Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure: A Study of the Personal Factor in Command - J.F.C. Fuller Reading this extended essay, I can easily see why Fuller's military career came to a screeching halt post publication. He takes the high commands of every army in the Great War to task for what he sees as a catastrophic failure of command, and warns against the increasingly coarse conduct of war that is turning the modern army (c. 1935) into a soulless machine indiscriminating murdering soldier and civilian. It's that last concern that sets Fuller apart from the usual, technical critique of generalship. It's not enough that a general be competent and a good leader but the army he leads must be correctly motivated. Fuller is "old school" -- steeped in the values of the Enlightenment and republican government latterly shat upon by modern and post-modern critics. But its that in-many-ways-admirable tradition that allows him to justify the soldier's role in a democratic republic and to write:

"(War are) (n)ot `the rage of a barbarian wolf-flock,' not wars begotten by bankers, squabbling merchants or jealous politicians but wars of self-defence. `To such war as this,' he (Ruskin) says, `all men are born; in such war as this any man may happily die; and out of such war as this have arisen throughout the extent of past ages, all the highest sanctities and virtues of humanity.'" (p. 26)

Later in the essay, Fuller laments the emergence of the "general staff." While the complexities of modern warfare make such an institution inevitable, the form it's taken turns command into a depersonalized matter of paper shuffling, further dehumanizing and brutalizing an already inhuman and brutal occupation. (pp. 67f.)

The primary lesson to be drawn for the general is to be flexible. It's all well and good to have routines and chains of command but a successful general can adapt tactics and procedures to meet new conditions ("thinking outside the box," in modern idiom). This is a theme both Fuller and Liddell-Hart emphasize in their biographies of great military leaders (Scipio Africanus or Alexander, for example).

For the military historian or armchair strategist, this should be an interesting read, particularly in light of Fuller's clear-eyed perception of the increasing brutality and destructiveness of war, evidence for which is all around us today in the daily dispatches from Iraq, Afghanistan or the Occupied Territories, where the dehumanizing and coarsening tendencies are exhibited in horrifying detail.

Three additional plusses for this book:

1. It's public domain - I downloaded an HTML version for nothing from Internet Archive (
2. It's less than 100 pages long.
3. It's a pleasure to read simply because of the cultured and erudite tone of the prose. It is to be mourned that no one can aspire to such eloquence today.