Saturday, June 14, 2008

The War of the Future


Reasons to Believe the Percentage of Killed and Wounded Will Diminish.

In the first place, human nature is ever the same, and the extent to which it can be modified, strengthened, and, in a word, improved, for military purposes is comparatively small.

In the second place, both the opponents will possess practically equally efficient means of dealing forth death and wounds.

In the third place, the figures of the range cannot be applied to the statistics of the battlefield without great deductions. One or both of the contracting armies would enter into action after a preliminary march in heavy order. The nerves and judgment of the combatants would be disturbed by the constant rain of bullets and the crash of bursting shells. The delicate operation of fixing the time fuses would be hindered by shaking hands and beating hearts. In short, the difference between firing at an enemy who does not reply and one who does, between firing at a silent foe and one who is firing at you, would be sensibly felt.

Though all statistics lead one to believe that the percentage of killed and wounded in an army will rather diminish than increase in the battle of the future, still there is no doubt that certain battalions, brigades, divisions and army corps will in some cases be nearly annihilated. There is no absolute rule about combining the offensive and the defensive, and circumstances must dictate to a commander whether he shall assume the passive defensive, the defensive offensive or the purely offensive. Those, therefore, who so loudly extol the active offensive fail to see that the attitude of a commander must depend upon circumstances which the greatest ability cannot always control.

Subject to strategical considerations and the direction of the enemy's advance, they can choose and strengthen a strong position considerably, can destroy cover for the enemy in his advance and keep the assailants stationary under fire, entanglements, pickets, inundations and other obstacles not easily destroyed by the attackers' distant artillery fire. The defender can ascertain the ranges from all parts of the position to spots likely to be occupied or advanced over by the enemy, and especially to all probable artillery positions. Finally the defender can, from the nature of things, make better arrangements for the supply of ammunition. — Edinburgh Review.

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