A Dozen Military Epigrams (1901)
"By the Editor"
Published in the United Service magazine, Vol. XXIII [New Series], April 1901 to September 1901, 1901 (Reprinted from the Army and nacy gazette of April 13th, 1901).
1. Strategy is the science of handling troops in the theatre of war so that they shall as often as possible be where the enemy least desires or expects them.
2. Tactics is the art of handling troops on the battlefield so that they shall incur the minimum loss compatible with inflicting the maximum upon their opponents.
3. Strategic mobility is the product of organization and endurance.
4. Tactical mobility is the product of "battle-drill" and personal courage. For its results it depends upon the general proficiency of units and the skill or instinct of individuals.
5. The Art of war is the application of common sense to the "use of ground;" upon the principle that ground enables us to conceal our weakness and to use our strength.
6. Fitness for command is displayed by those who having military brains of their own know also how to utilize those of others.
7. Councils of war are usually the offspring of incompetence and heralds of disaster.
8. A "Strong-man" is one whom anyone can convince but whom nobody can persuader. Councils of war may sometimes assist such men; but to the obstinate they are useless and to the weak dangerous.
9. The Right thing to do is the most efficient compromise between the ideal and the practicable.
10. Consistency is better than brilliancy—an inferior plan well executed is preferable to a good one hindered by vacillation.
11. Good fortune is better than brains. The possession of both is rare, but where it is found the combination is invincible—while it lasts.
12. Greatness, in the eyes of contemporaries, is measured by success. Posterity sometimes pays due homage to merit.
Hannibal was ruined at Zama, Napoleon at Waterloo, yet posterity almost forgets the victors in its admiration for the greater careers of the vanquished. perhaps at the "Warrior's Club" in Elysium, Hannibal and Napoleon stand on the hearth-rug, whilst Scipio, Wellington and Blucher listen reverently to expositions on the art of war! So, also a number of our generals may some day sit at the feet of De Wet.