I used to think that the causes of war were predominantly economic. I came to think that they were more psychological. I am now coming to think that they are decisively "personal," arising from the defects and ambitions of those who have the power to influence the currents of nations.
Direct experience is inherently too limited to form an adequate foundation either for theory or for application. At the best it produces an atmosphere that is of value in drying and hardening the structure of thought. The greater value of indirect experience lies in its greater variety and extent. History is universal experience, the experience not of another, but of many others under manifold conditions.
The most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure.
A commander should have a profound understanding of human nature, the knack of smoothing out troubles, the power of winning affection while communicating energy, and the capacity for ruthless determination where require by circumstances. He needs to generate an electrifying current, and to keep a cool head in applying it.
The blurring of the line between policy and strategy] encouraged soldiers to make the preposterous claim that policy should be subservient to their conduct of operations, and (especially in democratic countries) it drew the statesman on to overstep the definite border of his sphere and interfere with his military employees in the actual use of their tools.
The art of the indirect approach can only be mastered, and its full scope appreciated, by study of and reflection upon the whole history of war. But we can at least crystallize the lessons into two simple maxims- one negative, the other positive. The first is that, in face of the overwhelming evidence of history, no general is justified in launching his troops to a direct attack upon an enemy firmly in position. The second, that instead of seeking to upset the enemy's equilibrium by one's attack, it must be upset before a real attack is, or can be successfully... Read more »
For if we merely take what obviously appears the line of least resistance, its obviousness will appeal to the opponent also; and this line may no longer be that of least resistance. In studying the physical aspect, we must never lose sight of the psychological, and only when both are combined is the strategy truly an indirect approach, calculated to dislocate the opponent's balance.
The more closely [the German army] converged on [Stalingrad], the narrower became their scope for tactical manoeuvre as a lever in loosening resistance. By contrast, the narrowing of the frontage made it easier for the defender to switch his local reserves to any threatened point on the defensive arc.
Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the degree of resistance can be diminished- by giving thought not only to the aim but to the method of approach. Avoid a frontal attack on a long established position; instead, seek to turn it by flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth. But, in any such indirect approach, take care not to diverge from the truth- for nothing is more fatal to its real advancement than to lapse into untruth.
If you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat as the quickest way of loosening his resistance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, especially in war, to provide your opponent with a ladder by which he can climb down.
The easiest and quickest path into the esteem of traditional military authorities is by the appeal to the eye, rather than to the mind. The `polish and pipeclay' school is not yet extinct, and it is easier for the mediocre intelligence to become an authority on buttons, than on tactics.
It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles' heel of the opposing government's power to make war. Strategy, in turn, should seek to penetrate a joint in the harness of the opposing forces. To apply one's strength where the opponent is strong weakens oneself disproportionately to the effect attained. To strike with strong effect, one must strike at weakness.
While there are many causes for which a state goes to war, its fundamental object can be epitomized as that of ensuring the continuance of its policy - in face of the determination of the opposing state to pursue a contrary policy. In the human will lies the source and mainspring of conflict.
Vitality springs from diversity -- which makes for real progress so long as there is mutual toleration, based on the recognition that worse may come from an attempt to suppress differences than from acceptance of them. For this reason, the kind of peace that makes progress possible is best assured by the mutual checks created by a balance of forces-alike in the sphere of internal politics and of international relations.
...regrettable as it may seem to the idealist, the experience of history provides little warrant for the belief that real progress, and the freedom that makes progress possible, lies in unification. For where unification has been able to establish unity of ideas it has usually ended in uniformity, paralysing the growth of new ideas. And where the unification has merely brought about an artificial or imposed unity, its irksomeness has led through discord to disruption.
It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, whether individuals or nations, can be bought off ... since the payment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more danegeld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of a formidable opposing force.
Air forces offered the possibility of striking a the enemy's economic and moral centres without having first to achieve 'the destruction of the enemy's main forces on the battlefield'. Air-power might attain a direct end by indirect means - hopping over opposition instead of overthrowing it.