The methods of waging war have changed over the millennia, but never so quickly as over the past few decades. Some have even suggested that the fission of uranium nuclei at Hiroshima changed the whole character of war, indeed made it obsolete. This is clearly not so. The defeat of the Carthaginians by the Romans was as complete, and from the point of view of the losers, as disastrous, as the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Still, the immediacy of the conflict has been altered. Campaigns which might have once taken years to eliminate an enemy could now take hours or minutes. Even more ominously, a minor power or a madman has the potential to best a professional army, for the development of nuclear arsenals has been concentrated on offense with scant attention paid to defense.
In spite of the old maxim that the best defense is a good offense, armies have in practice also watched their flanks and built perimeter defenses. The history of warfare has been a seesaw battle between offensive and defensive technology. "Unstoppable" weapons -- the bow and arrow, the roman phalanx, the tank -- have always been neutralalized, or at least contained, by new and better defenses.
The same thing is about to happen today with nuclear weapons. If the United States has the will to develop them -- the Soviet Union certainly will -- High Frontier space and land-based defensive systems can effectively neutralize the opposition's nuclear arsenal.
And then? The old conflicts will doubtless continue. New weapons will be developed and new defenses to stop them. In the end it will be the will to win which counts as much as the weapons.
Who desires peace should prepare for war.
War is the only sport which is genuinely amusing. And it is the
only sport which has any intelligible use.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile -- hoping it will eat
Men should stop fighting among themselves and start fighting
We view our atomic arsenal as proudly and as devotedly as any
pioneer ever viewed his flintlock hanging over the mantel as his
children slept, and dreamed.
William F. Buckley Jr.
If you want to know when a war might be coming, you just watch
the U.S. and see when it starts cutting down on its defenses.
It's the surest barometer in the world.
The only good Indian is a dead Indian.
Gen. George Custer
We don't owe the Indians anything. We fought them. They lost.
Genocide means never having to say you're sorry.
Why don't we sell 5 AWACS planes to the State of Florida? That
way they can spot those damn Haitians as soon as they leave port.
Ted Crown, on the Haitian boatlift
The only lesson of the Nuremberg War Trials is the importance of
being on the winning side.
Better pointed bullets than pointed speeches.
Prince Otto von Bismark
In war there is no second prize for the runner-up.
Gen. Omar Bradley
At sea let the British their neighbors defy -- The French shall
have frigates to traverse the sky.
Philip Freneau, The Progress of Balloons, 1784
History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly
unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves,
and soldiers, mostly fools.
History repeats itself. That's one of the things wrong with
When I came back to Dublin I was courtmartialled in my absence
and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot
me in my absence.
A government needs one hundred soldiers for every guerilla it
Fulgencio Batista, Cuban leader overthrown by Castro
The sinister nature of the American soil is apparent in places
like Gettysburg. Fertilize it with the blood of heros, and it
brings forth a frozen-custard stand.
Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only for food:
frequently there must be a beverage.
The Gettysburg Adress has been included, of late, in several
anthologies of poetry. It actually meets the major requirement of
all poetry: It is a mellifluous and emotional statement of the
obviously not true. The men who fought for self-determination at
Gettysburg were not the Federals but the Confederates.
All American wars (except the Civil War) have been fought with
the odds overwhelmingly in favor of the Americans. In the history
of armed combat such affairs as the Mexican and Spanish-American
Wars must be ranked, not as wars at all, but as organized
assassinations. In the two World Wars, no American faced a
bullet until his adversaries had been worn down by years of
I have never met a man [in the military], in or out of uniform,
who ever said, "Let's use the missiles." They are even more
terrified that the Bishops, because a great many of them don't
expect to go to Heaven, which at least the Bishops do.
Clare Boothe Luce
In dealing with Syria's dictator...only force counts. No
cease-fire was attainable in Lebanon until the 16-inch guns of
the battleship New Jersey started shelling Syria's proxies;
suddenly, sweet reason prevailed in Damascus.
If there were 10,000 U.S. forces ashore [in Lebanon], authorized
to move about, there would be less risk to American lives than
there is with an immobile force of 1,300.
I think the President ought to bring everybody that's in
American uniform back because we're headed for war.
Sen. Barry Goldwater, on Lebanon
The people in the Mideast have been fighting since the days of
Abraham. Asking our marines to stop the fighting there is like
trying to change the course of Niagara Falls with a bucket.
Larry J. Hopkins, Republican congressman
France believes in armed intervention by America only when the
intervention is in France to rescue France from occupation by
William F. Buckley Jr.
Mrs. Thatcher responded to our liberation of Grenada with the
sounds of a somewhat hypersensitive Neville Chamberlain.
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
The miracle of Grenada is how quickly the Cuban workers beat
their plowshares into Soviet AK-47s.
Sen. William Cohen
The United States has done something unusual. After too many
years, it has picked up Teddy Roosevelt's big stick and given the
Big Bear and Fidel a swat on their collective butts they will
remember for awhile.
R.W. Scott, Editor, World Oil on the Grenada liberation
These missiles [Cruise and Pershing II] represent a new
generation of missiles whose deployment will help give NATO
first-strike capability. With this first-strike strategy, the
West believes it could attack Russian military installations with
such effectiveness that serious retaliation would be impossible.
Petra Kelly, leader of West Germany's Green party
The worst possible policy for El Salvador is to provide just
enough aid to keep the war [against the leftist guerrillas]
going, but too little to wage it successfully.
Kissinger Commission on Central America Report
In 1979, we thought it would be easier to take power. The
intervention of the United States has changed the circumstances.
Mario Lopez, Salvadoran guerilla leader
To get even inadequate levels of aid for the Salvadoran Army,
Reagan must promise repeatedly that the administration is not
seeking a "military solution" at the expense of a "political
settlement." In plain language, that means giving up a chance for
victry in favor of a negotiated compromise with Marxist-Leninists
who, if abundant history is any guide, will disregard any promise
the moment it is advantageous to do so.
Robert J. Caldwell, Soldier of Fortune
The jelly-bean eating thug says that national defense is
important. But national defense starts at home.
Dick Gregory, bemoaning Reagan's budget priorities
Japanese government leaders, bowing to pressure from the United
States, approved a budget increasing military spending to $771
million...With that kind of money, they could buy at least 12
High Frontier places a bullet-proof vest on our bare chest. High
Frontier is as non-aggressive as a bullet-proof vest. There is no
way to kill anyone with High Frontier -- all that High Frontier
can do is to keep others from killing us.
Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD, works only as long as it
works; it does not know what to do if deterrence fails, for it
envisions no defensive capabilities. A deterrent works until it
is needed; then one needs defenses.
Star Wars -- a scary concept. But not so scary as the though of
nuking cities. These are defensive systems, and defense will no
more cause war than burglar alarms cause burglaries.
Arms control is a worthy enterprise, but it is a means and not
an end. Content matters, although the House pretends otherwise.
Editorial, The New Republic
We can export terrorism. We can assassinate and set fires
inside the territory of the United States as it did to all of us.
Muammar Qadhadfi, Libyan dictator
Alexander III of Macedon is known as Alexander the Great because
he killed more people of more different kinds than any other man
of his time.
An admiral should be put to death now and then to encourage the
Your highness should recollect that Bonaparte has not been twice
in London to teach them.
Lord Dudley, to Prince Metternich when the latter remarked that the common people of Vienna spoke better French than the educated people of London
I love the smell of napalm in the morning...It smells like
Robert Duvall, in the film, Apocalypse Now
So long as the international community consists of sovereign
states, war between them remains a possibility, of which all
governments have to take reasonable account.
Michael Howard, The Causes of Wars and Other Essays
Paradoxically, the few eras of peace were times when men of war
had high influence. The Pax Romana was enforced by Caesar's
Legions. The Pax Brittanica was enforced by the Royal Navy and
His Majesty's Forces.
It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
To talk of atomic energy in terms of atomic bombs is like
talking of electricity in terms of the electric chair.
Peter L. Kapitza
I took the canal zone and let congress debate, and while the
debate goes on the canal does also.
We should keep [the Panama Canal]. After all, we stole it fair
Sen. S.I. Hayakawa
Go pick bananas, we'll run the canal.
Meldrim Thomson, New Hampshire governor to Panamanians
The British Army should be a projectile to be fired by the
Edward, Viscount Grey of Falloden
If you are insulted at the dinner table, don't throw the
decanter stopper at the offender. Throw the decanter!
Lord John Fisher, speaking of the purpose of battleship firepower
The visual impact of a United States battleship springs from its
ability to put Soviet ships on the bottom of the sea and to put
devastating firepower ashore -- nothing else.
John F. Lehman Jr., Secretary of Defense
A gun in the hand is worth any number being tested.
When we jumped into Sicily, the units became separated, and I
couldn't find anyone. Eventually, I stumbled across two colonels,
a major, three captains, two lieutenants, and one rifleman, and
we secured the bridge. Never in the history of war have so few
been led by so many.
General James Gavin
Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.
I could have ended the war in a month. I could have made North
Vietnam look like a mud puddle.
We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole
country and put parking stripes on it, and still be home by
Ronald Reagan, 1966
Viewed as drama, World War I is somewhat disappointing.
The men who make history have no time to write about it.
Prince Clemens von Metternich
There is no record in history of a nation that ever gained
anything valuable by being unable to defend itself.
General, you don't have a war plan! All you have is a kind of
Robert S. McNamara
Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the
Heartland rules the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island
commands the world.
Sir Halford MacKinder, 1919
Before all else, be armed.
It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.
A battle that you win cancels all your mistakes.
Blank cartridges should never be used against a mob, nor should
a volley be fired over the heads of the mob even if there is
little danger of hurting persons in the rear. Such things will be
regarded as an admission of weakness, or an attempt to bluff, and
may do more harm than good.
Wars are caused by undefended wealth.
My dear McClellan:
If you don't want to use the army I should like to borrow it for a while.
Abraham Lincoln, letter to General McClellan in response to his tactics
The soldiers currently manning our sophisticated weaponry have
room temperature IQ's.
G. Gordon Liddy
When I first went into the active Army, you could tell someone
to move a chair across the room. Now you have to tell them why.
I don't want to hear of any of you men getting into any fights
with the British. But if you do, you'd better not get whipped.
Curtis LeMay, to his troops stationed in England during World War II
When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first send the Marines!
Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
But that couldn't happen again
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they've hardly bothered us since then.
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to
John F. Kennedy
A Smith & Wesson beats four aces.
Canada Bill Jones
Boys, it is just like the Alamo. Somebody should have by God
helped those Texans. I'm going to Vietnam.
I wake up 5 a.m. some mornings and hear the planes coming in at
National Airport and I think they are bombing me.
Lyndon B. Johnson
To the meaningless French idealisms, Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity, we oppose the German realities, Infantry, Cavalry,
Prince Bernhard von Bulow
We believe that Americans should have the right to own guns
because traditionally justice has always come from the ballot
box, the jury box, but, if these failed, the cartridge box.
Rep. Steve Symms
Fortune is always on the side of the largest battalions.
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal
The thing constantly overlooked by those hopefuls who talk about
abolishing war is that it is by no means an evidence of decay but
rather a proof of health and vigor.
World War II was the last government program that really worked.
A NATO official recently observed that "Luxembourg's defense
budget is smaller than the Pentagon's phone bill." It's
reassuring to know that the Defense Department at least stays in
Malcolm S. Forbes
It is admirable to go down fighting. It is better to come out on
It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of
vegetarianism while the wolf remains unconvinced.
William R. Inge
The armed forces skimp on training exercises so they can sluice
money into exotic new systems. Detecting and collaring airborne
drug runners, I would think, would be a superb training exercise.
More than that, it would be engaging in the prime function of
the Air Force: defending the U.S.
Malcolm S. Forbes
We want peace with all our hearts. But peace cannot be achieved
Jack Kemp, speech to the Republican Convention
Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you
make your second shot perfect.
Peace is an extension of war by political means. Plenty of
elbowroom is pleasanter -- and much safer.
Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting;
but never hit soft.
Put your trust in God -- But keep your powder dry.
Nobody who's ever been to Gulag is a pacifist.
William F. Buckley Jr.
Maybe we should hold the next [Olympic] games in Afghanistan and
hope the Soviets pull out of that one too.
Johnny Carson, 1984
It ought to be remembered by all [that] the Games more than
2,000 years ago started as a means of bringing peace between the
Greek city-states. And in those days, even if a war was going on,
they called off the war in order to hold the Games. I wish we
were still as civilized.
Those who refuse to support and defend the state have no claim
to protection by that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist
should not be considered "murder" in a legalistic sense. The
offense against the state, if any, should be "Using deadly
weapons within city limits," or "Creating a traffic hazard," or
The Soviet Union needs you! Support a U.S. nuclear freeze.
Dartmouth College Republican poster
The problem is that the East is producing missiles and the West
is producing pacifists.
Every normal man must be tempted at times, to spit on his hands,
hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
The true lesson of the Vietnam War is: certainty of purpose and
ruthlessness of execution win wars.
Pay well, command well, hang well.
Ralph Hopton, Lord Hopton of Stratton, Maxims for the management of an army, 1643
After a battle is over, people talk a lot about how decisions
were methodically reached, but actually there's always a hell of
a lot of groping around.
Frank Jack Fletcher
He defeated the Americans with great slaughter.
General Charles Cornwallis, inscription on tomb in Westminster Abbey
MacArthur is the type of man who thinks that when he gets to
heaven, God will step down from the great white throne and bow
him into His vacant seat.
General Sherman is considered an able man in our parts, though
some people think he is a kind of careless man with fire.
Henry W. Grady
No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught
Frank Knox, U.S. Secretary of the Navy December 4, 1941
It is significant that despite the claims of the air enthusiasts
no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs.
Caption to photo of the U.S.S. Arizona, in the Army-Navy football program, November 29, 1941
Babies Satisfactorily Born.
U.S. Army code message, on the successful test of the atomic bomb at Almagordo, New Mexico
It was accidental suicide.
Vietnamese government announcement, on the death of President Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu
History has shown that men and nations act reasonably only when
they have exhausted all existing alternatives.
Delegate to United Nations
We can do it. What is it?
Motto of British Field General
Our ships have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed
toward the Japanese fleet.
American Radio message, after the Japanese reported that the ships of the Third Fleet were sunk or retiring
That monkey meat is all right, until the animal's hands turn up
on the plate.
If we had to depend of the likes of the U.S. Postal Service to
defend our country, we'd all be speaking Russian.
Anyone who wants nuclear weapons to attack Massachusetts can't
be all bad.
Greg Fossedal, on Meldrim Thomson, the New Hampshire governor who wanted his National Guard to be trained in the use of nuclear weapons
History tends to be partial to the victor.
Germany was responsible for Hitler just as much as Chicago was
responsible for the Chicago Tribune.
Army's rules: 1) If it moves, salute it. 2) If it doesn't move,
pick it up. 3) If it's too big to pick up, paint it.
We'll blast them back into the stone ages!
General William C. Westmoreland
Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the early
twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming
impossible. And as certainly they did not see it. They did not
see it until the atomic bomb burst in their fumbling hands.
H.G. Wells, The World Set Free (1914)
I have seen their backs before.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, when French marshalls turned their backs on him at a reception
The whole art of war consists in getting what is on the other
side of the hill.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
I have already given two cousins to the war, and I stand ready
to sacrifice my wife's brother.
Not by speeches and decisions of majorities will the greatest
problems ofthe time be decided...but by iron and blood.
Otto von Bismark
Nothing should be left to an invaded people except their eyes
Otto von Bismark
Generals are fascinating cases of arrested development -- after
all, at five all of us wanted to be generals.
Sir, a doolie is that insignificant whose rank is measured in
negative units, one whose potential for learning is unlimited.
US Air Force Academy, designation of first-year men
There are also a lot of nice buildings in Haiphong. What their
contribution to the war effort is I don't know but the desire to
bomb a virgin building is terrific.
Commander Henry Urban Jr.
He'll sit there are he'll say "Do this! Do that!" and nothing
will happen. Poor Ike -- it won't be a bit like the army.
Harry S Truman, on Eisenhower's election
A collision at sea can ruin your entire day.
Sovereignity is a lot like pregnancy; either you have it or you
Asking one of the states to surrender part of her sovereignity
is like asking a lady to surrender part of her chastity.
The Germans, a race eager for war.
Seneca, c. 50 A.D.
A "brass hat" is an officer of at least one rank higher than you
whom you don't like and doesn't like you.
Kenneth Claiborne Royall
I was standing next to a famed geo-politician when the first
news of the Argentine attack [on the Faulkland Islands] was
received, and heard him muse incredulously: "An old-fashioned
naval battle. A war between two civilized nations, perhaps with
even a declaration of war, and later a peace conference. Wow." No
hostages, no nukes, no ideologies, no religious fanaticism; just
a fair-and-square war over national interests - hard to believe,
in this day and age.
Genocide: A gentle reminder that God is on the side of the big
No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of
A pacifist is as surely a traitor to humanity as is the most
Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.
Diplomats are just as essential to starting a war as soldiers
are for finishing it.
When PLO sniper fire is followed by 14 hours of Israeli
bombardment, that's stretching the definition of defensive action
I'm beginning to wonder if the symbol of the United States
pretty soon isn't going to be an ambassador with a flag under his
arm climbing into an escape helicopter.
Ronald Reagan, during the 1980 campaign
You may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but
power alone can limit power.
One consolation -- if there is a nuclear war, we won't have to
hear all about it every two seconds on radio and TV.
I do like to see the arms and legs fly.
Colonel George S. Patton III
You can thank God that twenty years from now, with your grandson
on your knee, and he asks you "What did you do in the war?," you
won't have to shift him to the other knee, cough, and say "I
shovelled shit in Louisiana."
General George S. Patton, to his soldiers
I don't blame our Indians for being discouraged. They are the
only ones to be conquered by the United States and not come out
While might certainly does not make right, neither does right by
itself make might.
Richard M. Nixon
The lesson of all history warns us that we should negotiate only
when our military superiority is so convincing that we can
achieve our objective at the conference table, and deny the
Richard M. Nixon
A ship is always referred to as "she" because it costs so much
to keep one in paint and powder.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
In Rommel's War in Africa, author Wolf Heckman demonstrates that
neither courage nor tactics could make up for tanks which were
too slow, tanks which lacked adequate armor, tanks with small
guns, and the absence of decent anti-tank weapons.