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By Sir Lawrence Freedman

“For War, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather.”

               -Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

               -John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy

“History did not demand Yossarian’s premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; WHICH men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war. Just about all he could find in its favor was that it paid well and liberated children from the pernicious influence of their parents.”                

               -Joseph Heller, Catch 22

“Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” 

               -Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August

“Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.”

               -T. E. Lawrence Seven Pillars of Wisdom

“But rats and cholera have won many wars.
Those, and potatoes,
or the absence of them.
It’s no use pinning all those medals
across the chests of the dead.
Impressive, but I know too much.
Grand exploits merely depress me.”

               -Margaret Attwood, The Loneliness of the Military Historian

“Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war,
They’d rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
O we hate that expression.
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the marines!”

               -Tom Lehrer, Send the Marines

“It’s funny how the people have always respected the kind of commander who comes up with strategies like “I want fifty thousand of you chappies to rush at the enemy,” whereas the more thoughtful commanders who say things like “Why don’t we build a damn great wooden horse and then nip in at the back gate while they’re all round the thing waiting for us to come out” are considered only one step above common oiks and not the kind of person you’d lend money to.”

               -Terry Pratchett, Eric

“‘But I read where she was the most beautiful –
‘Ah well,’ said the sergeant.  ‘If you’re going to go around reading –’
‘The thing is,’ said Rincewind quickly, ‘it’s what they call dramatic necessity.  No-one’s going to be interested in a war fought over a, a quite pleasant lady, moderately attractive in a good light.  Are they?’
Eric was nearly in tears.
‘But it said her face launched a thousand ships –’
‘That’s what you call metaphor,’ said Rincewind.
‘Lying,’ the sergeant explained, kindly.” 

               -Terry Pratchett, Eric

“I understood exactly why I had got it. The planned attack had …. Threatened to disintegrate into a shambles, and it was my burst of manic energy that had, in the words of the official citation, “been responsible for straightening out the situation”. But I had, as ever, been extraordinarily lucky. First, my charge had been simply a fuite en avant; there was nowhere else to go. Second, my seniors had watched me doing it – people whose reputation depended on my success and who were generous in giving me the credit.  Most important of all, it was my first action, and any fool can be brave in his first action. It was not to happen again.”

               -Michael Howard, Captain Professor (on being awarded the Military Cross) 


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