On the Theory of War

1 The first conception of the ‘art of war’ was merely the preparation of the armed forces

Formerly by the term ‘art of war, or science of war’, nothing was understood but the totality of those branches of knowledge and those appliances of skill occupied with material things. The pattern and preparation and the mode of using arms, the construction of fortifications and entrenchments, the organism of an army and the mechanism of its movements, were the subject of these branches of knowledge and skill above referred to, and the end and aim of them all was the establishment of an armed force fit for use in war. All this concerned merely things belonging to the material world and a one-sided activity only, and it was in fact nothing but an activity advancing by gradations from the lower occupations to a finer kind of mechanical art. The relation of all this to war itself was very much the same as the relation of the art of the sword cutler to the art of using the sword. The employment in the moment of danger and in a state of constant reciprocal action of the particular energies of mind and spirit in the direction proposed to them was not yet even mooted.

2 True war first appears in the art of sieges

In the art of sieges we first perceive a certain degree of guidance of the combat, something of the action of the intellectual faculties upon the material forces placed under their control, but generally only so far that it very soon embodied itself again in new material forms, such as approaches, trenches, counter- approaches, batteries, etc., and every step which this action of the higher faculties took was marked by some such result; it was only the thread that was required on which to string these material inventions in order. As the intellect can hardly manifest itself in this kind of war, except in such things, so therefore nearly all that was necessary was done in that way.

3 Then tactics tried to find its way in the same direction

Afterwards tactics attempted to give to the mechanism of its joints the character of a general disposition, built upon the peculiar properties of the instrument, which character leads indeed to the battlefield, but instead of leading to the free activity of mind, leads to an army made like an automaton; its rigid formations and orders of battle, which, movable only by the word of command, is intended to unwind its activities like a piece of clockwork.

4 The real conduct of war only made its appearance incidentally and incognito

The conduct of war properly so called, that is, a use of the prepared means adapted to the most special requirements, was not considered as any suitable subject for theory, but one which should be left to natural talents alone. By degrees, as war passed from the hand-to-hand encounters of the Middle Ages into a more regular and systematic form, stray reflections on this point also forced themselves into men’s minds, but they mostly appeared only incidentally in memoirs and narratives, and in a certain measure incognito.

5 Reflections on military events brought about the want of a theory

As contemplation on war continually increased, and its history every day assumed more of a critical character, the urgent want appeared of the support of fixed maxims and rules, in order that in the controversies naturally arising about military events the war of opinions might be brought to some one point. This whirl of opinions, which neither revolved on any central pivot nor according to any appreciable laws, could not but be very distasteful to people’s minds.

6 Endeavours to establish a positive theory

There arose, therefore, an endeavour to establish maxims, rules, and even systems for the conduct of war. By this the attainment of a positive object was proposed, without taking into view the endless difficulties which the conduct of war presents in that respect. The conduct of war, as we have shown,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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