Nazi invasions of Russia were both considered failures of logistics.  These were instances where short sighted leaders attempted to manage and plan what they imagined they could control – that is, the distribution of millions of products of varying necessity and value.

And yet somehow, since early ancient times, bands of traders carried tons of spices, silks, and other rare substances halfway across the earth.  Phoenician merchants carried African ivory, Mesopotamian grain, and British Tin around the globe before large navies were even in existence.  Military logistics should be viewed as an interesting if awkward chapter in a deep commercial tradition.  Even today, thousands of workers and researchers are employed by military bodies to make progress in “Applied Information Economics” and “Advanced Operations Research”, whose output should be seriously questioned.  On the other hand, micro-revolutions in logistics efficiency and reach occur on a regular basis out of the private sector.  Note the recent trends of predictive delivery, utilization of digital means of logistics information, and even crowd sourcing taxi services that all come from individuals outside of the military logistics tradition.

Now this is not meant of any sort of rebuke of the thousands of servicemen and soldiers who have defended our country through the application of military logistics methods; rather this should be viewed as a new way to think about logistics.  The hard working warehouse employee, the truck driver, and management and brokerage teams all belong to a human tradition that reaches back to the humble camel drivers and Greek sailors of millennia past, where serving the needs of humanity has always been the top priority.

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