Image courtesy of ChicType. Image courtesy of ChicType.

By Lieutenant Colonel Dave Lyle, US Air Force

How Wars Start

“To be saved from folly you need either kind friends or fierce enemies.”

Diogenes of Sinope (aka Diogenes the Cynic)


How War Works

“In the history of the world, there have been persons in leadership positions who have not thought things through as well as they might have. Nor have they always been able to direct matters even skillfully enough to achieve their short sighted objectives. One of the traditional places where the price for that is paid is in the trenches where the common soldier has to crawl in simple self-preservation. Far less often is the price paid in the distant citadels of power, and even then it is normally paid in bloodless coin, limousines taking the henchmen away to minimum-security detentions or to exile in luxury.”

Algis Budrys, in the introduction to L. Ron Hubbard’s Final Blackout


Garrison life and junior officer angst

 “In youth, the author had experienced war, without – to be sure – understanding it, but he had maintained a general impression. Even a modicum of reflection on these experiences during the autumn maneuvers in Potsdam and Berlin was bound to lead at once to the realization that none of this had taken place in the war that we had fought. What caused the author the greatest pain was that these sham battles, long practices in advance, carefully discussed, arranged in every detail, were carried out by the most distinguished men in the service…with total absorption, and a degree of seriousness and energy that bordered on weakness.”

“Caged in a small garrison, surrounded and influenced by nothing but prosaic conditions and prosaic individuals, my existence was distinguished in no way from that of the better sort of my comrades – and even they were still very ordinary people – except by a somewhat stronger tendency toward thought, toward literature, and by military ambition, the one remaining trace of my earlier élan. But ambition too, was more of a handicap than beneficial to my inner development, as long as there seemed to be no way to satisfy it.”

 Carl Von Clausewitz, as a subaltern in Neuruppin 1795-1801

(Mis)Understanding the Nature of War

“The psychological part of the art of war is…a subject that is not all well understood. It is for this reason that the principle benefit to be derived from the study of history, acquiring the difficult and yet so useful knowledge of the human heart, an understanding most easily achieved by studying events resulting from vast and far-reaching intentions, is almost completely lost.”

Gerhard Scharnhorst, editorial note in his essays on the Prussian Campaign of 1794


Achieving Strategic Effect

“An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fall: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.”

Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice (Winter 1795–1796)

Sustaining Victory

“The opposite of war is not peace, it’s creation.”

Playwright Jonathan Larson, from “La Vie Boheme B” in Rent


The Wider Perspective

“It often comforts me to know that even in war’s darkest days, in most parts of the world absolutely nothing is happening.”  

The Blackfish (Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 3)