On War — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 362 pages of information about On War — Volume 1.
make use of a piece of one, as one would use a ruler, to show the blunders committed by a General.  The most of them are incapable of reasoning without using as a help here and there some shreds of scientific military theory.  The smallest of these fragments, consisting in mere scientific words and metaphors, are often nothing more than ornamental flourishes of critical narration.  Now it is in the nature of things that all technical and scientific expressions which belong to a system lose their propriety, if they ever had any, as soon as they are distorted, and used as general axioms, or as small crystalline talismans, which have more power of demonstration than simple speech.

Thus it has come to pass that our theoretical and critical books, instead of being straightforward, intelligible dissertations, in which the author always knows at least what he says and the reader what he reads, are brimful of these technical terms, which form dark points of interference where author and reader part company.  But frequently they are something worse, being nothing but hollow shells without any kernel.  The author himself has no clear perception of what he means, contents himself with vague ideas, which if expressed in plain language would be unsatisfactory even to himself.

A third fault in criticism is the misuse of historical examples, and a display of great reading or learning.  What the history of the Art of War is we have already said, and we shall further explain our views on examples and on military history in general in special chapters.  One fact merely touched upon in a very cursory manner may be used to support the most opposite views, and three or four such facts of the most heterogeneous description, brought together out of the most distant lands and remote times and heaped up, generally distract and bewilder the judgment and understanding without demonstrating anything; for when exposed to the light they turn out to be only trumpery rubbish, made use of to show off the author’s learning.

But what can be gained for practical life by such obscure, partly false, confused arbitrary conceptions?  So little is gained that theory on account of them has always been a true antithesis of practice, and frequently a subject of ridicule to those whose soldierly qualities in the field are above question.

But it is impossible that this could have been the case, if theory in simple language, and by natural treatment of those things which constitute the Art of making War, had merely sought to establish just so much as admits of being established; if, avoiding all false pretensions and irrelevant display of scientific forms and historical parallels, it had kept close to the subject, and gone hand in hand with those who must conduct affairs in the field by their own natural genius.


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On War — Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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