Forgot your password?  
Related Topics

Resources for students & teachers

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

     (*) Clausewitz is, of course, thinking of the long-service
     standing armies of his own youth.  Not of the short-service
     standing armies of to-day (editor).

CHAPTER VI.  BOLDNESS

The place and part which boldness takes in the dynamic system of powers, where it stands opposed to Foresight and prudence, has been stated in the chapter on the certainty of the result in order thereby to show, that theory has no right to restrict it by virtue of its legislative power.

But this noble impulse, with which the human soul raises itself above the most formidable dangers, is to be regarded as an active principle peculiarly belonging to War.  In fact, in what branch of human activity should boldness have a right of citizenship if not in War?

From the transport-driver and the drummer up to the General, it is the noblest of virtues, the true steel which gives the weapon its edge and brilliancy.

Let us admit in fact it has in War even its own prerogatives.  Over and above the result of the calculation of space, time, and quantity, we must allow a certain percentage which boldness derives from the weakness of others, whenever it gains the mastery.  It is therefore, virtually, a creative power.  This is not difficult to demonstrate philosophically.  As often as boldness encounters hesitation, the probability of the result is of necessity in its favour, because the very state of hesitation implies a loss of equilibrium already.  It is only when it encounters cautious foresight—­which we may say is just as bold, at all events just as strong and powerful as itself—­that it is at a disadvantage; such cases, however, rarely occur.  Out of the whole multitude of prudent men in the world, the great majority are so from timidity.

Amongst large masses, boldness is a force, the special cultivation of which can never be to the detriment of other forces, because the great mass is bound to a higher will by the frame-work and joints of the order of battle and of the service, and therefore is guided by an intelligent power which is extraneous.  Boldness is therefore here only like a spring held down until its action is required.

The higher the rank the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind, that it may not be a mere blind outburst of passion to no purpose; for with increase of rank it becomes always less a matter of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole.  Where regulations of the service, as a kind of second nature, prescribe for the masses, reflection must be the guide of the General, and in his case individual boldness in action may easily become a fault.  Still, at the same time, it is a fine failing, and must not be looked at in the same light as any other.  Happy the Army in which an untimely boldness frequently manifests itself; it is an exuberant growth which

Follow Us on Facebook