10 The Main Line of World Politics

THE GREAT CAPTAINS of military history, varied as they have been in every other respect, have all been noted for their grasp of what military writers call "the key to the situation." At each level of military struggle, from a brief skirmish to the grand strategy of a war or series of wars, they have understood that there is one crucial element which is this key to the situation. The key may be almost anything: a ford across a river, or a hill like Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg; a swift blow at the enemy reserve, or the smashing of the enemy fleet as at Trafalgar or Salamis; stiff discipline on the flanks as at Cannæ, or a slow strangling blockade for an entire war; a long defensive delay to train an army or win an ally, or a surprise attack on a capital; control of the seas, the destruction of supplies, or the capture of a hero.

The great captain concentrates on the key to the situation. He simplifies, even over-simplifies, knowing that, though the key alone is not enough, without it he will never open the door. He may, if that is his temperament, concern himself also with a thousand details. He never allows details to distract his attention, to divert him from the key. Often he turns the details, which in quantitative bulk total much larger than the key, over to his subordinates. That is why the genius of the great captain is often not apparent to others. He may seem a mere figurehead, indolent, lethargic, letting the real work be done by those around him. They fail to comprehend that the secret of his genius is to know the key, to have it always in mind, and to reserve his supreme exertion for the key, for what decides the issue.

The principles of political struggle are identical with those of military struggle. Success in both political knowledge and political practice depends finally, as in military affairs, upon the grasp of the key to the situation. The exact moment for the insurrection, the one issue upon which the election will in reality revolve, the most vul-

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