One of the most obvious and advantageous departures from the so-called laws o_ar is the action of scattered groups against men pressed together in a mass.
Such action always occurs in wars that take on a national character. In suc_ctions, instead of two crowds opposing each other, the men disperse, attac_ingly, run away when attacked by stronger forces, but again attack whe_pportunity offers. This was done by the guerrillas in Spain, by the mountai_ribes in the Caucasus, and by the Russians in 1812.
People have called this kind of war "guerrilla warfare" and assume that by s_alling it they have explained its meaning. But such a war does not fit i_nder any rule and is directly opposed to a well-known rule of tactics whic_s accepted as infallible. That rule says that an attacker should concentrat_is forces in order to be stronger than his opponent at the moment o_onflict.
Guerrilla war (always successful, as history shows) directly infringes tha_ule.
This contradiction arises from the fact that military science assumes th_trength of an army to be identical with its numbers. Military science say_hat the more troops the greater the strength. Les gros bataillons on_oujours raison.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_110) For military science t_ay this is like defining momentum in mechanics by reference to the mass only:
stating that momenta are equal or unequal to each other simply because th_asses involved are equal or unequal. Momentum (quantity of motion) is th_roduct of mass and velocity. In military affairs the strength of an army i_he product of its mass and some unknown x. Military science, seeing i_istory innumerable instances of the fact that the size of any army does no_oincide with its strength and that small detachments defeat larger ones,
obscurely admits the existence of this unknown factor and tries to discove_t—now in a geometric formation, now in the equipment employed, now, and mos_sually, in the genius of the commanders. But the assignment of these variou_eanings to the factor does not yield results which accord with the histori_acts. Yet it is only necessary to abandon the false view (adopted to gratif_he "heroes") of the efficacy of the directions issued in wartime b_ommanders, in order to find this unknown quantity. That unknown quantity i_he spirit of the army, that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness t_ight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army, quit_ndependently of whether they are, or are not, fighting under the command of _enius, in two—or three-line formation, with cudgels or with rifles tha_epeat thirty times a minute. Men who want to fight will always put themselve_n the most advantageous conditions for fighting. The spirit of an army is th_actor which multiplied by the mass gives the resulting force. To define an_xpress the significance of this unknown factor—the spirit of an army—is _roblem for science. This problem is only solvable if we cease arbitrarily t_ubstitute for the unknown x itself the conditions under which that forc_ecomes apparent—such as the commands of the general, the equipment employed,
and so on—mistaking these for the real significance of the factor, and if w_ecognize this unknown quantity in its entirety as being the greater or lesse_esire to fight and to face danger. Only then, expressing known historic fact_y equations and comparing the relative significance of this factor, can w_ope to define the unknown. Ten men, battalions, or divisions, fightin_ifteen men, battalions, or divisions, conquer—that is, kill or tak_aptive—all the others, while themselves losing four, so that on the one sid_our and on the other fifteen were lost. Consequently the four were equal t_he fifteen, and therefore 4x = 15y. Consequently x/y = 15/4. This equatio_oes not give us the value of the unknown factor but gives us a ratio betwee_wo unknowns. And by bringing variously selected historic units (battles,
campaigns, periods of war) into such equations, a series of numbers could b_btained in which certain laws should exist and might be discovered. Th_actical rule that an army should act in masses when attacking, and in smalle_roups in retreat, unconsciously confirms the truth that the strength of a_rmy depends on its spirit. To lead men forward under fire more discipline
(obtainable only by movement in masses) is needed than is needed to resis_ttacks. But this rule which leaves out of account the spirit of the arm_ontinually proves incorrect and is in particularly striking contrast to th_acts when some strong rise or fall in the spirit of the troops occurs, as i_ll national wars. The French, retreating in 1812—though according to tactic_hey should have separated into detachments to defend themselves- congregate_nto a mass because the spirit of the army had so fallen that only the mas_eld the army together. The Russians, on the contrary, ought according t_actics to have attacked in mass, but in fact they split up into small units,
because their spirit had so risen that separate individuals, without orders,
dealt blows at the French without needing any compulsion to induce them t_xpose themselves to hardships and dangers.