B Of the Magnitude of the Object of the War and the Efforts to be Made

The compulsion which we must use towards our enemy will be regulated by the proportions of our own and his political demands. In so far as these are mutually known they will give the measure of the mutual efforts; but they are not always quite so evident, and this may be a first ground of a difference in the means adopted by each.

The situation and relations of the states are not like each other; this may become a second cause.

The strength of will, the character and capabilities of the governments are as little like; this is a third cause.

These three elements cause an uncertainty in the calculation of the amount of resistance to be expected, consequently an uncertainty as to the amount of means to be applied and the object to be chosen.

As in war the want of sufficient exertion may result not only in failure but in positive harm, therefore, the two sides respectively seek to outstrip each other, which produces a reciprocal action.

This might lead to the utmost extremity of exertion, if it were possible to define such a point. But then regard for the amount of the political demands would be lost, the means would lose all relation to the end, and in most cases this aim at an extreme effort would be wrecked by the opposing weight of forces within itself.

In this manner, he who undertakes war is brought back again into a middle course, in which he acts to a certain extent upon the principle of only applying so much force and aiming at such an object in war as is just sufficient for the attainment of its political object. To make this principle practicable he must renounce every absolute necessity of a result, and throw out of the calculation remote contingencies.

Here, therefore, the action of the mind leaves the province of science, strictly speaking, of logic and mathematics, and becomes in the widest sense of the term an art, that is, skill in discriminating, by the tact of judgement among an infinite multitude of objects and relations, that which is the most important and decisive. This tact of judgement consists unquestionably more or less in some intuitive comparison of things and relations by which the remote and unimportant are more quickly set aside, and the more immediate and important are sooner discovered than they could be by strictly logical deduction.

In order to ascertain the real scale of the means which we must put forth for war, we must think over the political object both on our own side and on the enemy’s side; we must consider the power and position of the enemy’s state as well as of our own, the character of his government and of his people, and the capacities of both, and all that again on our own side, and the political connections of other states, and the effect which the war will produce on those states. That the determination of these diverse circumstances and their diverse connections with each other is an immense problem, that it is the true flash of genius which discovers here in a moment what is right, and that it would be quite out of the question to become master of the complexity merely by a methodical study, it is easy to conceive.

In this sense Bonaparte was quite right when he said that it would be a problem in algebra before which a Newton might stand aghast.
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First of all, therefore, we must admit that the judgement on an approaching war, on the end to which it should be directed, and on the means which are required, can only be formed after a full consideration of the whole of the circumstances in connection with it: with which therefore must also be combined the most individual traits of the moment; next, that this decision, like all in military life, cannot be purely objective, but must be determined by the mental and moral qualities of princes, statesmen, and generals, whether they are united in the person of one man or not.

The subject becomes general and more fit to be treated of in the abstract if we look at the general relations in which states have been placed by circumstances at different times. We must allow ourselves here a passing glance at history.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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