The Principles of War: 2. Maintenance of Morale

This post is part of the _Principles of War_ series. See the “introductory post”: or browse all posts with the “principles of war”: tag.

Success in war depends more on moral than on physical qualities. Numbers, armament and resources cannot compensate for lack of courage, energy, determination, skill and the bold offensive spirit which springs form a national determination to conquer. The development and subsequent maintenance of the qualities of morale are, therefore, essential to success in war.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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5 Responses to The Principles of War: 2. Maintenance of Morale

  1. Ralph Hitchens says:

    Indeed. A leader in any capacity who does not put this near the top of a priority list does not know his/her business. As an aside, this is a pervasive theme of the popular Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels by Patrick O’Brian.

  2. jess says:

    Have you been reading Ardant du Picq again?

  3. Michael says:

    At risk of picking nits, how much of that is morale and how much is esprit de corp?

  4. lirelou says:

    Armies are filled with people who don’t know their business. I recall a battalion commander in Vietnam who would go through his officer’s foot lockers while they were in the field. A friend of mine, one of his company commanders, was given Article 15 for having the playmate of the month taped to the inside of his foot locker. The good colonel felt it violated his policy that there would be no lewd pictures placed on public display. On a more positive note, one of the best examples of a troop commander lifting the morale of his men can be found in Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier”. If I can find the text, I will return to reference it.

  5. de teodoru says:

    Stalin deemed morale a major factor in his five principles of war. But it seems that we are making up for “morale” with voluntarism, high-tech and firepower. One can ask a lot about the morale of our troops on the War on Terror Front, what with no strategy to think of, just constant tactical adjustments and a high-tech infowar that, according to Pentagon insiders is not very useful to the men on the fire line, we may be left with the issue of morale as a homefront issue much more in need of critical care than on the front. For example, we attacked Iraq with a clear idea of cheap oil for our SUVs. Since then oil has doubled in price and we are spending more to kill a Jihadi that we used to spend to kill a regiment of NVA in Vietnam. The “Better War” that Sorley wrote about still eludes us in Iraq. Probably the best case against entering a war INTEL BLIND…LANGUAGE DEAF…CULTURE DUMB…and then just tweaking it tactically, was made by the following author addressing how we are falling into a “a worse war,” not a better one, as we did towards the end of Vietnam:

    Daniel E. Teodoru