Military Quotes

May 2018
675
Michigan
#35
Seen in an army armory

...."whatever is not ordered is forbidden "
I'd like to know the context of this quote. As a former soldier, I've never liked philoshophies like that: initiative and independent thinking are required skills, at the very least for NCO's and above.

Even a private or specialist should be ready to take charge if they are the highest ranking person present, due to casualties or chaotic circumstances.
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#36
Agreed. It's one of the reasons I hold reluctant warriors like Scipio and Wellington in high regard.
It's certainly easier - from a moral perspective - to admire generals that were serving their country and going to war by orders of their government, rather than making the decision to go to war in the first place.
 
May 2018
675
Michigan
#37
It's certainly easier - from a moral perspective - to admire generals that were serving their country and going to war by orders of their government, rather than making the decision to go to war in the first place.
In the case of Scipio and Wellington, that wasn't quite the case.

Scipio wanted to be a Greek Philosopher, not a soldier. But Hannibal's invasion of Italy cancelled those plans, and he served in what was one of Rome's very few genuinely defensive wars. Although he was "under orders", his career change was voluntary in order to defeat the Carthaginian invasion.

Wellington's campaigns in India were less defensive (although Tipu deliberately antagonized the EIC and planned to attack the EIC if they hadn't attacked first), but he was always one to minimize the bloodshed of war. From his standing orders to treat all civilians humanely to his quote after Waterloo "I pray I have fought my last battle," Wellington didn't relish war as Napoleon did. At worst, he saw it as a job, and at best he saw it as a necessary evil to defend Britain from Napoleonic France. While the threat of invasion wasn't serious during the Peninsular War, it was only *not* a serious threat due to the success of British arms combined with changing circumstances on the continent. However, Napoleon did in fact embark upon a massive shipbuilding program after Trafalgar for the express purpose of defeating the Royal Navy and invading the UK.

Contrast this with Napoleon, who seemed to relish in the glory of war, or Alexander the Great whose campaigns were almost completely expansionist.

For the most part, Wellington and Scipio didn't support self-aggrandizing campaigns for their own self-aggrandizement, and the wars they fought were at least arguably defensive in nature.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,415
#38
So they're self-aware that what they're doing is wrong and evil. That doesn't excuse them from actually
doing it for years.
Well, it was also glorious of course.

We are talking about periods in history where the literally only foreign policy function of the state itself was to make war. You might have no policy at all, and maybe not make war, or have a policy but that then automatically involved warfare.

I don't think anachronistic modern sentiments can quite manage to explain the motivations of historical actors. The modern forms of moralistic approaches to history become really problematic unless coupled with a very considerable interest in the history itself.

Otherwise pat servings or moralising end up explaining nothing at at all. (There's a nice Swedish word to describe these: "moralkakor", lit. "morality cakes". Little nibbles that go down easily but leaves no lasting satisfaction, except everyone feel a bit holier-than-thou for a while.)
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,503
Sydney
#39
The whole thing about the evil of warfare strike me as a ****
who is kidding who ?
warfare is all about getting the other side to face up to reality
like pain and destruction
the fine pronouncement about how bad it get
is pretty much a cop out about the whole boody business
 
Feb 2018
205
US
#40
  1. Napoleon: "‘That is impossible,’ you write to me: that [expression] is not French." (Admittedly this is about logistics)
  2. Hannibal "God has given to man no sharper spur to victory than contempt of death."
  3. Li Shimin “I’ve read many books on the art of war, and it all boils down to one point: do whatever you can to cause the enemy to make mistakes.”

Maybe this is just my sense of humor, but the funniest thing in military history I ever read was General Jourdan getting nicknamed 'The Anvil,' because he kept getting hammered by his opponents.

Well, it was also glorious of course.

We are talking about periods in history where the literally only foreign policy function of the state itself was to make war. You might have no policy at all, and maybe not make war, or have a policy but that then automatically involved warfare.

I don't think anachronistic modern sentiments can quite manage to explain the motivations of historical actors. The modern forms of moralistic approaches to history become really problematic unless coupled with a very considerable interest in the history itself.

Otherwise pat servings or moralising end up explaining nothing at at all. (There's a nice Swedish word to describe these: "moralkakor", lit. "morality cakes". Little nibbles that go down easily but leaves no lasting satisfaction, except everyone feel a bit holier-than-thou for a while.)
Agreed. War and international relations is complicated, and eras are different. Modern western culture definitely is shaped by the ease and softness of our lives; it makes it very difficult to look objectively at different eras without carrying over our tacit assumptions. A ruler acts for his own people, not for the harmony of the world. A skillfully fought war can easily lead to a better peace for one's own people.