Sound Military Decision
by U.s. Naval War College
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. The original book used bold face as a means to find the index entries. This has not been reproduced in this e-book. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -


U.S. Naval War College

Naval Institute Press Annapolis, Maryland

This book is the 1942 edition of a book originally published in 1936 by the U.S. Naval War College.


Sound Military Decision 1

Index 227

Sound Military Decision

U.S. NAVAL WAR COLLEGE Newport, Rhode Island

November 30, 1941

SOUND MILITARY DECISION was first published at the Naval War College in 1936. It included the essential features of THE ESTIMATE OF THE SITUATION which, since 1910, had been issued at intervals in a series of revised editions. The new material that was added in 1936 was intended to assist in enlarging the viewpoint and in broadening the basis of professional judgment.

Primarily intended for the purposes of the Naval War College, this work is the cumulative result of years of untiring and loyal effort on the part of the College staff and student body. Equally important have been the advice and assistance contributed by other officers of wide professional experience and attainment.

The objective has been a brief but inclusive treatment of the fundamentals of the military profession, i.e., the profession of arms. The emphasis, naturally, is on the exercise of mental effort in the solution of military problems, more especially in our Navy. An enormous literature has been consulted, and research has included all available and pertinent military writings. Care has also been taken to include, from civil sources, the findings of those authoritative works which deal with related matters and with the applicable underlying truths.

In a work of this type and scope, it is manifestly not possible to illustrate the abstract text by historical examples and analogies. These are complementary features of the War College resident and correspondence courses; provision for the necessary historical background is otherwise the concern of the individual student.

In this edition of SOUND MILITARY DECISION no radical changes have been made; the revision has been confined to rearrangement and amplification of the subject matter.

E.C. KALBFUS, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, President.


Through the studied employment of the Natural Mental Processes

(Foreword) The Scientific Approach to the Solution of Military Problems


PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT in its relation to the successful Conduct of War

(Chapter I) Command and its Problems

(Chapter II) Mental Processes and Human Tendencies






(Ch. VI) THE FIRST STEP The Estimate of the Situation The Decision

(Ch. VII) THE SECOND STEP The Detailed Plan


(Ch. VIII) THE THIRD STEP The Directives

(Ch. IX) THE FOURTH STEP The Supervision of the Planned Action]


(See Chart on page XXXX)



Science of War—Scientific Investigation—Fundamental Considerations—Art of War—Scientific Method—Leadership and Training—Sound Decision—Judgment—The Approach to the Solution of Military Problems—Fundamental Philosophy—Technique of Solution—Process of Education—Outline of the Discussion.



I Command and its Problems 7

The Implementation of National Policy—The Primary Function of the Armed Forces—Military Strategy and Tactics—Command of the Armed Forces—Unity of Effort—The Chain of Command—Mutual Understanding—Indoctrination.

II Mental Processes and Human Tendencies 19

Natural Mental Processes—The Necessity for Logical Thought—Principles in their Relation to Logical Thought—Value and Limitations of Lists of Principles of War—Formulation and Use of Principles—Summary of Fundamental Considerations.

III Basic Principles Applicable to Military Problems (The Fundamental Military Principle) 29

Review of Conclusions—Procedure—Suitability, Feasibility, and Acceptability—Fundamental Principle for Attainment of an End—Interdependency of Factors—Special Nature of War—Factors in War—The Objective in War—Military Operations—Salient Features—The Fundamental Military Principle—Corollaries.

IV The Application of the Fundamental Military Principle (Objectives—Their Selection and Attainment) 43

The Basis for Solution of a Military Problem—The Major Components of a Military Problem—Essential Elements—Selection of Correct Military Objectives— Determination of Effective Military Operations—Physical Objectives—Relative Positions—Apportionment of Fighting Strength—Freedom of Action—Summary.

V The Four Steps in the Solution of a Military Problem 79

A Situation—The Incentive—The Assigned Objective—The Motivating Task—The Natural Mental Processes—The Approach to the Solution—The First Step—The Basic Problem—Tasks— The Mission—Survey of Factors of Fighting Strength—Courses of Action—Reflective Thinking—Naval Operations—Analysis and Selection of Courses of Action—The Decision—The Second Step—The Third Step—The Fourth Step—Sequence of Events in the Four Steps—The Use of a Form in the Solution of Problems—Conclusion.


VI The Selection of a Correct Objective (Including the Determination, in Proper Detail, of the Action Required for its Attainment) The First Step—The Solution of a Basic Problem (The Estimate of the Situation) 117

Process of solving a Problem—Sections of the Estimate Form—Establishment of the Basis for Solution of the Problem—Determination of Suitable, Feasible, and Acceptable Courses of Action—Examination into the Capabilities of the Enemy—Selection of the Best Course of Action—The Decision.

VII The Resolution of the Required Action into Detailed Operations (The Second Step—The Solution of Subsidiary Problems) 155

Assumptions—Alternative Plans—Application of the Essential Elements of a Favorable Military Operation— Testing for Suitability, Feasibility, and Acceptability— Formulation of Tasks—Organization of Task Groups— Application of the Fundamental Military Principle to the Determination of Objectives embodied in Tasks—Assembly of Measures for Freedom of Action—Preparation of Subsidiary Plans.


VIII The Inauguration of the Planned Action (The Third Step—The Formulation and Issue of Directives) 183

Scope of the Third Step—Military Plans and Military Directives—Essentials of Military Directives— Restatement of the Decision—Standard Forms for Plans and Directives—The Order Form—Types of Naval Directives.

IX The Supervision of the Planned Action (The Fourth Step) 197

Nature of the Discussion—Goal of Planning—Importance of Execution—The Incentive—Conditions in War— Recognition of New Problems—Nature of Readjustments Required—Importance of the Will of the Commander— Problems Involving Modification of the Basic Plan— Problems Challenging Integrity of Basic Plan—Further Procedure Applicable to such Problems of the Fourth Step—The Running Estimate of the Situation—Journal and Work Sheet—Special Remarks as to Entries—Summary.



Outline Form of an Operation Plan 219 Tabular Form of the Estimate of the Situation 222

*INDEX 227

* Not included in the limited issue for use in Part I of the Correspondence Course.


From the earliest days of recorded history, the facts associated with military operations of the past have been constantly studied. The result has been the accumulation of a mass of information from which conclusions have been drawn as to the causes of success and failure. Although scattered through countless volumes, and nowhere completely systematized and classified, this accepted body of knowledge constitutes the basis for the science of war.

Scientific investigation—that is, the collection, verification, and classification of facts—follows the recurrent procedure of successive analysis, hypothesis, theory, and test. The application of this process to the campaigns of history reveals fundamentals common to all, irrespective of whether the sphere of action has been land, sea, or air. In the ceaseless struggle for supremacy between the offense and the defense, great technological changes have taken place. The successful conduct of war, however, has always depended on effective operations for the creation or maintenance of favorable military situations, whose essential elements have remained unchanged throughout the years (see page 46).

These fundamental considerations (see page 28), whatever the detailed form of their presentation, are the basis for the successful conduct of war. The need of such a basis has been felt from very early times. It was not, however, until the early part of the Nineteenth Century that students of warfare appear to have recorded the view that the conduct of war is susceptible of reduction to scientific analysis, and that only through a reasoned theory can the true causes of success and failure be explained.

Such a scientific analysis of any subject has for its chief practical aim the improvement of the art, or practice, of that subject. Forming an important part of the science of war are those new developments in weapons and in other technological fields which, with the passage of time, have brought about great changes in methods of waging war. It is only through founding the art of war—the application of the science of war to actual military situations—on the fundamental truths discovered through the science of war, that changes in method, due to technological evolution, can be made most effective.

In preparing for war, the only practicable peacetime tests are usually restricted to those afforded by examples of the past, by problems such as chart (map) and board maneuvers, and by fleet and field exercises. While the military profession can afford to neglect none of them, such tests can never be conclusive. This fact, however, far from justifying resort to any other procedure, emphasizes the necessity for utilization of the scientific method in order to arrive at conclusions which are as exact as possible.

An exact result is, of course, the aim of all scientific research, but exactitude necessarily depends on the establishment of correct relationships among facts which have so far come to light. Consequently, there is great variation in the degree of accuracy which actually characterizes the several sciences. If it be maintained that only those studies which have resulted in exact conclusions may properly be regarded as sciences, then it can hardly be said that many sciences, now regarded as such, exist; for the findings of medicine, biology, chemistry, and even physics are continually being revised in the light of new data.

The science of war necessarily includes knowledge gained in other fields. In war, as in medicine or any other practical activity, the more inclusive and dependable the body of knowledge available as a basis for action, the more probable it is that the application of this knowledge, the art (page 1), will be effective.

Realization of these facts has led to renewed emphasis on the scientific approach to the solution of military problems. The fallacy of staking the future upon the possible availability of a military genius in time of need became clear when it was appreciated that more than one nation, hitherto victorious in arms, had been defeated and humiliated when genius no longer led its forces.

There followed in the military profession a conviction that, although extraordinary inherent capacity can be recognized and utilized when known to exist, it is safer and wiser to develop by training the highest average of ability in leadership than to trust to untrained "common sense" or to the possible advent of a genius. History has abundantly proved the folly of attempting, on any other basis, to cope with the unpredictable occurrence of genius in the hostile leadership. With the actual exercise of leadership in war restricted to the reality of war, there is emphasized the need of peacetime training—training of subordinates in efficient performance, and, more important, training of those who will be placed by the State in positions of responsibility and command.

Campaigns of the Twentieth Century reflect the intensity of mental training among the armed forces of the greater powers; the planning and conduct of war have acquired a precision, a swiftness, and a thoroughness before unknown. The study and analysis of past campaigns, the sifting of technical details from fundamental truths, and the shrewd combination of the theoretical and the practical form the basis of this training.

The proper solution of military problems requires the reaching of sound decision as to what is to be done. Upon the soundness of the decision depends, in great part, the effectiveness of the resulting action. Both are dependent on the possession of a high order of professional judgment, fortified by knowledge and founded on experience. Theoretical knowledge supplements experience, and is the best substitute in its absence. Judgment, the ability to understand the correct relationship between cause and effect, and to apply that knowledge under varying circumstances, is essential to good leadership. Professional judgment is inherently strengthened by mental exercise in the application of logical processes to the solution of military problems.

The approach, presented herein, to the solution of military problems is intended to assist the military profession in reaching sound decisions as to (1) the selection of its correct objectives, the ends toward which its action is to be directed under varying circumstances; (2) planning the detailed operations required; (3) transmitting the intent so clearly as to ensure inauguration of well-coordinated action; and (4) the effective supervision of such action.

The student of war will find in these pages a fundamental military philosophy whose roots go down to very ancient times. In the technique described for the solution of military problems, experienced officers will recognize a system with which they are already familiar. This system, constantly under study to improve its details, has been in use in our military Services for many years.

The foundation of this philosophy and of the system for its practical utilization rests on the concept of relative or proportional values. In the military environment, change, rather than stability, is especially to be expected, and the relationships existing among the essential elements of a military situation are, in fact, the significant values. Such values, themselves, vary with the viewpoint of the person concerned. Accordingly, because of the difference in objectives (defined above), what is strategy as viewed by a commander on a higher echelon may have more of a tactical aspect to those on a lower (page 10). Immediate objectives and ultimate objectives (page 54) can scarcely be understood in their true proportions unless the point of reference is clear. The point of view of the commander, as established by the position he occupies in the chain of command, is, therefore, to be taken into consideration in every phase of the solution of a problem,—in the determination of the appropriate effect desired (page 43), of relative fighting strength (page 35), and of courses of action and the detailed operations pertaining thereto (page 88).

On the basis of these facts, instantaneous and easy understanding of all the elements involved is not to be expected. Were such understanding possible, the expert conduct of war would be one of the easiest, instead of one of the most difficult, of human activities. It is only through a gradual assimilation of its fundamentals that the profession of arms is to be mastered. A process of true education is involved,—that of enlarging the viewpoint and broadening the basis of professional judgment (see page i),—and its essentials are the proper foundation for any system of self-improvement in the exercise of mental power. There is no easy road to the goal of military effort.

Part I, hereafter, discusses professional judgment in its basic relation to the successful conduct of war. This treatment examines the responsibilities of the armed forces, discusses the role of the commander, indicates the natural mental processes employed in the solution of military problems, formulates and explains the Fundamental Military Principle, and concludes with an outline of the procedure for its further application in Parts II and III.

Part II is concerned with the solution of the problems encountered during the planning stage.

Part III discusses the execution of the plan,—the directives and the supervision of the action,—but the treatment as to details is chiefly from the standpoint of the mental effort. During hostilities the vital issues which hinge on alert supervision create an accentuated demand for the intelligent exercise of professional judgment. Its possession to a highly developed degree and its exercise on a foundation of knowledge and experience, are prerequisite to attainment of the highest standards in the conduct of war.

The following pages are intended, therefore, to provide a fundamental basis upon which the commander, by thoughtful study and reflection, may develop his professional judgment to the end that its exercise result in sound military decision, essential alike to wise planning and to consistently effective action.





The Foreword, preceding, has explained the scientific approach to the solution of military problems. It has been brought to notice that the science of war can be utilized to further sound military decision and, so, to improve the practice of war, i.e., the art of war, whether under assumed or actual conditions. The Foreword has also stressed the importance of education for the development of judgment in the application of mental power to the solution of military problems.

Chapter I, which now follows, deals with the armed forces in their relation to national policy, and discusses, specifically, the role of the commander with respect to the use of mental power as a recognized component of fighting strength. Emphasis is placed on the important subjects of military strategy and tactics, unity of effort, the chain of command, authority and responsibility, organization, mutual understanding, loyalty, and indoctrination.

The Implementation of National Policy. Organized government exists for the purpose of bringing into systematic union the individuals of a State for the attainment of common ends. The primary national objective (page 3) is the ensurance of envisaged prosperity and of essential security for the social system which is the fundamental basis of the community. Whatever the form of government, the power and authority of the State are vested in an individual, or in a grouping of individuals, whose voice is the voice of the State. In the prosecution of the chief aim of organized government, the State crystallizes the many conflicting desires and views of its people into policies, internal and external. Each policy is a method of procedure for attaining one or more national objectives.

Internal policies are rendered effective by enforcement of the laws of the State.

External policies, to become effective, require recognition by other States, tacitly or by agreement. When there is conflict between the policies of one State and those of another, peaceful means of settlement are usually sought.

If peaceful (diplomatic) means fail to settle the point at issue, the State abandons the policy in question, defers action to enforce it, or adopts stronger measures. Such measures may take the form of psychological, political, or economic pressure. They may even include the threat to employ armed force before actually resorting to the imposition of physical violence. During actual hostilities, also, every means of pressure known to man, in addition to physical violence, may be employed.

Whether the use of armed force to impose or to resist the imposition of policy constitutes a legal state of war is a political question which does not affect the tasks the armed forces may be called on to perform. War, therefore, is to be understood herein as any condition in which one State employs physical violence against another, or against an organized part of itself which may be in rebellion.

By agreement among nations, effort has been made to discountenance aggressive warfare. The distinction between aggression and self-defense is, however, not a matter of agreement. War is still employed as an instrument of national policy. No nation has, as yet, manifested willingness to relinquish the right to employ armed force in resisting aggression, nor the right to decide what constitutes self-defense. States still maintain and employ armed forces as a means of promoting and expanding, as well as of defending, their welfare and interests.

The Primary Function of the Armed Forces. Whether war is an ethical institution is not a matter within the purview of the armed forces. Their primary function is, when called upon to do so, to support and, within the sphere of military effort, to enforce the policy of the State. The performance of this function constitutes the chief reason for their existence.

The fundamental objective of the armed forces is, therefore, the reduction of the opposing will to resist. It is attained through the use of actual physical violence or the threat thereof (page 7). This fact constitutes the underlying motive of every military plan, whether for the conduct of a minor or contributory operation, or for the prosecution of a major campaign. The final outcome is dependent on ability to isolate, occupy, or otherwise control the territory of the enemy, for land is the natural habitat of man (page 46). Since opposition is to be expected, the military problem is primarily concerned with the application of power—mental, moral, and physical—in overcoming resistance, or in exerting effort to resist.

The application of power implies effort, i.e., the exertion of strength. The mental, moral, and physical power at the disposal of the armed forces depends on the effort which can be exerted by the human and material components of their fighting strength.

The skillful employment of fighting strength, as a weapon more effective than the enemy's under a given set of circumstances, is the goal toward which the armed forces direct their effort. The elements of the material component—arms, ammunition, and other equipment—are indispensable. They are impotent, however, without the direction and energy supplied by the human component, its moral and mental elements nicely balanced and judiciously compounded with physical fitness. A true concept of the art of war will insist that the necessity for the achievement of a high standard of technical and administrative skill not be permitted to outweigh the need for maximum development of other mental attainments, and of the moral components of fighting strength.

The moral elements include all the essential attributes of personal character, and more especially those qualities of courage, loyalty, decisiveness, modesty, patience, tolerance of the opinions of others, and fearlessness of responsibility which are characteristics of true military leadership. The maintenance of a high ethical standard is essential to the establishment and continuance of mutual confidence.

The qualifications essential to the proper application of the mental elements include a creative imagination and the ability to think and to reason logically, fortified by practical experience and by a knowledge of the science of war. An unmistakable mark of mental maturity is the ability to distinguish between preconceived ideas and fundamental knowledge. Intellectual honesty, unimpaired by the influence of tradition, prejudice, or emotion, is the essential basis for the effective employment of mental power.

The numerical size of the armed forces, in their correct perspective as an instrument of the State, as well as the extent to which they are supplied with material components of fighting strength, are matters to be determined by the State after consultation with the responsible military authorities. The development of the essential military qualities of the instrument is the special charge of the armed forces. It is their task to weld the assemblage of men, armed and maintained by the State, into an harmonious whole, skilled in technique and imbued with a psychological and mental attitude which will not admit that any obstacle is insuperable.

The Advisory Function. Understanding between the civil representatives of the State and the leaders of the armed forces is manifestly essential to the coordination of national policy with the power to enforce it. Therefore, if serious omissions and the adoption of ill-advised measures are to be avoided, it is necessary that wise professional counsel be available to the State. While military strategy may determine whether the aims of policy are possible of attainment, policy may, beforehand, determine largely the success or failure of military strategy. It behooves policy to ensure not only that military strategy pursue appropriate aims, but that the work of strategy be allotted adequate means, and be undertaken under the most favorable conditions.

These considerations require that the military profession be qualified, through the possession of mental power, clear vision, and capacity for expression, to advise the State in military matters. There is thus accentuated the need for mental training, as set forth previously in the Foreword.

Military Strategy and Tactics. Military strategy as distinguished by objectives (page 3) representing a larger, further, or more fundamental goal, is differentiated from tactics in that the latter is concerned with a more immediate or local aim, which should in turn permit strategy to accomplish its further objective.

Consequently, every military situation has both strategical and tactical aspects. The nature of the objectives to be attained at a particular time, and the action to be taken to that end, may be governed chiefly by strategical, or chiefly by tactical, considerations. Whether an operation is distinctively strategical or tactical will depend, from the standpoint of the commander concerned, on the end which he has in view.

To attain its objective, strategy uses force (or threatens such use) (see page 8) as applied by tactics; tactics employed for a purpose other than that of contributing to the aims of strategy is unsound. Proper tactics, therefore, has a strategic background. Definition of tactics as the art of handling troops or ships in battle, or in the immediate presence of the enemy, is not all-inclusive. Such a view infers that the field of battle is the only province of tactics, or that strategy abdicates when tactics comes to the fore.

Actually, while tactical considerations may predominate during battle, their influence is not confined to the immediate presence of the enemy. Tactical dispositions are frequently adopted for convenience, for time saving, or for other reasons, long before entry into the immediate presence of the enemy. Nor do strategical considerations end when battle is joined. Tactics, unguided by strategy, might blindly make sacrifices merely to remain victor on a field of struggle. But strategy looks beyond, in order to make the gains of tactics accord with the strategic aim. Strategy and tactics are inseparable.

It is thus the duty of tactics to ensure that its results are appropriate to the strategic aim, and the duty of strategy to place at the disposal of tactics the power appropriate to the results demanded. The latter consideration imposes upon strategy the requirement that the prescribed aim be possible of attainment with the power that can be made available.

Consequently, while the attainment of the aims of strategy, generally depends upon the results gained by tactics, strategy is initially responsible for the success of tactics. It is therefore in the province of strategy to ensure that the attainment of tactical objectives furthers, exclusively, the aims of strategy, and also that the tactical struggle be initiated under conditions favorable for the attainment of the designated objectives.

Command of the Armed Forces. The initial requisite to the effective use of the armed forces is an agency authorized to direct them.

Command directs the armed forces. It is vitalized and personified in the commander, the human directing head, both of the whole and of organized groupings in descending scale of importance. Its responsibility, during peace, is the perfection of the armed forces to the point of readiness for war and, during the conflict, their effective employment.

Training for command, to be effective, is necessarily dependent upon an understanding of the position occupied by the commander, and of the role which he plays. Accordingly, this understanding is an essential in the study of that aspect of command training which has as its purpose the development of ability to reach sound decision.

The ideal of military command combines the best of human qualities with sound knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the armed forces. It recognizes in war a form of human activity whose conduct, like that of all other human activities, is subject to natural law. It applies to the mastery of the problems of war, therefore, the natural mental processes of human thought (see Chapter II); it adapts these natural processes to a specific purpose, and consciously develops their use to the maximum degree for the attainment of this end. As command ascends the scale, its viewpoint broadens. Experience and added knowledge, with increasing authority and responsibility, lead to a concept of war more and more comprehensive, with the resultant growth in ability to evolve and put into effect a general plan for the effective control of collective effort.

Unity of Effort. An objective is best attained by effective application of properly directed effort, exerted by a single individual or by groups of individuals. Where individuals are collectively concerned, unity of effort is the most important single factor contributory to the common success. The basic condition to be sought by the armed forces is an harmonious whole, capable of putting forth combined effort, intensified in strength because of the collective feature, and rendered effective by its unity.

The Chain of Command. Within the limits of human capacity, an organization can exert its combined effort with greater effect the more closely the exercise of command represents the act of a single competent commander. To divide the supreme command in any locality, or to vest it in a body rather than in an individual, is necessarily to diffuse responsibility. In that degree there is then incurred the danger, through confusion of wills and ideas, of delaying decision and of creating corresponding diffusion of effort.

Realization of this danger has led the military profession to entrust command, subject to justifiable exceptions (see page 71), to a single head, while ensuring, by careful selection and training of personnel, that competent individuals are available for this duty. Although this method is in seeming conflict with the restriction imposed by recognized limitations of human capacity, the difficulty is effectively met through the chain of command, whereby responsibility is assigned and authority is transmitted without lessening of ultimate responsibility. Responsibility and authority, the latter properly apportioned to the former, are inseparably inherent in command, and may not justifiably be severed from one another.

In the abstract, the chain of command consists of a series of links, through which responsibility and authority are transmitted. The supreme commander is thus linked with his successively subordinate commanders, and all are disposed on, so to speak, a vertical series of levels, each constituting an echelon of command.

By means of the chain of command, a commander is enabled to require of his immediate subordinates an expenditure of effort which, in the aggregate, will ensure the attainment of his own objective (page 3). He thus assigns tasks to his immediate subordinates, whom he holds directly responsible for their execution without, however, divesting himself of any part of his initial responsibility. The accomplishment of each of these assigned tasks will involve the attainment of an objective, necessarily less in scope than that of the immediate superior but a contribution to the attainment of the latter.

The character and magnitude of the objective of the highest echelon involved will have considerable bearing upon the number of echelons required for its attainment. Whatever the number, a commander on a particular echelon occupies the position of an immediate subordinate to a commander on the next higher echelon, and that of an immediate superior with relation to a commander on the next lower echelon. Within these confines, authority is exercised and accomplishment exacted, both to the extent calculated to ensure unity of effort.

There may frequently be found two or more commanders occupying coordinate positions on the same echelon, all with the same immediate superior, and all charged with loyalty to him and to each other in the attainment of a common objective. In no case, however, will a commander be directly answerable to more than one immediate superior for the performance of the same duty. Thus is fulfilled the requirement that the command, although relatively narrower in scope as the scale is descended, be reposed in a single head.

The experience gained and the knowledge acquired during early service on the lower echelons provide a basis for later expansion of viewpoint, a better understanding of the position occupied by the subordinate and of the obligations of higher command, including its dependence on subordinates. As the echelons of command are ascended, the details involved become more and more numerous, because of the increased scope of the problems. On the higher echelons, therefore, staff assistance is provided so that the commander may be left free to consider matters in their major aspects. The staff of a commander is not, however, a part of the chain of command; its members, as such, exercise no independent authority.

A chain of command is not created by the subdivision of the officer corps into grades on a basis of relative rank. Such subdivision is for the purpose of classification from the standpoint of potential competency and capacity for responsibility, and carries no authority to command by virtue of rank alone. Organization, systematized connection for a specific purpose, is first necessary.

The armed forces, during peace, are usually subdivided into permanent major organizations for the purpose of attaining and maintaining readiness for action. From the several grades of the officer corps, a permanent chain of command is instituted by the process of organization, the supreme command being reposed in a commander-in-chief. The basis of the permanent organization is that chosen as best suited to attain and maintain readiness. Its choice requires consideration of many factors, such as the types of weapons and vessels, their intended uses, and their capabilities, severally and in combination. Further specific demands are met by temporary arrangements effected through "task organization". Whether the organization be permanent or temporary, its establishment places in effect a chain of command applicable to that organization throughout its continuance.

Habitual and studied adherence to the chain of command in administrative matters, in consultation, in the exchange of information, and in the issue of directives is essential to mutual understanding, and therefore to unity of effort. The right of a commander, however, because of the responsibility he shoulders, to deal directly with subordinates more than one echelon removed is not relinquished because of the existence of the chain of command. Circumstances may arise which require him to issue orders directly to any person under his command. Fully aware, however, of the value of unity of effort, and recognizing that failure to deal through his immediate subordinate, no matter what the exigency, cannot but tend to weaken the chain of command, he will, as soon as the state of the emergency permits, inform intervening commanders of the action he has been compelled to take.

Mutual Understanding. The chain of command, though providing the necessary linkage, does not of itself ensure that the command organization will be adequate, nor can it ensure that unity of effort will result. To meet the requirement of adequacy, there is needed in the person of each commander not only the ability to arrive at sound military decision, to plan, and to direct the operations of his command, but also an appreciation of the position which he occupies in his relationship to his immediate superior, on the one hand, and to his own immediate subordinates on the other. To meet the requirement of unity of effort, it is also essential that there exist a state of mutual understanding throughout the chain of command.

Loyalty is not merely a moral virtue; it is a great military necessity. To establish and to cultivate a state of mutual understanding from which will flow mutual loyalty born of mutual confidence (page 9) are prime obligations of command. Within the limits of responsibility and resultant authority, individual initiative will follow. On a foundation of intelligent cooperation and resolute determination, the acts of the lowest commander will be in accordance with the desires of the highest. This, in effect, will constitute unity of effort, accomplished through the vesting of command in a single head.

The final aim of mutual understanding is attained when, in the absence of specific instructions, each subordinate commander in the chain acts instinctively as his immediate superior, if present, would have him act, and also cooperates intelligently with commanders occupying coordinate positions on the same echelon. For this reason there is need, on all echelons, of a complete grasp of the significance of the relationship between immediate superior and immediate subordinate, and of the obligations of each to the other.

The proper relationship is such that a subordinate, even though separated from his commander, can confidently take action as if the latter were present. To this end, the competent commander will earlier have cultivated the personal relationship between his immediate superior and himself, and between himself and his subordinates. It is through such close relationship that mutual understanding is best developed and harmony promoted, so that intelligent and cordial unity of effort may exist among the personnel of a command.

The commander, however competent, necessarily relies on his subordinates. Recognizing the psychological factors involved, he will therefore manifest confidence in their abilities, display sympathetic interest in their efforts, and evince pride in their achievements. He will also exercise patience with the mistakes which will inevitably occur, without condonement, however, of disaffection, neglect, or carelessness. The commander may reasonably expect, by the same token, that this attitude will characterize his immediate superior.

In the absence of his superior, and faced with a changing situation, a commander may be forced to the conclusion that his assigned task requires modification or alteration. Conditions permitting, he will of course communicate with proper authority, and will make constructive representations. If he is without adequate communications facilities, or if circumstances have imposed restrictions on communications facilities otherwise available, he takes action according to the dictates of his own judgment, guided by the known views of his superior. On occasions when he believes that the immediate situation so requires, he may even depart from his instructions. He realizes that in so doing he accepts the gravest of military responsibilities. At the same time, however, he recognizes that to fail to take the indicated action may disclose a lack of the higher qualities of courage, judgment, initiative, and loyalty (page 9). He will, of course inform his superior of his action at the first available opportunity. In the meantime, he has been enabled to act intelligently and fearlessly because of the existence of a state of mutual understanding.

Indoctrination. Both the necessary process and the final result of establishing a state of mutual understanding are sometimes known as indoctrination.

The word carries the dual meaning of "the act of indoctrinating" and "the state of being indoctrinated". In common with the word doctrine, it has its root in the Latin verb which means "to teach". A doctrine, in its pure meaning, is that which is taught, or set forth for acceptance or belief.

It does not follow that every doctrine is necessarily sound, nor that it is founded on conviction reached as the result of intelligent thought. Nor is the encouragement of a belief, by means of the spread of a doctrine, necessarily inspired by good motives. The preaching of doctrine known to be false is frequently encountered in many human activities. The deliberate spread of false propaganda is an example. But, whatever the motive and whether the doctrine be sound or false, the act of indoctrination is intended to shape opinion and thus influence action.

Manifestly, to be along permanently useful lines, indoctrination flows from sound philosophy, i.e., is rooted in truth. All teachings, all opinions that may be advanced, all expressions of viewpoint, i.e., all doctrine, is therefore to be scrutinized, first from the standpoint of validity, and then from that of usefulness of application. It is the responsibility of command to ensure that these conditions are met before doctrine is pronounced.

Military doctrine, in its broad sense, is a digest of the accepted beliefs of the military profession. In a narrower sense a military doctrine may be confined to the views of a single commander on a specific subject. The object of military doctrine, however, is always to furnish a basis for mutual understanding to the end that prompt and harmonious action by subordinate commanders may ensue without the necessity for referring every problem to superior authority before taking action (page 15). Doctrine thus provides a basis for action in possible situations when, for whatever reason, precise instructions have not been issued.

The term "doctrine" is inappropriate as a description of the content of orders or instructions prescribing specific methods of action for a particular tactical operation in a situation existent or assumed under circumstances of the moment. The precise instructions thus issued, though they may be the result of doctrine, and may themselves constitute a basis for development of doctrine, are manifestly of the nature of something ordered rather than presented as authoritative opinion.

In the broad field of the conduct of war, with its diversified demands, a common viewpoint as to the application of fundamentals is an essential to unity of effort. If the members of the military profession have this common viewpoint, their reasoned beliefs as to the best general methods of waging a particular war may be expected more nearly to approach unanimity. The attainment of unity of effort therefore calls for an understanding of fundamentals (page i), a basic indoctrination which is not only sound but also common to all commanders of the chain of command.

Wars come and go. Their effects are painful, but when their wounds are healed mankind is prone to forget and to hope, even to assume, that peace will henceforth be unbroken. Psychological and economic forces then not infrequently impel the State to subordinate the national defense in favor of other interests. During such periods the burdens of command are enlarged. Its responsibility is not lessened, but the means for effective discharge thereof are withheld.

The effective conduct of war thus requires that understanding exist (see pages 9 and 10) between the civil representatives of the State and the leaders of the armed forces in the coordination of policy with the preparation and the use of power to enforce it. Of the leaders of the armed forces, as a whole or in combinations, such conduct of war demands the expression of the highest of human qualities, coupled with intimate knowledge of fundamentals, an appreciation of the capacities and limitations of the technique, and the ability to fit the practical details into the general plan in their true relation thereto.

The need for these qualities is manifestly not restricted to the hour of supreme test, when the weapon of the State, the armed forces, is wielded with hostile purpose. The forging of the weapon, and its adequate preparation for use, are not matters susceptible of deferment until the crucial hour. The exacting requirements of war are essentially such as to preclude the readiness of the requisite intricate instrument and its skillful use without previous studied effort during peace.

It follows that where the peacetime effort of the armed forces is directed toward the attainment of a war time objective of a specific, rather than of a vaguely general character, and the necessary components of fighting strength are provided accordingly, the readiness of the instrument is more likely to be adequate, and the application of power more likely to be successful. History records, as facts, that certain States have given their armed forces great stimulus by early clear definition of policy while, in other cases, failures and disappointments have resulted from a lack thereof. Military problems are not confined to those presented after war is begun.

Mental power (see pages 8 and 9), which includes the ability to solve military problems in peace and in war and to arrive at sound decisions, is a recognized essential component of fighting strength because it is the source of professional judgment. The development of such ability in those who may be charged with the successful conduct of war (page 4) may not safely be postponed.



The discussion in Chapter II deals, first, with the natural mental processes employed by the normal mature human being before taking deliberate action.

With the necessity for logical thought thus established, there arises a need for valid statements of cause and effect, i.e., of relationships resulting from the operation of natural laws, for use as reliable rules of action. The discussion of this subject explains the dangers inherent in the use of faulty rules, emphasizes the role played by the various factors applicable in particular cases, and describes the method of formulating reliable rules, i.e., principles.

All living beings and their surroundings are understood, on the basis of informed authority, to be governed in their characteristic activities by natural law (page 11). The natural forces inherent in living things and in their environment are continually reacting upon each other, either maintaining the existing condition or creating a new one, each of which is a situation or state of affairs. There is thus always a relationship (page 3) existing between such natural forces and the resultant condition which they produce. The natural forces are causes; the resultant conditions are effects.

It is a recognized natural phenomenon that every effect is the result of a certain cause, or of a combination of causes, and that each effect is itself, in turn, the cause of additional effects. Action and reaction are the basis of natural law. Cause and effect, the latter being the cause of further effects, follow each other in ceaseless succession in the world of human affairs.

Except by putting proper natural causes into action, it is impossible to produce the effect desired. It follows that specific knowledge of causes is necessary for the planned production of specific effects. Toward the accumulation of such knowledge the methods of science (pages 1 and 2) are constantly directed.

The uncertainties of war are largely the outgrowth of the fact that the minds of men are pitted against one other. Because of this, a knowledge of the manner in which the human mind seeks its way out of difficulties is a great military asset. Consideration is next given, therefore, to the natural mental processes employed (page 11) and to certain human tendencies which have been known to militate against their successful employment.

The mental processes employed by the normal mature human being before taking deliberate action, or in making studied provision for possible future action, are natural procedures, in that they employ the intellectual powers bestowed by nature, without artificial modification or embellishment.

When the individual concerned has a background of adequate knowledge and experience, his ability to solve problems is limited only by his native intellectual endowment. That he falls short does not necessarily indicate, however, that the limit of native endowment has been reached. It happens frequently that latent powers have not been cultivated, or have not been utilized.

A problem is, by definition, a perplexing question. In any human activity, a problem appears when a perplexity arises as to a way out of a difficulty inherent in a situation. The question involved then is, what is a way, more especially the best way, out of the seeming difficulty?

To determine the best way out of the difficulty, i.e., the best solution of the problem, involves:

(1) The establishment of the proper basis for the solution of the problem,

(2) The actual solution of the problem through the employment of the reasoning power in the consideration of various possible solutions and the selection of the best solution, and

(3) The conclusion, i.e., the decision, embodying the best solution.

Considered in greater detail, the process has its inception in a combination of circumstances, existent or assumed, which, constitutes a situation. No problem will result however, unless the situation involves an apparent difficulty. Even in such a case, a problem will result only if such involvement exists and gives rise to a perplexity as to a way, more especially as to the best way, out of the seeming difficulty.

The problem will require solution only when accompanied by an incentive which demands a changed situation or resistance against a threatened change. A recognition of the incentive thus necessarily involves realization of a desire or need to maintain the existing situation or to change it into a new one.

Such realization may come on the initiative of the person confronted with the situation, or because he has received instructions from someone in authority. In either case, the effect so indicated is the outcome of a desire for change or for resisting change, and may therefore be regarded properly as an effect desired (page 19).

As so far outlined, therefore, the establishment of the correct basis for the solution of the problem involves (1) a grasp of the salient features of the situation, (2) a recognition of the incentive, and (3) an appreciation of the effect desired.

The "appropriate" effect desired will necessarily be suitable to the further effects (page 19) which are inherent in the situation. An effect to be attained is accepted as appropriate when, after due examination, its relationship with the further effects involved, in all their pertinent implications, has been found to be in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment.

The establishment of the basis for the solution of the problem will also require an understanding of the resources involved, as influenced by the conditions obtaining, for the maintenance of the existing situation or for the creation of a new one.

The resources available, as influenced by the conditions obtaining, are correctly considered on a relative basis as compared to those of any persons who may oppose the effort.

With the basis for the solution of the problem established in this manner, the actual solution involves the consideration of one or more plans, i.e., proposed methods of procedure, and the selection of the one considered to be the best.

The person concerned, taking cognizance of the present condition, i.e., the existing situation, first considers whether this situation, if maintained, will be suitable to the appropriate effect desired. Then, unless satisfied that he desires no change, he creates one or more images of future conditions, i.e., mental pictures of new situations, which will also be suitable to this end. The maintenance of the existing situation, or the creation of a new one, will in each case involve a plan.

Necessarily, each such plan includes provision for (1) an effect to be produced by the person solving the problem, which effect will be the maintenance of the existing situation or the creation of a new one as visualized by himself, and (2) the action required to produce this effect and so to attain the appropriate effect desired, already established as an essential part of the basis of his problem.

After systematic examination of such plans, those retained for further consideration can be subjected to a comparison as to their relative merits.

The best plan, selected accordingly, is then incorporated into a decision as to the procedure to be adopted.

This decision is then available as a general plan, or may be developed into one, to serve as a basis if necessary for a more detailed plan for the attainment of the appropriate effect desired.

Later development, herein, of the details of this procedure will disclose many ramifications. The treatment, so far, points to the fact that the best method of reaching sound decision is through systematic thought which employs logic, i.e., sound reasoning, as its machinery.

The Necessity for Logical Thought. Logical thought separates the rational from the irrational. Its use avoids the wastefulness of the trial-and-error method. By its insistent employment, dormant powers of reasoning are awakened, and the danger that attends instinctive, spontaneous, impulsive, or emotional acceptance of conclusions (page 9) is lessened. The evil effects of an inclination to dodge the issue or of a disinclination to face the facts are thus also avoided. The fallacy of employing the reasoning power to justify conclusions already reached, whether on the basis of tradition or habit, or because of the bias or bent of a school of thought, or because of the tendency of human nature to accept plausible suggestions, is also made apparent. Through the deliberate practice of testing and weighing, the faculty of arriving swiftly at accurate decisions is strengthened and is brought more quickly into play when time is a matter of immediate concern.

Principles in their Relation to Logical Thought. Because of the necessity for the exercise of judgment (page 3) in the systematic arrangement of thought, the relationship between cause and effect, as expressed in principles, is of great assistance in applying logical processes to the problems of human life.

A principle establishes a correct relation between cause and effect. The word, derived from the Latin "principium", meaning a foundation, beginning, source, origin, or cause, has, because a cause implies an effect, acquired in correct usage the significance of a true statement of relationship between cause and effect. A principle, so formulated, is a natural law (page 19) because it expresses a fact of nature; it thus becomes a reliable rule of action and may be confidently adopted as a governing law of conduct. If basic in its field, such a rule or law becomes a general or fundamental principle with respect thereto; each such basic truth may be the basis for the determination of many corollary or subordinate principles dealing with the details of the particular subject.

The formulation of a principle, therefore, requires the determination of the causes that generate a particular effect (or effects), and the accurate expression of the resultant relationship. Such expression frequently takes the form of a proportion. In the mathematical sciences the proportion may represent a precise balance; its statement may be an exact formula. In other sciences, a definite relationship between cause and effect has likewise been established in many cases, though not always with mathematical precision. Comparable exactitude has not been attained, in some cases, because the field has not been so thoroughly explored; moreover, greater difficulty is experienced, at times, in isolating the cause, or causes. The balance represented by such equations, therefore, is based on quantities whose weights vary within wide ranges. (See page 3.)

Human conduct does not lend itself to analysis as readily as do mathematical and physical phenomena. The advance in the psychological and sociological sciences is not so marked as in the physical, and the actions and reactions of the mind of man have not yet proved to be susceptible of reduction to exact formulae. Nevertheless, man, in his intuitive search for valid guides for his own action, has been able, with the advance of time, greatly to improve his own lot through the medium of the scientific approach to human problems.

The insistent search of the human mind for reliable rules of action is a recognized natural phenomenon. As understood on the basis of expert investigation of the subject, this trait results from the recognition, conscious or otherwise, by countless generations of mankind, of the relationships between cause and effect as evidenced in the workings of the laws of nature (page 22). A logical outcome, therefore, of experience, this instinctive demand of the mind constitutes a force which defies opposition. Properly utilized, this force affords a powerful and natural aid in the solution of problems.

Inasmuch as a valid rule, or principle, is of great assistance in arriving at sound decisions and in formulating effective plans (see page 22), this demand for reliable guides is logical, as well as natural. In any event, the demand for such guidance, if not met by provision for reliable rules of action, may result in the adoption of faulty rules, with frequent unfortunate consequences.

The formulation of principles, already referred to in this connection, constitutes in itself a recognized problem (see also page 27) of great difficulty; for it is a human failing to avoid the mental effort involved in thinking through such a problem, and to rely on rules whose plausibility and seeming simplicity are frequently a measure of their incompleteness and inaccuracy.

Since the earliest days, man has attempted to formulate the relationships between causes and effects without, however, always possessing the specific knowledge essential to accuracy. Pithy statements have always had great appeal to man, as evidenced by the existence of proverbs, maxims, and adages preserved from times of great antiquity. Frequently, however, such statements are not expressive of the truth. Sometimes, again, they state facts, without, nevertheless, expressing the whole truth.

Only when the relationship between cause and effect has been demonstrated to be always true can the trained, inquiring mind receive its statement as a valid guide, acceptable as a principle in the light of the knowledge of the day.

To rely upon rules of action which do not express the whole truth is to court the danger of encountering exceptions which may entail serious consequences. The value of those rules known to be inexpressive of the whole truth lies in the fact that they may invite attention to circumstances which are sometimes encountered, or may suggest methods of action which are sometimes appropriate. Danger lies in the fact that such rules may fail to give proper emphasis to other circumstances or other methods which are encountered or are more appropriate in other cases.

Such a rule may fail to consider the entire problem. Its use, therefore, implies the necessity of recognizing cases to which it is not applicable. This may frequently be difficult in the active operations of war, when nervous strain and the urgency of events are handicaps to quick and accurate thinking (see page 22).

To express the whole truth, a rule of action calls to attention all circumstances, or causes, which may ever influence the result. The saying that "the exception proves the rule" is properly interpreted only in the older sense that an exception "tests" the rule, indicating by the mere fact of exception that the rule is to such extent incomplete.

Subject to variations of phraseology, the old adage "circumstances alter cases" is the sole reliable and fundamental rule of action. A corresponding maxim of the military profession, "It depends on the situation", has its root in recognition of the same fact, i.e., that the action taken in any situation depends, properly, on the circumstances of the case, and that the relationship between cause and effect (page 22) is always the governing consideration. The principles deduced hereafter (Chapter III) have these irrefutable findings as their foundation.

Factors. A situation is by definition (page 20) a combination of circumstances, which are the effects of certain causes. To these causes, the term "factors", long in use in the military profession, is customarily applied in many other activities. Through their influence as causes, these factors operate to produce, as their effects, the circumstances which, in combination, constitute the situation. A combination of factors, therefore, gives to each situation its distinctive character, differentiating it from other situations.

To maintain an existing situation, it is necessary to preserve, in total effect, the influence of factors already present, or to introduce new factors to offset the influence of any which tend to cause a change. To change the situation, it is necessary to introduce factors which will exert the desired influence; or, change may be effected by altering the influence of factors already present. To say, therefore, that "It depends on the situation", as in the maxim cited (above), is to state that under all circumstances, the proper action depends on, or is determined by, the influence of the factors involved. Any valid rule, or principle, will accordingly take into account the factors applicable to the case.

The application of any rule will similarly take into account the influence of the particular factors involved. The danger of the application of such factors to all circumstances, without due circumspection as to their value in the existing situation, lies in the fact that, in any particular combination of circumstances, they do not necessarily carry equal weight.

If this view be accepted, it follows that in many situations certain factors may, after mature deliberation, be rejected, or relegated to a relatively inferior status, without detracting from their potential value as fundamental considerations (page 1) in all situations.

Value and Limitations of Lists of Principles of War. The human preference for catchwords has, by many writers on the science and art of war, been extended to the attempted condensation of a principle or of several principles into a single all-inclusive word or phrase. As a result, varying lists of abstract nouns and phrases have been advanced to constitute epitomes of the principles of war. Subject to minor differences in number and in designation, the list most frequently encountered comprises The Objective, Superiority, The Offensive, Economy of Force, Movement, Cooperation, Surprise, Security, and Simplicity.

To rely on a list of this nature, as a condensation of the fundamentals of war, has been known to cause confusion and to result in failure to recognize the principles which are intended to be brought to mind.

For example, misunderstanding has resulted from the designation of the single word, surprise, as a "principle of war". On the one hand, it has been denied that surprise embodies a principle, the reason being advanced that it is neither always necessary, nor feasible, nor even desirable to attempt to obtain surprise. On the other hand, the acceptance of the word surprise (see page 73), as itself expressing a universal truth (which it of course does not except by inference), has been known to result in the incorrect belief that surprise is always essential to success. Action based on such a viewpoint is the equivalent of applying general treatment to specific cases, regardless of circumstances.

Thus there have resulted distortions of the simple fact that a relationship exists between the employment of the unexpected, and the creation of a disadvantage which will hamper an opponent. The correct formulation of a principle, or of several principles, governing the employment of surprise, will result in a definite statement that its appropriate employment is dependent upon the various factors (page 25) that make up the situation, the influence of each of which requires evaluation in each separate situation.

Analysis, in like manner, of the so-called "principle of the objective" as a "principle of war" will show that the objective of a military force is, in itself, no more a principle of war than the direction of a physical force is, in itself, a principle of mechanics. Both concepts, however, involve certain matters of fact which can best be explained by principles. Such principles take note of the factors pertaining to the subjects, and indicate the underlying relationships in a manner to be later shown herein.

Certainly the preceding list (above) of isolated expressions includes no item which, in the abstract, may not properly be considered as possibly vital from the strategical and tactical standpoints. But that these expressions are always vital, and that there are no other considerations, can scarcely be accepted as final. Even if this objection could be removed by the inclusion of all factors well known to be vital, the fact would still remain that these expressions, standing alone, fail to satisfy the real need; i.e., they fail to indicate any practical application of the concepts which they are intended to imply. They do no more than provide a useful point of origin for further inquiry. When understood on this basis, they possess a certain value.

* * * * *

The concept underlying the application of principles is correct with respect to military problems, as well as for all others (page 22). This purpose, however, cannot be served by a mere collection of nouns or noun-phrases. Such expressions make no statements of cause and effect. Their meaning is therefore left to inference and to the idiosyncrasy of individual interpretation. The formulation, moreover, of useful principles cannot be satisfactorily established by the more-or-less random selection of matters, however important, pertaining to the subject at hand. What is required is a systematic analysis of the essentials of the subject, with resultant emphasis on the fundamental causes and effects whose relationships are to be expressed.

Formulation and Use of Principles. The formulation of a principle, referred to previously (page 24) as itself a difficult problem, requires a citation of the factors pertaining to the subject. On the basis of these factors as causes, the principles, when properly formulated, also state the effects which may properly be expected. (See page 22.)

The relationship between causes and effects, or between effects and their causes, may be expressed in various ways. The requirement is that the expression be one of fact and that, if the principle purport to cover the entire subject, all of the pertinent facts (page 24) be stated, though not necessarily all the details involved.

* * * * *

In addition to the principles of general application (Chapter III), the later discussion herein includes numerous other principles, with reference to matters of detail (pages 22-23). To some of these principles the treatment invites special attention. All principles included have been phrased with due care, to ensure conformity with the requirements above stated. The preferred form, herein, for the usual statement of cause and effect is through the use of phraseology such as that certain effects "depend on" or are "dependent on" certain causes, or that certain causes "determine" certain effects, or that the latter "are determined by" certain causes.

From the standpoint of the exercise of judgment, it is a principle that the due determination of effects to be produced depends on the proper consideration of pertinent factors. Once the principles applicable to any subject have been formulated in necessary detail, the evaluation of the cited factors with respect to a particular situation becomes the vital procedure as to any problem where that subject is involved. In the course of this evaluation, corollary or subordinate principles may be of assistance (page 22). In military problems, however, the evaluation usually involves many factors not susceptible of reasonably exact determination by the use of formulae (see page 23). In such cases, experience, education, and training afford the only secure basis for judgment which will produce reliable conclusions. The principles, therefore, provide reliable guides by citing the factors to be evaluated in order to arrive at desired results, but the principles cannot replace logical thought in the evaluation of the factors.

In formulating principles (see also page 23) as practical guides for action, as well as in using them when formulated, failure to give consideration to all pertinent factors may result in vitiating the effort based on their application. Danger also lies in the fact that any particular factor will infrequently have the same value—the same influence on the situation—in any two problems (page 25). Therefore, in each situation, each factor requires to be weighed in connection with the others. The soundness of the resulting conclusion will depend on the extent of the knowledge available (page 2) and on its useful employment.

Summary of Fundamental Considerations. The factors (page 25) involved in determining the nature of an effect and of the action to attain it become fundamental considerations (page 25) when it is desired to arrive at such a result under a particular set of circumstances.

The relationships obtaining between the desired effect and the action to attain it, on the one hand, and the factors involved, on the other, are best expressed in the form of principles. The next chapter is therefore devoted to the development of basic principles applicable to military problems.



(The Fundamental Military Principle)

On the basis of the previous discussion as to the natural mental processes and as to principles useful in their employment, Chapter III discusses the requirements for the attainment of an end in human affairs.

The fundamental principle thus derived is then applied to the needs of the military profession, so as to develop the Fundamental Military Principle. This Principle indicates the requirements of a correct military objective and of the action for its attainment.

Review of Conclusions as to Principles. On the premise that all human activities and their environment are governed by natural laws (page 22), the preceding chapter has been devoted to an analysis of the natural mental processes employed in meeting the problems of human life. This analysis has stressed four fundamental truths:

(1) That a valid rule, or principle, when complete, embraces all known phenomena pertinent to the relationship established.

(2) That the logical application of principles to particular incidents will take account of all the factors of the principles, and of all known conditions of the incidents.

(3) That such principles afford great assistance in arriving at sound conclusions, and that the human mind, if without access to such valid guides, tends to adopt faulty rules in the effort to serve the same purpose.

(4) That rules of action, however, even though they be valid, cannot be depended upon to replace the employment of logical thought.

Procedure for Developing Military Principles. Logically, the next stage in the treatment of this subject is to develop certain basic principles applicable, more especially, to the solution of military problems.

The development of such principles starts, on the basis already established in this discussion, with a reference to the natural mental processes used by the normal mature human being before taking deliberate action (page 19). Under such circumstances, the person who is to solve the problem has first to establish a basis for his solution.

To arrive at this basis, which involves an understanding of the appropriate effect desired, the person concerned requires a grasp of the salient features of the situation, a recognition of the incentive, and an appreciation of the effect which he has been directed to produce or has adopted on his own initiative. To complete the basis for his solution, he also requires an understanding of comparative resources as influenced by the conditions obtaining at the time.

During the actual solution of the problem, the person concerned takes cognizance first, of the existing situation, picturing it in his mind. Then, unless satisfied that he desires no change, he creates for himself mental images of future situations. The pictured condition decided upon after consideration of the pertinent factors involved, be it the situation to be maintained or a new situation to be created, constitutes an effect he may produce for the further attainment of the appropriate effect desired, already established as an essential part of the basis of his problem. (See page 25.)

With the existing situation and a new situation now clear, what action is he to take to change the one into the other? Or, if no change is desired, what action is he to take to maintain the existing situation? What acts or series of acts should he decide upon, plan in detail, inaugurate, and supervise (page 3), to attain the effect which he has envisaged for the further attainment of the appropriate effect desired?

The correct solution of problems therefore hinges on the requirements involved in the effects to be produced and in the action to produce them. If these requirements are ascertained, a principle can be formulated as a valid guide for the solution of human problems.

Requirements for the Attainment of an End. The discussion to this point has established the fact that an end in view, a result to be produced, an effect desired, is very closely connected with a further effect which the attainment of the former is intended to produce. Human motives spring from deep-seated incentives often derived from distant sources, so that, even when the person concerned is acting wholly on his own initiative, he will rarely, if ever, be uninfluenced by some further effect desired, inherent in his situation (see page 19).

An end in view, therefore, from the viewpoint of the person who is endeavoring to visualize its accomplishment as a method for attainment of a further aim, will necessarily achieve such further aim, or at least contribute to its achievement. The first requirement, accordingly, of such an end in view is that it be suitable to any further aim, whatever that aim may be. It may be said, therefore, that a correct end in view satisfies the requirement of suitability as to the appropriate effect desired, whatever this further effect may be.

Important as suitability is, however, a reasonably responsible person will recognize that this consideration, alone, does not satisfy all requirements. An end in view remains a mere desire, without possibility of attainment, unless such a result is practicable of accomplishment. A correct end in view, therefore, satisfies also the requirements of feasibility.

Consideration of feasibility calls for a survey of comparative resources (page 30). Such a survey will cover the extent of the resources (means available) of those making the effort, as compared to the resources (means opposed) of those who may oppose it. Full account is also to be taken, as to feasibility, of the natural and artificial conditions which the effort will encounter before it can produce the contemplated result. The responsible person will ask himself where the effort is most likely to be successful, and what obstacles, in addition to those represented by opponents, he will be required to surmount. The effects of such conditions may alter the ratio otherwise presented by comparative resources.

Consideration of the characteristics of the field of action may thus disclose features which will greatly influence the possibility of accomplishment, as well as the character of the effort to be made, from the standpoint of feasibility. The second requirement, therefore, is that of feasibility with respect to comparative resources, i.e., the means available and opposed, as influenced by the physical conditions prevailing in the field of action.

Although believed to be both suitable and feasible, the requirements for the attainment of an end are not yet completely established. There is still required a reckoning of a profit-and-loss account of the whole undertaking, to estimate whether it will be advantageous. What will be the cost, and what will be the gain? Is the effort worth while? Or should one be content with venturing less and gaining less? What is the bearing on possible future action? The consequences as to costs, always important considerations in dealing with human problems, are frequently the paramount determinant. The third requirement, therefore, is acceptability with respect to the consequences as to costs.

These requirements invite attention to the factors, already discussed, whose influence (see page 25 as to factors) determines the character of the effort required to attain an end.

The Fundamental Principle for the Attainment of an End. Here, then, are the broad fundamental considerations which affect the solution of every human problem. In a narrower field, the considerations may fall within more specific limits, but a principle sufficiently broad to be applicable to all cases appears to comprehend those inclusive factors mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

A review of these paragraphs will disclose that the factors pertaining to the several requirements may be so grouped as to constitute a single fundamental principle governing the attainment of an end in human affairs,—as follows:

In any human activity, the attainment of a correct end in view depends on fulfillment of the requirements of

Suitability of the end in view, as determined by the factor of the appropriate effect desired,

Feasibility of the effort required, on the basis of comparative resources, as determined by the means available and opposed, influenced by the factor of the physical conditions prevailing in the field of action, and

Acceptability of the results of the effort involved, as determined by the factor of the consequences as to costs,

which factors are in turn dependent on each other.

The Interdependency of the Factors. As previously observed (page 28), the factors cited in the foregoing principle are themselves interdependent. This fact results from working of natural law (page 22), for it is a recognized phenomenon that every effect is the result of certain causes, and that every effect is itself, in turn, the cause of further effects (page 19).

Accordingly, when the evaluation of any factor is under consideration, its value as an unknown quantity can be determined to the extent that the values of the other pertinent factors are known. (See page 23, as to the discussion of the quantities in an equation.) The significance of each, in any situation, is therefore determined by the influence of the other factors. The relationships existing among them can best be expressed in the terms of four corollary principles (page 27), next to be discussed.

* * * * *

For example, questions frequently arise as to what is the appropriate effect to be desired in a particular situation. Whether a desired effect is feasible of attainment, and whether certain consequences, though undesirable, will be acceptable, in view of the gains, can be determined by evaluation of the means available and opposed, influenced by the physical conditions prevailing in the field of action, and of the consequences as to costs. If a desired effect is thereby found to be not feasible of attainment, or to be unacceptable as to consequences, deferment of such effort is indicated. A proper solution in such case would adopt some lesser effect, in conformity with the further aim, feasible of accomplishment, and acceptable as to its consequences.

If (with respect to the further aim, mentioned above) the person concerned is acting under the instructions of another, there will frequently be injected into the equation, in addition to the factors already noted, a further effect desired, indicated by higher authority. Such an indication will often operate to narrow the limits of the problem. This is true even if the person concerned is acting wholly on his own initiative and responsibility (pages 29-30).

These considerations lead to the formulation of what may be called the corollary principle for determination of the appropriate effect to be desired in human affairs,—as follows:

In any human activity, the appropriate effect to be desired (i.e., an end in view, a result to be accomplished) depends on fulfillment of the requirements of

Suitability of the end in view, as determined by the factor of the further effect desired (if such further effect is indicated),

Feasibility of the effort to attain the end in view, on the basis of comparative resources, as determined by the factors of the means available and opposed, influenced by the factor of the physical conditions prevailing in the field of action, and

Acceptability of the results of the effort involved, as determined by the factor of the consequences as to costs.

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If, to take a further example, the known factors include the appropriate effect desired, the means opposed, the physical conditions prevailing in the field of action, and the consequences as to costs, the only unknown remains the means available. The question then is, what means need be made available for the accomplishment of the contemplated effort? The answer to this question may be found in the application of what may be called the principle for the determination of the proper means to be made available in human affairs,—as follows:

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