The Many Faces of War is a well-researched, creative, historical, mythological and academic look at war, in the cold and often harsh light of trauma, damaged brains, mythology and a very broad sweep of literature. It cast a light on the shadows lurking in dark, hidden and often unspoken corners of our minds, souls, our faces and the timeless and historical territory of the battlefield.
The recent resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis reminds us that serving the nation at the strategic level is not an amoral activity, nor a place where realism pushes ethics off the stage or where Machiavelli is more useful than Aristotle. A lot has been written on the meaning of Secretary Mattis's resignation pointing out, correctly, that his was a principled resignation. But few say exactly what those principles are.
For me, a close reading of his resignation letter and understanding his reasoning can reveal how closely related are the strategic and the moral.
In November 1862, in the wake of the Union victory at Antietam, President Lincoln fired his general-in-chief General George B. McClellan, for failing to pursue Robert E. Lee’s defeated (and much smaller) Army of Northern Virginia. Fifty-seven years before, in 1805, the Emperor of Austria Francis II fired, and then imprisoned for two years, “the unfortunate General Mack” whose epic blunders at the Battle of Ulm precipitated the surrender of 25,000 Austrian troops to Napoleon.
To create an environment where this was feasible—where officers could use individual judgment and yet cooperatively further the overall objective — the Navy sought to strengthen the ability and effectiveness of officers but to do so within a standardized framework.
B.H. Liddell Hart is considered by some to be the Clausewitz of the 20th century, and his most important book, Strategy: The Indirect Approach, is recognized as a seminal work of military history and theory. It is widely studied in elite military institutions the world over for an understanding of the higher direction of war. Liddell Hart in this book stressed movement, flexibility, and surprise as cardinal elements of victory, which even now remain relevant to the conduct of war.