Patterico's Pontifications


Ukraine and the Spirit of the Army

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:12 pm

Here’s the weird thing: by any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine. — Tucker Carlson, August 29, 2022

From this morning’s Washington Post:

CHUHUIV, Ukraine — After months on the edge of Russian occupation, and two days of heavy bombardment, residents of this beleaguered town came out Saturday to clean up — and celebrate, as a fast-moving Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian forces into a stunning retreat from key strategic areas in the northeast Kharkiv region.

As the advancing Ukrainian troops regained lost territory with shocking speed, liberating the town of Balakliya and raising their blue-and-yellow flag over the city of Izyum, jubilant Ukrainians and officials in Kyiv and Western capitals indulged in a daring hope: maybe the grinding, stalemated war was swinging their way.

“Everything is going to be Ukrainian again,” cried Natalia Khubezhova, 48, who was one of dozens of festive residents of Chuhuiv out sweeping up glass and repairing doorways on the village hospital, which was struck by a rocket Friday. Tears ran from her eyes as she hailed the progress of Ukrainian soldiers, including her husband and son.

What explains this shift? It’s a complex problem, and Mencken reminded us that for every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. Still, don’t discount the “spirit of the army” — the fact that Ukraine has a strong reason to fight, and Russian troops have no reason at all to fight.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace:

By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.

Tolstoy elsewhere proposed an equation similar to that describing the relationships between momentum, mass, and velocity:

In military affairs the strength of an army is the product of its mass and some unknown x.

Military science, seeing in history innumerable instances of the fact that the size of any army does not coincide with its strength and that small detachments defeat larger ones, obscurely admits the existence of this unknown factor and tries to discover it—now in a geometric formation, now in the equipment employed, now, and most usually, in the genius of the commanders. But the assignment of these various meanings to the factor does not yield results which accord with the historic facts.

Yet it is only necessary to abandon the false view (adopted to gratify the “heroes”) of the efficacy of the directions issued in wartime by commanders, in order to find this unknown quantity.

That unknown quantity is the spirit of the army, that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army, quite independently of whether they are, or are not, fighting under the command of a genius, in two—or three-line formation, with cudgels or with rifles that repeat thirty times a minute. Men who want to fight will always put themselves in the most advantageous conditions for fighting.

The spirit of an army is the factor which multiplied by the mass gives the resulting force.

Having some nice High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems never hurts either.

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