Saturday, August 25, 2012

On War Part VII: On Physical Effort and Intelligence in War

1.5 Book One, Chapter 5: On Physical Effort in War

Among the many factors in war that cannot be measured, physical effort is the most important. Unless it is wasted, physical effort is a coefficient of all forces, and its exact limit cannot be determined… it takes a powerful mind to drive his army to the limit. (Book One, Chapter Five, p. 115)

Our reason for dealing with physical effort here is that like danger it is one of the great sources of friction in war. Because its limits are uncertain, it resembles one of those substances whose elasticity makes the degree of its friction exceedingly hard to gauge. (Book One, Chapter Five, p. 115)

No one can count on sympathy if he accepts an insult or mistreatment because he claims to be physically handicapped. But if he manages to defend or revenge himself, a reference to his handicap will be to his advantage. In the same way, a general and an army cannot remove the stain of defeat by explaining the dangers, hardships, and exertions that were endured; but to depict them adds immensely to the credit of a victory. (Book One, Chapter Five, pp. 115-116)

1.6 Book One, Chapter 6: Intelligence in War

By “intelligence” we mean every sort of information about the enemy and his country—the basis, in short, of our own plans and operations. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain. We one can reasonably ask of an officer is that he should possess a standard of judgment, which he can gain only from knowledge of men and affairs and from common sense. He should be guided by the laws of probability… In short, most intelligence is false, and the effect of fear is to multiply lies and inaccuracies. As a rule most men would rather believe bad news than good, and rather tend to exaggerate the bad news. The dangers that are reported may soon, like waves, subside; but like waves they keep recurring, without apparent reason. The commander must trust his judgment and stand like a rock on which the waves break in vain. It is not an easy thing to do. If he does not have buoyant disposition, if experience of war has not trained him and matured his judgment, he had better make it a rule to suppress his personal convictions, and give his hopes and not his fears the benefit of the doubt. Only thus can he preserve the proper balance. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

GIV COMMENT:  Interestingly, the above remains just as valid today as when it was written. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, General Schwarzkopf stated that ambiguous intelligence reports full of caveats was the norm; which were actually more harmful than helpful. Another point is that we have so much information coming in that the Commander may be overwhelmed by minutiae and detail, and have difficulty in sorting out meaningful information.

This difficulty of accurate recognition constitutes on of the most serious sources of friction in war, by making things appear entirely different from what one had expected. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

[S]elf reliance is his best defense against the pressures of the moment. Was has a way of masking the stage with scenery crudely daubed with fearsome apparitions. Once this is cleared away, and the horizon becomes unobstructed, developments will confirm his earlier convictions—this is one of the great chasm between planning and execution. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

GIV COMMENT: which is why planning needs to be detailed in preparation but flexible in execution—which is easier said that done.  As previously noted in a prior posting, Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasili I. Chuikov observed in his book “The Battle for Stalingrad”:   “But for success in battle beautifully drawn maps count for very little.  A good strategic or operational plan needs to be implemented in good time, needs good tactics and the flexible handling of armies.  But when a decision is taken late, it will inevitably be carried out in haste.  In such cases, there will as a rule be a lack of organization and co-ordination.”  This is the reality of war:  maps and calculations count for very little.

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