The Science Of War

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"The Science of War" Possibly the hardest thing to explain is how some leaders so fundamentally misunderstand the implications war.

The president of the United States is George W. Bush. Here is a man who snorted cocaine while in high school, dodged the draft when he was eighteen, and was known as a womanizer and an alcoholic by his peers. He was a failure with his business, and while he was governing Texas, it was consistently rated as one of the worst states for education. As his presidency began, our economy took a downward turn. It has been argued that Bush would be unable to find his way out of a burning phone booth without the aid of his advisors. And now, in what is perhaps one of the most significant turn of events in world politics in the last twelve years, (some might argue longer) he is seen on the television, promoting a war against an evil that he cannot name and has never seen.

The only thing we can guess is that war will involve violence, probably on a large scale.

It is no wonder that when I read certain passages in Tolstoy's "War and Peace", I am reminded of many issues that have arisen due to the recent disasters in the United States. In particular, the descriptions of the battle techniques, and the planning that the Russian officials use in wartime, all seem to echo different misjudgments and idiosyncrasies that similarly pervade the rhetoric of military officials today.

One example of this is when Prince Andrew reevaluates his interpretation on the phrase "military genius", (pp. 572) and realizes that there is, indeed, no such animal. Military genius is a phrase bestowed upon those who are in positions of power; those who give orders and are met (luckily) with favorable results. The people who have real sway in the outcome of battle situations are the petty officers who are personally committing each act of war. Assuming the existence of free will (past the orders of superiors), these are the men who are responsible for what they do, (as is anyone) and in this case, that is make war.

It seems necessary to reevaluate the definition of the word war. Webster's: WAR. (wôr) 1. A state or period of armed conflict between nations, parties, or states. 2. The techniques of war; military science.

. . . The dictionary definition of war is not as exact in detailing it's implications, which generally include suffering, death, loss, destruction, and direct fallout as a result.

Prince Andrew, after leading his troops through Bogucharovo, gains new respect for Kutuzov (pp. 664) The respect he gains comes from a realization that Kutuzov is not looking for personal or political gain in his involvement in the war. He is simply working in the interests of what he can best divine is right and just. What lies underneath such an attitude of "hear(ing) everything, remember(ing) everything, and put(ting) everything in it's place," is a sense of exactitude, of knowing only what is known, and acting upon nothing else.

This knowledge elicits from Prince Andrew a different response then his earlier, more jaded reaction. He is comforted by the general's sense of calm, because with it lies a sort of wisdom. Why, indeed, should one act irrationally when a sea of events presenting themselves one after another require nothing but equal consideration and carefully measured response? Sadly, it seems that not all of humanity is capable of a simple, measured response to each and every stimuli that affects us. Perhaps it is our selfishness, or our greed, or our egos that inevitably surface among us in times of great grief or suffering. The leaders of the United States seem to have few reservations about throwing out words like "war" and "evil". They are only human, and their experiences (in the broadest sense of the word) are the only tools they have to make decisions with. In this specific case, regardless of what proof they have, their principle aim is to let people know that they are ready for action. Supposing General Kutúzof were the President of the United States, it seems unlikely that he would jump to go to war. Surely his passion and love for his nation would seem threatened, and surely he would grieve; but Kutúzof would most likely wait until he knew enough about the situation to make a necessary choice. That choice, also, would be based upon the experiences of his life. Supposition considered, it is a wonder to think that two human minds would react so very differently to the same situation. Logically such differences can be explained by the differences between the experiences and influences in the lives of George W. Bush and General Kutúzof. Both grew up in different areas with different role models, different families, different educations, different lovers. Another "˜tolstoyism' comes to mind. " assume a beginning of any phenomenon, or to say that the will of many men is expressed by the actions of any one historic personage, is in itself false." (pp.732) This is part of Tolstoy's idea that no one man controls history, as history is the cumulative story of all mankind, and therefore is utterly uncontrollable. Any one incident in a historic timeline cannot be imbued with too much meaning. To do so would be to betray how grand history is, how extraordinarily complex yet connected it is. To take one aspect and attribute it to the whole of history is one thing: to imply that that same thing is a cause of something (or anything) greater is intrinsically false.

Now we apply Tolstoy's philosophies of history to our original thesis: Possibly the hardest thing to explain is how some leaders so fundamentally misunderstand the implications war. What we have additionally learned is that leaders themselves are disposed toward making decisions based on the situation in which they find themselves, and the way they have lived, and what they know as a result of that. In short, countless factors affect the outcome of these decisions that are made by leaders. So all in all, their misunderstandings of war, and what war does to people, are inevitable pieces of history. We cannot give blame entirely to these influential people who happen to be the same ones that we study hundreds of years later. Although the different details may vary, we can know in some essential way that all leaders are bound to do what they do.