I got a bit of amusement out of this chapter, which attempts to explain the mathematics behind warfare, and also how a bunch of scattered guerillas can beat the snot out of a massed army.
I’m not sure what real military historians would make of it all – after all, does this apply in general to most battles – or is the Russian experience of beating the French a bit of an anomaly?
Either way, I was thinking that Tolstoy really set the ground rules for most war movies to come. In many of the films coming out nowadays (from Braveheart right on down to Lord of the Rings), an army that is smaller and less well-equipped comes out and whups the bad guys. While partly this is due to getting help from other allies, secret weapons, etc., nearly always there is a scene where somebody delivers some sort of speech or makes some sort of comment that fires up the spirit of the underdogs, and it’s that spirit that goes out and makes them win.
Actually, never mind Tolstoy – really, we’re back to Shakespeare’s Henry V again. Henry delivers his St Crispin’s day speech, basically saying, “Guys, we don’t need more men! We just need to have courage and go out there and bash the French! Who’d want to have more men if they’re cowards anyway?”
Of course, Shakespeare phrases it a lot more nicely than that, so I’ll leave you with Kenneth Branagh rattling off the speech. Notice also the soundtrack for this speech, that has been ripped off in film trailers for years afterwards (most recently I saw them using it to advertise Australia).