– Well, but…Sir, those are all different all the time, aren’t they? How do you make rules about that?
A very good question, Otter. You are right that moral values change, are different at different times, but there are some effects which are common enough, that we have seen often enough, to make rules about them. And remember, none of these rules will be true 100% of the time. We try to make rules that will be the most right, but leave our minds open to them being wrong. I know it’s confusing, but the role of chance and fluctuation – change – must always be considered.
Now, class, I want to talk about some of those things that matter in war that are more about feelings and reactions, and not so much about numbers and things.
First of all, there are hostile feelings: anger, dislike, hatred. Sometimes these bad feelings are just between countries, not people. If you don’t feel them to begin a war, the fighting will stir these feelings up. Fighting will also bring out other feelings: love of power, ambition, things like that. Yes, Otter?
A desire to be great, a determination to be successful.
– Is it bad?
No, Quail…No, ambition is not necessarily bad. But it can go too far. If you put your ambition ahead of everything else, that can be a bad thing. For a commander to be ambitious is fine, but he must always put the ultimate ends of the war ahead of any feelings of his own. Yes?
– Yes, Sir.
We have spoken before about the dangers of war. We must remember to consider danger when creating a theory of war. For the commander, it is not just her own danger. She also knows that all of her choices will put others in danger. There is no action in war where there is no danger. This is a hard burden, and not everyone can handle it.
While all commanders must possess a certain brilliance and strength, they will not all be the same. The different personalities of commanders will lead to different strategies, different ‘roads’ to our goal, if you will.
In response to danger, there is also courage, bravery, the feeling that allows us to overcome our fear of danger.
People still have all the same regular feelings in war, too: anger, pride, envy, generosity, compassion…anything you can think of. Any questions? Yes, Ibex?
– What about happiness? Can people still feel happy?
Yes, Ibex, even happiness. It might seem strange.When you think of war, you might think of hurt and death and things that make you sad or angry. But people still feel all feelings. They feel sad and angry, but they also laugh and love their brothers.
We also need to remember the enemy. We will never just be doing something alone. In war, there is an enemy, and they have their own soldiers and commanders and feelings and strategies, and much as we will try to predict what they will do, we will not always be able to. Whatever we do, they will respond, and sometimes they will do something and we will need to respond.
Next we must consider the fact that all information in war is unreliable. We can never be sure what is true. We must trust to luck or talent to carry us through. There is no model we can build which can fully overcome this.
Some other things to remember: Things are simpler in the lower ranks, more complex the higher you go. Also, the more physical the task, the simpler it is to theorize: tactics will be much easier to deal with in theory than strategy. And – this is very important to understand, so please let me know if I am not being clear – theory does not have to be a manual, like the book of instructions you get to build a toy or a piece of furniture. Theory is about study, making yourself familiar enough to be able to use it to analyze, detangle, illuminate, define ends. It should be a guide to learn about war.
If we think in terms of a guide to our travels, not a precise path, then it is possible to have a theory of war.
Does everyone understand?
– Yes, Herr Clausewitz!