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Chapter 2

  • 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.[[110]](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.