On War — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about On War Volume 1.

Unfortunately, however, it has always been the fashion with historical writers to talk about ancient times.  We shall not say how far vanity and charlatanism may have had a share in this, but in general we fail to discover any honest intention and earnest endeavour to instruct and convince, and we can therefore only look upon such quotations and references as embellishments to fill up gaps and hide defects.

It would be an immense service to teach the Art of War entirely by historical examples, as Feuquieres proposed to do; but it would be full work for the whole life of a man, if we reflect that he who undertakes it must first qualify himself for the task by a long personal experience in actual War.

Whoever, stirred by ambition, undertakes such a task, let him prepare himself for his pious undertaking as for a long pilgrimage; let him give up his time, spare no sacrifice, fear no temporal rank or power, and rise above all feelings of personal vanity, of false shame, in order, according to the French code, to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

BOOK III.  OF STRATEGY IN GENERAL

CHAPTER I. STRATEGY

In the second chapter of the second book, Strategy has been defined as “the employment of the battle as the means towards the attainment of the object of the War.”  Properly speaking it has to do with nothing but the battle, but its theory must include in this consideration the instrument of this real activity—­the armed force—­in itself and in its principal relations, for the battle is fought by it, and shows its effects upon it in turn.  It must be well acquainted with the battle itself as far as relates to its possible results, and those mental and moral powers which are the most important in the use of the same.

Strategy is the employment of the battle to gain the end of the War; it must therefore give an aim to the whole military action, which must be in accordance with the object of the War; in other words, Strategy forms the plan of the War, and to this end it links together the series of acts which are to lead to the final decision, that, is to say, it makes the plans for the separate campaigns and regulates the combats to be fought in each.  As these are all things which to a great extent can only be determined on conjectures some of which turn out incorrect, while a number of other arrangements pertaining to details cannot be made at all beforehand, it follows, as a matter of course, that Strategy must go with the Army to the field in order to arrange particulars on the spot, and to make the modifications in the general plan, which incessantly become necessary in War.  Strategy can therefore never take its hand from the work for a moment.

That this, however, has not always been the view taken is evident from the former custom of keeping Strategy in the cabinet and not with the Army, a thing only allowable if the cabinet is so near to the Army that it can be taken for the chief head-quarters of the Army.

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