25 JANUARY 1896, Page 31



gt. FEW months ago two of the most distinguished officers of our day expounded almost simultaneously their views upon the general management of a modern war. The Prussian 'General and Turkish Field-Marshal, Baron von der Goltz, author of The Armed Nation—perhaps the most brilliant and fascinating account of the operations of war ever given to the general public—condensed his ideas upon the higher 'branches of strategy into a pocket volume of some two hun- dred pages, entitled The Conluct of War : 'a Short Manual of Its Most Important Principles and Forms. At the same time theAustrian General (Feldzeugmeister),B aeon vonWaldstatten, the indefatigable teacher of the reformed Austro-Hungarian army, published a pamphlet entitled Strategical Principles in their appliiation to the Campaign of 1866 in. Italy. Both the volumes are addressed rather to the professional than to the general reader, and each of them deserves the close study of the public fpr which it is Intended. Yet the professional teaching of each of these masters brings into relief matters that ought to be well known to the intelligent citizens of any -country in which popular votes may influence the mode of preparation for war, or the policy by which it is avoided or lorought about.

Every one knows of course that, since the Peninsular campaigns and the Crimean War, there have been great changes, and a host of writers in the newspapers and reviews have held forth upon breechloaders, rifled guns, revised tactics, railways and telegraphs, and the rest of the new machinery of the military world. But there have been changes of far more importance than those that are due to the progress of mechanical invention, and of these funda- mental changes the unprofessional public hears too little. War has become more serious and more businesslike; or rather, it has followed 'the example of business, and under- gone a complete metamorphosis. Just as the small firm, the stage-coach, and the pack-waggon have developed into the great limited company, using a network of railways and telegraphs, so war has transformed itself by enlarging the scale of its opera- tions. The principles are the same, but the application is modi- Ified by the altered conditions. Baron Waldstetten gives.a very striking illustration of this change of scale. An army in war exists in three stages of action,—in the preliminary concentra- tion when it is at a distance from the enemy, but ready to begin; on the move; and in battle, or ready for battle. Halted at a distance from the enemy an army must be spread over the country in order to avoid the terrible inconveniences of food-supply and the dangers of sanitary trouble that beset a large force huddled up into a small space. On the move the army is necessarily spread out along many miles of a belt of parallel roads. With a view to battle it must be closely concentrated,—Ahat is, packed into a small space so as to be able to deliver a blow smartly with all its force. These three • (L) Krieg/Wining, Nurse Lauri arm* seichtigsteu Grundadte• and Forman. 'Von Colmar, Freiherrvon der Goltz, Eel. Pren.v. General lieutenant, 3., &e. Berlin: Defter. 1393,—(2.) Strategics's Orundsdize in sheer A airendung auf den Feldruf 1855. Von Joh. Freiherr you Weide K.K Fattens- cneister. Wien: Seidel. 1935. distinct conditions have always existed for all armies. But it is worth observing how they are affected by mere numerical increase. An army of thirty thousand men, such as Bona- parte led into Italy a hundred years ago, can quarter itself comfortably in a rectangle of about eighteen miles by fifteen. So resting, it can all be assembled at any one point of the area within the twenty-four hours, and when closely concentrated will find plenty of room in a circle with a radius of a couple of miles. Such a force can move along a single road and progress twelve or fourteen miles in a day; its front for battle will be little more than two miles. Its commander can easily communicate with any of his troops, and in battle can take in what is going on in a general view. Increase the force to one hundred thousand men, and you will require an area measuring thirty miles each way for its quarters; will need three or four roads for its movement; it will occupy in battle a front of six or seven miles, and you cannot without difficulty assemble it from its inarters on to a battlefield within the twenty-four hours. An army of two hundred thousand men when at rest covers a space measuring forty-five miles along each side ; advancing along three roads it would stretch along them thirty to forty miles. To assemble it from its quarters on to a single battle- field would be the work of three whole days. These figures. which are taken from Baron Waldaiiitten's pages, reveal better than any disquisition the increase in the difficulties of management that arise merely from the enormous numbers of modern armies. The art of spreading an army over the country for convenience of rest and of movement, yet of concentrating it in time for battle, becomes exceedingly delicate and difficult when three days are needed to collect the force which, if kept together, must almost inevitably be exposed both to starvation and to the ravages of the dangerous diseases that spring from overcrowding and defective sanitation. So hard is it to move very large masses of troops, that an ill-disciplined or poorly organised army is in constant danger from its own nnwieldiness ; its manipulation is impossible except its com- ponent parts—bodies of thirty or forty thousand men—are perfectly schooled in all that concerns their own internal mechanism. Armies much larger then two hundred thousand men are probably in any case unmanageable, and the great military States of the Continent, with combatants counting by the million, will in their future wars divide these masses into a number of separate armies working to a common end, but kept apart except for great but brief occasions.

The greatest change that has taken place in the character of war is rather spiritual than material. " War," oays Baron von der Goltz, " appears in our day as a rule in its natural shape,—i.e., as the bloody collision of nations, in which each of the parties to the fight aims at the entire overthrow, or, if possible, the destruction of its adversary." That is a sentence to be pondered by every Englishman. Perhaps it requires a little amplification, for it contains an allusion to a famous investigation too little known in this country. The profound thinker who, after the close of the Napoleonic wars, devoted the rest of his life to the analysis of their lessons, and left it as an invaluable legacy to his Prussian countrymen, declared just before his death that his life's work had taught him two elementary but profound truths. He proclaimed first that war is always in all circumstances nothing but a chapter of national policy ; its ends are those of the statesman, the only difference between that chapter and the one that precedes it being that when the page of war begins the instrument used is force ; when force has done its work, the thread, continued in the next chapter, is the same that ran through the bloodstained passages called war. His second discovery was that if war were logically conducted, each side would, from beginning to end, aim at the total destruction of the enemy's forces, by which is meant, not necessarily kill- ing all his men, but making an end of all his armies. The armies that surrendered at Sedan and Metz were in this sense destroyed, though only a percentage of the men were killed or hurt. The logical proceeding is to fight till the enemy is disarmed and prostrate, and then to dictate your terms, which in that case will be whatever you like,—annexation, or anything short of it that you please. It is evident, however, that all wars have not been waged in this logical fashion nor carried to this extreme. Clausewitz classified wars according as they conformed to this absolute type or not. He saw in Napoleon's wars the marks of Ibis rigid logic, and believed that their extreme violence was due to the fact that they were waged not by Princes for dynastic ends, but by nations for self - preservation. He con- trasted their fierce energy with the milder character and the half-measures of earlier eighteenth-century wars, and wondered whether in the future wars would always have the absolute character of these of his own time, or would revert to the tameness of an earlier period. The passage quoted from Baron von der Goltz refers to this discussion. It expresses the conviction, shared by all contemporary mili- tary thinkers, that the identification of Governments with nations has made permanent what Clansewitz called the abso- lute type of war. Baron von der Goltz holds then, that if two great Powers of our time have a difference, no matter how trifling or what the subject, which results in hostilities, the aim of each side will be to strike down the adversary, to utterly crush and disarm him, and then to dictate conditions as extreme as the forbearance of other great Powers will allow. This is the view held by all Continental military men, and by all Continental Governments. It may be well to consider what it means if applied to the case of our own country. The view held by the military advisers of every Continental Government is that if their nation should ever be at war with Great Britain, its military aim will be to strike down and disarm this country, and then, but not till then, to exact such terms as can be had. A disarmed and helpless nation cannot argue about terms ; the phrase "such terms as can be had" refers not to the British resistance, which would be ex hypothesi at an Pna, but to the possibility that to demand too much would arouse the jealousy of some other Power till then neutral. For example, in such an event as the thorough defeat of the British forces, it may well be believed that no Continental Power would acquiesce in the annexation of Great Britain by the victor. But it may equally well be doubted whether any Continental Power would risk its own existence in a war against the conquering State, merely to prevent Great Britain being shorn of her maritime forces, or of her Indian Empire. The conclusion to be drawn from these reflections is that war in our time is bound to be a struggle for national existence, in which everything is risked, and in preparation for which therefore no conceivable exertion must be spared.

It is worth observing that the absolute form of war is deduced not from any of the changes in weapons or in the organisation of armies, but from the entrance of nations into the arena which was before occupied by "sovereigns and statesmen." The dynastic form of war was a courtly duel, which went on until the first wound, whereupon honour was satisfied, reparation made, and the episode closed. The national form is a bitter quarrel, and a fight which ends only when one or the other combatant lies prostrate and helpless at the mercy of his foe, whose first anxiety will be to prevent the beaten enemy from ever recovering sufficient power to be able to renew the quarrel with hope of success.

This is no doubt an extreme view. Even in the bitterest international quarrel there are elements that tend to modera- tion. But the extreme which has just been described is at present the one towards which the balance inclines, and it is worth setting forth, if only for one reason, that it has been fully considered by every statesman in Europe except those of our own country, none of whom have ever given signs of even a nodding acquaintance with it. This tendency of modern war to extremes is the fact that gives such immeasurable im- portance to the right kind of preparation, and makes it, above all things, necessary that a Cabinet of civilians should have as its thoroughly informed and trusted advisers the best naval and the best military strategist that the nation pos- sesses. To have selected Lord Wolseley as Commander-in- Chief is a good thing; to bring him into the closest relation with the Prime Minister would be better, and the best thing that the Government could possibly do would be to find him a naval colleague, his equal in reputation, experience, and ability, and endued with an authority over the Navy co-ordi- nate with that which the Commander-in-Chief exercises over the Army.