|Publication Date||June 15, 2009|
"One succeeds in this world only at the point of the sword," said Voltaire, "and one dies with weapons in one's hand." This being so, one must learn how to fight well. "The art of war is an art with principles," said Napoleon, "and these principles must never be violated." The Principles of Fighting teaches these principles, teaches the reader how to attain moral objects by fighting well. The best study of the principles is the lives of those who applied them best; just as we read great writers to learn how to write well, so, too, should we study great fighters to learn how to fight well. "Truly Caesar ought to be the breviary of every fighting-man," said Montaigne: "he was the true and sovereign model for the art of war." Not only Caesar, but also Richelieu, Talleyrand, Napoleon, and Gates are our breviaries here. All attained their objects in part by fighting, and all followed the same principles in fighting.
Society is a cockpit, an arena of conflict. As we pursue our objects and others theirs, collisions of interests naturally occur. Getting to our object is like crossing a field or bog: we must sometimes lay down stones as a bridge, sometimes go round obstacles, and sometimes simply hack our way through. Fighting is one of the necessities, one of the disagreeable concomitants of evolution by natural selection. "Whoever defends not his water-tank with his goodly weapons will see it broken," said the pre-Islamic poet Zuhayr ibn Abi Sulma. "Whoever suffers people always to be riding upon him, and never spares himself humiliation, shall come to rue it." Knowing how to fight well is as indispensable in life as any of the other social skills.
Fighting has gotten a bad name; it should not be so. Fighting itself is neither moral nor immoral; only its object can be said to be so. We may count the ability to fight well, when applied to a just cause, among the virtues. To be moral is not to fight no one; to be moral is to fight those who vitiate life and civilization. That the moral are far less willing to fight than the immoral has always hurt societies; the moral would do far better to follow revanchism, a policy of retaliation.
Fighting is to attain a certain object -- a resource, market share, the betterment of the group, emotional satisfaction -- or to prevent another from doing so. To fight is to attain the object by force; fighting is thus distinct from competing. To compete is to let merit determine the outcome; to fight is to lessen or nullify the merit of the other. If, in a foot-race, two runners run as fast as they can and the fastest wins, they have competed; if the runners trip and catch at each other as they run, they have fought. The distinction between fighting and competing is determined not by the field, but by what is done; a diplomat may find himself fighting quite as much as any general. And two rivals may simultaneously fight and compete. Fighting is sometimes light and sometimes thick, sometimes of long duration and sometimes of short, sometimes legal and sometimes illegal, sometimes bloody and sometimes bloodless. The ultimate goal in fighting is to attain one's object as swiftly as possible while having one's interests hurt as little as possible.