In 1784 an innocuous-appearing German professor in Konigsberg published a short article. The professor’s name was Immanuel Kant, and the article had the tortuous and eminently German title of “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent.” In it Professor Kant took issue with the current Enlightenment fiction that if society could only get rid of a few more evils, Utopia was just around the corner. Utopia, he said, will never arrive. Progress there is and undeniably so. But every step forward to a new level of progress, every solution to one generation’s difficulties, brings with it a new set. Each era has to solve its own problems, and in doing so it uncovers or even creates problems for its successors. World War II certainly created as many problems as it solved; in fact, as most wars seem to do, it may have created more. That does not mean it was not worth fighting, or need not have been fought. Evil does exist in the world—it undeniably existed in Hitler’s world of death camps and extermination groups—but without the possibility of evil, there is no true choice and no true freedom. In its basic definition, “Freedom” means the right to choose one’s own way to die. The servants of the dictators left that choice to their masters and fought and died for causes that even they themselves often found odious. The men and women of the free nations who fought World War II chose their own doom. If they could not destroy every evil, they destroyed the most vicious of their day. If it is part of the sadness of the human condition that they could not solve the problems of their children’s generation, it is part of the glory of it that they so resolutely faced their own.
In any specific action we always have the choice between the most audacious and the most careful solution. Some people think that the theory of war always advises the latter. That assumption is false. If the theory does advise anything, it is the nature of war to advise the most decisive, that is, the most audacious. Theory leaves it to the military leader, however, to act according to his own courage, according to the spirit of the enterprise and his self-confidence. Make your choice, therefore, according to this inner force; but never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.
—CARL VON CLAUSEWITZ,
Die Grundsätze des Kriegführens
(PRINCIPLES OF WAR), 1812
Classification of officers
I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
Chief of the Army High Command, Hammerstein-Equord.
And on the Prussian topic, remember that the Germany military was – by tradition – apolitical: simply the sword and shield of the state. And I think we all know how conservative and traditional Prussians are. They simply weren’t philosophers (as Liddell-Hart put it), and were unable to deal emotionally and intellectually with someone like Uncle Adolph. It made them better soldiers, perhaps, but lesser human beings. Maybe that’s the difference between being reared in a democracy vs. an autocracy: subservience of conscience to the state vs. subservience of the state to conscience.
On January 30, 1965, more than a million admirers of Sir Winston Churchill poured out into the streets to say their last grief-stricken good-byes to the great man who had saved all our lives and the civilization we cherish, and whose memory has become part of the heritage of the free world.
Churchill had died six days earlier from a stroke at the age of ninety. Crowds lined the streets in silent respect for Britain’s greatest wartime leader, as a gun carriage bearing his coffin left Westminster and the procession moved slowly through central London for his funeral service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then 321,360 mourners, including his widow Lady Clementine, his son Randolph, and his daughters Mary Soames and Lady Sarah Audley filed past his coffin as he lay in state for three days. Her Majesty the Queen attended with members of the royal family and the prime minister. Representatives from 112 nations came to the service. Then Churchill’s coffin was piped aboard a launch for a short trip on the Thames to Waterloo, where thousands more met the locomotive named after him. He was finally buried at the parish church of Bladon near Blenheim Palace where he had been born and where his extraordinary career began.
His successful leadership revealed what an extraordinarily talented man he was. And apart from his magnificent shepherding of the free world and the Allied forces in the Second World War, with his inputs into military strategies and tactics and wartime innovations, his skills as an author and an orator, he also possessed several unusual qualities for a politician. He considered the long-term consequences, whereas most politicians know that the electorate wants what it wants right away. That was his one mistake as a politician at the end of the war. And it came about because he was entirely genuine, sincere, and honest. That appealed to the British public, who trusted him and called him “Winnie,” with unusual warmth and affection for a politician. But the electorate are fickle. Even so, Winston Churchill is a hero for all time, against whom the memory of others fades.
Poor is the country that has no heroes, but beggared is
that people who, having them, forgets…
If we open ourselves up to the divine Life Force in its physical and spiritual manifestations we are all right, as individuals and as societies of individuals. If, on the contrary, we turn our backs on the God-made universe and insist on living in the home-made, verbal universe of fancies and ideals, imagining that we can improve on nature and make God in our own image, then we ruin our private lives, physically and spiritually, and create societies such as we live in today. Our habit of doing most of our living in a home-made world of words, fancies, and illusions is so deeply ingrained that it requires hard work with special techniques to “get back to where we have always been”—that is to say, to the given reality of Nature and Grace, to things as they really are, in themselves, and quoad nos, in relation to our egos.
If you can’t identify an opposing force, fire a few rounds in their direction.
If they respond with coordinated rifle fire, they’re British.
If they respond with a barrage of machine gun fire, they’re German.
If they do nothing, and ten minutes later you’re killed in an air strike, they were Americans.
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